previous next

[59] Court for the District of Virginia, and to ask an interview in regard to the trial of Mr. Davis for treason. It was arranged that he should be indicted at the May term (1865) of the United States Court at Norfolk, over which Underwood was to preside. This was to be done, despite the fact that the judge had previously been of the opinion that the ‘rebellion’ had become a civil war of proportions too great to make it proper or expedient to indict its leaders for treason. He was indicted, and the District Attorney at once moved for a bench warrant, which Underwood refused. This indictment was lost during the summer and never again came to light.

An indictment against Mr. Davis was also found in the District of Columbia, but no process was ever served under it. The matter thus remained in abeyance until the 10th of August, 1865, when the President wrote to Chief-Justice Chase asking for a conference ‘in reference to the time, place, and manner of trial of Jefferson Davis.’ To this Judge Chase responded that he would come to Washington on the next Thursday. What took place at this conference is not known. (Id., 715-6.)

On the 21st of September, 1865, the Senate called upon the President for information on the subject of the trial, but no response was made until January 7th, when reports on the subject from the Attorney General, Mr. James Speed, and the Secretary of War, Mr. E. M. Stanton, were filed. From these reports it seems that it was deemed proper that he should be tried for treason in the State of Virginia, where the Chief Justice was to preside, but that for reasons the Chief Justice would not hold the court.

On the 16th of January, 1866, the Senate, becoming impatient under the outcry against the unconstitutional delay, called on the President for the correspondence between himself and the Chief Justice. From it we gather that the President asked the Chief Justice when he could hold the court, and was informed in reply that he was not willing to do so until martial law no longer prevailed in Virginia. During these delays many efforts were made by prominent men of all parties and sections to secure the discharge of Mr. Davis from custody either on bail or parole, but without success.

The admirable report of the trial of Mr. Davis by General Bradley T. Johnson is the very best record of a celebrated cause which has been given to history. (See Chase's Circuit Court Reports.) It sets out in detail the facts collated above as to the slow process of obtaining a trial, and also gives a summary of the reasons why there should have been no trial for treason, prepared by Mr. Charles

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Virginia (Virginia, United States) (2)
United States (United States) (2)
Norfolk (Virginia, United States) (2)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Jefferson Davis (10)
Kate Sherry Chase (6)
Underwood (4)
E. M. Stanton (2)
James Speed (2)
Bradley T. Johnson (2)
Charles (2)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
January 16th, 1866 AD (2)
September 21st, 1865 AD (2)
August 10th, 1865 AD (2)
1865 AD (2)
May (2)
January 7th (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: