South Carolina – Confederate Constitution of 1861

Source: University of Georgia

On March 11,1861, the Confederate Constitution was adopted unanimously by the Congress of the Confederate States. It is almost identical to the United States constitution, with a few differences:
  • In the preamble, it omits the general welfare clause, and adds that each ratifying state is acting "in its sovereign and independent character."

  • It explicitly guarantees slavery in both states and territories but bans the international slave trade.

  • It prohibits protective tariffs and Congressional appropriations for internal improvements.

  • The Confederate constitution limits the president to one six-year term, but it gives him a line item veto.
The original signed manuscript consists of five vellum sheets pasted together into a roll 148 1/2 inches long. This manuscript was part of a wagon load of boxes rescued from the railroad station in Chester, South Carolina in April of 1865 by Felix G. DeFontaine, a newspaper correspondent during the war. The boxes, which had been abandoned by fleeing troops, contained the records of the Confederate government, which were being sent south after the evacuation of Richmond. The prizes among the records which DeFontaine recovered were the two Constitutions of the Confederacy, Provisional and Permanent.

DeFontaine sold the manuscript copy of the Provisional Constitution at auction in New York in 1883. It is now in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. He sold the manuscript copy of the Permanent Constitution to Mrs. George Wymberley Jones DeRenne on July 4, 1883. The University of Georgia purchased the Constitution from the DeRenne family in 1939.


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