Conventions--Mississippi. Constitutional Convention (1868)



The United States government assumed military control over the former Confederacy and divided states like Mississippi into five military districts in 1867. The states then underwent the process of formally re-entering or regaining full status in the U. S. The first step of that process was the passage and ratification of a new state constitution reflecting the 13th and 14th amendments to the United States Constitution, thereby abolishing slavery and granting African-American men the franchise. Mississippi voters, Black and white, voted by referendum in 1867 to hold a constitutional convention. From January to May 1868, the convention met in Jackson, Mississippi. Composed of African American and white Unionist delegates, the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1868 featured the same high level of tension and acrimonious debate as other Reconstruction-era conventions. The convention prohibited participation by ex-Confederates and consequently excluded many Democrats, who sharply criticized what they dubbed the "Black and tan convention" due to the delegates' race. The convention produced the most progressive constitution in the state's history, abolishing slavery, extending civil rights to all people including African Americans and women, apportioning the number legislative seats based on population, barring ex-Confederates from public office, and establishing free public schools. However, the Constitution of 1868 faced widespread opposition and was voted against by Mississippians in the only popular vote for constitutional ratification in the state's history. At President Ulysses S. Grant's insistence, the Constitution was voted on again later that same year, article-by-article rather than in its entirety. The state passed all but the provision barring ex-Confederates from office, paving the way for Mississippi's re-entry into the Union in 1870 (Mississippi Encyclopedia).

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