North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial


The Confederate Framers and Their Constitution



“The Confederate Constitution of 1861 is the manifestation of the Southerners’ better comprehension

of the theory of our government. It is, indeed, a reactionary document; a reaction to inevitable changes

that political, social, and economic forces were thrusting upon the U.S. Constitution, thereby transforming

the community of States into a national community of individuals. The emerging nationalism was not,

they alleged, the nation of the mutual fathers of 1787. . . [and] the Confederate framers contended

that they were seceding on behalf of the U.S. Constitution, not against it, their understanding of the

U.S. Constitution was, in certain respects . . . rather that of the Anti-Federalists (e.g., Agrippa)

and John C. Calhoun.
(The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pg. 17)


The Confederate framers careful tinkering with the US Constitution betrayed a suspicion of party

and partisan politics that had become the norm by mid-century in America. Civic virtue –

the willingness to put the common good ahead of individual interests – was central to the ideology

of republicanism that emerged from the Revolution. Additionally, a deep distrust of politicians and

a conviction that persons who wielded government authority must be carefully watched lest they

expand their power at the expense of liberty was foremost in the framers’ minds.

What follows on this page is not intended to be an exhaustive study of the Confederate Constitution

but a brief overview of selected passages from deeply-reserched and insightful books on the subject. 

Please see the "Suggested Further Reading" list at the bottom of the page for excellent resources

to look more deeply into the creation of the Confederate Constitution.  Editor.

“By 1860 Southerners were perhaps more receptive to anti-party ideas than other Americans.

The meteoric rise of the Republicans impressed upon Southerners the evils of party: in their eyes

the Republican party was bent upon using government to promote the interests of the North

by riding roughshod over the rights of the South. As such, it was a chilling reminder of

the dangers posed by political parties.”

(An Uncertain Tradition, Hall & Ely, Jr., pg. 218)


Creating a Southern Republic

"On February 4, 1861, delegates from six States of the lower South met in convention

in Montgomery . . . . to form a Southern republic. Five weeks were devoted to choosing provisional

officers and drawing up a frame of government. The Confederate blueprint of government drafted

at Montgomery was largely a copy of the Constitution of the United States. Southerners had revered

the Constitution of 1787 . . . [and] Vice President Alexander Stephens bent his energies to making

the Confederate Constitution a close replica of the Federal document . . . and incorporated some

provisions which might be regarded as an improvement over its prototype.

Certain innovations reflected the agrarian interests of the vast majority of the people.

Protective tariffs (as distinguished from revenue tariffs), bounties, and appropriations for internal

improvements were outlawed. Export duties could be levied and new States admitted only by

a two-thirds vote of Congress. The Post Office was required to become self-sustaining

[after March 1, 1863]. From the beginning the Confederate States of America was a land of

profound conservatism and was proud of that fact.

On February 22, 1862, Washington’s birthday anniversary, the “permanent” government succeeded

the provisional one. Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, having been unanimously elected

President and Vice President the preceding November, were inaugurated at Richmond . . . .”

(A History of the Southern Confederacy, pp. 43-44)



Deeply-Rooted Republican Ideeology as a Guide

“In making [their constitutional] innovations, the Confederate framers were deeply influenced

by republican ideology. Republicanism had emerged during the American Revolution, and

although it underwent significant changes, it remained powerful in antebellum America.

At mid-century it provided the vocabulary that Americans used to discuss politics and shaped

the way they thought about political-constitutional issues.

It deeply influenced the Confederate framers’ approach to constitutional reform . . . designed

to preserve republicanism by mitigating the influence of party, checking partisan politics,

placing tight restraint on self-serving politicians, and guaranteeing that

those in government acted in the public interest.

Because this vision and the means the Confederate framers employed to achieve it were

so deeply-rooted in republican values, they did not merely reflect the views of the

planter elite that dominated the Montgomery Congress.

The priority that the Confederates gave to constitution-making . . . must have struck foreigners

as quintessentially American. When the Provisional Confederate Congress met in

Montgomery on February 4, 1861, delegates immediately set to work framing a constitution.

In less than a week, they drafted and ratified a provisional constitution and appointed

a committee of twelve to write a permanent constitution.

