Confederate States Constitution

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Confederate States Constitution
Image of Confederate Constitution.png
Page one of the original copy of the Constitution
CreatedMarch 11, 1861 (1861-03-11)
Ratified March 29, 1861 (1861-03-29)
Date effective February 22, 1862 (1862-02-22)
Location University of Georgia,
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
Author(s) Provisional Congress
Signatories43 of the 50 deputies
PurposeTo replace the Provisional Constitution (1861)

The Confederate States Constitution, formally the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, was the supreme law of the Confederate States, as adopted on March 11, 1861, and in effect from February 22, 1862, through the conclusion of the American Civil War. [1] The Confederacy also operated under a Provisional Constitution from February 8, 1861, to February 22, 1862. [2] The original Provisional Constitution is currently located at the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia, [3] and differs slightly from the version later adopted. The final, hand-written document is currently located in the University of Georgia archives at Athens, Georgia. [3] In regard to most articles of the Constitution, the document is a word-for-word duplicate of the United States Constitution. However, there are crucial differences between the two documents, in tone and legal content, primarily regarding slavery. [1] [4] [5]

Law System of rules and guidelines, generally backed by governmental authority

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

Confederate States of America (de facto) federal republic in North America from 1861 to 1865

The Confederate States of America, commonly referred to as the Confederacy, was an unrecognized country in North America that existed from 1861 to 1865. The Confederacy was originally formed by seven secessionist slave-holding states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—in the Lower South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African-American slaves.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The most studied and written about episode in U.S. history, the Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

Contents

Comparing constitutions

Article summaries

The Confederate Constitution followed the U.S. Constitution for the most part in the main body of the text with some changes.

Article IDifferences:

The Three-Fifths Compromise was a compromise reached among state delegates during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention. Whether, and if so, how, slaves would be counted when determining a state's total population for legislative representation and taxing purposes was important, as this population number would then be used to determine the number of seats that the state would have in the United States House of Representatives for the next ten years. The compromise solution was to count three out of every five slaves as a person for this purpose. Its effect was to give the southern states a third more seats in Congress and a third more electoral votes than if slaves had been ignored, but fewer than if slaves and free people had been counted equally. The compromise was proposed by delegate James Wilson and seconded by Charles Pinckney on June 11, 1787.

But Congress may, by law, grant to the principal officer in each of the Executive Departments a seat upon the floor of either House, with the privilege of discussing any measures appertaining to his department. [11]
The Congress shall have power – To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises for revenue, necessary to pay the debts, provide for the common defense, and carry on the Government of the Confederate States; but no bounties shall be granted from the Treasury; nor shall any duties or taxes on importations from foreign nations be laid to promote or foster any branch of industry; and all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the Confederate States. [12]
The phrase "general Welfare" was dropped from the Confederate Clause as well.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; [13]

Article I Section 8(3) adds quite a bit to the U.S. Constitution in an attempt to block the Confederate Congress from passing law to "facilitate commerce" [12] with some exceptions allowing for safety and improvement to waterways.

Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes. [13]
Article I Section 8(3) of the Confederate Constitution.
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes; but neither this, nor any other clause contained in the constitution, shall ever be construed to delegate the power to Congress to appropriate money for any internal improvement intended to facilitate commerce; except for the purpose of furnishing lights, beacons, and buoys, and other aids to navigation upon the coasts, and the improvement of harbors and the removing of obstructions in river navigation, in all which cases, such duties shall be laid on the navigation facilitated thereby, as may be necessary to pay the costs and expenses thereof. [12]
Congress shall appropriate no money from the treasury except by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses, taken by yeas and nays, unless it be asked and estimated for by some one of the heads of Department, and submitted to Congress by the President; or for the purpose of paying its own expenses and contingencies; or for the payment of claims against the Confederate States, the justice of which shall have been judicially declared by a tribunal for the investigation of claims against the government, which it is hereby made the duty of Congress to establish.
All bills appropriating money shall specify in federal currency the exact amount of each appropriation and the purposes for which it is made; and Congress shall grant no extra compensation to any public contractor, officer, agent or servant, after such contract shall have been made or such service rendered.
Every law or resolution having the force of law, shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title. [14]

