Broadsheets (13 1/2 x 8 5/8 in.; 342 x 218 mm, width slightly variable) of blue wove paper (without watermark). 27 numbered leaves. Roman type with italic, 20 lines broadly leaded, with twenty-five contemporary manuscript corrections, deletions, and emendations in ink by a member of the Confederate Congress; first leaf stained and with marginal chips and repairs, leaf 8 with tear in lower margin, a few scattered stains.
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America. [Montgomery, Alabama: by Shorter & Reid(?) for the Provisional Congress, ca. 10 March, 1861]
Broadsheets (13 1/2 x 8 5/8 in.; 342 x 218 mm, width slightly variable) of machine-made laid-texture paper (without watermark). 29 numbered leaves. At head: "In Congress—March 9, 1861—Amended Constitution—100 copies ordered to be printed." Roman type with italic, 20 lines broadly leaded, with twenty-two contemporary manuscript corrections, deletions, and emendations in ink by the same member of the Confederate Congress; final leaf with marginal repairs, some scattered stains.
2 printed documents, bound together in elaborate emblematic red morocco by the Derome Bindery, Buffalo; front cover slightly dampstained.
Provoked or resigned to secession as the only course by which they might preserve their way of life, and seeing that president-elect Lincoln would never permit the rupture of the United States, as James Buchanan might have done, the slaveholding states hastened during the winter of 1860–1861 not only to secede from the Union but also to form among themselves a viable, defensible nation. South Carolina had seceded from the Union on 20 December 1860, and immediately dispatched commissioners to the other states of the lower South to encourage secession throughout the region. By 1 February 1861, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas has seceded as well; and on 4 February, again at the instigation of South Carolina, a convention of representatives from the seceded states met in the old state capitol at Montgomery, Alabama, to organize a new nation.
Facing the press of time and circumstance, the convention established itself immediately as a Provisional Congress and named a committee to draft a provisional constitution that could serve until a permanent constitution could be written and ratified. The official Provisional Constitution was written and approved in just four days—and a new committee began work the next day on a Permanent Constitution. That committee reported on 26 February, and thereafter the Provisional Congress resolved itself daily into a constitutional convention, meticulously revising the committee's draft until, on 11 March, the Congress was able to unanimously approve the Permanent Constitution of the Confederate States of America.
Three printed drafts were issued for the use of the deliberating congressmen, each in turn incorporating agreed-to changes. The two printings here represent the first and the last drafts (the intermediate issue is described as Parrish & Willingham 6), and each has been well marked by the unidentified delegate who first used them to follow and participate in the debate. While clearly modeled on the United States Constitution, the Confederate version sought "to incorporate Southern state rights principles into organic law" (Yearns, p. 24). Among other substantive differences from the Federal Constitution, the Confederate preamble eliminated the "general welfare" clause; individual states were permitted to maintain their own armies and navies; the president—who was limited to a single, six-year term—was granted a line-item veto; Congress was limited in pork-barrel spending by the denial of the ability to appropriate money "for any internal improvement intended to facilitate commerce"; and there was no ban on plural office-holding.
The numerous holograph emendations made to both printings provide a rare insight into the discussions that shaped the final Constitution. For example, Article VI, Section 3 of the first draft reads, "The Confederate States recognize their ultimate liability for such proportion of the debts contracted by the United States of America prior to the 20th day of November, 1860, as the representative population of the Confederate States bore to the entire representative population of the United States according to the last census thereof." However, during debate evidently less conciliatory heads prevailed and the congressman using this copy drew a bracket around this section and noted "Struck out"; and, indeed, this text does not appear in later versions of the Confederate Constitution.
On 12 March, Howell Cobb, president of the Confederate constitutional convention, forwarded copies of the Constitution to the secession conventions of the states, advising them in a covering letter that the new Constitution's departures from the United States Constitution "have been suggested by the experience of the past; and are intended to guard against the evils and dangers which led to the dissolution of the late Union" (quoted in Parrish & Willingham 2). The Confederate Constitution was ratified by large majorities in all the state conventions, and thus became the foundation of the Confederacy as an independent nation.
All of the draft printings of the Confederate Constitution are exceptionally rare: Parrish & Willingham record two copies of the first (Lilly Library, Charleston Museum Library), one copy of the second (Boston Athenaeum), and one copy of the third (then at Reese); in addition, two unrecorded copies of the third edition have appeared at auction during the last quarter century (one at Sotheby's, 21 May 1993, lot 24, resold at Christie's New York, 17 June 2003, lot 41; and the other at Heritage, 8 December 2011, lot 34026).
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