A story line in the Wednesday, October 18, 1978 Montgomery Advertiser reads “Carter restores rights of citizenship to Davis”. The story goes on to say that President Carter restored citizenship rights posthumously on Tuesday, October 17, to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and declared “post-Civil War reconciliation is finally complete”.
Here is what Holmes Alexander, November 23, 1978 wrote in the Montgomery Independent.”Treason against the United States”, says the Constitution, Article 3, Section 3 “shall consist only in levying war against them…”
So the treason clause in the constitution, and nowhere else refers to the “more perfect Union” in the plural, as if the compact by the states was nothing more than a loose”organization” like the United Nations, through which member-states come and go at will. This was Davis’ reason for believing that secession was no crime, according to Holmes Alexander.
So when President Andrew Johnson, no friend of Davis’, offered him a pardon, Davis did something amazing. He proudly declined on the grounds that he had done nothing wrong in being a political leader in the War of Secession.
If that is true, according to Holmes Alexander, Carter in bestowing the Pardon, was not so much forgiving a sinner, but acknowledging another American President – number 40 – who survived shabby treatment as a Union prisoner, but never lost “The Iron Will of Jefferson Davis” (the title of Cass Canfield’s biography.)
Maybe we need to learn more about treason. In the immediate postwar years, the New Yorker sent Rebecca West around the world to cover treason trials. She expanded her discoveries into a book “The New Meaning of Treason”.She begins by admitting there is a case for the “traitor”. She speaks of the relation between a man and his fatherland. Most interesting, don’t you think?