Committee members, like other delegates, venerated the US Constitution and staunchly

maintained that secession was the only means available to vindicate the South’s constitutional

rights. Not surprisingly, they used the 1787 Constitution as the basis of their work and limited

themselves to modifying that document.

Delegates did not, however, make the national government dependent upon the sovereign States,

and they refrained from striking at the essential elements of national power. Aside from eliminating

the general welfare clause and restricting tariffs and internal improvements, they did not deny their

Congress any of the legislative authority conferred on the US Congress by the Constitution.

They stipulated that the Confederate Constitution and laws and treaties made under its authority

were supreme law of the land and authorized the national Supreme Court to hear appeals from

State courts in cases involving the Constitution, treaties and laws.

[Close] examination [of the Confederate framers changes] . . . reveals that no matter how far

these innovations departed from American constitutional practice at the national level, they were

deeply rooted in popular political-constitutional attitudes and State constitutional practice.

Moreover, they anticipated the direction of constitutional change in post-Civil War America.”

(An Uncertain Tradition, Hall & Ely, Jr., pp. 201-204)

Altering the United States Constitution


Universal Suffrage and Immigration
“Then there was a growing opinion among Southerners that a proper concept of eternal law was

the bulwark of all liberty. Universal suffrage would never be able to discover and conserve this law.

Universal suffrage at the North was “organized confiscation, legalized violence and corruption . . .

a moral disease of the body politic.” It was mob government, radical democracy, “the willing instrument

of consolidation in the hands of an abolitionist oligarchy,” which had perverted the old Union.”

It was this the South was fighting against.

Te individual must be buried in the institution. The mob did not know what it was voting for, except

to obtain money for doing it or to get a drink of whiskey. {John C.] Calhoun had recognized the

tyranny of majorities and had sought remedies against them. The South had never believed

in democracy; it had worked with Democrats of the north only to secure a place of power in

the government. Most positions should be appointive and not remunerative. Officers should serve

without pay, if they were patriots. Now every petty sheriff whiskey-drinking constable, and justice

of the peace must be elected and get a fee. All of this was Yankeeism, which the South should

cast out – all this “universal suffrage” – elective Judges – biennial Legislatures – and many other

feature of a policy – all tending to degrade government and corrupt the people.”

In line with its conservatism, the Confederacy debated much the abolition of the naturalization laws

which hit had inherited from the old Union and which made possible the infiltration of masses

of foreigners with their “dangerous European radical ideas.”
(The Confederate States of America, Coulter, pp. 64-67)


“The Righteousness of Our Cause”
To serious-minded Southerners . . . it was evident from the beginning that if [their] victory depended

entirely on material resources, the South must inevitably lose . . . They remembered from Biblical

lore that the race was not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong. In fine, it was not only

skill in handling resources, but morale – the will to win. If the South possessed

enough of this, it could not lose.

[Jefferson] Davis said, “Liberty is always won where there exists the unconquerable will to be free,

and we have reason to know the strength that is given by a conscious sense not only of the magnitude,

but of the righteousness of our cause.” (The Confederate States of America, Coulter, pp. 69-70)



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. The preamble omitted the

“general welfare” clause, which had been used to add imperial powers to the United States

Constitution, and referred pointedly to the “sovereign and independent States.”
(Destroying the Republic, Chodes, Algora, 2005, pp. 32-33)



The Confederate Constitution: A Brief Overview
“A few months after the close of the American Civil War there was a brief but intense and interesting

correspondence between Lord Acton, the European historian of liberty, and General Robert E. Lee,

hero of the defeated Confederacy, on the issues of the War.

In the course of this correspondence Acton commented that Appomattox had been a greater

defeat for the cause of constitutional liberty over despotism than Waterloo had been a victory.

It is an arresting statement that ought to have received more attention from lovers of liberty

and students of constitutionalism than it was.

The Confederate framers took the high ground. They intended to found a lasting federal republic, and

their deliberations were carried out on a serious intellectual plane. This in itself is remarkable when we

consider that they were at the time under the greatest military threat that any large group of Americans has

ever suffered – that is, under prospect of intense invasion by superior military forces from every direction –

and that their more rabid opponents have managed to hand down as a historical “fact” that partisan

charge that the Confederacy represented nothing but the attempt to found a slavocracy.

