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The people have a right to amend, alter or abolish their government, as they may see fit. You are a part of the people. Any man may draw up resolutions, which when ratified by the people become law. This is Constitutional and consonant with the rights of popular government.'

The amendments were ratified by the people and became a part of the constitution.s

A large majority of those voting favored the calling of the convention of 1870. It was, says Tennessee's constitutional historian,"

really a political expedient for the purpose of restoring the citizenship of the majority of the white voters of the State, and securing to them the control of affairs which justly belonged to them, and perhaps, also of giving them an opportunity to show that they accepted the results of the war.

Beyond accomplishing permanently these results, the convention as a whole did not care to proceed, and evidently thought that more settled times were at hand when a succeeding convention could more efficaciously revise the constitution.


of New

The revised instrument, like its predecessor contains a pre- 55. amble setting forth the outline of the previous constitutional Features enactments of the state, and eleven articles, the first of which Constitution. is a declaration of rights, followed by a schedule of temporary adjustments.

It contains approximately twice as many words as the 1796 instrument, that is, about 14,000. Though much longer, it is, as has been intimated, very similar to the work of the convention of 1834.


Reflection of


There are few provisions which can be said to be the direct voluntary results of the economic developments of the period pre- Economic ceding its adoption. The old economic provisions were generally retained, with some extensions, as that the interest rate must not be more than ten per cent,' and that laws for the creation of corporations must be general and alterable at will, provided such alteration does not disturb vested rights. There are also

Fertig, J. W., The Secession and Reconstruction of Tennessee, 57.
See Bedford v. Williams, 5 Cold. (Tenn.), 210.

For text, see Appendix 1.

Caldwell, op. cit. 296.

1XI, 7.

2XI, 8.

57. General

provisions concerning the state finances and state aid to private undertakings, but these can be more appropriately mentioned later. The property tax section making mandatory the taxaProperty Tax. tion of all property, merely puts into the constitution what statutes, gradually adding items to the list as the variety of property increased, had already accomplished. Its all-inclusiveness naturally led to certain specific exemptions, permissive save in the case of products of the soil in the hands of the producer and his immediate vendee, and one thousand dollars' worth of personalty to each taxpayer. The latter provision and the homestead exemption from sale under legal process, within certain circumstances, may be evidenced as signs of growing social democracy, as may also the absolute prohibition of imprisonment for debt in civil cases and the provision ordering comfortable prisons and humane treatment of prisoners. The permissive income tax on stocks and bonds not taxed according to value was apparently intended to draw revenue from the holders of federal government bonds.

58. Overthrow

of Reconstruction Measures.



The convention's first answer to the policy of the Unionist party is found in the fourth section of the Declaration of Rights, which adds to the prohibition of a religious test for eligibility to office that no political test "other than an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and of this State," shall be required for that purpose. This party had enforced a variety of oaths not only for office-holding but for voting, and had in that way maintained its power. Denial of the suffrage "to any person entitled thereto" was accordingly forbidden, save on conviction of crime.10

To the Unionist policy of enforcing its decrees by a free use of military power it was replied

that martial law, in the sense of the unrestricted power of military officers, or others, to dispose of the persons, liberties, or property of the citizen, is inconsistent with the principles of free government, and is not confided to any department of the government of this State.1

*II. 28.

"This must be extended to include products of the soil of other states.-Darnall v. Memphis, 208 U. S., 113 (1908).

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The possibility of the passage of laws by a minority of the 59. legislators was eliminated by requiring therefor a majority of Checks and all the members of each house. The quorum was changed from "two-thirds of each house" to "not less than two-thirds of all the members to which each house shall be entitled." Furthermore, a bill was not to become law until it should have received the governor's signature, or, in case of his veto, should have been passed again (by the same majority). If the governor should neither sign nor veto it, the bill would become law after five days, Sundays excepted, unless the adjournment of the legislature should prevent its return. Joint resolutions, save concerning adjournments, must be similarly approved or repassed."

The regular legislative session was effectually limited to seventy-five, and an extraordinary session to twenty, days, by denying the legislators their pay after those periods should have expired.


The governor's power to enforce his will on the people was checked by providing that

the militia shall not be called into service except in case of rebellion or invasion, and then only when the General Assembly shall declare by law that the public safety requires it.

