The Confederate Constitution

image of original Confederate ConstitutionOn March 11, 1861, the Confederate Constitution was adopted in the fledgling nation’s capital, Montgomery, Alabama.

Delegates from South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas adopted the document which bore a striking resemblance to the U.S. Constitution, with a few notable exceptions. The changes were designed to reduce the scope of the national government and return more power to the states in the Jeffersonian vision of America.

The preamble to document reads:

We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility 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 Confederate States of America.

Chief among the changes were the setting of six-year terms for the president and vice president, and a clause making them ineligible to serve successive terms. The document granted the president the power of line item veto, and limited the federal government from using any of its funds and resources without state consent.

It also prohibited the importation of slaves from foreign countries, but did provide recognition and protection for the institution of slavery in the states and territories.

Another change involved the efforts to eliminate the federal government’s ability to use money from the national treasury to promote any branch of industry — what we would term crony capitalism today, and what was then termed British mercantilism. Article I, Section 8, which enumerates the powers of Congress, removed the “general welfare” clause – which was already being abused – and replaced it with:

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 an 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…

Tariffs on goods going through southern ports – implemented to protect northern industry – was one of the main causes of secession. In fact, Abraham Lincoln’s main aim at “preserving the union” and sending his armies to invade and subjugate Southerners was to secure the revenue collected through the tariffs.

The Constitution also eliminated congressional ability to appropriate funds for “any internal improvement intended to facilitate commerce” and prohibited congress from appropriating money from the treasury “except by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses, taken by yeas and nays, unless it be asked and estimate 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.”

It also stated that:

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.

And an extra clause inserted in the Confederate Constitution would have prevented all-encompassing “omnibus” type bills. That clause stated:

Every law, or resolution having the force of law, shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.

One more difference of note; the new Constitution prohibited non-citizens from voting and gave the power of deciding voter eligibility to the national government, as opposed to the states as it us under the U.S. Constitution.

The Confederate Constitution was finally ratified on February 22, 1862. It would be behoove everyone to read the Confederate Constitution and push for incorporation of its better parts – those that restrain the federal government’s power and its power of the purse – into the U.S. system.

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