Creating a More Perfect Union
The Confederate Constitution represented an important effort to better incorporate sovereign State principles into the organic law, and repair the failings of the original document. The Confederate preamble omitted the “general welfare” clause “which had been used to add imperial powers to the United States Constitution,” and it referred very pointedly to sovereign and independent States.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
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Creating a More Perfect Union
“Jabez Curry was a deputy from Alabama to the Convention of the Seceded States which met at Montgomery on February 4, 1861. [Jefferson] Davis said: “The Constitution formed by our Fathers is that of the Confederate States, in their exposition of it; and in the judicious construction it has received we have a light which reveals its true meaning.”
Curry participated in the creation of this fundamental document. He said the Constitution was an object of veneration. Attachment to it was akin to idolatry. Curry noted, with great pride, that the United States Constitution was the work of Southern statesmen, adding that “the Federal government, the creature of the Constitution, had been shaped and administered for years, by Southern men.”
In the deliberations to create a permanent Confederate Constitution, the convention looked to the history of the United States to find the weaknesses and failings of the original. Alexander Stephens said of the men who put this new instrument together: “They were men of substance, of solid character, or moral worth, versed in the principles and practices of government, and some of them were amongst the first men of the continent.”
Curry emphatically claimed that the Confederacy was not dissatisfied with the United States Constitution, only with its administration; and its avowed purpose was to restore its integrity and secure its faithful observance with a goal of taking away from the majority in Congress unlimited power. He described how this was achieved:
“Every possible infringement upon popular liberty, or upon State rights, every oppressive or sectional use of the taxing power, was carefully guarded against, and civil service reform was made easy and practicable. Stubborn and corrupting controversies about tariffs, post offices, improvements of rivers and harbors, subsidies, extra pay, were avoided. The taxing power was placed under salutary restrictions.
Responsibility was more clearly fixed. Money in the treasury was protected against purchasable majorities and wicked combinations. Adequate powers for a frugal and just administration were granted to the General Government. The States maintained their autonomy, and were not reduced to petty corporations, or counties, or dependencies.
The study of the Confederate Constitution would be useful at present, as there was never a time when the need for restrictions and guarantees against irresponsible power was more urgent. The public mind has been schooled against any assertion of State rights or of constitutional limitations, and taught to look with aversion and ridicule upon any serious attempt to set up the ancient landmarks.”
The Provisional Constitution was no mere interim makeshift document. It represented a serious effort to incorporate Southern State rights principles into organic law.”
(Destroying the Republic, Jabez Curry and the Re-Education of the South, John Chodes, Algora Publishing, 2005, pp. 32-33)