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

By Malcolm Cook McMillan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF 1868

The decision as to whether the Constitution of 1868 should be submitted to the people did not rest with the convention, for the Reconstruction Act of March 2, 1867, required that it be ratified by popular vote.1 However, the convention adopted an ordinance providing for submission on February 4, 1868; the election of all county, state, and federal officials was to take place at the same time.2 General Pope had urged that the two be combined in order to bring out a large vote on ratification and hasten the readmission of the state.3 The convention adjourned on December 6, 1867, and General Pope issued a military order setting the date of the election "February 4, 1868, and continuing two days."4

Scalawag opposition to the constitution had coalesced during the closing days of the convention. James P. Stow, Scalawag, voted for the constitution but entered his protest against certain sections of the document.5 A group of Scalawags and one Negro, called "protesting Republicans" by the Conservative press, refused to vote for the constitution and proclaimed through their leader, Henry C. Semple, that a government framed upon the provisions of the new constitution would "entail upon the people of the State greater evils than any which threaten them."6 In an Address to the People, thirteen protesting delegates declared that they had joined the Republican party because they thought that the acceptance of the Congressional Plan of Reconstruction was

____________________
1
Fleming, Documentary History of Reconstruction, I, 402.
2
Journal of the Convention of 1867, 267.
3
New York World, November 8, 1867; New York Times, September 6, 1867.
4
General Order 101, December 20, 1867, in Selma Daily Messenger, December 31, 1867.
5
Stow protested against further disfranchisement of whites, the convention's failure to provide for separate schools, and the oath which bound one never to deny the Negro the right to vote. Journal of the Convention of 1867, 242.
6
Ibid., 240. The convention allowed only those nine delegates voting against the constitution to enter a protest in the Journal. Twenty-four were absent and not voting. The Selma Daily Messenger, December 7, 1867, recorded the names of fourteen members who signed the protest for the Journal. In a letter to the press, George W. Graves related the story of organized opposition within the convention to the constitution. He wrote: "Finding that we could not endorse the work of the convention without aiding in the degradation of our own race, which all nature and our instincts forbade, seventeen of us met a few nights before the convention adjourned, and appointed a committee to draw up a protest; but at our second meeting, we concluded to enter a short protest, and publish an address through the newspapers." Selma Daily Messenger, December 19, 1867.

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