Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States
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The Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States, formally the Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, was an agreement among all seven original states in the
Confederate States of America The Confederate States of America (CSA), commonly referred to as the Confederate States or simply the Confederacy, was an unrecognized herrenvolk republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the system ...

Confederate States of America
that served as its first
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

constitution
. Its drafting by a committee of twelve appointed by the Provisional Congress began on February 5, 1861. The Provisional Constitution was formally adopted on February 8. Government under this constitution was superseded by the new
Constitution of the Confederate States The Constitution of the Confederate States was the supreme law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surr ...
with a permanent form of government "organized on the principles of the United States" on February 22, 1862.


Background and context

On February 4, 1861, in
Montgomery Montgomery may refer to: People For people with the name Montgomery, see Montgomery (name) Places Belgium * Montgomery Square, Brussels * Montgomery metro station, Brussels Pakistan * Montgomery (town), British India, former name of Sahiwal, Punj ...
,
Alabama (We dare defend our rights) , anthem = "Alabama (We dare defend our rights) , anthem = "Alabama (state song), Alabama" , image_map = Alabama in United States.svg , seat ...

Alabama
,
deputies A legislator (also known as a deputy or lawmaker) is a person who writes and passes law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unifie ...
to a "
Congress Congresses are formal meetings of the representatives of different countries A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity ...

Congress
of the
Sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from the Latin word ''superānus'', meaning "above". The roles of a sovereign v ...
and
Independent Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups * Independents (artist group), a group of modernist painters based in the New Hope, Pennsylvania, area of the United States during the early 1930s * Independen ...

Independent
States of
South Carolina South Carolina () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspap ...

South Carolina
,
Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia (, ; ) is a country located at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is a part of the Caucasus region, bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north and east by ...
,
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geor ...

Florida
,
Alabama (We dare defend our rights) , anthem = "Alabama (We dare defend our rights) , anthem = "Alabama (state song), Alabama" , image_map = Alabama in United States.svg , seat ...

Alabama
,
Mississippi Mississippi () is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States, bordered to the north by Tennessee; to the east by Alabama; to the south by the Gulf of Mexico; to the southwest by Louisiana; a ...
, and
Louisiana Louisiana (Standard French Standard French (in French: ''le français standard'', ''le français normé'', ''le français neutre'' eutral Frenchor ''le français international'' nternational French is an unofficial term for a standard ...

Louisiana
" met to set about creating a new form of government based on that of the United States. Their efforts resulted in, among other achievements, the drafting of a
provisional constitution A provisional constitution, interim constitution or transitional constitution is a constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In la ...
for what came to be known as the
Confederate States of America The Confederate States of America (CSA), commonly referred to as the Confederate States or simply the Confederacy, was an unrecognized herrenvolk republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the system ...

Confederate States of America
. Before the congress could accomplish anything, it required a set of guidelines to follow. On February 5,
Christopher Memminger Christopher Gustavus Memminger (german: link=no, Christoph Gustav Memminger, translit=Christopher Gustavus Memminger; January 9, 1803 – March 7, 1888) was a German-born American politician and a secessionist who participated in the format ...
proposed the creation of a Committee of Thirteen to draft a provisional constitution to grant congressional power to the convention. Thomas Cobb, of Georgia, moved for the committee to be twelve, with two members from each state delegation. The Convention settled on the latter by nominating Memminger and Robert Barnwell from South Carolina, William Barry and Wiley Harris from Mississippi,
James Anderson
James Anderson
and James Owens from Florida, Richard Walker and Robert Smith from Alabama,
Alexander Stephens Alexander Hamilton Stephens (February 11, 1812 – March 4, 1883) was an American politician who served as the Vice President of the Confederate States of America, vice president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865, and later as the Lis ...

Alexander Stephens
and Eugenius Nisbet from Georgia, and
John PerkinsJohn Perkins may refer to: *John Perkins (Australian politician) (1878–1954), Australian politician *John Perkins (author) (born 1945), American author of ''Confessions of an Economic Hit Man'' *John Perkins (rugby union) (born 1954), Wales interna ...
and Duncan Kenner from Louisiana to the Committee of Twelve. The committee elected Memminger, who had arrived at the convention with a draft already prepared, as their chair.


