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Old December 27th, 2016, 06:22 AM   #31
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To put it simply--it was not in the interests of the United States to bring Davis to trial--there was very little to be gained from a "guilty" verdict, while a trial of Davis could have more than one negative effect on the reunified country.
The quote you gave is all about how they could not get a jury to convict Davis. t says nothing about a negative effect on the country, only about the difficulty of obtaining a conviction.
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Old December 27th, 2016, 08:50 AM   #32

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I believe that many who had fought for the Confederacy could vote if they took a loyalty oath. Anyway, most white southerners would not vote to convict Davis of treason. .
The other way of looking at my question is: why didn't the Southerners hang Davis after the War? He'd led them into war and micromanaged the war effort--e.g. removing Joseph E. Johnston at Atlanta, resulting in the premature collapse of that citadel city?
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Old December 27th, 2016, 09:05 AM   #33
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The other way of looking at my question is: why didn't the Southerners hang Davis after the War? He'd led them into war and micromanaged the war effort--e.g. removing Joseph E. Johnston at Atlanta, resulting in the premature collapse of that citadel city?
I am sure a lot of southerners would have liked to hang him for his handling of the war. He wasn't popular.
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Old December 27th, 2016, 09:37 AM   #34

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The quote you gave is all about how they could not get a jury to convict Davis. t says nothing about a negative effect on the country, only about the difficulty of obtaining a conviction.
That's a valid point. I didn't want to quote the whole letter, but it can be found at the location to which I linked. Dana wrote it in August of 1868, and in it he questions whether opening up the possibility of giving "Jefferson Davis and his favorers a triumph" is a course the government should pursue, given that such a result (which he rightly calls "absurd") "would be most humiliating to the Government and people of this country."

In Johnson's grant of amnesty issued later that year (under which the final decision not to try Davis fell), he stated that it was intended to—
"[S]ecure permanent peace, order, and prosperity throughout the land, and to renew and fully restore confidence and fraternal feeling among the whole people, and their respect for and attachment to the National Government, designed by its patriotic founders for the general good . . ."
From this it may be directly inferred that it was thought that prosecuting Confederates for treason would be harmful to peace, order, and prosperity, as well as being detrimental to general respect for and confidence in the federal government, and would detract from any rebirth of "fraternal feeling" in the population. The country at this point was just beginning to heal from the wounds inflicted on it by the war. Reopening those wounds by trying and hanging those who'd engaged in treason would have been counterproductive.

While people still argue that seceding and waging war against the United States did not constitute treason, it was the general legal opinion of the federal government at that time (as exemplified by both Dana's letter and Johnson's grant of amnesty) that those acts most definitely did constitute treason.

Last edited by Recusant; December 27th, 2016 at 09:53 AM.
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Old December 27th, 2016, 11:41 AM   #35
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There were several legal issues that would have to be decided by the Supreme Court on appeal, even if anyone was convicted of treason. Arguing that the states were allowed to secede probably wouldn't work, as that was sort of decided by the war. However, they were following their states, which still had some sovereignty. Davis was the boss, but he Stephens and Lee had all opposed secession.
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Old December 27th, 2016, 04:30 PM   #36

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I think the idea of post-Civil War America was reconciliation and re-uniting the country. Killing Davis would've accomplished the exact opposite.
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Old December 27th, 2016, 05:41 PM   #37
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I think the idea of post-Civil War America was reconciliation and re-uniting the country. Killing Davis would've accomplished the exact opposite.
Tell that to the radical Republicans and the KKK. There wasn't all that much reconciliation during the Reconstruction period. There was a lot of bitterness on both sides. I agree that executing Davis and/or others for treason would have made it worse.

They talked more about reconciliation around 1900 with the Spanish-American War and the institution of Jim Crow laws in the south.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 09:12 AM   #38

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To be fair, given Davis' capture, imprisonment and treatment in the media - was a hanging even necessary?

At one point, he had been the President of the Confederate States - yet in defeat was ridiculed as having tried to escape in female clothing. In truth, he was apparently simply wearing a shawl to brace himself against the cold, but the satirists of the day wasted no time in portraying him in a frilly gown and bonnet - one particularly vindictive cartoon showing Davis' wife squealing at the soldiers pursuing her husband, decrying their cruelty to women and children.

I mean, Christ - they even wrote songs about it! One such was Jeff In Petticoats, with lines like:
Quote:
Jeff took with him, the people say
A mine of golden coin.
Which he from banks and other places
Managed to purloin.
But though he ran, like every thief,
He had to drop the spoons.
And maybe that's the reason why
He dropped his pantaloons!
His imprisonment was no better. Already in frail health, he had to endure being clapped in irons - a decision probably motivated by little more than spite.

I would argue that to go from the Presidency of the CSA to an emasculated figure of fun, bound in chains and rotting in a cell, was punishment enough.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 06:11 PM   #39
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Davis was chosen for his experience as an officer and Secretary of War and for being an opponent of secession. He was not the best war leader.

Davis had argued privately that secession would result in war, which the south would likely lose. He said the day Mississippi seceded was the worst day of his life. He is reported to have been seen in tears after resigning from the Senate.

In his farewell speech to the Senate, he did not discuss slavery or other issues. He said that Mississippi had a right to secede and had grievances to secede. In his inaugural address, he did not mention slavery, but mentioned tariffs briefly.

There might be some issues with singling out for prosecution someone who opposed secession, but was elected President after his state had seceded.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 08:05 PM   #40

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Davis was chosen for his experience as an officer and Secretary of War and for being an opponent of secession. He was not the best war leader.

Davis had argued privately that secession would result in war, which the south would likely lose. He said the day Mississippi seceded was the worst day of his life. He is reported to have been seen in tears after resigning from the Senate.

In his farewell speech to the Senate, he did not discuss slavery or other issues. He said that Mississippi had a right to secede and had grievances to secede. In his inaugural address, he did not mention slavery, but mentioned tariffs briefly.

There might be some issues with singling out for prosecution someone who opposed secession, but was elected President after his state had seceded.
I think the main issue with Davis, despite being something of a moderate pre-secession, was that once the war was on and he was the Confederate president, he was as much a last ditcher as the likes of Edmund Ruffin.

He was opposed to surrender after Appomattox and wanted the remaining Confederate soldiers to take to the hills and forests, and fight a guerrilla war. Only the opposition or desertion of nearly everyone around him, the disintegration of the Confederate government and its armies, and his capture before he could get across the Mississippi, prevented that from coming to pass. Davis never accepted surrender, it was thrust upon him by the rest of his 'country,' which largely knew the game was up and was sick of war.

If in some alternate history the US decided to hang Davis, that would likely be the reason an example was made of him. Whereas most of the Southern leadership, both military and civilian, was prepared to lay down arms...Davis was trying to prolong the bloodshed.

Last edited by Scaeva; December 28th, 2016 at 08:15 PM.
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