Return to Treasures of The Karpeles Manuscript
Return to a quick view of some manuscripts at The Karpeles Manuscript Library
In 1861, after almost three-quarters of a century of use, an opportunity arose to analyze, delete, add to, and alter one of the greatest documents of all time;
Given such test of time, such opportunity of reflection, how would some of the greatest legal minds change that great document?
In answer to this question, the prospective forefathers met in Montgomery, Alabama, early in the year 1861, charged with this great task of surpassing the wisdom of James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and George Mason. The result of their 'reworking' is embodied in one of the most fascinating documents in history. The new Confederate Constitution would be patterned after the United States Constitution, changed only in those clauses where any hint of weakness or limitation was determined.
The first hint that the United States Constitution would stand as a model for the new Confederate States Constitution is evident in the first three words of that great new document,
As one reads through the draft of the new constitution, some of the most interesting points are evident:
Originally, the right to vote was not limited to citizens! Upon reflection, however, such a restriction was included.
The number of representatives to Congress for each State was determined by a count of the population of that State......except that slaves would count as 3/5 of a person...and most Indians as 0!
Of course, the "Bill of Rights" which established freedom of speech, of the press, to peaceably assemble and to petition the government, etc., were all included in the main body of the text.
No law denying the right of property in negro slaves could be passed. However, the importation of negroes of the African race, from any foreign country . . . was forbidden!
The most interesting article is that of eligibility for president. Anyone (even foreign born) who was a citizen of the Confederate States of America at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, was eligible. Also anyone who would become a citizen - but was born in the United States prior to December 20, 1860 was eligible. In either case the person must have had fourteen years residency in the Confederate States of America.
We the people of the Confederate States, each State acting (for itself, and) 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 - (to which ends we invoke) (invoking) The favor and guidance of Almighty God - do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America...