This book focuses on the post-Civil War treason prosecution of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, which was seen as a test case on the major question that animated the Civil War: the constitutionality of secession. The case never went to trial because it threatened to undercut the meaning and significance of Union victory. Cynthia Nicoletti describes the interactions of the lawyers who worked on both sides of the Davis case - who saw its potential to disrupt the verdict of the battlefield against secession. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Americans engaged in a wide-ranging debate over the legitimacy and effectiveness of war as a method of legal adjudication. Instead of risking the 'wrong' outcome in the highly volatile Davis case, the Supreme Court took the opportunity to pronounce secession unconstitutional in Texas v. White (1869).
Cynthia Nicoletti is an associate professor of law at the University of Virginia. Her dissertation won the William Nelson Cromwell Prize and the Hay-Nicolay Dissertation Award.
1. The imprisoner's dilemma; 2. Two lions of the New York Bar; 3. O'Conor's bluff; 4. The Civil War as a trial by battle; 5. The return of the rule of law; 6. Speed issues an opinion; 7. Public opinion and its uses; 8. Thaddeus Stevens, secession, and radical reconstruction; 9. Underwood and Chase; 10. Secession and belligerency in Shortridge v. Macon; 11. Richard Henry Dana comes on board; 12. The reach of the prize cases; 13. Two embattled Presidents; 14. O'Conor's triumph epilogue: Texas v. White and the 'settlement' of secession's constitutionality; Index.