[CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA]. Constitution of the Confederate States of America. Adopted Unanimously by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, March 11, 1861. Montgomery, Alabama: Shorter & Reid, 1861.
8o (221 x 143 mm). (Endleaves and title slightly browned.) Contemporary black morocco, covers with gilt borders, upper cover gilt-lettered "Constitution of the C.S.A.," plain spine (extremities slightly rubbed); quarter morocco slipcase. Provenance: Pencil inscription on front pastedown: "Dr. A. Coffin with the compliments of Charles G. Wagner." Wagner, a Charlestown lawyer who worked for the Federal government, returned to the south at the time of the secession crisis, and was appointed by Jefferson Davis the first head clerk of the Confederate War Department. It was Wagner who sent the fateful telegram ordering the firing on Fort Sumter, and also raised the first official Confederate flag. He remained in Montgomery during and after the war in connection with his arsenal duties. The recipient, Dr. Coffin, is probably a member of the prominent South Carolina family and very likely a Charlestown acquaintance of Wagner's.
THE FINAL CONSTITUTION OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES, A PRESENTATION COPY FROM A CONFEDERATE OFFICIAL, IN A CONTEMPORARY PRESENTATION BINDING
FIRST EDITION. A superlative association copy of this rare and critical American constitution. Delegates from South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas--all of which had voted articles of secession after the 1860 election--convened at Montgomery, Alabama, on February 4, 1861, a month before the scheduled inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. They faced the dire necessity of uniting the newly seceded states and providing for their fiscal, political and judicial stability, as well as their probable defense. Several drafts of the Constitution were hurriedly printed during the course of debate by Shorter & Reid, local printers, and when the Constitution was adopted by the convention in its historic March 11 ballotting, the same printers issued the present final edition. By the end of 1861 a total of 13 states had ratified the new constitution and armed conflict had erupted.
Though the issue of slavery and its expansion was the precipitating cause of the constitutional crisis that ended in secession, the Confederate Constitution--like its parent, the Federal Constitution--did not mandate slavery. But Article IV, section 3 stipulated that "the institution of Negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate states, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and the territorial government." In theory, any Confederate state could, if its electorate desired, prohibit slavery; other provisions would have permitted non-slave-holding states to join the Confederacy. On the significance of this Constitution see M.L. DeRosa, The Confederate Constitution: An Inquiry into American Constitutionalism, 1991.
VERY RARE: ONLY ONE OTHER COPY HAS BEEN OFFERED AT AUCTION SINCE 1975. Crandall 2; Harwell, Cornerstones of Confederate Collecting 2; Howes C-642; Parrish & Willingham 8; Streeter 2:1276.