Congress vigorously debated the proposed Constitution, more than half of which occurred over the First Article, on the powers of Congress. The various minority factions — the strong state-rights element and “hard-line, ultra-slavery people,” and the group dedicated to keeping the presidency as weak as possible, all compromised enough to adopt the Constitution, leaving some matters for future generations to amend. With its adoption, Howell Cobb of Georgia wrote to U.S. President Buchanan, “Providence has smiled on us.”
The Inauguration of Confederate President, Jefferson Davis
in Montgomery, Alabama, February 18, 1861
The Congress inserted in the Preamble to the new Constitution, making it different from the original, and asserting that the new nation was explicitly Christian, “invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God.” Some of the major adjustments included giving the President a line-item veto, a presidential term was increased to six years, but he could not succeed himself, the slave trade was abolished, the “General Welfare” clause was dropped, and Congress was prohibited from protecting American industry by tariff increases or using federal money for “internal improvements.” No Supreme Court was ever set up, but the state supreme courts ruled on the Confederate Constitution regularly, always upholding Congressional power regarding the conduct of the war. On all other issues, they followed the precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court. Regarding slavery, the Confederate Constitution overtly (as opposed to euphemistically, as in the United States document) protected slavery in all the Confederate States and strengthened the “fugitive slave” laws.
The Constitution of the Confederacy
The Confederate Constitution addressed the redefinition of meanings of words and applications in law that have become standard practice in our own times. The founders of the CSA distrusted a tyrannical Chief Executive and thus hemmed in his powers more fully than the old Constitution. They protected their section from majoritarian taxing powers that had already plagued the South then, and are unrestrained in our modern age.