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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Comparing Constitutions: USA vs CSA

Here's a little trivia question to start off the day..

Most.. um.. well.. some know that Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution (Dec. 7th, 1787) thus allowing them to say they were the 'First State'

What was the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights?

A)  Pennsylvania
B)  New Jersey
C)  Virginia
D)  Massachusetts
Answer --   B)  New Jersey (pic is their State flag)

And we mention it of course today because November 20th, is the anniversary which took place in 1789 i.e. 225 years ago

Also today in history, Kentucky feeling their political rights were being infringed upon, passed a secession ordinance in 1861, eleven months after South Carolina was the first (Dec 20, 1860)

History is a funny thing..

But did you know the Confederacy had a Constitution of their own?
~ Ratified March 21, 1861

We thought we'd spend a little time looking at what could have been, since the CSA has been so successfully demonized by mass culture as something akin to Fascism or Nazism..  But was that really how their government was to be set up?

The reality is that the Confederate government had it successfully won its independence would have been so alike the US model in terms of governance that the millions who supported, fought and served the Stars n Bars then had they really understood what was ratified, would be turning over in their graves

The entire government structure was copied from the original Constitution:  Three branches of government, the Legislative branch being a Senate (6 year term) & House of Rep (2 year terms), their President being Commander in Chief, etc..
The biggest difference in their Constitution besides giving a little bit more power to individual states is that a President was to serve one 6 year term in office and that was all...

Their Constitution like our started with a preamble:

"We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity — invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God — do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America."

Sound familiar?  It should..
That is pretty much word for word our Constitution preamble with the difference being a little more emphasis on states..  

Interesting though, it would seek to form 'a permanent federal government' when millions back then who rallied, supported and fought for the cause back then probably had no clue they were supporting anything 'Federal'

If one reads Article I of the Confederate Constitution which deals with the Legislative Branch, its amazing how much its like the nation they sought to break from.  Put both documents side by side and the USA & CSA Constitutions are 95% similar in wording and intent

Even preventing expansion of the slave trade...
From CSA Article I, Section 9 (Limits on Congress, Bill of Rights):

1. The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.

2. Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or Territory not belonging to, this Confederacy.

A nation seeing slavery as part of its long term future, would not have ever put such laws into their Constitution.

And notice above, the Confederacy had a 'Bill of Rights' too..   In fact their the Exact ten Bill of Rights which Congress back in 1789 ratified with exact same wording...
For those interested in reading, it starts at Article I, Section 9, #12..

Also interesting about the Confederate Constitution is they put limits themselves on state powers which is under their Article I, Section 10 (Powers Prohibited by States) including states negotiating separate treaties with other nation, taxing imports and what we found most fascinating..

"Nor shall any State keep troops or ships of war in time of peace"

How in the world were any of these seceding states ever to maintain their autonomy and distinctiveness when they were basically jumping from one permanent union to another??

Also interesting, nowhere in the CSA Constitution does it grant the power or legal right of a state to secede for purposes of leaving the CSA
This is very important and quite amazing..   Every state that left the Union to form the Confederacy was to be going from one shotgun marriage to another!

We did find another fascinating difference between the two Constitutions..

Ours allows for right of succession meaning if a President dies in office, or is removed, the VP simply steps in and takes over as 'President' for the rest of that other's original term in office..

In the CSA Constitution, if a President dies or resigns, etc, the VP is gone as well and its the role of Congress to choose both seats for that original term's duration..

This goes back to 1841 when William Henry Harrison died one month into office and his VP John Tyler became President and fought to establish the line of ascendancy where before no one thought what to do if a VP took over
The last big difference in the two Constitutions is the CSA's Article 4 dealing with States' rights..

One of the big reasons things got so tense between North and South is that many northerners did not respect the Fugitive Slave law which said if a slave escapes into a non-state territory, he/she was to be returned forthwith, and if a slave owner brought a slave into a 'free' state, the slave remained the owner's property (Dred Scott case)

The CSA Constitution protected chattel rights of property owners who crossed state borders and dealt with other matters of extradition, both of slave and free whites who may have committed crimes in one state and try to flee the law by entering another

So what to take from all this?
Sometimes its fun to fantasize 'what if?' and imagine things much better had the South been free to peaceably go their way, as if their newly formed government would have been a better nation..

But truth is, the CSA Constitution was so closely modeled after ours that had they won the war, the Confederacy would have been as corrupt, decadent, elitist and non-representative as the nation we live in today..

Almost assuredly there would have been a foreign debt to other nations and international bankers, and a southern 'Wall St' run by banks and elite Investors.. Who knows.. maybe one day there would have been a CSA version of a Federal Reserve.
And once slavery ceased to be, what would the fundamental difference really be in both countries besides weather?

And thus ultimately what would be the point of 'self governance' when as we said before, you're going from one federal Union to another and the same non-right to secession is in the new Constitution as the old?

Sometimes the fantasy is more appealing than the reality.