Confederate Constitution of America set to draw support at Heritage

In February 1861, forty-three delegates met at a Constitutional Convention held in Montgomery, Alabama to discuss a new constitution for America. 

Represented were the states of South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana; all had recently seceded from the United States (the delegates from Texas were en route).

They knew that time was limited, the winds of war were blowing, and they must form a new government before the newly elected United States president, Abraham Lincoln, took office. They drew up a Provisional Constitution that was to last for one year only.

But one month later, the Convention drafted the third and final copy of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.

The day after the Provisional Constitution was signed, a twelve man framing committee was appointed and work on the permanent constitution was convened, chaired by South Carolina secessionist leader Robert Barnwell Rhett, Sr.

Rhett proposed using the U.S. Constitution as a model and "make only the most necessary changes." Their task would be, he stated, "a matter of restoration, than of innovation."

Amongst his proposals for the new constitution was the exclusion of a preamble; an idea that all residents of the new nation, excluding Indians, but especially African slaves, who were only counted as three-fifths in the U.S. were to be counted as a full person.

Confederate Constitution of America
All men are created equal-ish: The Confederate Constitution of America

He also advocated a reform on taxation; the creation of a Capital similar to the District of Columbia with land given freely by a State or States and a six year term for the president (limited to one, non-consecutive term at a time).

As to the matter which Americans associate most closely with the Civil War, he wanted the guaranteed extension of slavery into new territories and the expulsion of any State that should abolish slavery (he later wanted to add an amendment barring any free state from entering).

In the end, only the term of the president and the protection of slavery were kept.

Structurally, the final draft of the Confederate Constitution is almost identical to the U.S. Constitution. One major difference is the inclusion, almost verbatim, of the first twelve amendments of the U.S. Constitution into the body of the Confederate Constitution under Article I, Section 9.

Rhett and his committee presented the draft to the Convention on February 28, 1861, and it was ratified eleven days later, on March 11. By the end of 1861, all thirteen states of the Confederate States of America had ratified the Constitution.

This draft, one of only four copies known, will be featured in Heritage's upcoming Manuscript Auction #6063, December 8-9, 2011, in New York City.

George Washington, signed lottery ticket
George Washington signed lottery ticket
(Click for more details)

It fell into the hands of Albert Gaius Hills, a Boston Journal war correspondent (and for a three month period in 1863, First Lieutenant in the United States Army) who was present throughout the expedition to capture New Orleans in 1862.

In his travels as a reporter, he collected numerous artifacts connected with the Confederacy. 

A. G. Hills never had children and his personal effects, his journals, collection of newspapers from the war, the draft of the Confederate Constitution, maps, etc ended up in the sole possession of his brother, Frederick Calvin Hills.

The collection has remained within the family until now. Heritage has not yet opened bidding, and has therefore not released an estimate, but there can be a great deal of interest in Confederate memorabilia, such as the Robert E Lee's tintype photograph which sold last month.

Check back soon for more news on the sale. Collectors more interested in the signers of the original constitution may be interested to know that we have a lottery ticket signed by George Washington himself available right now.


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