The Adoption of the Provisional Confederate Constitution

Friday, February 8, 1861

It was going to be a long forth day for the Provisional Confederate Congress meeting in Montgomery, Alabama. The day previous, a rough draft of a Constitution was submitted. On this date, they would get around to making it work.

The Constitution, or at it was called, “The Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of North America” was to be made from the ideas and input of the Provisional Congressmen over two secret sessions.

They began at the beginning. The word “North” was stricken from the title and thus the name of the country. The rough draft began with the phrase “In the name of Almighty God.” That was removed and replaced with “Invoking the favor of Almighty God,” which was chosen over: “In the name of the Almighty, who is the God of the Bible, and the source of all rightful authority and rule.”

Then it was down to such business as replacing one word with another. “Occur” became “happen,” “granted” became “delegated” with “expressly” placed before it.

The preamble was tinkered with, adding and removing whole sentences, including the opening reference to “Almighty God,” until it read:

We the deputies of the sovereign and independent States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, invoking the favor of Almighty God, do hereby, in behalf of these States, ordain and establish this constitution for the provisional government of the same, to continue for one year from the inauguration of the President, or until a permanent constitution or confederation between the said States shall be put in operation, whichsoever shall first occur….

The body of the work was then discussed, Section by Section, Article by Article. More words were exchanged: “Nation” instead of “Confederacy,” “to” for “in” and “expressly delegated” for “voted.”

The President would also be given the power of line-item veto: “The President may veto any appropriation or appropriations and approve any other appropriation or appropriations in the same bill.”

The evening session was much the same as far as style was concerned. The ban upon the slave trade was upheld as were all other mentions of slavery, which were not even debated. The right to own slaves was clearly spelled out in the Southern Constitution.

Like the United States Constitution, no right of secession was mentioned, though the independent sovereignty of the states was Constitutionally guaranteed. As a bit of hope, the Congress gave themselves the “power to admit other states,” should other states wish to hop upon their dissolution wagon.

The Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of North America was unanimously adopted. A President and Vice-President were to be elected the next day.1


Meanwhile in Washington, the delegates of the Peace Conference were fiddling about with the old 36.30 line of the Missouri Compromise to basically no avail. There was some infighting over secession in Maryland.

Across town, Isaac Hayne was leaving Washington in a huff. His proposal on behalf of South Carolina to buy Fort Sumter was rejected and he was personally offended. Right before leaving, he fired off a nasty, ill-tempered letter “of such a character as to make it imperative to return it to him by mail.” Very unfortunately, the letter has been lost, nobody having even noted what it said. The Richmond Daily Dispatch supposes that “the offensive and insulting portion of the letter in question is believed to have been an allegation that the Government’s possession of Fort Sumter was an unwarranted act of Major Anderson, by and through the President’s violation of his faith to South Carolina, &c.”2

But we’ll never know.

  1. Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, Volume 1 []
  2. Richmond Daily Dispatch, February 11, 1861. []
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One thought on “The Adoption of the Provisional Confederate Constitution

  1. Are you kidding? Fist, the Southern “Constitution” specifcally said the states in it were perpetual — they could not leave.

    Second, even the USSR constitution allowed for free speech.

    The South had violently suppressed free speech from the 1820’s on, making any utterance against slavery a crime, punishable by TORTURE and jail. Did you know that?

    The South’s violent suppression of free speech is the big untold story of antebellum US history. But that is how slavery continued.

    Slavery could not exist for long where there was freedom of speech, as the Southern leaders found out. Either free speech had to go, or slavery had to go, as it had in the North.

    To allow slavery to be debated, and preached against, to allow books and publications to be distributed questioning slavery, or worse, showing it was evil, would dooom slavery. Slaves would fight back. SLaves would run away.

    Jeff Davis claimed that slaves “Were the most contented laborers on earth” until “the evil serpent whispered the lie of freedom into their ear” So Southern leaders made a huge, sustained, and successful effort to stop that evil snake from whispering anything to the slaves.

    You might have heard of Jefferson Davis — look him up.

    By the way, the same Jefferson Davis who claimed slaves were content, unless bothered by the evil serpent who whispered the “lie of freedom” — he also claimed slavery was the cornerstone of the COnfederacy. Learn a little real history. Yes, Stephens the VP is famous for saying so, but Davis also said so. Davis added that this was so obvious that he didn’t feel the need to explain it.

    As to the South’s love of States Rights? They hated states rights almost as much as they hated free speech, and I showed you how they outlawed free speech from 1820’s on.

    GO see the Southern leaders real attitude toward states rights in their goofy “Five Ultimatums” issued March of 1861, and heralded in the newspapers all over the South, including Richmond which called the Five Ultimatums “the true issue!”

    What was the TRUE ISSUE — what were the Southern Ultimatums? Go look them up. They should be in every US history text book, along side of Gettysburg Address, to show the difference.

    All five Southern ULtimatums were for the SPREAD of slavery by force, against the will of the people and against the wishes of the states and legilatures.

    The reason the South bragged about their ULtimatums then — but hide from them now — is because each of the FIve Ultimatums is a total repudiation of any pretext of state’s rights.

    The territories (Kansas had become a state a few weeks before — and they meant Kansas) must — MUST accept and respect slavery. Never mind that Kansas people had just voted 98% to 2% to keep slavery out forever.

    The FIRST ultimatum was that the people who just voted 98% against slavery, MUST accept and respect it! Not only that, but their legislature MUST pass laws providing for slavery!

    Hows that for state’s rights?

    Let’s face it. 150 years of distortion is enough. The SOuthern leaders were nutty as loons, they tortured, raped, and they weren’t satisfied. They wanted to SPREAD this insane religion of slavery to the rest of the continental USA — and even to the rest of the whilte world, according to their own Vice President.

    Davis — remember him — even said he hoped to reunite the US in one big slave nation.

    Learn real history. Enough nonsense already.

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