March 11, 1861 – Seven Southern States Adopt the Confederate Constitution

On this day in history, at a convention in Montgomery, Alabama, delegates from South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas adopted the Permanent Constitution of the Confederate States of America. 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. Alabama was first to ratify the document on March 12, followed by Georgia on March 16, Louisiana on March 21, Texas on March 23, and Mississippi on March 26th. The Confederate Constitution was now in force.

The document was closely modeled on the U.S. Constitution, with two notable exceptions: one was in the Confederate provisions limiting the power of the national government protecting state rights and, second and most important, in the protection of slavery. As Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens (elected in February 1861) declared on March 21, 1861:

“The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. . . . The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. . . . This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. . . .

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens

Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens

The blatantly proslavery Confederate Constitution contains the words slave or slavery ten times in seven separate clauses. Of the fifty delegates to the Confederate Constitutional Convention, forty-nine were slave owners. Twenty-one owned at least 20 slaves and one owned 473.

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