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.