Congress of the Confederate States

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Confederate States Congress
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
Houses Senate,
House of Representatives
Leadership
Seats 135
26 Senators
109 Representatives
Meeting place
Virginia Capitol 1865.jpg
State Capitol
Richmond, Virginia

The Congress of the Confederate States was the legislative body of the Confederate States of America, existing during the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865. Like the United States Congress, the Confederate Congress consisted of two houses: a Senate, whose membership consisted of two senators from each state (chosen by their state legislature), and a House of Representatives, with members popularly elected by residents of the individual states.

Sessions[edit]

Deputies from the first seven states to secede from the Union, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, met at the Provisional Confederate Congress in Montgomery, Alabama, in two sessions in February through May 1861. They drafted and approved the Confederate States Constitution, elected Jefferson Davis President of the Confederate States and designed the Confederate flag.

Following the attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861, the remaining states which seceded from the Union sent delegates to the Confederate Congress, which met in three additional sessions between July 1861 and February 1862 in the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia.

Elections for the First Confederate Congress were held on November 6, 1861. While Congressional elections in the United States were held in even-numbered years, elections for Confederate Congressman occurred in odd-numbered years. The First Confederate Congress met in four sessions in Richmond.

Because of the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865, only two Congressional elections were ever held; the Second Confederate Congress was selected in November 1863 but served only one year of its two-year term. The final session of the Confederate Congress adjourned on March 18, 1865. That month, one of its final acts was the passage of a law allowing for the emancipation and military induction of any slave willing to fight for the Confederacy. This measure had originally been proposed by Patrick Cleburne a year earlier but met stiff opposition until the final months of the war, when it was endorsed by Robert E. Lee. The final sentence recorded in the proceedings of the Confederate Congress (House of Representatives) reads "The hour of 2 o'clock having arrived, / The Speaker announced that the House stood (adjourned sine die." (7 J. Cong. C.S.A. 796 (Mar. 18, 1865).

The Confederacy did not have political parties but the Congress was dominated by former Democrats. While the 1863 elections had a low turnout, it threw out many secessionist and pro-Davis incumbents in favor of former Whigs. This weakened the administration's ability to get its policies through Congress. The confederate congress was sometimes unruly. The journal clerk shot and killed the chief clerk, and Henry S. Foote was attacked with "fists, a Bowie knife, a revolver and an umbrella".[1]

Legislation[edit]

Apportionment and representation[edit]

The Confederate Congress had delegations from 13 states, territories and Indian tribes. The 12th and 13th stars on the Confederate banner were for Kentucky and Missouri. These states maintained full delegations in both the U.S. and C.S. congresses throughout the war.

Except for the four states west of the Mississippi River (Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas) all Confederate states' apportionment in the U.S. Congress was going to decline into the 1860s. In the Confederate Congress, all would have larger delegations than they had from the census of 1850, except South Carolina, which was equal, and Missouri, which declined by one.

The Confederate Congress maintained representation in Virginia, Tennessee and Louisiana throughout its existence. Unlike the U.S. Congress, there was no requirement for a majority of the voters in 1860 to vote for representatives for them to be seated. From 1861-1863, Virginia (east, north and west), Tennessee and Louisiana had U.S. representation. Then, for 1863–1865, only the newly made West Virginia had U.S. representation. West Virginians living in counties not under Federal control, however, continued to participate in Confederate elections.[2] Although Tennessee was not said to be in rebellion by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, by March, it had no representation in the U.S. Congress.

Apportionment[3]
# State US 1850 US 1860 CSA
1. Virginia** 13 11 16
2. Tennessee** 10 8 11
3. Georgia 8 7 10
3. North Carolina 8 7 10
5. Alabama 7 6 9
6. Louisiana** 4 5 6
6. Mississippi 5 5 7
8. South Carolina 6 4 6
8. Texas 2 4 6
10. Arkansas 2 3 4
11. Florida 1 1 2
-- Kentucky** 10 9 12
-- Missouri** 7 9 6

Media depictions[edit]

The 1989 motion picture Glory portrayed an act of the Confederate Congress to execute black troops as well as white officers captured in command of them. This was loosely based on General Order 111 by Jefferson Davis[4] calling for the return of any African Americans caught bearing arms be delivered to respective state governments where they were to be treated as "armed slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy" instead of being treated as prisoners of war. The same statement also called for similar penalties for white officers in command of black troops as well as execution of white officers serving under the command of Benjamin Butler "as robbers and criminals deserving death." The last measure was due in part to Butler's General Order No. 28.[5] The Confederate Congress fully endorsed Jefferson Davis' order in 1863, declaring "That every white person, being a commissioned officer, or acting as such, who, during the present war, shall command negroes or mulattoes in arms against the Confederate States, or who shall arm, train, or organize, or prepare negroes or mulattoes for military service against the Confederate States, or who shall voluntarily aid negroes or mulattoes in any military enterprise, attack, or conflict in such service, shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrection, and shall, if captured, be put to death, or be otherwise punished at the discretion of the court.".[6][7]

A passing mention of the Confederate Congress is made in the mini-series Roots. In the final episode of the series, set during Reconstruction, a former Confederate States Senator named Arthur Johnson (played by Burl Ives) arrives in the local county to begin several business ventures including buying up all available land and keeping the black population from leaving through heavy interest on sharecropping supplies. The mini-series depicts the former senator as being highly respected by the white population, seemingly to imply that even after the Civil War ex-Confederate Congress members were still regarded with a sense of reverence.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ward, G., Burns, R. and Burns, K; The Civil War, 1990, pgs 161-162
  2. ^ Martis, Kenneth C., The Historical Atlas of the Congress of the Confederate States of America: 1861-1865, Simon & Schuster, 1994, pgs. 137-139
  3. ^ Apportionment of the US Congress
  4. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20121025133641/http://www.history.umd.edu/Freedmen/pow.htm
  5. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20121025133641/http://www.history.umd.edu/Freedmen/pow.htm Confederate Proclamation Text
  6. ^ http://ehistory.osu.edu/osu/sources/recordView.cfm?Content=047/0235
  7. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=Zy8TAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA487

Further reading[edit]