At stake was the possession of the Fathers. Southerners always said and believed – throughout the

antebellum conflicts, the war, and after – that their only goal was to preserve the American Constitution

as it had been handed down, that theirs was an eminently conservative effort.

Yet victors write the history, and the North was able to co-opt the Founders portraying the Confederacy

as a wicked rebellion against American principles. So the Northern cause got the credit for conserving,

but also, very curiously, the credit and elan for being revolutionary, of having proclaimed new and

wonderful principles. It perhaps explains the magical power of Lincoln to say that he managed by

rhetoric and victory to continue the prestige both of preservation and revolution.

The Confederate Constitution, as has been often observed, embodied the Constitution of the

United States, with minor adjustments [and these] changes represented a heritage of very seriously

considered reactions to the experience of practice with the Constitution of 1787. Therefore, they

are of interest in American constitutional history, and . . . a pertinence to some of the dilemmas of

today. Put another way, the Confederate Constitution represent corrections of portions of the US

Constitution that had not worked to intent. In terms of political philosophy, the innovations embody

the amendments made by [John C.] Calhoun, the greatest political thinker of the 19th century, to the

commentary of “Publius” in the Federalist, which, after all, had been written before the Constitution

was ratified, much less put into effect.

The Confederate Constitution did not establish slavery. It left the matter to the States, just as

did the Constitution of the United States, and it contained a stronger prohibition against the

African slave trade than did the old Constitution. Its innovations related to other matters. Broadly

speaking, they were of two types: those that spelled out the federal nature of the system to

be established; and those that made adjustments to the functioning of the federal government,

particularly the Presidency, in certain respects.

In the first instance, the Confederate Constitution merely made explicit what had been intended

by the Tenth Amendment, so explicit that agenda-oriented centralists could not evade it. It also put

certain small but significant limits on the power of taxation and expenditure; that is, it expressed

a real bias in favor of the free market and limited government, to correct the sectional and class

favoritism that had been carried out by congressional majorities under the old government.

Most interesting were the changes in the federal executive and judiciary. The Confederate Constitution

clearly intended to make the President the high and honorable Chief Magistrate that had been intended

by the US Constitution, rather than the party leader that he had devolved into. The President was

to serve one six-year term, at one stroke abolishing the re-election question and the second-term impasse.

[The President] had a line-item veto in appropriations, meaning a check against irrelevant riders in

congressional bills, which under the American system had already developed into a tremendous abuse.

There were limits on the degree to which the Congress could exceed the President’s spending

recommendations, and Cabinet Secretaries had seats on the floors of Congress, to enhance the

process of deliberation beyond the exchange of formal messages, with the intent of increasing

economy and accountability in the public business.

So far as the judiciary was concerned, the Confederate Constitution reflected the pure Jeffersonian

principles of the early Republic. The right of judicial review was concurrent – shared by the State and

federal courts. For the most basic principle was that the people ruled – that government rested upon

the consent of the governed, the people, and that this did not mean simply whatever temporary

majority happened to get control of the Supreme Court or Congress or presidency. It meant

rather the consent of the people acting through all branches of their State and federal governments.

At bottom were, as Jefferson had said, two different ideas of government: a national authority with

power to coerce obedience to the governing elite (Hamilton), or a system of dispersed power that trusted

the rule of the people through diverse institutions of power and consent (Jefferson).

The Confederate Constitution represented the second alternative, and therefore [as author DeRosa writes],

“there is much to be learned from the theories that gave life and death to this American Constitution.”
(1992 Review of The Confederate Constitution of 1861, Marshal DeRosa, 1991; Defending Dixie,

Essays in Southern History and Culture; Clyde N. Wilson, FAE, 2006, pp. 149-150)


From Federated Republic to Consolidated Democracy
“The decade preceding the outbreak of the American Civil War presented the spectacle of a developing

constitutional crisis, as opposing political forces competed for control of the machinery of government.

The linchpin of the conflict was sectionalism, in that political antagonists were coalescing along

geographical boundaries that facilitated the formation of sectional political parties (i.e., Northern

Republican and Southern Democratic).