Key points and differences

All committee members were well educated and had extensive legislative experience. The necessity of a constitution made them work with considerable speed and report to the convention on February 7. Copies were then made and distributed to the convention's members, who spent relatively little time on debate. The key changes to the committee's draft were an inclusion of the phrase "Invoking the favor of Almighty God" into the preamble, the addition of an executive line-item veto, a removal of a congressional restriction of 15% on import tariffs, and the combination of the circuit and district court systems into one district system in which each state comprised one district. The Provisional Constitution was then unanimously ratified around midnight on February 8, 1861. It was signed by all members present at noon on the day of Jefferson Davis's inaugural address, February 18, 1861. There are 50 signatures in all, including those of the Texas delegation who were admitted on March 2. The Provisional Constitution was replaced after the ratification of the permanent Constitution of the Confederate States of America, on March 11, 1861. Since the framers of the Provisional Constitution used the
US Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law Law is a system ...
as a basis for their own, there are many similarities. Large sections were copied without any change, and others had only cosmetic changes (such as replacing "United States" with "Confederate States" or "Confederacy"). There were also several noticeable differences, including the aforementioned changes, as well as a clause to allow Congress to use a two-thirds vote to declare the president unable to perform his duties. Article IV permitted Congress to amend the constitution with another two-thirds vote, and Article VI granted Congress the power to admit other states into the confederacy. In its haste, the Committee of Twelve neglected to include important features such as a ratification process and decided to omit any mention of controversial issues regarding
slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property Property is a system of rights that give ...
and
tariffs A tariff is a tax imposed by a government of a country or of a supranational union on imports or exports of goods. Besides being a source of revenue for the government, import duties can also be a form of regulation of International trade, forei ...
, issues that were to be decided in the permanent constitution. However, the most significant difference from the US Constitution was that under the Provisional Constitution, the Provisional Confederate Congress was a unicameral legislature, with only one chamber, and voting was by states. That was changed to the more-familiar bicameral legislature in the permanent constitution, with senators and representatives voting individually. Slavery was dealt with very briefly in the Provisional Constitution. Since the Provisional Constitution did not provide for a House of Representatives, the section dealing with how slaves should be counted for census purposes was omitted. Article I, Section 7, of the Provisional Constitution outlawed the overseas slave trade but allowed importation from the slaveholding US states. However, Congress could ban importation of slaves from "any State not a member of this Confederacy." That differs from the US Constitution in which Article I, Section 9 allows but does not require a ban on the "Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit" effective January 1, 1808. Article IV, Section 2, of the Provisional Constitution required the return of escaped slaves, similarly to that in the US Constitution. It differed by specifying who shall return the slaves ("the executive authority" of the state) and adding a requirement of financial compensation equal to the "value of the slave and all costs and expenses" in the case of "abduction or rescue" of the fugitive slave. Unlike the US Constitution, the Confederate Provisional Constitution dispensed with the euphemistic phraseology of "other persons," "such persons," and "Person held to Service or Labour in one State" and forthrightly referred to them as "slaves" and "negroes." Slavery would be additionally addressed in the Permanent Constitution. In addition to outlawing the slave trade and requiring the return of fugitive slaves, the Permanent Constitution omitted the requirement of financial compensation for slaves abducted or rescued or the specification that the states "executive authority" was responsible for the return, prevented Congress from passing any law "denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves;" guaranteed the right of "transit and sojourn... with their slaves and other property;" required any Confederate territory to allow "the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States"; and restored the Three-Fifths Clause for allocating representatives and direct taxes.


Interpretations

In his inaugural address, President
Jefferson Davis Jefferson Finis Davis (June 3, 1808December 6, 1889) was an American politician who served as the president of the Confederate States The president of the Confederate States was the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) i ...

