Background of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America
The states that left the American Union in 1860 and 1861 brought with them a rich tradition of constitutionalism. Many Southern Leaders explained their support for secession in terms of the failure of the Federal compact. Most blamed Northerners for failing to live up to their obligations, although some thought it was structural flaws in the U.S. Constitution that made secession necessary.
The Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States of America signed on February 8, 1861, created a compact among six Deep South states. The Permanent Confederate Constitution, signed on March 11, 1861, created a political structure for what became the eleven-state Confederate nation. Both documents were similar to the U.S. Constitution. The differences between the two reflected the political struggles that had led to secession.
The Montgomery Convention And The Provisional Constitution.
On February 4, 1861, forty-three delegates from South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana assembled in Montgomery, Alabama, to write a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America. The convention finished its work four days later. Such speed was possible because of the “mania for unanimity” among the delegates and because the Provisional Constitution was something of a cross between the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution and borrowed heavily, in language and concepts, from both documents. Like the Articles of Confederation, the Provisional Constitution created a unicameral Congress in which each state had a single vote. Borrowing from the British system, the Provisional Constitution allowed cabinet members to serve in Congress and stipulated that Congress choose the president. Like the Constitution of 1787, it provided for a president with a veto power and enumerated powers for the Confederate Congress similar to those given to the U.S. Congress. There were also a number of substantive differences between the Provisional Confederate Constitution and the Constitution of 1787.
Under the Provisional Constitution Jefferson Davis became president of the fledgling nation and formed a government. By its own terms the Constitution was to last no more than a year, but it was in operation for only thirty-one days before the delegates wrote and signed a permanent constitution. The preamble of the Provisional Constitution reflected the state rights philosophy and Protestant culture of its framers: “We, the Deputies of the Sovereign and Independent States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, invoking the favor of Almighty God…”
The Permanent Constitution
Under the terms of the Provisional Constitution, the Montgomery convention reconstituted itself as the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America until such time as a permanent constitution could be adopted and a permanent congress elected.
There was no serious debate over the name of the new nation–the “Confederate States of America” reflected what the founders thought they were creating.
The delegates who gathered in Montgomery mirrored, in their occupations, their interest in politics, and in their stake in slavery, the elite of the society they represented. In early March when the Texas delegation arrived, their numbers rose to fifty. Of these, forty-two were lawyers and thirty-three described themselves as planters (including twenty-seven of the lawyers). Forty-eight were native Southerners, forty-nine were slave owners. Twenty-one owned at least 20 slaves and one owned 473. Thirty-eight were college graduates. Almost all had extensive political experience: twenty-three had served in the U.S. Congress; sixteen were former or sitting judges, including two state chief justices; two had been in national cabinets, and a third had been in the cabinet of the Republic of Texas. Oddly, one of the most influential members of the convention had no political experience per se. Thomas R. R. Cobb, the “James Madison” of the Confederate Constitution, had never held an elective office, although he had been the first reporter of the Georgia Supreme Court. He was also one of the South’s foremost legal scholars and the author of the influential An Inquiry into the Law of Negro Slavery (1858).
On February 9, the day after the signing of the Provisional Constitution, members of the Provisional Confederate Congress appointed a twelve-man committee, chaired by South Carolinas secessionist leader Robert Barowell Rhett, Sr., to draft a permanent constitution. Other important members of the committee included Thomas R. R. Cobb and Robert Toombs of Georgia; James Chesnut, Jr., of South Carolina; and Wiley Harris, a skilled Mississippi lawyer. On February 28 Rhett presented the Congress with a draft of a permanent Constitution. For the next ten days the Montgomery delegates functioned as a Congress during the morning and as a constitutional convention during the afternoon and evening. On March 11, 1861, the Montgomery convention adopted this document and sent it on to the seceded states for ratification.
Structurally the U.S. and Confederate Constitutions were nearly identical. Both had a preamble and seven articles, and both created a national president, a bicameral legislature, and a court system. The only major structural difference was that the first twelve amendments to the U.S. Constitution were incorporated, almost word for word, into the main body of the Confederate Constitution.
