17 Constitution of 1861

After the Texas voters ratified secession from the Union on February 23, 1861, the Secession Convention reconvened. Convention delegates believed it their duty to direct the transition of Texas from a state in the United States to one of the Confederate States of America. As part of that duty they amended the Constitution of 1845. In most instances the wording of the older constitution was kept intact, but some changes were required to meet new circumstances. The words United States of America were replaced with Confederate States of America. Slavery and states’ rights were more directly defended. A clause providing for emancipation of slaves was eliminated, and the freeing of slaves was declared illegal. All current state officials were required to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy, and all existing laws not in conflict with the constitutions of Texas or the Confederate States were declared valid. Amending the constitution was also made easier. This constitution was as remarkable for what it did not do as for what it did. It did not legalize the resumption of the African slave trade, a move advocated by some leaders of the secession movement. It did not take an extreme position on the issue of states’ rights. It did not substantially change any important law. It was a conservative document partly designed to allay fears of the radical nature of the secessionists and to ease the transition of Texas into the Confederacy.


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