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Article III, Section 1, of the Confederate States Constitution of 1862 allowed for the creation of a Supreme Court of the Confederate States. The appropriate language read:
- "The judicial power of the Confederate States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish. The judges, both of the Supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office."
However, while several district courts were created, a Supreme Court proper was not, and the defeat of the C.S. during the American Civil War insured that there never would be.
Supreme Court of the Confederate States in The Guns of the SouthEdit
The Supreme Court of the Confederate States had not been established when Robert E. Lee took the office of President in 1868. Initially, he'd hoped that during his term Congress would at least accomplish that, but as he began his plan for ending slavery in the Confederate States, Lee realized that a Supreme Court would be more of a hindrance to his plans, and was relieved it had not been created.
Supreme Court of the Confederate States in Southern VictoryEdit
During the decades of undisputed Whig Party rule, the Supreme Court was a respected part of the ruling class - a situation which changed with the Confederate defeat in the Great War and the crisis which followed. During the rise of Jake Featherston and the Freedom Party in the 1920s, the conservative Court saw a threat to the status quo in the CSA, and allowed incumbent President Burton Mitchel to run for election in 1927 (he became President after the death of Wade Hampton V in June, 1922, rather than elected -- the C.S. Constitution disallowed Presidents from running for a second term). Mitchel defeated Featherston, and the status quo was preserved for the time being.
In the spring of 1929, the Richmond Stock Exchange crashed, hurling the Confederacy into the Great Depression. Featherston's Freedom Party rode the wave of disenchantment into power, with a majority in the House of Representatives and Featherston as President after the November 1933 election. Chief Justice James McReynolds grudgingly swore the Freedom Party leader into office on March 4, 1934, and hoped that Featherston would leave the Constitution intact.
McReynolds' hope was dashed almost immediately. The Freedom-controlled Congress passed a bill authorizing the construction of dams in the Tennessee Valley, which was signed into law in July 1934 by President Featherston. A Freedom Party sympathizer (prompted by Attorney General Ferdinand Koenig) sued, claiming that the law was unconstitutional -- and it was, since it violated the clause forbidding the construction of facilities in rivers that did not aid navigation. McReynolds and his court struck down the law in December 1934, and assumed that that was the end of the River and Dam Act.
Featherston was delighted. The Supreme Court had played right into his hands when it struck down a law that was popular among citizens. Koenig's lawyers informed the Justice Department that Featherston could use the precedent of the CSA not having a Supreme Court for the first four years of existence, and in January 1935 Featherston abolished the Court, declaring that "James McReynolds had made his decision, now let him enforce it!" When McReynolds went to argue the matter with Featherston and Koenig, the former Chief Justice was told to stay quiet or face a bullet on the spot. McReynolds backed down, and with the Freedom Party dominating public opinion in the Confederacy, no one ever complained out loud that the CSA no longer had a check on Jake Featherston.