The Case of Jeff Davis

December 7, 1868


The Dispatch updates on the happenings of the Jefferson Davis trial. Whats new; the court had failed to agree upon a decision in regard to the motion made to quash the indictments against Mr. Jefferson Davis." (The Daily Dispatch)"


In the Circuit Court of the United States on Saturday morning the Chief Justice announced that the court had failed to agree upon a decision in regard to the motion made to quash the indictments against Mr.Jefferson Davis. The counsel for the defendant then asked that the fact of the disagreement he certified to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court signified its acquiescence, and thereupon the following paper was entered upon the record : "At this term of the court, begun and held at Richmond, in the said district, on the 23d day of November, 1868, and continued until this day, a motion was made on behalf of the defendant to quash or set aside the said indictment, and to dismiss the same and the prosecution thereof. " And upon that motion it appeared that the said Jefferson Davis, having previously to the offense charged in the said indictment taken an oath as a member of Congress to support the Constitution of the United States, the question arose whether, by the operation and effect of the third clause of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the defendant is exempted from indictment or prosecution for treason in levying war and participating or engaging in the late rebellion. And upon that question the opinions of the Judges were opposed. And thereupon the said point is, upon the request of the said defendant, stated under the direction of the said Judges, and certified under the seal of the said Circuit Court to the Supreme Court of the United States at its next session." It was generally believed that the Chief Justice was in favor of sustaining the motion to quash, while Judge Underwood wished to overrule it. But the Chief Justice stated in private conversation that he wished it distinctly understood that he had expressed no opinion on the subject. After the record had been read, District Attorney Beach said the only thing necessary to he disposed of was the appointment of the day for the trial. As counsel were anxious for a full bench on the occasion, he suggested the naming of some day after the adjournment of the Supreme Court and before the close of the present term of this court. The Chief Justice : The difficulty is in fixing a day when there will be a full bench, as it is impossible to tell how long the Supreme Court will sit. Mr. O'Conor said, that counsel may be definite in their appointments, he was rather inclined to ask that the recognizance of Mr. Davis be renewed for the May term. The Chief Justice : Well, the recognizance may be renewed any time during the present term. It is quite probable, however, that the court will adjourn before Christmas. The recognizance must of course be renewed before that time. Mr. O'Conor: it will be renewed immediately - to-day or on Monday. The Chief Justice : Well. The certificate of disagreement is made by request of the defendant. It may be filed and a copy forwarded to Washington to-day. Mr. O'Conor left on the morning train, taking a copy of the certificate with him.
About this article

Contributed By

Jacob Markman




“The Case of Jeff Davis,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed July 4, 2022,