Confederacy & Reconstruction Constitutions: 1861, 1866, & 1869

Confederate States of America: Constitution of 1861

The Constitution of 1861 is Texas’s constitution as a member of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.  This constitution copied most of the language from the Texas Constitution of 1845, replacing references to the United States of America with the Confederate States of America.  Two unique features of this constitution resulting from the historical context during the time in which it was adopted include provisions that:

  • made it illegal for slave owners to free their slaves
  • required state officials to pledge their loyalty to the Confederate States of America

Reconstruction: Constitutions of 1866 & 1869

The time period following the Civil War is known as the Reconstruction era.  This era consisted of two phases: Presidential Reconstruction and Radical ReconstructionTexas ratified two state constitutions during Reconstruction: the Texas Constitution of 1866 (during Presidential Reconstruction) and the Texas Constitution of 1869 (during Radical Reconstruction).

The Texas Constitution of 1866:

  • acknowledged the termination of slavery
  • increased the governor’s term lengths, and granted the governor line-item vetoes on appropriations (tax & spending) bills, which let the governor strike down portions of a bill without preventing the other elements of the law from going into effect
  • Created a plural executive consisting of the attorney general, comptroller, and treasurer who were directly elected by the people (thereby limiting the governor’s appointment powers)
  • Created a five-year residency requirement for state legislators (which, at first, meant only those who were residing in Texas during the Civil War were eligible to run for a state legislative race)

The Constitution of 1869 was written by Radical Republicans and, as such, represented a drastic departure from the Constitution of 1866 in that it:

  • explicitly recognized the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land
  • Included new provisions in the Bill of Rights guaranteeing all free men equal rights and prohibiting the extension of separate privileges
  • extended the right to vote to all adult males given
  • outlawed slavery and peonage
  • Mandated elementary school attendance and the provision of additional social services

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