Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/81

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

The Trials and Trial of Jefferson Dr/ //>-. 65

Monroe is pehaps the most notable of the exceptions which prove this rule. Even in the case of General Miles it is fair to say his con- duct resulted more perhaps from an intense desire to win the applause of his superiors President Johnson, Mr. Stanton, Mr. Dana, a^d General Holt than from the cruel nature which one might infer from his acts and correspondence.

Many schemes of relief for Mr. Davis were devised and many suggestions of bail, but the judiciary was so squeamish and so jeal- ous of its authority that, although courts were held in November, 1866, it was not until May, 1867, two years after Mr. Davis was im- prisoned, that either judge of that circuit could be persuaded even to hear his plea within a jurisdiction "where," to use their language, " a soldier was the ultimate arbiter and a bayonet the sole symbol of the law," albeit it was to relieve a citizen suffering under the ty- ranny of such an anomalous condition. The judges drew fine dis- tinctions between the civil and military law, the Attorney-General gave learned opinions, and Mr. Davis pined all the while in the prison where he was placed and retained without the due process of any law.

It is pleasant to know that the treatment accorded the State pris- oner was slowly ameliorated ; hence, as d similar favor was granted Mr. Clay, it may be presumed that Mr. Davis also was permitted to use a wooden knife with which to manipulate his rude diet.

When, on the i3th of September, 1865, Mrs Davis asked General Miles by telegraph what was the condition of her husband, who had been very sick, the telegram was submitted to the War Department for action; that department replied, instructing the Major-General to send the following telegram, which it was thought, after a few days' consideration, might be sent without detriment to the public welfare :

FORT MONROE, Sept. 14, 1865.

Mrs. VARINA DAVIS, Augusta, Ga.:

Mr. Davis suffered temporarily from a carbuncle on the leg and from erysipelas in the fa.ce; that is now over, and he is as well as usual.

N. A. MILES, Major- General Commanding.

On reading this reply, framed in and transmitted from Washing- ton, one is at a loss to understand the functions of a Major-General