Jefferson Davis's Case

April 26, 1867


Jefferson Davis is set to be brought to court during the next term of the Circuit Court of the United States for Virginia. He will most likely not be held in a trial, as many informalities hold him from being tried properly and efficiently.


The next term of the Circuit Court of the United States for Virginia will be held at Richmond in May. At this term Jefferson Davis ought to be arraigned for high treason, but there is very little probabilty of his trial being had. Chief Justice Chase objects to holding a court whilst martial law exists in Virginia, and unless the Chief Justice is present no court can be held (Virginia being in the Chief Justice's circuit). It is understood that the counsel for the prisoner will visit Richmond at the commencement of the term, and will ask for a trial. An indictiment for treason has already been found against Jefferson Davis, but a motion, it is said, will be made to quash it on account of various informalities. The act of 1790, under which Davis is arraigned, declares that "no person or persons shall he prosecuted, tried, or punished for treason or other capital offence aforesaid, wilful murder or perjury expected, unless the indictment for the same shall be found by a grand jury within three years next after the treason or capital offence aforesaid shall be done or committed." If the present indictment be quashed, a new one must be found before April, 1868, the rebellion having ended in April, 1865, or else a trial will be prevented by the above provisions of the law. There is no probability of a trial being had in May, and the mystery of what to do with the leader of the rebellion is now no nearer a solution than it was at the time of his capture.
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Walker Black




“Jefferson Davis's Case,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed December 3, 2022,