Confederate Attorneys General
Wade Keyes Jr.
Wade Keyes Jr. (1821–79) was named assistant attorney general by Benjamin on May 6, 1861. He became a central figure in the Confederate Department of Justice, and he often assumed the responsibilities of the attorney general when the current appointee was absent or in times of transition.
Before taking the position of assistant attorney general under Benjamin, Keyes was a prominent Alabama lawyer who specialized in property cases. Born to wealth and privilege, he was educated at La Grange College and the University of Virginia. His parents financed an extended tour of Europe and, on his return to the United States, arranged for him to study law with several noted Southern attorneys.
Though Keyes directed his efforts to the PRACTICE OF LAW and generally avoided politics, he did hold public office for six years as chancellor of the Southern Division of Alabama. It was during his years in this office that Keyes was first noticed by Benjamin. Benjamin, impressed with Chancellor Keyes's administrative abilities, legal intellect, and writing skills, was instrumental in bringing Keyes into the newly formed Confederate Department of Justice.
In the course of Keyes's service to the Confederate president and cabinet, he authored 24 opinions—both for himself and for other attorneys general—on such diverse subjects as the duties of the attorney general; the treatment of prisoners of war; and, drawing on his former area of expertise, the appropriation of PERSONAL PROPERTY for the war effort. Following Watts's election as governor of Alabama and resignation as attorney general, Keyes stepped in and served as attorney general ad interim from October 2, 1863, to January 1, 1864, when George Davis was able to take the office.
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