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 Posted: Mon Feb 3rd, 2014 09:29 pm
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Texas Defender
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Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
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wondering-

The questions of the legality of secession, as well as the justification for the charges brought against Jefferson Davis are discussed at length on a number of threads found in this forum. These discussions can be easily found and rehashed if needed.

As previously discussed, the question of the legality of secession was not decided until the 1869 USSC decision Texas v. White. Of course, the USSC was by then packed with Lincoln appointees, and could hardly have decided that secession was legal after a bitter war costing hundreds of thousands of lives had been fought. The conclusion of the justices was inevitable.

However, the decision about the guilt or innocence of Mr. Davis would not have been decided by the USSC, but by a court in Virginia. That result could well have turned out in his favor. In the end, the US Government decided that it could not risk such a repudiation, and the charges against Mr. Davis were dropped.

Looking at the US Constitution in 1860, I believe that a strong case can be made that since secession was not forbidden to the states in the Constitution, that it was legal based on the 9th and 10th Amendments. A disagreement on this question was only decided in the end by force of arms.

I would dispute your contention that Mr. Davis was as responsible for the war as Mr. Lincoln. It was Mr. Lincoln who decided that there would be a war as he would not accept secession. The decision by several states to secede was not made by Mr. Davis, who only came into his office after that question had been decided.

Similarly, Mr. Lincoln came into his office after several states had seceded, and it was he who decided to raise an army to prevent the southern states from leaving. Mr. Davis did not fight a war to subjugate the northern states, only to defend his own territory.

Mr. Davis lamented the assasination of Mr. Lincoln because he realized that its result would be detrimental to the southern people. He expressed this opinion immediately upon hearing of the event.

The fact that Mr. Davis eventually chose to make his case to justify secession and the formation of the Confederate Government does not in my view diminish his legacy. He believed that his cause was just, as did millions of others. The fact that his side lost the war does not disprove his contention that secession was legal under the US Constitution as it existed in 1860.

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