OTD 1869: Reconstruction Convention adopts “Right of Suffrage” and “Militia” articles

On February 3, 1869, the Reconstruction Convention debated the substance of article VI, regarding “Right of Suffrage.” No previous version of the Texas Constitution had included an article on suffrage.

The committee had reported a provision entitled “Registration of Voters.” A substitute version of the “Registration of Voters” provision was offered and rejected by the convention. Then a new substitute, entitled “Right of Suffrage,” was offered by Andrew Jackson Hamilton, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Texas and a former provisional governor of the state. Hamilton’s substitute, which eventually became article VI, read as follows:

SECTION 1. Every male citizen of the United States, of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, not laboring under the disabilities named in this Constitution, without distinction of race, color or former condition, who shall be a resident of this State at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, or who shall thereafter reside in this State one year, and in the county in which he offers to vote sixty days next preceeding any election, shall be entitled to vote for all officers that are now or hereafter may be elected by the people, and upon all questions submitted to the electors at any election; provided, that no person shall be allowed to vote or hold office who is now or hereafter may be disqualified therefor by the Constitution of the United States until such disqualification shall be removed by the Congress of the United States; provided, further, that no person while kept in any asylum, or confined in prison, or who has been convicted of a felony, or who is of unsound mind, shall be allowed to vote or hold office.

Several proposed amendments to this language were considered and rejected by the convention, before the entirety of Hamilton’s substitute was adopted. The convention then proceeded to reject the remainder of the committee’s proposed article VI, on the registration of voters.

Andrew J. Hamilton

The convention also took up the proposed article VIII, entitled “Militia.” Two of three proposed sections were rejected, and a third was adopted. The sole section of article VIII as ultimately adopted in the constitution of 1869 provided: “The Governor shall have power to call forth the militia to execute the laws of the State, to suppress insurrection, and repel invastion [sic].”

The convention also adopted a new section in the article on General Provisions, addressing debts incurred during the rebellion. This language, which appeared in the 1869 Constitution as article XII, section 34, provided:

All debts created by the so-called State of Texas, from and after the 28th day of January, A. D. 1861, and prior to the 5th day of August, 1865, were, and are null and void; and the Legislature is prohibited from making any provision for the acknowledgment or payment of such debts. All unpaid balances, whether of salary, per diem, or monthly allowance, due to employees of the State, who were in the service thereof, on the said 28th day of January, 1861, civil or military, and who gave their aid, countenance or support, to the rebellion then inaugurated against the government of the United States, or turned their arms against the said government, thereby forfeited the sums severally due to them. All the ten per cent. warrants issued for military services, and exchanged during the rebellion, at the Treasury, for non-interest warrants, are hereby declared to have been fully paid and discharged; provided, that any loyal person, or his or her heirs or legal representative, may, by proper legal proceedings, to be commenced within two years after the acceptance of this Constitution by the Congress of the United States, show proof in avoidance of any contract made, or revise or annul any decree or judgment rendered, since the said 28th day of January, 1861, when, through fraud practiced, or threats of violence used towards such persons, no adequate consideration for the contract has been received; or when, through absence from the State of such person, or through political prejudice against such person, or through political prejudice against such person, the decision complained of was not fair or impartial.


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