Public policy issues such as [tariff] protectionism, federally-funded internal improvements, and

slavery placed the political combatants on a collision course that went beyond manageable differences

of opinion and toward mutually exclusive interpretations regarding key provisions of the U.S.

Constitution. This competitive constitutional exegesis strained the tenuous ties that held the American

federal system of States together.

Making the case for Southern political self-determination, South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun

contended that the Northern States, via the national government, were systematically perpetrating

aggressions on Southern interests by cunningly attacking Southern domestic institutions (i.e., slavery)

and Southern commercial prosperity (i.e., funding Northern internal improvements through a

protectionist policy adverse to Southern economic interests). Calhoun attributed Northern success

to the transition from a federal to a consolidated democracy.

[Calhoun stated]: “That the Government claims, and practically maintains, the right to decide in the

last resort as to the extent of its powers, will scarcely be denied by anyone conversant with the

political history of the country. That it also claims the right to resort to force to maintain

whatever power she claims, against all opposition, is equally certain.

Now I ask, what limitation can possibly be placed upon the powers of a Government claiming and

exercising such rights? And, if none can be, how can the separate governments of the States

maintain and protect the powers reserved to them, and among others, the sovereign powers by

which they ordained and established, not only their separate State constitutions and governments,

but also the Constitution and Government of the United States?

It follows that the character of the Government has changed, in consequence, from a Federal Republic,

as it originally came from the hands of the framers, and that it has been changed

into a great national consolidated Democracy.”
(The Confederate Constitution of 1861, DeRosa, pp. 7-10)


Clement C. Clay on National versus State Power
“As [New York Senator William] Seward advanced the doctrine of national supremacy, Southern States

withdrew from the Union under the flag of State sovereignty, convinced that continued membership

in the Union was a serious threat to their safety and honor. Senator [Clement C.] Clay [of Alabama]

echoed the sentiments of his Southern colleagues on January 21, 1861, in his resignation statement

when he posed the following question:

“Must we consent to live under a Government that we believe will henceforth be controlled and

administered by those who not only deny us justice and equality, and brand us as inferiors, but

whose avowed principles and policies must destroy our domestic tranquility, imperil the lives of

our wives and children, degrade and dwarf, and ultimately destroy our State? Must we live by

choice or compulsion under those who present us with the dire alternative of an irrepressible conflict?”

(The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pg. 16)



State Sovereignty Protected
“The CSA Constitution inherently checked the emergence of a national sovereign by constitutionally

providing for the sovereignty of the States . . . [and] Confederate policies would be at the discretion

of the States and not the product of coercion. Four constitutional provisions collectively provided

for State sovereignty, in contradistinction to a sovereign Confederacy . . . Furthermore, the reserved

power were reserved to the States “or to the people thereof,” the emphasis being on the community

of States and not a national community of individuals.

In the Confederate model an individual was a member of the national community through his State.

At the CSA Constitutional Convention, W. Porcher Miles of South Carolina [stated] . . . “We assemble

here as representatives of the people of the various sovereign States which compose the Confederacy,

and it is our first duty to labor for the best interests of our own immediate people, without doing

injustice to the people of any section of the country.” [The States would have a presence that could

not be] set aside by the Confederate government presumably acting on behalf of a national community

of individuals, or more specifically, the “general welfare,” a phrase significantly excluded from the CSA Constitution.”

(The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pp. 40-41)


Impeaching Federal Officials
“Article I, Section 2, clause 5, of the CSA Constitution authorizes the States to impeach Confederate

officials within their respective borders . . . [and] As a result Confederate officials implementing policies

out of step with the policy objectives of a State could be excluded from the jurisdiction of the State,

and thereby precluding the execution of the unpopular policies.” (The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pg. 42)


The Amendment Process
“The Amendment process of the CSA Constitution deviates from that of the US Constitution in two

important respects. As Article V stipulates, “Upon the demand of any three States, legally assembled

in their several conventions, the Congress shall summon a Convention of all the States to take into

consideration such amendments to the constitution as the said States shall concur in suggesting at

the time when the said demand is made.” Significantly, it is not two-thirds of the States or

the Congress, but merely three States . . .