The Confederate Constitution is often seen as a document for a nation based on state rights and limited government. To a great extent this is true, but the document also vested the national government with some centralizing powers. Like the U.S. Constitution, the Confederate document had a necessary and proper clause, a supremacy clause, and a clause requiting all state officials to swear allegiance to the national government. Article I, Section 9 of the Confederate Constitution had a habeas corpus suspension provision that was identical to that of the U.S. Constitution. These certainly gave the national government power to act.
In addition, innovations in the Confederate Constitution gave the new government more power in some respects than the U.S. government had. The president was limited to one term, but that term was for six years. Thus he may have had more opportunity to implement his policies than his counterpart in Washington. The Confederate president had a line-item veto and the right to dismiss at will all cabinet members. Incorporating aspects of a parliamentary system, the document stipulated that Congress could grant cabinet officers “a seat upon the floor of either House, with the privilege of discussing any measures appertaining to his department.” This gave the administration an advantage in getting its programs through Congress that the U.S. president lacked. Robert Toombs thought these provisions strengthening the executive branch were the most important differences between the two constitutions.
The most significant differences between the two, however, lay in the Confederate provisions limiting the power of the national government, protecting state rights and, most important, protecting slavery.
A limited government. A persistent complaint of antebellum Southerners had concerned the national governments assumption of increased power after 1789. Reflecting the divergent views of state rights advocates and nationalists were the fights over the establishment of a national bank, the 1828 “Tariff of Abominations,” the doctrine of nullification, and the constitutionality of the Federal governments funding internal improvements. Thus, the Confederate preamble differed significantly from that of the U.S. Constitution in order to cure what were seen as defects allowing centralization. Unlike its Federal counterpart, the preamble did nor state that the central government was to “provide for the common defense” or “promote the general welfare.” It also contained an explicit reference to state sovereignty (discussed below) and a direct appeal for the “favor and guidance of Almighty God.”
Article I granted the Confederate Congress the legislative powers “delegated” in the Constitution. This was a major limitation on the power of the Confederate government. The enumerated powers clauses (Art. I, Sec. 8) limited taxes to those providing revenue necessary to pay the debts, provide for the common defense, and carry on the Government of the Confederate States.” This clause specifically forbade any “bounties” or taxes “to promote or foster any branch of industry.” Section 8 absolutely prohibited the Congress from appropriating money for “internal improvements intended to facilitate commerce” except for those directly connected to navigation, harbors, and rivers. Under this Constitution there would be no support for national roads, railroads, or other such improvements.
It also provided that the executive branch could propose appropriations and needed only a simple majority in Congress to have them adopted, whereas appropriations originating with Congress needed a two-thirds majority to pass. This particular provision strengthened the president vis-à-vis Congress but generally it made the national government less flexible than that of the United States. The Constitution also required that all appropriations be for exact amounts and declared that there could not be “extra compensation to any public contractor, officer, agent or servant.” The absolute prohibition on “impa[i]ring the right of property in negro slaves” limited the use of slaves for war activities. These provisions, combined with the lack of a common defense clause in the preamble, were significant departures from the U.S. Constitution and at least potentially hampered the operations of a government that was about to fight a major war with a far richer and more powerful adversary.
Finally, in a move to eliminate patronage (which could have undermined the presidents power to run the government), the Constitution prohibited the president from removing civil servants except for “dishonesty, incapacity, inefficiency, misconduct, or neglect of duty.” The president, however, retained the explicit power to fire cabinet members and diplomats without cause.
During the war itself the Davis government was able to overcome some, hut not all, of the constitutional obstacles to a strong government. President Davis amassed considerable power, but at great cost to his political capital. During the war the Davis administration often suppressed civil liberties to a greater extent than its counterpart in Washington. Only five days after Davis took office the Confederate Congress adopted legislation allowing the suspension of habeas corpus. Davis sporadically imposed martial law on Richmond and other major cities. In some areas of the Confederacy, like eastern Tennessee, martial law led to the summary executions of a few civilians and the mass incarceration of others. By the end of the war, Vice President Alexander Stephens and other leading politicians no longer supported the administration, in part because of Davis’s “betrayal” of Southern Constitutional principles. ‘Our liberties, once lost,” he declared, “may be lost forever.”
