The Confederate Constitution

In my continuing review of Constitutional law, I have been reading through an assortment of documents and Supreme Court decisions dealing with slavery, and leading to the secession of the South. The most startling of these has been the Confederate Constitution, as adopted by the first seven seceding states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas). This document very closely follows the structure and content of the United States Constitution, but with some immensely significant alterations.

Of course, historically the most important of these is the guarantee of the right to own slaves against Congressional laws, and it is this provision that reduces the entire Constitution to a massive contradiction with the principles of human rights, and the destruction of the very freedoms it purports to ensure. Due to this provision (and similar statements regarding slavery and negroes throughout the document), what follows should in no way be construed as support for the Confederacy.

It is in the non-slavery differences between the USA and CSA Constitutions that we find some extraordinarily interesting improvements:

Article I, Section 7, Paragraph 2: … The President may approve any appropriation and disapprove any other appropriation in the same bill.

Here we have the line-item veto. In addition, we have:

Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 20: Every law, or resolution having the force of law, shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.

Between these two provisions, “pork” would have been eliminated before it began to infuse appropriations bills, and the mass of contradictory, self-defeating and insanely twisted Acts of Congress would have been avoided by eliminating the mechanism of irrelevant amendment.

And there’s more:

Article I, Section 8: The Congress shall have power –
(1) 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 any duties or taxes on importations from foreign nations be laid to promote or foster any branch of industry…

(3) To regulate commerce with foreign nations … but neither this, nor any other clause contained in the Constitution shall be construed to delegate the power to Congress to appropriate money for any internal improvement intended to facilitate commerce…

These provisions, added to the appropriations line item veto, suggest that as early as the 1860s, there were high concerns over the magnitude and nature of government spending. I find it particularly interesting that Government support for industry is the subject of attack, and very disappointing that in the resolution of the conflict the USA did not pass a few amendments to its Constitution along these lines.

In addition to the slavery provisions, there are at least two others that I find disagreeable. The President is limited to a single 6 year term. I disagree with all forms of “term limitation” legislation, and that is a topic for another day. There is also this rather strange statement:

Article IV, Section 3, Paragraph 2:
The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations concerning the property of the Confederate States, including the lands thereof.

I read this as the ultimate eminent domain law. On the other hand, it may be possible to read this (assuming a reduce amount of clarity in the statement) to apply only to national government property, which mirrors our US law (though not from within the Constitution, if I am not mistaken).

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One thought on “The Confederate Constitution

  1. Trimmerman1

    I have thought about Individual property rights a lot. The term eminent domain is a sore spot with Objectivists, it should be erased from law. How would you write a constitutional section protecting property rights forever?

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