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Formation of the Confederacy

In February 1861, representatives from the seven seceded states met in Montgomery, Alabama to found the Confederate States of America. They hoped for a peaceful separation from the North. They did not consider their secession to have been illegal, and they favored a constitution without radical innovations. The new constitution was remarkably similar to the U.S. Constitution, often a word-for-word duplication. Notable changes included:

  • A single-term executive with a 6-year term
  • A presidential item veto
  • A role for cabinet officials in congressional debates
  • A prohibition of protective tariffs and federal funding for internal improvements.
The unicameral legislature with active participation by cabinet members blends some aspects of the British House of Commons with the U.S. Congress. It's interesting to note that the international trade in slaves was prohibited, although naturally the right to own slaves within the Confederacy was maintained. Various candidates for the position of president of the Confederacy emerged. William Yancey of Alabama was well qualified but the border states regarded him as too radical. Robert Toombs of Georgia was held back by his tendency towards intemperate speech. The ultimate choice was Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, a politician, planter, and war hero. For vice-president, the Confederate Congress picked Senator Alexander Stephens of Georgia. This was not a fortunate choice, as Stephens wanted to be president and, failing that, spent the war years looking for a way out of it.