State rights. Directly tied to the limitations on the national government was a respect for state rights. Some scholars have argued that the Confederate Constitution was so extreme on this issue that the Confederacy was doomed to lose the wan Others dispute this point. In any event, even a cursory glance at the document shows that in respecting stare rights– and simultaneously limiting the power of the central government–the Confederate Constitution created a government that was quite different from that in place in the Union.
The state rights tone was set in the preamble, which added to “We, the people of the Confederate States,” the significant phrase “each State acting in its sovereign and independent character.” Article I allowed the states to impeach “any judicial or other Federal officer, resident and acting solely within the limits of any state.” Such an officer would then be tried by the Confederate Senate. This provision was never implemented during the life of the Confederacy. Nevertheless, the threat of impeachment may have undermined the ability of Confederate officials to enforce unpopular laws and policies in their state. Article I, Section 10, also allowed states to impose their own import and export duties, something prohibited to the states remaining in the Union.
Southern distrust for the national judiciary was apparent in the drafting of Article III of the Confederate document. A key provision of the U.S. Constitution is the clause creating diversity jurisdiction by giving the federal courts the power to hear cases “between Citizens of different States.” The Confederate Constitution lacked such a provision, which in practice meant that civil suits between citizens of different states would have to be litigated in state courts. This undermined the nationalization of law and jurisprudence, and had the Confederacy survived, it probably would have led to unnecessary complications in litigation and complaints about the failure of litigants to get a fair trial in a neutral forum. Moreover, in a nation that was predicated on state rights and local interests, the abolition of diversity jurisdiction could have led to a judicial and business climate that would have hampered economic development. The Confederate Constitution also failed to include the phrase “law and equity” in granting jurisdiction to the national courts. This is generally seen as a concession to the civil law system in Louisiana and its vestiges in Texas. A final bow to state rights, and one that could have led to enormous instability, was a provision allowing a constitutional convention to be called on the demand of just three states.
During the war, state judges issued writs of habeas corpus directed against military officers trying to impose Confederate conscription. Without a functioning court system, which the Constitution would have allowed but did not mandate, the Davis administration and the Confederate military could only respond to these manifestations of state rights with suspensions of martial law.
Slavery. Far from a “peculiar institution,” slavery was, as Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens declared, ‘the cornerstone” of the Confederacy. As such, it was protected even more in the Confederate Constitution than it had been in the proslavery U.S. Constitution of 1787.
The most obvious difference between the two documents lay in their use of the term slavery. In deference in 1787 to some of the Northern delegates who thought their constituents might oppose the Constitution if the word appeared, the framers of the U.S. Constitution substituted such phrases as other persons, such persons, and persons owing service for the word slaves. No such problems arose in the framing of the Confederate document. The blatantly proslavery Confederate Constitution contains the words slave or slavery ten times in seven separate clauses.
As their predecessors had in the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, the South Carolina delegates in Montgomery wanted to count slaves fully for representation. South Carolina had a larger percentage of slaves than any other state and would have gained by their full representation. The delegates in Montgomery, however, must have understood that a full counting of slaves would have discouraged the other Southern states, with smaller percentages of slaves, from joining the Confederacy. Thus, the convention chose to continue the Federal compromise by maintaining the three-fifths clause for determining congressional apportionment.
The frequent refusal of Northern states to cooperate in the rendition of fugitive slaves had been a major irritant in the antebellum period. The Montgomery delegates did not, however, substantially alter the fugitive slave clause in their Constitution. There were probably two reasons for this. First, they were writing a constitution for a slaveholders republic, and it was unlikely that any Confederate state would ever adopt legislation similar to the Northern personal liberty laws. Second, a substantial change in the wording of the clause would have undermined the Southern argument that the meaning of the clause in the U.S. Constitution was clear and that secession was justified by the North’s refusal to fulfill its constitutional obligations.
