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Jefferson Davis - Jefferson Davis - The Participants of the War - Mikitary & Civilian - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Wed Dec 28th, 2011 02:53 am
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pender
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The Trial of Jefferson Davis. As we know it never came about. There are so many discussions and questions about the war. The right of secession, States rights, slavery and the right to Govern ones self. All the causes people discuss that brought the war on. Seems to me if a trial had taken place that alot of these questions would have been answered. I know there was a trial that took place after the war that made it illegal for a State to withdraw from the Union (Texas vs White). But Jefferson Davis never got the opportunity to defend himself or the Confederacy in a court of law. As I understand it Jefferson Davis wanted a Trial. I think if this Trial had taken place there would have been so much of the above mentioned brought out. It did not, that is what brought about this thread I would like every ones opinion as to what they believe would have happened. This is not a thread on what we think should have happened, but what we think would have happened if the Trial had indeed taken place after the war.

Pender 

Last edited on Wed Dec 28th, 2011 02:59 am by pender



 Posted: Thu Mar 1st, 2012 07:40 pm
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9Bama
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I am not a big fan of trials of former confederate leaders shortly after the war. A look at what pass for a trial in the Wirtz Kangaroo court is enough to put me off those kinds of trials forever..



 Posted: Thu Mar 1st, 2012 11:57 pm
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Albert Sailhorst
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I agree, Pender.....To try Davis would have opened the potential for seccession to have been determined to be legal. It would have established a precedent.....The governement, in it's "wisdom", elected to not open this can of worms....



 Posted: Fri Mar 2nd, 2012 12:12 am
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To try Davis would have opened up a lot more than the question of secession. And there were those in the government who didn't want that to happen. We know they got their way because the trial never happened.



 Posted: Fri Mar 2nd, 2012 12:13 am
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Albert Sailhorst
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Agreed, Hellcat!!....Well said....



 Posted: Mon Feb 3rd, 2014 08:02 pm
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wondering
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I stray from the intent of the original post, but the arguments for such a trial exist in Jefferson Davis' own words (The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, A Short History of the Confederate States of America, other papers). What would have been the result? -- to the victor the spoils. Shall one presume with one final flourish, a last broadside of chain, Davis could have de-masted the North, convinced the Supreme Court to strike its colors, that Southern States were legally entitled to secede? I appreciate the theoretical aspects of hearing it argued, but hardly doubt the outcome. He spent time in irons afterward, justifiably so. It was always a question of law; they had swift justice back then: guilty.

Yes he wanted a court case, though might have started with that sentiment rather than powder. He was as responsible as Lincoln ever was for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the sufferings of so many more. The way I see it he no longer deserved a trial, perhaps better a yardarm. When choosing adjudication by combat don't expect to be retried by jury. That would be a courtesy, not a right. Whereas most sighed, thank God it's over, he curled up on the old plantation, filled his memoirs with bile. Wiser men let him stew in it; aye, in your own fate frye.

I believe his writing post-war tarnishes his reputation more than his less resilient conduct during, or his substantial service before. Might he have shown a measure of that Southern chivalry, especially after Lincoln's ignominious assassination? He remained silent, then came back up firing, stuck to his guns (pardon me, almost reminiscent of Alexander Hamilton publishing a tome to justify adultery), his legacy would have been far better served by no defence, no contest, no trial. Instead he produced long-winded testaments on racism. These laments preserve for posterity his final verdict.

I don't mean to offend, and should probably take my own advice. I'm no lawyer, and it's easy to be a pompous, pin-headed, pseudo-constitutional moralist these days, but in my own humble opinion, he might have accepted the olive branch with a tad more of that fabled and amazing grace. I suppose he had sailed too far by then, couldn't change course, and like an old mariner went down with the ship. I am compelled to have both admiration and pity for the man. Maybe it was a mercy too harsh ... but let history be his jury.

I remain your obedient servant.



 Posted: Mon Feb 3rd, 2014 09:29 pm
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Texas Defender
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wondering-

The questions of the legality of secession, as well as the justification for the charges brought against Jefferson Davis are discussed at length on a number of threads found in this forum. These discussions can be easily found and rehashed if needed.

As previously discussed, the question of the legality of secession was not decided until the 1869 USSC decision Texas v. White. Of course, the USSC was by then packed with Lincoln appointees, and could hardly have decided that secession was legal after a bitter war costing hundreds of thousands of lives had been fought. The conclusion of the justices was inevitable.

However, the decision about the guilt or innocence of Mr. Davis would not have been decided by the USSC, but by a court in Virginia. That result could well have turned out in his favor. In the end, the US Government decided that it could not risk such a repudiation, and the charges against Mr. Davis were dropped.

Looking at the US Constitution in 1860, I believe that a strong case can be made that since secession was not forbidden to the states in the Constitution, that it was legal based on the 9th and 10th Amendments. A disagreement on this question was only decided in the end by force of arms.

I would dispute your contention that Mr. Davis was as responsible for the war as Mr. Lincoln. It was Mr. Lincoln who decided that there would be a war as he would not accept secession. The decision by several states to secede was not made by Mr. Davis, who only came into his office after that question had been decided.

Similarly, Mr. Lincoln came into his office after several states had seceded, and it was he who decided to raise an army to prevent the southern states from leaving. Mr. Davis did not fight a war to subjugate the northern states, only to defend his own territory.

Mr. Davis lamented the assasination of Mr. Lincoln because he realized that its result would be detrimental to the southern people. He expressed this opinion immediately upon hearing of the event.

The fact that Mr. Davis eventually chose to make his case to justify secession and the formation of the Confederate Government does not in my view diminish his legacy. He believed that his cause was just, as did millions of others. The fact that his side lost the war does not disprove his contention that secession was legal under the US Constitution as it existed in 1860.



 Posted: Tue Feb 4th, 2014 03:31 am
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wondering
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Texas Defender,

Thank-you for a most charitable and kind rebuttal. I might quibble a little, but your points are excellent and honest. I confess I have a tendency to see the Civil War through rose-colored goggles, wax poetic, and thus do appreciate your accuracy and understanding.



 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 01:30 am
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Barlow
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Has anyone gone to the new and improved Bouvois in Biloxi? I am going there in May and want to know if it is worth a daytrip from New Orleans. I think Davis' great grandson runs the museum.



 Posted: Mon Feb 10th, 2014 02:16 pm
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wondering
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Barlow wrote:
Has anyone gone to the new and improved Bouvois in Biloxi? I am going there in May and want to know if it is worth a daytrip from New Orleans. I think Davis' great grandson runs the museum.

I would love to go there. Solzhenitsyn reflected on places and things having much longer memory than bearers or occupants. It is true; please share your thoughts if you visit.



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