February 4 —
On this day in 1861, the Confederacy is open for business when the Provisional Confederate Congress convenes in Montgomery, Alabama.
The official record read: “Be it remembered that on the fourth day of February, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the Capitol of the State of Alabama, in the city of Montgomery, at the hour of noon, there assembled certain deputies and delegates from the several independent South States of North America…”
The first order of business was drafting a constitution. The congress used the U.S. Constitution as a model, taking most of it verbatim. In just four days, a tentative document to govern the new nation was hammered out. The president was limited to one six-year term. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the word “slave” was used and the institution protected in all states and any territories to be added later. Importation of slaves was prohibited, as this would alienate European nations and would detract from the profitable “internal slave trade” in the South. Other components of the constitution were designed to enhance the power of the states–governmental money for internal improvements was banned and the president was given a line-item veto on appropriations bills.
The congress then turned its attention to selecting a president, with delegates settling on Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate and former U.S. senator from Mississippi who served as the U.S. secretary of war in the 1850s.
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