TRIAL AND ERROR GOVERNMENT
THE FIRST PRESSING TASK ON THE AGENDA AT MONTGOMERY WAS TO revive the routine operations of national government. Since old procedures would apply in most instances, there was a hearty disposition to continue them whenever possible. Opinion, however, was solidly in favor of a trial-and-error period to test the old Constitution under different conditions. There was also the possibility of trouble with the United States, and a provisional government was accepted because there was not time enough to form a permanent organization.1 South Carolina had suggested that the provisional government last not more than two years, to be followed by a permanent government under a revised constitution, and the other states agreed with slight reservations. Georgia won the point that the temporary government should last no longer than twelve months. Mississippi insisted that the Permanent Constitution be written by a convention of the states, and her plan was given token compliance when the Provisional Congress, as it was called from the beginning, from February 28 to March 11 daily resolved itself into a convention to consider a permanent constitution.
But establishing the new nation required more than tinkering with a constitution. Officials had to be selected, agencies established, policies determined, defenses prepared, and the like, none of which was self-operative. Haste was particularly urgent, for Southerners feared that the North would stiffen its spine under Lincoln and find the Confederacy helplessly floundering. One discouraged delegate stated the problem in this fashion:2
With no Treasury at command, no machinery of government to raise & collect money, no national existence where credit can be pledged to get money & if it existed no credit upon which to raise it, no com-