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

By Malcolm Cook McMillan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE ALABAMA CONSTITUTION OF 1819

After the passage of the enabling act, it was then the responsibility of the people of the Alabama Territory to write a constitution and present it to Congress for approval.1 The act provided for white manhood suffrage in voting for members of the constitutional convention,2 and specified that the election for delegates should be held on the first Monday and Tuesday in May. This permitted a campaign period of about two months.3 Interest immediately became widespread throughout the Territory, and twenty-two candidates entered the field for eight places in Madison County, seven for three places in Limestone County, and four for the two places in Cotaco County.4 The campaign aroused especial interest in the Tennessee Valley counties. Although Huntsville was scarcely ten years old, the area abounded in lawyers and lawyer-planters. Many of these were well educated and particularly interested in politics and political theory. The Georgia element among them was strong, although the Tennessee element was predominant.5

Several letters to newspapers discussed the coming convention, suggesting the needs in the organic law of the state. James Titus of Huntsville, who had been a member of the legislative council for seven years, and John Leigh Townes, a lawyer of Madison County, wrote to the Huntsville Republican, extolling Jeffersonian principles and eighteenth

____________________
1
Most of this chapter has been previously printed. Malcolm C. McMillan, "The Alabama Constitution of 1819: A Study of Constitution Making on the Frontier", The Alabama Review, III ( October, 1950), 263-285.
2
U. S. Statutes at Large, III, 489-492.
3
See Huntsville Republican, March 20, 1819, for a list of the announced candidates. Walker suggested the dates for the election and holding of the convention. He wrote to Tait: "What time do you propose for holding the convention election and for the meeting of that body? Do not postpone it too long. Let the election be pretty early in the spring and the meeting of the delegates about two months thereafter. This interval will give the elected an opportunity to settle disputed points with their consciences, to establish their faith in true principles, and to arrange and systematize their respective constitutions." John W. Walker to Charles Tait, November 15, 1818.
4
Huntsville Republican, April 3, 17, 1819. After the election the Republican editor wrote (May 8): "We must confess we experienced the most fearful apprehensions from the agitation into which the public mind has been thrown by the conflicting interests of the different candidates. And we cannot suppress our gratification at the quiet manner in which nearly 2500 freemen have assembled together and impartially settled the claims of more than twenty candidates for popular favor."
5
Abernethy, The Formative Period in Alabama, 30-31.

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