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Chapter 2: election as President.

The Convention of the seceding States was held at Montgomery, Alabama, on February 4, 1861. It was composed of delegates legally appointed. Their first work was to prepare a provisional Constitution for the new Confederacy, to be formed of the States which had withdrawn from the Union, for which the style “Confederate States of America” was adopted. The powers conferred upon them were adequate for the performance of this duty, the immediate necessity for which was obvious and urgent. This Constitution was adopted on February 8th, to continue in force for one year, unless superseded at an earlier date by a permanent organization. It was modelled on the Constitution of the United States.

The Constitution was copied from the one the Confederates had just relinquished, to those who neither respected nor held its provisions sacred. Guided by experience, some stronger and more explicit clauses were interpolated. Instead of “We, the People of the [14] United States,” etc., “We, the People of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent Federal Government,” was substituted. The old Constitution provided that “the Congress may at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations,” etc.; but the words which preceded this clause in the Confederate Constitution are, “subject to the provisions of this Constitution.” Another clause was added to the prohibition against “Senators and Representatives holding any other office until the term of their official position should have expired.” But Congress may, by law, grant to the principal officer in each of the executive departments a seat upon the floor of either House, with the privilege of discussing any measures appertaining to his Department. This provision was intended, as in the case of the English houses of Parliament, to bring the heads of departments in direct personal relations with the Congress-and in their phrase, to “go to the country” upon their policy, by resignation of their offices.

A prohibition against a protective tariff was enacted, by granting the power to levy duties “necessary for revenue.” ... “Nor shall any duties or taxes on importations from foreign nations be laid to promote or foster [15] any branch of industry; and all duties, imposts, and excises, shall be uniform throughout the Confederate States.” Again, in the clause regulating the commerce, discrimination between the States or Sections is provided against by the prohibition against internal improvements by the General Government. The two-thirds rule was insisted upon in the appropriations of money. The African Slave Trade was forbidden, and the introduction of slaves fron without the Confederacy was forbidden, except in the case of those States which held slaves, and which were expected very soon to formally become members of the new Government, their citizens in numbers having been already enrolled in the Confederate army. They of course would have the right to bring with them every species of property. The right of property in negro slaves was reaffirmed,--and provision made against interference with it. Taxes discriminating against any State must not be laid, “except by a vote of two-thirds of both houses.”

The most careful precautions were taken against the expenditure of public money except by the two-thirds rule, or by estimates from the Executive branch approved by the legislative branch of the Government, and the claims against the Confederate States must [16] be heard and granted by a special tribunal created for the purpose by Congress.

No extra compensation was to be granted to any public contractor after the service rendered. No resolution or law should be voted upon in any other manner than separately and on its own merits.

“ No State shall, without the consent of Congress, levy duties except on sea-going vessels, for the improvement of its rivers and harbors navigated by the said vessels; but such duties shall not conflict with any treaties of the Confederate States with foreign nations.” The surplus revenue from these was to be “paid into the common treasury.”

Rivers flowing between the boundaries of States were to be improved by mutual compacts.

The terms of President and Vice-president were limited to one term, and extended to election for six years.

The principal officers in the Executive Departments might be removed at the President's pleasure, as well as all other civil officers, but the reasons must be presented to the Senate and subject to their approval. No person rejected by the Senate shall be reappointed during the ensuing recess to the same office.

The rights of all the citizens of all the States were secured in any new territory to [17] be acquired by the Confederate States by an express guarantee.

Any three States legally assembled could call a Constitutional Convention, and the Amendments to the Constitution should be concurred in by two-thirds of all the States voting by their legislatures.

The slave trade was “hereby forbidden,” positively and unconditionally, from the beginning. Neither the Confederate Government nor that of any of the States could permit it, and the Congress was expressly “required to enforce the prohibition.” The only discretion in the matter entrusted to the Congress was whether or not to permit the introduction of slaves “from any of the United States or their Territories.”

Mr. Davis regarded the Confederate Constitution as “a model of wise, temperate, and liberal statesmanship.” He wrote:

On the next day (February 9th) an election was held for the chief executive officers, resulting, as I afterward learned, in my election to the Presidency, with the Hon. Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, as Vice-President. Mr. Stephens was a delegate from Georgia to the Congress.

While these events were occurring, having completed the most urgent of my duties at the capital of Mississippi, I had gone to my home, [18] Briarfield, in Warren County, and had begun, in the homely but expressive language of Mr. Clay, “to repair my fences.” While thus engaged, notice was received of my election to the Presidency of the Confederate States, with an urgent request to proceed immediately to Montgomery for inauguration.

As this had been suggested as a probable event, and what appeared to me adequate precautions had been taken to prevent it, I was surprised, and, still more, disappointed. For reasons which it is not now necessary to state, I had not believed myself as well suited to the office as some others. I thought myself better adapted to command in the field, and Mississippi had given me the position which I preferred to any other — the highest rank in her army. It was, therefore, that I afterward said, in an address delivered in the Capitol before the Legislature of the State, with reference to my election to the Presidency of the Confederacy, that the duty to which I was thus called was temporary, and that I expected soon to be with the Army of Mississippi again.

The messenger with the notification that Mr. Davis had been elected President, and Alexander H. Stephens Vice-president, of the Confederate States, found him in our garden assistingto make rose-cuttings; when reading [19] the telegram he looked so grieved that I feared some evil had befallen our family. After a few minutes' painful silence he told me, as a man might speak of a sentence of death. As he neither desired nor expected the position, he was more deeply depressed than before. He assembled his negroes and made them an affectionate farewell speech, to which they responded with expressions of devotion, and he left home next day for Montgomery.

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