United States Constitution vs. Confederate Constitution

Annie69 By Annie69, 17th Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>History

The Union and the Confederacy came from the same founding fathers. Much of what the South did mirrored the North's actions of the late 1700s. While they didn't create their nation from scratch, they did improve it in several ways. Here's a brief comparison of their Constitutions and a little about the men who formed the Confederacy.

This is a re-rite of three columns I published in the Boonville Daily News in July 2009.

A New Nation

Our founding fathers not only started a new nation, but a new "kind" of nation. They had few, if any, examples to follow. Everything they did was an experiment and not always agreed upon by all. By the time they wrote the Constitution, the Revolutionary War had already been fought and won.

A Second New Nation

Things were different for the Confederacy. For them, the war was just beginning and the outcome was far from certain. Their biggest advantage was not having to write their Constitution from scratch.

By the time the Confederacy was founded, many learned men had lived and served under the United States Constitution. They knew its strengths and its weaknesses. In February 1861, the South made every effort to keep the best of the old while making the changes necessary for their way of life. It was much easier for the Confederacy to agree on their Constitution than it had been for the United States seventy-five years earlier.


After the Revolutionary War, thirteen colonies formed the United States, yet only twelve states sent delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Brave men pledged their lives to those three words and the words that followed. They were considered heroes. Of the fifty-five men who attended, only thirty-nine signed the finished document.

In 1861, other brave men also pledged their lives to those three words and the words that followed. They were considered traitors. Yet they were more united when they took on the same life-changing task that their forefathers were in 1787. While only seven states had seceded from the Union at the time the Confederate Constitutional Convention met in early 1861, every state was represented. The vote was also unanimous with all forty-three delegates signing.

Who were these men

Forty-three signatures were affixed to the Confederate Constitution, but who were these men who dared stand up to the sons of those who dared before? Were they poor, uneducated troublemakers? No. They, too, were descendants of those brave men of 1776, and many were quite prominent citizens of the day.

Howell Cobb, president of the convention, had been governor of Georgia, US Representative and Speaker of the House, and secretary of the treasury under President Buchanan. Charles Magill Conrad had served as secretary of war under President Fillmore while Duncan Farrar Kenner had been on President Arthur's tariff commission.

In Alabama, William Paris Chilton had been Supreme Court Chief Justice and Richard Wilde Walker has served as an associate justice. Williamson Simpson Oldham had served as an associate justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court.

A US marshal for the Territory of Washington, James Patton Anderson, and a former mayor of Charleston, William Porcher Miles, were also among those who signed the Confederate Constitution. Others had served in their states legislatures or as US Congressmen.

All these men were Americans. Most had lived and served under the US Constitution all their lives. Their belief in the document was so great that they copied most of it word for word as their own. The difference was the amount of power they put in the central government.

Two Constitutions

While most of the Confederate Constitution was identical to the US Constitution, the Confederacy had the opportunity to "edit" the original after seeing what did and did not work. They even had the foresight to address issues the US hadn't run into yet. Some of the differences between the two Constitutions follow.

Confederate's Preamble

The Confederate's Preamble included the phrase "invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God" which was not present in the one their forefathers had written in the previous century. These eight words might have prevented today's court challenges about the Pledge of Allegiance and other similar issues.

Voter eligibility

Another difference was the way voter eligibility was determined. The Union, which favored a strong central government, allowed individual states to decide how eligibility would be determined. The Confederacy fought against a strong central government, yet made that decision in their Constitution. Only citizens of the CSA would be allowed to vote.

Term limits

Although George Washington had mentioned it when he refused to run for a third term, the US had no term limits on the Presidency. The South had the foresight to limit the Presidency to one term. The US wouldn't set limits until the 1900s when Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected for the fourth time.

Unique to the Confederacy

Two other paragraphs, both in Article I Section 9, had no matching counterparts in the Union's Constitution. The first was an attempt to create a standard of financial responsibility.

(10) All bills appropriating money shall specify in Federal currency the exact amount of each appropriation and the purposes for which it is made; and Congress shall grant no extra compensation to any public contractor, officer, agent, or servant, after such contract shall have been made or such service rendered.

The second was an attempt to pass laws without getting side-tracked on other issues.

(20) Every law, or resolution having the force of law, shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.

It's a shame that when the Union won the war and captured the South they didn't have the foresight to capture their Constitution as well. It's obvious that many of today's problems could have been solved in 1865.


Confederate Constitution, Us Constitution

Meet the author

author avatar Annie69
History column appears weekly in local newspaper. Also news, human interest, and pictures. My fiction and poems have appeared in literary anthologies and I've written 3 novels

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
18th Oct 2015 (#)

Interesting post!

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author avatar Annie69
19th Oct 2015 (#)

Thanks. And I really do think we should have captured those two parts of their Constitution. Imagine our Congress today with those restrictions on financial waste.

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author avatar Susan Hauck
23rd Nov 2015 (#)

I just read this post and enjoyed it very much. Congrats on being author of the day! :-)

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author avatar Annie69
24th Nov 2015 (#)

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate the feedback. I spent 4 yrs writing about the CW before I changed focus, but the CW keeps popping up. Thanks again for writing.

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author avatar SaigonDeManila
3rd May 2016 (#)

Your article is a great find..make me feel a student again!

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