Federal Governor, Edmund Jackson Davis, has ruled Texas with an iron fist since the end of the Civil War, but must now stand for election against a majority of citizens made up of ex-confederate sympathizers and soldiers. President Grant appoints Judge Mobley Meadows to the Texas Federal Circuit Court and charges him with preventing the situation from getting out of hand. Davis quickly realizes that Mobley is a threat when he overturns the Governor’s land reappraisal decree, a source of graft for Davis’s supporters, and sends his personal assassin to get rid of Mobley.
Mobley and his two deputy marshals, Edson Rabb, a handsome Cherokee Indian, and Jack Anthony Lopes, the illegitimate son of General Santa Ana and the English Lady Madeleine Smythe, are repeatedly attacked on their journey from Waco to Austin. They know Davis is behind the attacks, but they cannot make a case against him.
Davis loses the election by a majority of two to one, but arranges for his personally appointed state Supreme Court to overturn the election on a technicality involving a single misplaced semi-colon in the new Texas constitution. He then refuses to leave office or to participate in a trial in Mobley’s court.
Davis’s opponent, Richard Coke, does not accept this decision and with his supporters storms the state administrative building in Austin. Davis’s forces counterattack and manage to take back the first floor of the building. A standoff then prevails that can only be resolved by the action of President Grant. Mobley suggests a course of action to the president, that in the end works, but not without Mobley having to compromise his beliefs, his sense of honor, and everything he thinks he stands for.