The influx of negro voters into the electorate stimulated the convention to include the provisions that


each voter shall give to the judges of election, where he offers to vote. Poll Tax satisfactory evidence that he has paid the poll taxes assessed against Qualifications him for such preceding period as the legislature shall prescribe, and at for Voters. such time as may be prescribed by law; without which his vote cannot be received,"

and that

the General Assembly shall have power to enact laws requiring voters to vote in the election precincts in which they may reside, and laws to secure the freedom of election and the purity of the ballot box.

2II, 18, i. e., all to which each house entitled.

II. 11. The requirement of more than a majority to form a quorum makes possible such filibustering tactics as the breaking of the quorum by a minority whose members are willing to absent themselves from the state.

*II, 18: III, 18; i. e., same in practical effect.

"III, 18.

*II, 23.

III, 5.

SIV, 1.




The legislature was declared to have power to grant relief from the penalties imposed upon any person disqualified from holding office by a court of impeachment. This provision was the direct result of the impeachment of the judge who had granted habeas corpus to the legislators who were arrested to secure a quorum for approving the fourteenth amendment to the federal constitution. The provision was added that thereafter no convention or legislature should pass upon a federal amendment submitted after the election of its members.1

Schools receiving state aid were not to receive both white and colored pupils, and the inter-marriage of the races was prohibited. 3

County offices created by the legislature must be filled by the people or the county court.*

In addition to these varyingly partisan changes, a number of minor alterations resulted from the development of the state and its experience since 1834, or were made mandatory by the Constitution of the United States.

Among them are the substitution of "every male person" for "every free white man" in detailing the qualifications for the suffrage; the provisions, which had already been placed in the Constitution by amendment in 1865, that

slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, are forever prohibited in this State:"

and that

the General Assembly shall make no law recognizing the right of property in man;"

the sections forbidding state aid to private companies and municipalities, state ownership of banks, or the stock of private companies or municipalities, and the issuance of state bonds to any railroad defaulting in its interest payments on bonds previously loaned or having absolutely disposed of any of the same

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for less than par. The state debt was the chief political question for the decade and more following 1870.1

The legislature is expressly authorized "to regulate the wear ing of arms with a view to prevent crime."

To the passage of special legislation no additional restrictions were imposed except to prohibit the creation of corporations by private act. Experience with acts of the legislature embracing a most heterogeneous subject matter led to the provision that no bill shall embrace more than one subject, which subject shall be expressed in the title.*

The comptroller is made a constitutional officer; the cir cuit and chancery courts are made constitutional courts," and the election of the attorney general is taken from the people and vested in the judges of the Supreme Court, the places of holding which are specified."

The authorization of game and fish laws was not considered beneath the dignity of the state's organic law."

Religious liberty is given an additional safeguard in prohibiting the requirement of public service in time of peace from any person on the day set apart for rest by his religion.1

Finally, there was inserted a clause permitting the legisla ture at its discretion, to submit to the electorate the question of holding a constitutional convention, to be called if a majority of the votes should be favorable.2

Estimate of


The convention of 1870 accomplished its purpose. It com- 62. pleted the work of wresting from a minority the control of the Convention's state government and restoring to the former Confederates their rightful influence as citizens of the state. In doing this, however, it framed an instrument the effect of which was distinctly

II, 33.

The question of the state debt is well treated by Caldwell, op. cit. Chap. 10, and by W. A. Scott, Repudiation of the State Debts, pp. 131ff.

21, 26.

3XI, 8. Does not apply to municipal corporations: Williams v. Nashville, 89 Tenn., 487 (1890), and other cases.

*II, 17. The chief effect of technical requirements of this type is to vest in the courts enormous power over the enactments of the legislature. See, e. g.,

Condon v. Maloney and State v. Condon, 108 Tenn., 83; 65 S. W., 87 (1901);
Legerwood v. Pitts, 122 Tenn., 570; 125 S. W., 1036 (1909).

"VII, 3.

"VI, 1.

VI, 5.

SVI, 2. Knoxville, Nashville, Jackson. See Acts of 1915, ch. 95. 'XI, 13.

1XI, 15.

2XI, 3.

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