Joe Biden supported an effort to restore the citizenship of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during his early days in the U.S. Senate.
The Democrat frontrunner, who is embroiled in controversy after praising the “civility” of two ardent segregationist, voted in 1977 to restore the citizenship of Davis, who had been stripped of it after the Civil War. Biden supported the measure as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and later voted for it on the floor of the Senate, as reported by the Washington Examiner.
The measure was ultimately signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.
The bill to restore Davis’ citizenship was seen as the final act in “the long process of reconciliation that has reunited our people following the tragic conflict between the states.”
“Our Nation needs to clear away the guilts and enmities and recriminations of the past, to finally set at rest the divisions that threatened to destroy our Nation and to discredit the principles on which it was founded,” the bill read. “Our people need to turn their attention to the important tasks that still lie before us in establishing those principles for all people.”
Biden voted for a similar measure in 1975 that restored citizenship to confederate General Robert E. Lee.
The decades old votes come to light as Biden attempts to stabilize his campaign after offering praise for the late-Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmdage (D-GA) at a fundraising event on Tuesday. Biden referenced the two men while touting his ability to form “consensus,” but did not elaborate further on what they were able to accomplish together.
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden told donors with an affected Southern drawl. “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”
“Well guess what?” he continued. “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
The remarks quickly sparked controversy as both men were avowed segregationist who vehemently fought against integration and civil rights. Eastland, in particular, was known as the “voice of the white South” for his fierce backing of Jim Crow and penchant for referring to African Americans as “an inferior race.”
Although Biden has refrained from mentioning it publicly, both Talmadge and Eastland were allies in his battle against busing to ensure school integration.