Constitution for the People of Florida

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Florida National
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Constitution for the People of Florida

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CONSTITUTION, or FORM OF GOVERNMENT, for the PEOPLE OF FLORIDA (1838-1861)

http://fall.fsulawrc.com/crc/conhist/1838con.html

In preparation for statehood, fifty-six delegates from Florida’s twenty counties assembled in the Panhandle town of Saint Joseph (near Port St. Joe) to frame the 1838 Constitution (cover). The delegates were mainly planters and lawyers from thirteen of the nation’s twenty-six states and four foreign countries; only three were native Floridians. Three delegates would later become U.S. Senators; two, governors; and five, members of the state supreme court. The convention was called to order on December 3, 1838 and elected Robert Raymond Reid of St. Augustine as president.

The constitution divided the government into the traditional three branches – an executive headed by the governor elected to a single four year term, a bicameral legislature that met annually, and a judiciary headed by a supreme court. It banned bank officers, clergymen, and duelists from election to the legislature and governorship; and declared free men equal while at the same time preserving slavery.

The constitution was approved by popular vote in 1839 and served as Florida’s constitution from statehood in 1845 until Florida seceded from the Union in 1861. The original 1838 Constitution, signed by forty-one delegates on January 11, 1839, has disappeared. The only surviving handwritten copy is a clerk’s copy signed by Reid and Joshua Knowles, convention secretary, found by the William N. “Bill” Galphin family in Fernandina Beach in 1982. The family inherited the copy from Galphin’s grandfather William Thompson. Thompson married the niece of Judge John C. McGehee, a delegate to the 1838 convention and president of the Secession Convention of 1861.

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