Then in Section 10:

No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty on tonnage, except on sea-going vessels, for the improvement of its rivers and harbors navigated by the said vessels; but such duties shall not conflict with any treaties of the Confederate States with foreign nations; and any surplus revenue, thus derived, shall, after making such improvement, be paid into the common treasury. Nor shall any state keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay. But when any river divides or flows through two or more States, they may enter into compacts with each other to improve the navigation thereof. [16]

Changes to Article II:

Changes to Article III

Changes to Article IV

Other states may be admitted into this Confederacy by a vote of two-thirds of the whole House of Representatives, and two-thirds of the Senate, the Senate voting by states; but no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress. [20]

Changes to Article V

Changes to Article VI

Article VI Section 1(1)

The Government established by this Constitution is the successor of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, and all the laws passed by the latter shall continue in force until the same shall be repealed or modified; and all the officers appointed by the same shall remain in office until their successors are appointed and qualified, or the offices abolished. [22]

Changes to Article VII

When five states shall have ratified this Constitution, in the manner before specified, the Congress under the Provisional Constitution, shall prescribe the time for holding the election of President and Vice President; and, for the meeting of the Electoral College; and, for counting the votes, and inaugurating the President. They shall, also, prescribe the time for holding the first election of members of Congress under this Constitution, and the time for assembling the same. Until the assembling of such Congress, the Congress under the Provisional Constitution shall continue to exercise the legislative powers granted them; not extending beyond the time limited by the Constitution of the Provisional Government. [26]

Slavery

There are several major differences between the U.S. and Confederate constitutions concerning slavery.

Article I Section 9(1)
The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country, other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same. [14]
While the U.S. Constitution reads
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person. [31]
Article I Section 9(2)
Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or Territory not belonging to, this Confederacy. [14]
While the U.S. Constitution has a clause that states "No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed" [31] the Confederate Constitution adds a phrase to explicitly protect slavery.
Article I Section 9(4)
No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed. [14]
Article IV Section 2(1)
The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired. [32]
Article IV Section 3(3)
The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several states; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government: and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the Confederate states. [33]

States' rights

Some today [34] [35] feel that the Confederate Constitution's Preamble including the phrase "each State acting in its sovereign and independent character" focuses the new Constitution on the rights of the individual States.

The Confederate States gain several rights that the U.S. states did not have. For example, they gained the right to impeach federal judges and other federal officers if they worked or lived solely in their state.

Article I Section 2(5)
The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment; except that any judicial or other federal officer, resident and acting solely within the limits of any state, may be impeached by a vote of two-thirds of both branches of the Legislature thereof. [7]
Article I Section 10(1)
No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of nobility. [16]
And the U.S. Constitution's Article I Section 10 with the included "emit Bills of Credit."
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility. [36]
Article I Section 9(7)
No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one State over those of another. [14]
While the U.S. Constitution reads:
No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another. [31]
The ability to tax ships to raise revenue for the Confederate States is reinforced in Article 1 Section 10(3).
Article I Section 10(3)
No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty on tonnage, except on seagoing vessels, for the improvement of its rivers and harbors navigated by the said vessels; but such duties shall not conflict with any treaties of the Confederate States with foreign nations; and any surplus revenue thus derived shall, after making such improvement, be paid into the common treasury. [16]
Nor shall any State keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay. But when any river divides or flows through two or more States they may enter into compacts with each other to improve the navigation thereof. [16]

The Confederate States lose a few rights that the U.S. states retained.

