The Confederate Congress

By Wilfred Buck Yearns | Go to book overview

III
TRIAL AND ERROR GOVERNMENT

THE FIRST PRESSING TASK ON THE AGENDA AT MONTGOMERY WAS TO revive the routine operations of national government. Since old procedures would apply in most instances, there was a hearty disposition to continue them whenever possible. Opinion, however, was solidly in favor of a trial-and-error period to test the old Constitution under different conditions. There was also the possibility of trouble with the United States, and a provisional government was accepted because there was not time enough to form a permanent organization.1 South Carolina had suggested that the provisional government last not more than two years, to be followed by a permanent government under a revised constitution, and the other states agreed with slight reservations. Georgia won the point that the temporary government should last no longer than twelve months. Mississippi insisted that the Permanent Constitution be written by a convention of the states, and her plan was given token compliance when the Provisional Congress, as it was called from the beginning, from February 28 to March 11 daily resolved itself into a convention to consider a permanent constitution.

But establishing the new nation required more than tinkering with a constitution. Officials had to be selected, agencies established, policies determined, defenses prepared, and the like, none of which was self-operative. Haste was particularly urgent, for Southerners feared that the North would stiffen its spine under Lincoln and find the Confederacy helplessly floundering. One discouraged delegate stated the problem in this fashion:2

With no Treasury at command, no machinery of government to raise & collect money, no national existence where credit can be pledged to get money & if it existed no credit upon which to raise it, no com

-22-

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The Confederate Congress
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • I - Secession and Confederation 1
  • II - Life at the Confederate Capitals 11
  • III - Trial and Error Government 22
  • IV - Congressional Elections 42
  • V - Mobilization of Man Power 60
  • VI - Conscription Under Attack 74
  • VII - More Men! 86
  • VIII - Of Officers and Men 102
  • IX - Economic Organization 116
  • X - The Conduct of the War 140
  • XI - The Writ of Habeas Corpus 150
  • XII - Foreign Affairs 161
  • XIII - The Peace Movement 171
  • XIV - Financing the War 184
  • XV - The Loyal Opposition 218
  • Appendix 236
  • Notes 245
  • Bibliography 270
  • Index 280
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