Jefferson Davis
said: "We have changed the constituent parts but not the system of government. The Constitution framed by our fathers is that of these Confederate States." It differed "only from that of our fathers insofar as it is explanatory of their well-known intent...." Some scholars agree with Davis that the Provisional Constitution sought to clarify many of the ambiguities of the US Constitution. The language of the former leads most historians to view the Provisional Constitution as emphasizing federalism over a consolidated, centralized federal government. For instance, in its preamble, "We the people" was replaced with "We, the deputies of the sovereign and independent States,...." Words such as "delegated" and "expressly granted" were also used to de-emphasize the power of the federal government and to underscore that the Confederacy was a league of states rather than a single homogeneity: the sovereign power resided within a framework that was "bottom-up," not "top-down."


Signers

The signers and the states they represented were: *
Howell Cobb Howell Cobb (September 7, 1815 – October 9, 1868) was an American political figure and later a Confederate one. A southern Democrat, Cobb was a five-term member of the United States House of Representatives The United States Hous ...
, President of the
Congress Congresses are formal meetings of the representatives of different countries A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity ...
*
South Carolina South Carolina () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspap ...

South Carolina
: R. Barnwell Rhett, R. W. Barnwell,
James Chesnut, Jr. James Chesnut Jr. (January 18, 1815 – February 1, 1885) was an American politician who served as a Deputy from South Carolina South Carolina () is a state in the Southeastern region of the United States The United States of A ...
, C. G. Memminger, Wm. Porcher Miles, Laurence M. Keitt, William W. Boyce, Tho. J. Withers *
Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia (, ; ) is a country located at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is a part of the Caucasus region, bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north and east by ...
: R. Toombs, , Martin J. Crawford, E. A. Nisbet, , , Thos. R. R. Cobb, A. H. Kenan, Alexander H. Stephens *
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geor ...

Florida
:
Jackson Morton Jackson Morton (August 10, 1794 – November 20, 1874) was an American politician. A member of the Whig Party (United States), Whig Party, he represented Florida as a United States Senate, U.S. Senator from 1849 to 1855. He also served as a Deput ...
, Jas. B. Owens, *
Alabama (We dare defend our rights) , anthem = "Alabama (We dare defend our rights) , anthem = "Alabama (state song), Alabama" , image_map = Alabama in United States.svg , seat ...

Alabama
: Richard W. Walker, Robt. H. Smith, Colin J. McRae, ,
William Parish Chilton William Parish Chilton (August 10, 1810 – January 20, 1871) was an American politician and author who served as a Deputy from Alabama to the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1862. Early life Called Will Chilton, he ...

William Parish Chilton
, Stephen F. Hale, , Tho. Fearn, *
Mississippi Mississippi () is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States, bordered to the north by Tennessee; to the east by Alabama; to the south by the Gulf of Mexico; to the southwest by Louisiana; a ...
: W. P. Harris, Alex. M. Clayton, W. S. Wilson, James T. Harrison, Walker Brooke, William S. Barry, J. A. P. Campbell *
Louisiana Louisiana (Standard French Standard French (in French: ''le français standard'', ''le français normé'', ''le français neutre'' eutral Frenchor ''le français international'' nternational French is an unofficial term for a standard ...

Louisiana
: John Perkins, Jr., Alex. de Clouet, , Duncan F. Kenner, Edward Sparrow, Henry Marshall (Louisiana politician), Henry Marshall *Texas: Thomas Neville Waul, Thomas N. Waul, William Simpson Oldham Sr., Williamson S. Oldham, John Gregg (American politician), John Gregg, John Henninger Reagan, John H. Reagan, William Beck Ochiltree, W. B. Ochiltree, John Hemphill (politician), John Hemphill, Louis T. Wigfall


See also

* Confederation


References


External links


Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States
at Avalon Project, The Avalon Project {{DEFAULTSORT:Provisional Constitution, Confederate States 1861 documents 1861 establishments in the Confederate States of America 1861 in law 1862 disestablishments in the Confederate States of America 19th century in Montgomery, Alabama Constitutions of the Confederate States Constitutions of unrecognized or largely unrecognized states, Confederate States February 1861 events Political history of the Confederate States Provisional Congress of the Confederate States Provisional constitutions