The question of whether secession was treason under the Constitution as it was understood in 1860 is one that even the victorious United States was not prepared to try. Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, was held in a fortress-prison in the Dry Tortugas for some four years, some of that time in chains, while the United States government attempted to decide how to try him for treason. I further understand that Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the United States and a life-long abolitionist, was consulted. His response, after research, reflection, and soul-searching, was that the Constitution as it was understood in 1860 permitted secession. Hence, Davis had not committed treason and he was released. Our understanding of the Constitution was changed by four years of bloody Civil War, and all to the good, but I think those who hurl around the treason charge to justify removing Confederate monuments may need to consult their law books. Just stick to the Jim Crow and segregationist motives for erecting them: they're strong enough on their own.

--

--

--

Retired lawyer, former columnist for New York Press and The New York Sun, essayist, small town official, Justice of the Peace, horseman.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
William Bryk

William Bryk

Retired lawyer, former columnist for New York Press and The New York Sun, essayist, small town official, Justice of the Peace, horseman.

More from Medium

Unexpected Roads

Try a little tenderness (For Otis and my mom who got me into him young)

MUMBAI RAINS

A Love Letter to Pamela