Confederate Federalism: A View From the Governors

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2004-04-30

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Title of Dissertation: CONFEDERATE FEDERALISM: A VIEW FROM THE GOVERNORS

			Michael Albert Powell, Doctor of Philosophy, 2004

Dissertation directed by: Professor Herman J. Belz

			Department of History





Examination of Confederate federalism to date generally has emphasized one of two interpretations: that the Confederacy either "died of state rights" or that the Confederacy, because of the war-time demands, created a government at least as centralized as the Union, if not more so.  This dissertation argues that the reality was much more complex.  Confederate federalism consisted of three phases.  The first, or the cooperative, phase was represented by a high degree of cooperation between the states and central government and lasted from the formation of the Confederacy until the spring of 1862.  The governors freely provided troops, arms, and equipment to both the Confederacy and each other with minimal conflict over constitutional lines of authority.

The second phase, from the spring of 1862 to the fall of 1864, was marked by conflict between the states and the Davis administration, with the differences resolved through negotiated compromises.  While conscription was a war-time necessity, compromises were negotiated between the governors and the Davis administration over exemptions, use of state courts in deciding the constitutionality of conscription, and changes in the law itself.  Impressment and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus were recognized by the governors as legitimate constitutional powers of the central government, but limitations were negotiated with respect to their enforcement.  Lastly, fiscal policies were deemed by the governors to fall within the sphere of the Confederacy's constitutional authority and therefore beyond the scope of gubernatorial authority.

The final phase of Confederate federalism, from the fall of 1864 until the end of the war in the spring of 1865, witnessed the states struggling for survival and the collapse of the Confederacy.  The governors sought to keep troops and supplies for their states and to suppress or control local peace initiatives in an unsuccessful effort to win the war.

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