The Confederate Congress

By Wilfred Buck Yearns | Go to book overview
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IV
CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS

POLITICS DURING THE CONFEDERACY TOOK A SURPRISINGLY BRIEF vacation considering the original emphasis on harmony. Even absorption in nation-making could not dampen interest in elections, campaigning, and political maneuvering. On May 21, 1861, the Provisional Congress ordered elections to be held for representatives to the First Congress on the first Wednesday in November, 1861. They were to be conducted under the constitutions and laws of the several states, which continued most of their former procedures and requirements. Congress, which had the constitutional right to make or alter state election regulations, specified that in the absence of other provisions the old United States election laws would apply.1 Each state was allowed its former United States representation, and as new states were admitted Congress specified the size of their delegations.

Under the Provisional Constitution members of Congress were able to hold other federal office, and many succumbed to the lure of battle and spent much of their time in the field both in and out of session. The Permanent Constitution, however, forbade plural federal office-holding and forced congressmen to choose where to serve. When men like Francis Bartow, the Cobb brothers, James Patton Anderson, James Chesnut, and others chose the military service, Congress was severely criticized for expelling "nearly all it had of worth and talent. . . ."2

Of the eleven Confederate states in November, 1861, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee had provisions for absentee voting by their soldiers. Each qualified soldier, wherever he might be, could cast a ballot at his army camp for his home district congressman. The camp commander was to appoint officers to supervise the voting and was to forward the returns to the designated state officials. South Carolina and Georgia soon

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