Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Shooting Fish in a Barrel--The Presidency and Section 3

Gerard N. Magliocca

In prior posts, I promised a complete list of contemporary references to Section Three's exclusion of leading Confederates from the presidency. I did submit such a list for my testimony in Maine, though I've found additional examples since then. For those interested, here is the Maine list.

1.       Gallipolis Journal (Feb. 21, 1867) (stating that Reconstruction without Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment "would render Jefferson Davis eligible to the Presidency of the United States").

2.       The Pittsburgh Commercial (June 29, 1867) (quoting a speech by General John Rawlins, Ulyssus S. Grant’s top military aide, in which Rawlins said that under Section Three: “Those rendered ineligible to hold office are not disfranchised, but all the rights appertaining to citizens are theirs to enjoy, save that of holding office. Every other citizen in the United States who has the requisite qualifications, no matter how conspicuous he was in the rebellion, no matter how hard he fought against the Government, is eligible to any office civil or military, State or Federal, even to the Presidency.”).

3.       The Milwaukee Sentinel (July 3, 1867) (stating that Jefferson Davis "may be rendered eligible to the presidency by a two-thirds vote of Congress").

4.      The Sunbury Gazette (July 18, 1868) (stating that under universal amnesty "the worst rebels are to be eligible for the highest national offices, so that upon this Democratic platform Robert E. Lee might yet become President of the United States"). 

5.      The Daily Journal (Oct. 19, 1868) (“The third article of the fourteenth amendment excludes leading rebels from holding offices in the Nation and state, from the presidency downward”).

6.       The New York Daily Herald (Mar. 29, 1871) (advocating Section Three amnesty legislation that "will make even Jeff Davis eligible again to the Presidency).

7.       The Indiana Progress (Aug. 24, 1871): (quoting by a speech by Senator Oliver Morton of Indiana stating he would never vote for Section Three amnesty for Jefferson Davis and John C. Breckenridge [the Confederate Secretary of War and former U.S. Vice-President] because that would make them eligible "to the Congress of the United States, it may even be to the Presidency"

8.      The New National Era (Aug. 31, 1871): (stating that Section Three amnesty would make Confederate leaders “eligible to the presidency").

9.      The Highland Weekly News (Sept. 21, 1871): (stating that the Fourteenth Amendment “provides that no rebel who had violated an official oath to support the Constitution of the United States, should ever be eligible to the Presidency").

10.     The Public Ledger (Oct. 3, 1871): ("Fred[erick] Douglass might be President. Carl Schurz cannot [he was foreign-born]. Every Southern man who lies under the ban of the Fourteenth Amendment cannot.").

11.     The Burlington Free Press (Jan. 19, 1872) (summarizing a debate in Congress on a proposed constitutional amendment limiting the President to one term in office that “would be treating General Grant more severely than Jefferson Davis, because although the latter is disqualified by the 14th amendment, it is still within the power of Congress to remove his disability”).

12.     Urbana Citizen and Gazette (Apr. 25, 1872) (stating that amnesty would make Jefferson Davis "eligible to a seat in the Senate, or to the Presidential chair itself").

13.     Chicago Tribune (May 24, 1872): (stating that the Amnesty Act of 1872 made "Alexander M. Stephens, the Vice President of the Rebel Confederacy, eligible to the Presidency of the United States").

14.     The Tiffin Tribune (July 18, 1872) (quoting Congressman John A. Bingham's speech declaring that he would never support Section Three amnesty for Jefferson Davis and other Confederate leaders because they "should never hereafter be permitted to be President”).

15.     The Rutland Daily Globe (Dec. 11, 1873) (stating that a general Section Three amnesty was justified "even if Jeff Davis is made eligible to the presidency").

16.     Ottomwa Weekly Courier (Aug. 18, 1875) (quoting a speech by Senator Morton in which he said that all but about 100 former Confederates “have had every political disability removed arising from the Fourteenth Amendment and are eligible to be elected to the highest office in the land”). 

17.     44 Congressional Record 325 (1876) (statement of Rep. Blaine of Maine) (rejecting Section Three amnesty for Jefferson Davis because that would mean that he “would be declared eligible to fill any office up to the Presidency of the United States”).

18.     Chicago Tribune (Jan 12, 1876) (stating that the amnesty legislation before Congress “is a bill to make DAVIS eligible to the presidency”).

19.     Sioux City Daily Journal (March 5, 1879) (stating that Jefferson Davis could be the Democratic nominee for President in 1880 “but for one thing” and then quoting Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment).

20.     The Belleville Advocate (May 7, 1880) (stating that holding President Grant ineligible to a third term of office would “be placing him on a par with Jefferson Davis so far as “eligibility” for the presidency is concerned”).

21.     Buffalo Morning Express (April 28, 1882) (summarizing a debate in the House of Representatives on universal amnesty legislation and stating that this would mean that Jefferson Davis could be “Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the United States”).  

For additional examples, see, e.g., The Burlington Weekly Hawkeye (Jan. 20, 1876), at 4 (stating that Democrats wanted Davis to receive amnesty "with a design to make him the Democratic candidate for President in 1876 or 1880").


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