Article I Section 9(6)
No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any State, except by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses. [14]

Signers

The signers and the states they represented were:

Ratification

Congress began to move for ratification of the Confederate States Constitution on March 11, 1861:

StateDate
1 Alabama 1861 Obverse.svg Alabama March 13, 1861 [38]
2 Flag of Georgia non official.svg Georgia March 16, 1861 [39]
3 Louisiana Feb 11 1861.svg Louisiana March 21, 1861 [40]
4 Flag of Texas.svg Texas March 23, 1861 [41]
5 Flag of Mississippi (1861-1894).svg Mississippi March 29, 1861 [42]
6 Flag of South Carolina (1861).svg South Carolina April 3, 1861 [43]
7 Flag of Florida (1861-1865).svg Florida April 22, 1861 [44]

Judicial review

Although the Confederate States Supreme Court was never constituted, the supreme courts of the various Confederate states issued numerous decisions interpreting the Confederate Constitution. Unsurprisingly, given that the Confederate Constitution was based on the United States Constitution, the Confederate State Supreme Courts often used United States Supreme Court precedents. The jurisprudence of the Marshall Court, thus, influenced the interpretation of the Confederate Constitution. The state courts repeatedly upheld robust powers of the Confederate Congress, especially on matters of military necessity. [45]

Criticisms

According to an 1861 speech delivered by Alabamian politician Robert Hardy Smith, the State of Alabama declared its secession from the U.S. in order to preserve and perpetuate the practice of slavery, the debate over which he referred to as the "Negro quarrel". In the speech, Smith praised the Confederate constitution for its un-euphemistic and succinct protections of the right to own "Negro" slaves:

We have dissolved the late Union chiefly because of the negro quarrel. Now, is there any man who wished to reproduce that strife among ourselves? And yet does not he, who wished the slave trade left for the action of Congress, see that he proposed to open a Pandora's box among us and to cause our political arena again to resound with this discussion. Had we left the question unsettled, we should, in my opinion, have sown broadcast the seeds of discord and death in our Constitution. I congratulate the country that the strife has been put to rest forever, and that American slavery is to stand before the world as it is, and on its own merits. We have now placed our domestic institution, and secured its rights unmistakably, in the Constitution. We have sought by no euphony to hide its name. We have called our negroes 'slaves', and we have recognized and protected them as persons and our rights to them as property.

Robert Hardy Smith, An Address to the Citizens of Alabama on the Constitution and Laws of the Confederate States of America, 1861. [46] [47] [48]

Georgia Democrat Alexander H. Stephens, who would become the Confederacy's vice president, stated within his Cornerstone Speech that the Confederate constitution was "decidedly better than" the American one, as it "put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution. African slavery as it exists amongst us; the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the 'rock upon which the old Union would split.' He was right." [49]

Relevant literature

See also

Related Research Articles

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  46. Smith, Robert Hardy (1861). "An Address to the Citizens of Alabama on the Constitution and Laws of the Confederate States of America". Mobile. p. 19. Archived from the original on May 3, 2001. Retrieved May 3, 2001. We have dissolved the late Union chiefly because of the negro quarrel. Now, is there any man who wished to reproduce that strife among ourselves? And yet does not he, who wished the slave trade left for the action of Congress, see that he proposed to open a Pandora's box among us and to cause our political arena again to resound with this discussion. Had we left the question unsettled, we should, in my opinion, have sown broadcast the seeds of discord and death in our Constitution. I congratulate the country that the strife has been put to rest forever, and that American slavery is to stand before the world as it is, and on its own merits. We have now placed our domestic institution, and secured its rights unmistakably, in the Constitution. We have sought by no euphony to hide its name. We have called our negroes 'slaves', and we have recognized and protected them as persons and our rights to them as property.
  47. DeRosa, Marshall L. (1991). "The Confederate Constitution of 1861: An Inquiry into American Constitutionalism". Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. p. 66. Archived from the original on May 3, 2001. Retrieved May 3, 2001.
  48. Shedenhelm, Richard (2001). "Some Doubts About the Confederate Case". Open Thought. Archived from the original on May 3, 2001. Retrieved May 3, 2001.
  49. Stephens, Alexander Hamilton (March 21, 1861). "Speech at the Athenaeum". Savannah, Georgia. Archived from the original on August 22, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2013.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)