The Confederate Constitution also mirrored, hut surpassed, the federal Constitution on the issue of the slave trade by absolutely forbidding the operation of the African slave trade. This was done over protestations of South Carolinians, who wanted the matter left to Congress. Prohibiting the trade was not an indication of antislavery sentiment but the result of the distaste for the African trade by some slave owners, fear of Africans themselves, and the feat that Europe would not recognize the Confederacy if it did not unequivocally prohibit the trade. Permitting the trade also might have discouraged Virginia and Maryland from entering the Confederacy because of the excess of slaves in those states. Those states might not have wanted foreign competition with their interstate slave trade.
On all other issues the Constitution created a thoroughly proslavery republic. The Constitution authorized Congress to limit the importation of slaves from other nations and states but did not prohibit it altogether as current federal law did. The Constitution absolutely prohibited any law “impa[i]ring the right of property in negro slaves.” Reflecting Southern states rejection of Northern states decisions that had freed the slaves of visitors, Article IV guaranteed that the citizens of each Confederate state “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.” The Constitutions fugitive slave clause reiterated this right. Finally, the Constitution affirmed the proslavery holding of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in the U.S. Supreme Court Dred Scott decision, by declaring that slavery could never be prohibited from any Confederate territory. At the same time, however, the Confederate authors jettisoned Taney’s implausible argument that the national government could not regulate the territories. Thus, their territory clause accomplished two proslavery goals. It guaranteed both slavery in the territories and the ability of Congress to counter any antislavery movement that might arise in the Confederate hinterlands.
On March 11 the Montgomery convention unanimously adopted the new Constitution. The next day Howell Cobb, president of the convention, sent the Constitution to the states for their approval. The ratification of five states would complete the process. On March 12 the Alabama secession convention debated and ratified the document by a vote of 87 to 5; on March 16 the Georgia convention read and ratified the Constitution by a unanimous vote of 260 to 0; on March 21, after some political maneuvering, Louisiana ratified 94 to 10; on March 23 the Texas Secession Convention approved the Constitution 126 to 2 after almost no debate; and on March 26 Mississippi ratified it by a vote of 78 to 7. The Confederate Constitution was now in force.
Radicals delayed ratification in South Carolina. Robert Barnwell Rhett, Sr., wanted to amend the document to prohibit any free state from entering the Confederacy. But finally, on April 3, South Carolina ratified by a vote of 138 to 21. The negative votes represented not latent Unionist sentiment but the proslavery extremism in the Palmetto State. After ratification the South Carolina convention proposed amendments to eliminate the three-fifths provision and count all slaves for representation; to prohibit free states from joining the Confederacy; to repeal the constitutional prohibition on the slave trade; and to prohibit the government from going into debt, except in the event of war.
Finally, on April 22, Florida ratified the Constitution with a vote of 50 to 0. By this time fighting between the Union and the Confederacy had begun. By the end of June, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Virginia had joined the Confederacy. Tennessee adopted an ordinance of secession in May and placed the Confederate Constitution before the voters, who endorsed it in August by a vote of 85,753 to 30,863. Rump governments in Kentucky and Missouri also eventually endorsed the Confederate Constitution, but those states remained firmly in the Union throughout the war.
Source: “The Confederacy” a Macmillan Information Now Encyclopedia, Article by Paul Finkelman
(Votes are of conventions unless otherwise indicated)
|1||Alabama||March 12, 1861||87 to 5|
|2||Georgia||March 16, 1861||260 to 0|
|3||Louisiana||March 21, 1861||94 to 10|
|4||Texas||March 23, 1861||126 to 2|
|5||Mississippi||March 28, 1861||78 to 7|
|6||South Carolina||April 3, 1861||138 to 21|
|7||Florida||April 2, 1861||50 to 0|
85,753 to 30,863
The Constitution of the
Confederate States of America
In framing the Constitution of the Confederate States, the authors adopted, with numerous elisions and additions, the language of the Constitution of the United States, and followed the same order of arrangement of articles and sections. The changes made in this adaptation of the old Constitution are here shown. The parts stricken out are enclosed in brackets, and the new matter added in framing the Confederate Constitution is printed in italics.]
