Constitutional Development in Alabama, 1798-1901: A Study in Politics, the Negro, and Sectionalism

By Malcolm Cook McMillan | Go to book overview
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The chief objective in writing this volume has been to record the history of the origin and growth of Alabama's six constitutions. Although many books have been written on the history of the Constitution of the United States, few studies have been made of the history of the constitutions of one of the forty-eight states. This volume is an attempt to fill the need for a history of the constitutions of the state of Alabama. All six constitutional conventions and constitutions are studied in their historical setting. Each is related to existing public opinion, and to the political, economic, and social history of the state. A study of the judicial interpretation of Alabama's constitutions has not been attempted. Only when judicial decisions can be related to public demand for constitutional change do they become essential to the plan of the book.

A constitutional history of Alabama or any other state is not merely state and local history. As one studies the changing constitution of Alabama and compares it with those of other states, it becomes apparent that constitutional development was an evolutionary process, each state borrowing, adding to, and building on what others had done. Since Alabama's history, constitutional needs, and problems were common to the South, a history of its constitutions is also a case study in Southern constitutional development. But this borrowing and contributing process also crossed sectional lines. The constitutions of the Midwest made a lasting imprint on the Alabama constitution during the Reconstruction period.

The Northwest Ordinance served as a constitution for Alabama during the territorial period as it did for other states. But from 1819 to 1901, constitution making in Alabama was a never-ending process. In these eighty-two years the state held six conventions, or an average of one every fourteen years. The Civil War and its aftermath precipitated a series of crises which brought four conventions in fifteen years. Each of these constitutions grew out of the conditions of the time. Yet not one was made entirely new at any time, and each can be thoroughly understood only when studied in relation to the history of the state, the South, and the United States. The result of past history, experience, and practice in government is embodied in every article. Alabama's first constitution was the product of constitution making in the older states, frontier influences, and the state's territorial history. Later constitutions were the result of equally significant historical causes. The presence of the Negro in large numbers has been the most important factor in the


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