Shall Underwood Try Mr. Davis?

July 7, 1866


Chief Justice Chase is anxious to speed up the trial of Jefferson Davis, pushing for reorganization of U.S. courts. If a proposed bill passes, Mr. Davis's trial can take place before Judge Underwood sitting alone.


Of all the men that have ever lived upon the face of the earth, the Radicals in the present Congress seem to be the most unscrupulous in the prosecution of their purposes. It has for some time been apparent that Chief Justice Chase is as anxious to avoid sitting upon the trial of Mr. Davis as Underwood is to engage in flint agreeable occupation. After endeavoring in every imaginable way to shirk his duty, and finding that the President is determined that he shall perform it, Mr. Chase has had the good fortune to secure the assistance of his party friends in Congress. We learn from the New York Herald that the House Judiciary Committee have decided by a vote of five to four to report a bill at the earliest practicable moment for the reorganization of the courts of the United States. The first section provides for the abolition of the Circuit Courts of the United States on September 1, 1866, and gives to the District Courts and District Judges original jurisdiction of all actions at law and suits in equity commenced on or after that date to the same extent in all respects as now possessed by the Circuit Courts and the Circuit Judges for said districts respectively. The second section provides for the removal of all actions and prosecutions from the Circuit to the District Courts. In other words, the second section provides that the trial of Mr.Davis may take place before Judge Underwood sitting alone ! As the law now stands, he cannot be tried in the absence of the Chief Justice, the District Court not having jurisdiction in treason cases. We shall await further developments in the matter with much interest.
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Brooke Beam




“Shall Underwood Try Mr. Davis?,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed June 1, 2023,