WE, the People of the [United States] Confederated States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a [more perfect Union] permanent Federal government, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity [provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare], and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the [United] Confederate States of America.
All legislative Powers herein [granted] delegated, shall be vested in a Congress of the [United] Confederate States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall be citizens of the Confederate States, and have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature; but no person of foreign birth, and not a citizen of the Confederate States, shall be allowed to vote for any officer, civil or political, State or federal.
No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty-five Years, and [been seven Years a Citizen of the United] be a citizen of the Confederate States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this [Union] Confederacy, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all [other Persons] slaves. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the [United] Confederate States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every [thirty] fifty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of [New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three] South Carolina shall be entitled to choose six, the State of Georgia ten, the State of Alabama nine, the State of Florida two, the State of Mississippi seven, the State of Louisiana six, and the State of Texas six.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
The House of Representatives shall chuse 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.
The Senate of the [United] Confederate States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years, at the regular session next immediately preceding the commencement of the term of service; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one-third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and [been nine Years a Citizen of the United] be a citizen of the Confederate States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
The Vice President of the [United] Confederate States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the [United] Confederate States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and Disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honour, Trust or Profit under the [United] Confederate States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof, subject to the provisions of this Constitution; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the times and places of chusing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.
Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds of the whole number expel a Member.
Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one-fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal
Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the [United] Confederate States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason [Felony] and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the [United] Confederate States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the [United] Confederate States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office. But Congress may, by law, grant to the principal officers 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.
All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House o! Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
Every Bill which shall have passed [the House of Representatives and the Senate] both Houses, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the [United] Confederate States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two-thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two-thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its return, in which Case it shall not be a Law. The President may approve any appropriation and disapprove any other appropriation in the same bill. In such case he shall, in signing the bill, designate the appropriation disapproved, and shall return a copy of such appropriation, with his objections, to the House in which the bill shall have originated; and the same proceedings shall then be had as in case of other bills disapproved by the President.
Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of [the Senate and House of Representatives] both Houses may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment), shall be presented to the President of the [United] Confederate States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, [shall] may be repassed by two-thirds of [the Senate and House of Representatives] both Houses, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.
The Congress shall have Power
To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, for revenue necessary to pay the Debts [and], provide for the common Defence [and general Welfare of the United States; but], and carry on the government of the Confederate States; but no bounties shall be granted from the treasury, nor shall any duties, or taxes, or importation from foreign nations be laid to promote or foster any branch of industry; and all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the [United] Confederate States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the [United] Confederate States;
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 this 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 such cases such duties shall be laid on the navigation facilitated thereby, as may be necessary to pay the costs and expenses thereof;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the [United] Confederate States; but no law of Congress shall discharge any debt contracted before the passage of the same;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the [United] Confederate States;
To establish Post Offices and post [Roads] routes; but the expenses of the Postoffice Department, after the first day of March, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty-three, shall be paid out of its own revenues;
To promote the progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to
that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the [Union] Confederate States, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the [United] Confederate States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the Discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the [United] Confederate States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, Dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;–And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the [United] Confederate States or in any Department or Officer thereof.
[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.] 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. 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.
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves, shall be passed.
No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration hereinbefore directed to be taken.
No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State, except by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses.
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].
No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.
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 departments 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 officially 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.
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the [United] Confederate States; and no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand
Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any Criminal Case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have Compulsory process for obtaining Witnesses in his favour, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the [United] Confederate States, than according to .the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Every law or resolution having the force of law, shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.
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, or ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
No State shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the [United] Confederate States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Con-troul of the Congress.
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, except on sea-going vessels, for the inprovement of its rivers and harbors navigated by the said vessels; but such duties shall nat conflict with any treaties of the Confederate States with foreign nations; and any surplus of 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.