The second deviation is the substitution of the three-fourths vote with a two-thirds vote as

a requisite to ratify proposed amendments. [When] considered in the context of the Cofederacy’s

commitment to State sovereignty and of the national and State governments dichotomy,

the streamlined amendment process was a constitutional mechanism at the disposal

of the States to check an encroaching nationalism. (The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pg. 43)


The Confederate Preamble
“The most revealing innovation for securing State sovereignty is to be found in the CSA preamble.

The Confederate framers were determined to remove ambiguity as to the nature of their federal

arrangement. Whereas the US preamble’s first fifteen words are “We the People of the United States,

in order to form a more perfect Union,” the CSA preamble explicitly refers to the “sovereign

and independent character” of the States that are parties to the compact.

It reads: “We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and

independent character, in order to form a permanent Federal Government.” It is also significant

that the phrase “to form a more perfect Union” was replaced with “to form a permanent

Federal Government.” The phrase “permanent Federal Government” does not connote the

consolidation associated with “a more perfect Union” as that phrase was being interpreted

by Republican [party] nationalists.” (The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pp. 44-45)


Covenant Rather Than Compact
“The CSA Constitution’s utilization of internal institutional checks and balances is similar to that

of the US Constitution, the former being patterned after the latter. However . . . The CSA framers

had little confidence in the internal checks without State rights. [It was the great concern] with

the centralization of political power at the national level, facilitated by a political party, that led

Calhoun, and, in 1861, the South, not to rely solely on the external and internal checks on government.

[Most importantly], the CSA Constitution has a covenant component, establishing a central

government held together by the consent and good faith of its members, not by coercion.

In other words, it is a voluntary association grounded in a transcendental order. In this

context, “a covenant differs from a compact in that its moral dimensions take precedence

over its legal dimensions. In its heart of hearts, a covenant is an agreement in which a

higher or moral force, traditionally God, is either a direct party to

or guarantor of a particular relationship.

Whereas, when the term compact is used, moral force is only indirectly involved.

A compact, based as it is on mutual pledges and rather that guarantees by or before a higher authority,

rests more heavily on a legal though still ethical grounding for its politics. In other words, compact

is a secular phenomenon.” This is not meant to imply that the US Constitution is exclusively

a secular document lacking elements of a covenant tradition. Rather, what is asserted is that

the CSA Constitution explicitly invokes “the favor and guidance of Almighty God” in its preamble,

thereby making the Supreme Being a guarantor of the Constitution.”
(The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pp. 49-54)


The Confederate Bill of Rights
“The fact that the CSA framers intended that their bill of rights be applied to the Confederate

government is evidenced by their placement of most of the reserved rights in Article I, section 9,

where the list of what the Congress shall not do is to be found. Counterparts of the US Constitution’s

first eight amendments were all incorporated into Article I, section 9. Of course the list is not

exhaustive, the rights of Amendment Nine are unenumerated.

But those gaps are filled in by the State constitutions.

The Confederate government shall not infringe upon those rights retained by the people “of the several States,”

providing those State’s rights do not conflict with Confederate laws pursuant to the Confederate Constitution.
This constitutional arrangement was necessary because of the retention by the Confederate States

of their sovereignty. It was the States that delimited the fundamental liberties of their citizens, and

liberties might vary from State to State. Theoretically, this concurred with the Calhounian dictum

“that it is a great and dangerous error to suppose that all people are equally entitled to liberty.

It is a reward to be earned.”

The sovereign within the respective States would determine who merited which liberties based

upon circumstances within the respective States. Drawing on the ideas of the eighteenth-century

Anti-federalists and the nineteenth-century Calhounian theory of rights, they integrated the liberties

of the individuals with the welfare of the community, making the former contingent upon the latter.

And it was the responsibility of the citizens within the States, in contradistinction to the national

community, to determine which rights were compatible with the interests of the State community.”

(The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pp. 63-65)


Presidential Fiscal Initiative
“A concurring check on the CSA Congress along the same lines a s the line-item veto is in Article I,

section 9, clause 9, which places the appropriations initiative in the hands of the executive.

