Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Jefferson Davis 9

The divisions engendered by the Civil War are nowhere more evident than in the eventual fate of the former president of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis. He was captured the month after Lee's surrender at Appomattox and spent the following two and a half years in prison, some of that time in leg irons. A number of lawyers offered to defend him for free against charges of treason, but the government, without explanation, never actually charged him with anything, maybe because Davis was such a divisive figure, maybe because they thought they might lose the case. He was eventually released and went to Canada for a time to regain his shattered health. On returning to his native Mississippi he was encouraged to run for his old Senate seat, but refused because the prerequisite was a request for amnesty - he refused to seek amnesty because he contended that he had done nothing wrong. He continued as one of the principal faces of what came to be called The Lost Cause until his death in the 1880s. Ironically, his citizenship was restored to him posthumously in the 1970's. Indeed, it is probable that he would have interpreted such a gesture as an insult. In any event, even in death, Jefferson Davis represented a figure of profound national division.

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