Judge Nelson's Decision

June 5, 1866


White Southerners agree with Judge Nelson's decision thatrestrictions made by Radicals attempted to be applied to Southern states are infractions of the Constitution. Governors and legislation of every state should be given full employment of all constitutional rights and privileges.


The high judicial exposition of a great political question by one of the most venerable, learned, and upright judges of the Supreme Court, who comes fresh from conference with his brethren, among whom all those great issues were considered, and before whom they were debated at the recent term of the Supreme Court, is an authority equivalent, under the circumstances, to a decision by the whole Supreme Court. The people will accept the light of Judge Nelson's opinion as the mariner upon the trackless ocean places his faith in the compass, which points invariably the true course in sunshine and in darkness. With this decision the opinions of Stevens, of Sumner, and others, that the southern States have forfeited their rights as States of the Union, and are no longer entitled to the privileges of the Constitution, fall completely to tho ground. With this decision before him, every reasonable and candid man is compelled to admit that every condition, every restriction which is attempted to be put upon any State before admitting her to representation in Congress, is a plain infraction of the Constitution, for the support of which the war was carried on. This decision is a solemn condemnation ot the Committee of Reconstruction, and of each and every modification of their plan now or lately pending before Congress, or which, under the pressure of their necessities, may be hereafter proposed. The language is pure and simple that, under their present constitutions, and the Governors and Legislatures elected under them, every State is entitled to the full employment of all her constitutional rights and privileges."
About this article

Contributed By

Brooke Beam




“Judge Nelson's Decision,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed March 30, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/199.