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

By Malcolm Cook McMillan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
DEMANDS FOR GENERAL REVISION OF Alabama'S CONSTITUTION OF PROHIBITION

The 1875 Constitution "of prohibition"1 had become inadequate long before the end of the nineteenth century. Although agriculture made noteworthy advances after 1875, the state for the first time in its history made marked industrial progress--in coal and iron mining, iron manufacturing, lumbering, textiles, and the expansion of its railroads. Dozens of coal and iron corporations were founded and numerous banks were created in order to furnish commercial credit for old and new business activities. New York capital played an important part in the state's industrial and commercial growth. Old cities in South Alabama made progress but Birmingham, Anniston, Bessemer, and many other towns in North Alabama's mineral belt were born, became prominent industrial centers, and their population increased rapidly.2 Between 1870 and 1900, the state's population almost doubled; Birmingham in less than thirty years became as large as Mobile and larger than Montgomery.3 A shift of population toward North Alabama took place as that section's mineral belt developed.

As already indicated the constitution makers of 1875 showed a definite anti-industrial bias. Numerous restrictions written into that con-

____________________
1
Erwin Craighead, editor of the Mobile Register, in a speech before the Alabama Commercial and Industrial Association in Birmingham declared: "There is a great deal of don't do this, and don't do that, in the Alabama constitution. One of our own Supreme Court judges has described it as an instrument of prohibition. It was framed at a time when there was good reason to doubt what would be the outcome of a republican form of government under conditions that had never before existed in the state, and after a period of misrule that made conservative citizens fear that much liberty would be the forerunner of license. To guard against every possible evil and many purely imaginary evils, a fundamental law was provided, which has been found unwieldly, repressive, and unsuited to the times in which we live." The State Must Not Stop Its Progress--Business Men Declare in Favor of a Constitutional Convention. ( Birmingham, 1896), 4. Hereinafter cited as The State Must not Stop its Progress. This pamphlet contains the report of a special committee appointed by the Alabama Commercial and Industrial Association (composed of delegates from commercial bodies all over the state) concerning the need for a new constitution. Also included are speeches and papers read before the Association by businessmen, editors, and educators in favor of a constitutional convention to re-write Alabama's fundamental law. The Association sent a petition in favor of a new constitution to the legislature.
2
Ethel Armes, The Story of Coal and Iron in Alabama, 321, 333, 360, 436-439; Moore, op. cit., 525-536.
3
Alabama Official and Statistical Register ( 1907), 225-227.

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