"Davis, a Mississippian, had attended West Point and then fought against Indians in various battles, most notable during the Black Hawk War of 1831-1832. Retiring from military service in 1835, he settled near Vicksburg and became a prosperous cotton planter. In 1845, he won a seat as a Democrat in the House of Representatives. During his short tenure as a congressman, he advocated the occupation of Oregon, the acquisition of California, and the decision to go to war with Mexico. He gave up his seat on Congress to fight in the Mexican War and then reentered politics in 1847, when the governor of Mississippi appointed him to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, where he served until he became secretary of war in President Pierce's cabinet between 1853 and 1857. In this position, Davis directed the Capitol extension, organized the defense of the frontier against hostile Indian tribes, planned the removal of the Seminoles in Florida to reservations, and directed surveys for a transcontinental railroad in the South." (Fryd 109)

As his political actions indicate, Davis was a staunch believer in Manifest Destiny. As a powerful administrator overseeing the Capitol extension, Davis was certain to use the Capitol art to validate and promote his ideology. His first step was to set someone who had a similar ideology as an artistic overseer: Captain Montgomery Meigs.


Montgomery Meigs also attended West Point, and started working for the Corps of Engineers in 1837 (Fryd 110). His influence over the Capitol extension, along with Jefferson's, was so great that Fryd proclaims, "for the first time, albeit briefly, two people regulated the decoration of the Capitol, Jefferson Davis and Montgomery Meigs. The government thereby established its first consistent process for federal patronage, with Meigs acting as an intermediary between artists and Davis, who in only four years successfully influenced the iconography and meaning of the decoration so that it reflected his expansionist and pro-slavery stances" (110).

Meigs was excited by the plans for the Senate and House wings of the Capitol extension, and he vowed that the American public should have a Capitol building that would "rival the Parthenon" (Fryd 111). Two artists were recommended to him as potential sculptors: Hiram Powers, whose Greek Slave had made him famous, and Thomas Crawford. Only Crawford submitted a design for the Senate wing.