[The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:] The executive power shall be vested in a President of the Confederate States of America. He and the Vice President shall hold their offices for the term of six years; but the President shall not be re-eligible. The President and Vice President shall be elected as follows:
Each State shall appoint in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the [United] Confederate States, shall be appointed an Elector.
The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for President and Vice President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the [United] Confederate States, directed to the President of the Senate;–The President of the Senate shall, in presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;–The person having the greatest number of votes for President shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each State having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the States, and a majority of all the States shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice President shall be the Vice President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list the Senate shall choose the Vice President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice President of the [United] Confederate States.
The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
No Person except a natural born Citizen [or a Citizen of the United States] of the Confederate States, or a citizen thereof, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, or a citizen thereof born in the United States prior to the 20th of December, 1860, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the[United States] limits of the Confederate States, as they may exist at the time of his election.
In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shah devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation, or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the [United} Confederate States or any of them.
Before he enters on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the [United] Confederate States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution [o! the United States] thereof.”
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the [United] Confederate States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the [United] Confederate States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the [United] Confederate States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the [United] Confederate States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments. The principal officer in each of the executive departments, and all persons connected with the diplomatic service, may be removed from office at the pleasure of the President. All other civil officers of the executive department may be removed at any time by the President, or other appointing power, when their services are unnecessary, or for dishonesty, incapacity, inefficiency, misconduct, or neglect of duty; and when so removed, the removal shall be reported to the Senate, together with the reasons therefor.
The President shall have Power to fill [up] all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
[He] The President shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the [Union] Confederacy, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene bolt, Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the officers of the [United] Confederate States,
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the [United] Confederate States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
The judicial Power of the [United] Confederate States shall be vested in one [supreme] Superior Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.
The judicial Power shall extend to all cases [in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution], arising under this Constitution, ,n law and equity, the Laws of the [United] Confederate States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;- to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers, and Consuls;–to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;–to Controversies to which the [United] Confederate States shall be a Party; –to Controversies between two or more States;–between a State and Citizens of another State where the State is plaintiff ;–between Citizens claiming lands under grants of different’ States,–[between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States,] and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects; but no State shall be sued by a citizen or subject of any foreign State.
In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crime[s] shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
Treason against the [United] Confederate States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all 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 such slaves shall not be impaired.
A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.
No slave or Person held to Service or Labour in [one State] any State or Territory of the Confederate Slates under the Laws thereof, escaping or unlawfully carried into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such slave belongs, or to whom such Service or Labour may be due.
[New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union;] 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.
The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations [respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State] concerning the property of the Confederate States, including the lands thereof.
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.
The [United] Confederate States shall guarantee to every State [in this Union] that now is, or hereafter may become, a member of this Confederacy, a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature [cannot be convened] is not in session) against domestic Violence.
[The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or on the Application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.]
Upon the demand of any three States, legally assembled in their several Conventions, the Congress shall summon a Convention of all the States, to take into consideration such amendments to the Constitution as the said States shall concur in suggesting at the time when the said demand is made; and should any of the proposed amendments to the Constitution be agreed on by the said Convention–voting by States –and the same be ratified by the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, or by Conventions in two-thirds thereof–as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the general Convention–they shall henceforward form a part of this Constitution. But no State shall, without its consent, be deprived of its equal representation in the Senate.
The Government established by this Constitution is the successor of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, and all 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.
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the [United] Confederate States under this Constitution, as under the [Confederation] Provisional Government.
This Constitution and the Laws of the [United] Confederate States [which shall be] made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the [United] Confederate States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the [United] Confederate States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the [United] Confederate States.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people of the several States.
The powers not delegated to the [United] Confederate States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The Ratification of the Conventions of [nine] five States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.
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.
[DONE in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independance of the United States of America the Twelfth.] Adopted unanimously March 11, 1861.
Source: The Confederate Military History, Appendix to Volume 12