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

By Malcolm Cook McMillan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
GENERAL PROVISIONS OF THE RECONSTRUCTION
CONSTITUTION

The report of a special committee reaffirmed the major ideas of the preamble and bill of rights of previous Alabama constitutions, but the committee and the convention added new pro-Negro, anti-secessionist, and liberal features. It incorporated the classic phrase of the Declaration of Independence, "all men are created equal" into Alabama's bill of rights and declared that all citizens have "equal civil and political rights and public privileges."1 The convention readopted the clauses abolishing slavery in the Constitution of 1865. No property qualification had ever been required to hold office in Alabama but the committee deemed it wise in order to protect the freedmen to declare that for the future "no property qualification shall be necessary to the election to, or the holding of any office in this state."2

The convention strengthened the provisions in previous Alabama constitutions against imprisonment for debt.3 On motion of Albion Labat Morgan, Carpetbagger from Wilcox County, all the qualifying clauses of the old constitution were stricken out and it was simply provided "that no person shall be imprisoned for debt."4 Since the Fourteenth Amendment had not yet been ratified, the convention decided to define state citizenship so as to include the Negro, rather than follow the committee report making all citizens of the United States citizens of Alabama.5 Carpetbagger Daniel H. Bingham wanted a proviso against "peonage or contract labor of any form for longer than one year" added to the section outlawing slavery, but the convention refused to accept the amendment.6

A bitter controversy arose when the Carpetbaggers and Negroes attempted to write into the bill of rights a guarantee in favor of equal rights for Negroes on common carriers and in public places. Carpet-

____________________
1
Journal of the Convention of 1867, 139.
2
Ibid., 145.
3
Ibid., 142. The old constitution provided "that the person of a debtor, where there is not strong presumption of fraud, shall not be detained in prison after delivering up his estate for the benefit of his creditors, in such manner as may be proscribed by law."
4
Ibid. Morgan was a Republican from Elmira, New York, who moved to Alabama in 1866.
5
Ibid., 144.
6
Ibid., 145.

-134-

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