This provision marked a significant shift in the balance of power from the legislature to the executive

concerning the fiscal policy of the central government. The intent of the Confederate framers was

not to negate the legislature’s meaningful participation in the formation of fiscal policy, the process

continued to be subject to their approval. This constitutional arrangement was an attempt to address

another perceived inadequacy of the US model. The Confederate framers were convinced that in the

US system a disequilibrium of power developed between the executive and legislative branches,

in favor of the latter.” (The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pp. 85-86)


The Confederate Executive Branch
“The primary institutional innovation affecting the power of the executive branch is the single six-year term.

Article II, section 1, clause I, stipulates that “the executive power shall be vested in a President of the

Confederate States of America. He and the Vice President shall hold their offices for the term of

six years; but the President shall not be re-eligible.” [The Confederate framers] aimed at establishing

a custodial executive who would obstruct congressional excesses, would not pit the general

government against the State governments, and would use the executive branch to secure the

common interests of the States as collectively defined by the latter.

Without specified limits, a president repeatedly reelected to successive terms would eventually

resemble and elected monarch, serving, essentially, a life term contingent upon good behavior

as defined by the prevailing public opinion. The patronage at the disposal of the . . . president

would be phenomenal, providing the opportunity for a successively elected president of four terms

to entrench the bureaucracy with his own “placemen.”

With the president leading the way in pursuit of the political power by the general government,

the prerogatives of obstructing States would be overwhelmed by the rising nationalism.

Every six years the Confederacy would have a new executive branch of government, thereby

offsetting the advantages of incumbency not only of the President but also that of the entrenched

national bureaucracy whose interests are so closely linked to an ever-expanding national government.”

(The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pp. 88-89)



The Missing General Welfare Clause
[Another] category of institutional innovations designed to limit the powers of the central

government vis-à-vis the States pertains to the “general welfare” provision. The CSA Constitution

omitted the constitutional mandate to “promote the general welfare” – a mandate conferred

upon the US government in its constitution’s preamble and Article I, section 8.

The South’s consternation with [this Article] was articulated by Calhoun.

“It is a bold and unauthorized assumption, that Congress has the power to pronounce what objects belong,

and what do not belong to the general welfare; and to appropriate money, at its discretion, to such as

it may deem to belong to it. No such power is delegated to it; nor is any such power necessary and

proper to carry into execution those which are delegated.

On the contrary, to pronounce on the general welfare of the States is a high constitutional power,

appertaining not to Congress, but to the people of the several States, acting in their sovereign capacity . . . “

This omission in the CSA Constitution implicitly made the promoting of the general welfare a function

of the several States. For the Confederate framers, the arbitrariness of the US Congress was

most obvious in its exercise of the residuary clause (i.e., the constitutional stipulation “to make

all laws which shall e necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers,

and all other powers vested by this Constitution”).

The [Confederate framers] claimed that the US Congress exercised its residuary powers in conjunction

with a nationalist interpretation of the general welfare clause, thereby contravening popular sovereignty

within the several States and extending their powers beyond the limits delegated in the Constitution.

The end result of this freewheeling application of the general welfare clause was unconstitutional

interference by the US government into the affairs of Southern States . . . while the national

government assumed the responsibility for the general welfare of all Americans.

These CSA constitutional prohibitions were calculated to prevent the CSA government from

implementing the type of allegedly inequitable fiscal policies of the US government that Calhoun so

vehemently railed against. Such policies “divide the community into two great classes; one consisting

of those who, in reality, pay the taxes and, of course, bear exclusively the burthen of supporting the

government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds through disbursements,

and who are, in fact, supported by the government.”
(The Confederate Constitution, DeRosa, pp. 89-92)


A History of the Southern Confederacy, Clement Eaton, MacMillan Company, 1954
The Confederate Constitution of 1861: An Inquiry into American Constitutionalism, Marshall DeRosa, University of Missouri, 1991
The Confederate States of America, Volume 7, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950

An Uncertain Tradition, Constitutionalism and the History of the South, Hall & Ely, editors, UGA Press, 1989

The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Harper & Row, 1979

The Land They Fought For, Clifford Dowdey, Doubleday and Company, 1955

The Confederate Republic, George C. Rable, UNC Press, 1994

Destroying the Republic, Jabez Curry and the Re-education of the South, John Chodes, Algora Publishing, 2005


Copyright 2013, The North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission