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

By Malcolm Cook McMillan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
REORGANIZATION FOLLOWING THE WAR

There was little agitation for constitutional change in Alabama during the Civil War. The people of the state were too busy with military and economic problems to consider constitutional reform, but after the defeat in 1865 Alabama was without a legally recognized constitution or government. President Andrew Johnson organized a provisional government with the appointment of Lewis Eliphalet Parsons of Talladega, Alabama, as provisional governor.1 All those not excluded by President Johnson's proclamation of May 29, 1865, might take the amnesty oath and regain their citizenship;2 excepted classes might apply to the President for personal pardon.3 In order to regain the right to vote, one whose citizenship had been restored had to go before a registration official, appointed by the provisional governor, in the county in which he voted, register, and again take the amnesty oath.4 One also had to meet the suffrage requirements of the state as they existed prior to January 11, 1861, the day the state left the Union.

On July 20, 1865, Governor Parsons called for an election on August 31 of delegates to a constitutional convention to take steps to restore Alabama to the union.5 Each county in the state was to have as many

____________________
1
Parsons had opposed secession in 1861 and had been an obstructionist during the war who had "aided the Confederacy materially but damned it spiritually." Moore, op. cit., 461. Under instructions from Washington, Parsons declared all the laws of Alabama enacted before January 11, 1861 in effect, except those concerning slavery, and tried unsuccessfully to build a new civil government on the remains of the pre-Civil War local and state government. Much lawlessness prevailed and loyal state judges and juries who could take the amnesty oath were hard to find. For several years federal courts and federal departments in the state were virtually inoperative in many localities, because lawyers, jurors, and federal officials could not be found who could take the "iron clad" oath, which Congress refused to modify. The provisional government proved subservient to the military authorities.
2
The amnesty oath was as follows: "I, -----, do solemnly swear (or affirm) in the presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of the states thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion, with reference to the emancipation of slaves: So help me God."
3
Included in this group were leaders of the rebellion and those owning property valued at $20,000 or more in 1860.
4
Proclamation of Governor Parsons in Montgomery Advertiser, August 10, 20, 1865.
5
Ibid., August 10, 1865.

-90-

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