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FLORIDA. In this State, more perhaps than elsewhere in the South, the principal business that engaged the people during the year 1868 was the moulding of the new organic law, as required by the reconstruction acts of Congress, as a condition for readmission within the Union, and participation, through their representatives, in the administration of the Federal Government. The contest thus raised was even pushed to the last extremities, and appears not to have ended with the close of the year; though Florida had been actually recognized as a State in the Union since the month of June. It seems worthy of notice that

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this conflict was from the beginning, and is still carried on, not so much between opposite parties, as between the members of that party which favored reconstruction, and was the dominant political power in the State.

Shortly before the end of the year 1867, a general election having been held, and delegates chosen to meet in a convention for the purpose of framing a new State constitution, to be then submitted to the people for their ratification or rejection, General Pope, commander at the time of the Third Military District, in which the State of Florida was comprised, issued an order dated December 28,

1867, calling by name the delegates returned in the lists of said election, and enjoining them to assemble in that capacity at Tallahassee, on January 20, 1868.

Ten days before the 20th, however, a lengthy remonstrance, signed by a number of prominent citizens of Florida, was laid before General Meade, who had succeeded General Pope in that command, stating that his predecessor, by whose order the said election was conducted and closed, had prescribed for it a mode of apportioning representation which was in direct and open violation of that prescribed by Congress in the reconstruction acts themselves; besides that, both in the registration of voters, and in the voting, manifest frauds had been practised to a large extent. On these grounds, which rendered the election null in its beginning as well as in its process and final result, the petitioners "invoked his interposition to stay the assembling of said delegates in their capacity of a Constitutional Convention," as "with the universal conviction prevailing that frauds were committed in the registration and in the election that the vote on the question of a convention was actually against it-and that the law of Congress was unquestionably and clearly departed from in apportioning representation, the people can regard it in no other light than as an illegal body." The correspondence hereupon reported in the public papers of January 21 and 23, 1868, makes it appear that General Meade, considering the importance of the facts stated, and the gravity of the matter, applied to the army headquarters at Washington for instructions concerning a postponement of the day appointed for the meeting of said convention, and that, the answer from Washington having left the matter to his own discretion, he replied to the petitioners "that he had no authority to undo what had been done," and so the thing was allowed to take its course. Complaints having been made to the district headquarters of criminal acts frequently perpetrated, and information given by competent persons that the civil authorities took no proper steps for proceeding against the offenders to bring them to trial and condign punishment if found guilty, General Meade, intending to sustain the power of the State courts in cases pertaining to them, and being determined at the same time to comply with his own duty, to see justice rightly administered within the district under his command, if they failed to perform theirs, issued on January 15th the following order:

General Orders, No. 10.

HEADQUARTERS THIRD MILITARY DISTRICT DEPARTMENT OF GEORGIA, FLORIDA, AND ALABAMA, ATLANTA, GA., January 15, 1868. The frequency of reported outrages, and the accompanying expression of opinion of subordinate officers, that no justice is to be expected from the civil author ities, require notice and action on the part of the major-general commanding.

I. The commanding general desires it to be understood that the trial and punishment of criminals

is to be left to the civil authorities, so long as the said authorities are energetic, active, and do justice to the rights of person and property without distinction of race or color. Whenever the major-general commanding is satisfied from evidence produced that the civil authorities fail to do their duty-then prompt action will be taken by him both for the punishment of criminals and the removal from office of derelict civil officers.

II. The military are to cooperate with and aid the civil authorities in the detection, capture, and custody of criminals, and they are further authorized, in cases where they have reason to believe the civil authorinals in custody until the fact becomes evident whether ties are not disposed to do their duty, to retain crimithe civil authorities will or will not perform their duty-immediately reporting their action on all such cases to these headquarters.

III. Writs of habeas corpus issued against criminals in the custody of the military will be obeyed so far as to produce the body of the prisoner in court, and the making of a respectful return setting forth the grounds and authority by which the prisoner is heldshould the court fail to respect the authority under which the prisoner is held-the custody of the criminal will not be transferred to the court without a reference to these headquarters.

IV. The major-general desires to impress on the officers under his command, the exercise of a sound tion to afford the civil authorities every opportunity discretion and good judgment. It is his determinato discharge their duties untrammelled by any action on the part of the military but such as they, the civil authorities, may invite and desire. He makes this public notice to the civil authorities that they may be governed thereby-assuring them they shall be respected in the exercise of their powers so long as impartial justice is meted out to all; but the commanding-general is determined to exercise to the fullest extent the plenary powers with which he is intrusted, to secure protection of persons and property in the

district he commands.

By order of Major-General MEADE. R. C. DRUM. Assistant Adjutant-General, A. D. C. On January 20th, the delegates met at Tallahassee, and organized the convention. Of the 46 returned in the lists of election, and named in General Pope's order, 41 answered the call and took their official oath, some twenty of them being negroes. Belonging generally to the Republican party, they disagreed amongst themselves on most weighty points, even the right of four of their number to sit in convention. These and their adherents asserted that the fact of their being elected by large majorities, and individually recognized as delegates by General Pope in his order enjoining the meeting of the convention, firmly secured their right to seats and rendered it unquestionable; while the others, who were a majority, affirmed that General Pope, before whom their claims had been contested, had left the decision to the convention, which was the proper judge of the qualifications of its own members, and pointing to the undisputed fact that the former were non-residents of Florida, they contended that the law of both the State and Congress in the reconstruction acts excluded them in express words from the possibility of being voted for, as of their voting for others.

This brought out and nourished a steadilyincreasing discord in the convention, as the debates, under cover of discussing a point of

fact or at law, could not possibly be kept free from personal animosity. The majority seemed, indeed, disposed to overlook the ineligibility of the four, and let them occupy their seats, if they (who were regarded as extremists) would agree with it in other matters; but this they appeared not inclined to do. Hence in a few days the dissension widened so as to assume the shape of actual division, and the assembly was split into two portions; the one greater, as to numbers, the other greater in strength, because of its members being individually vested with a larger measure of official power in the convention. They belonged largely to the most important standing committees, and these four delegates, to whom the right of sitting in the convention was denied, were the most influential persons in it, the one being its president, and the other three forming by themselves alone the Committee "on Privileges and Elections," and that “on Eligibility."

On January 26th this committee presented a report, the general terms of which might be so construed as to aim at securing the seats of its own members. After a long and hot discussion, the majority won the point that the report should be recommitted to the same committee, and two members added to it; but the consequence was that, on January 28th, the chairman submitted another report, stating that "all the delegates named in General Pope's order No. 110 are eligible to seats in this convention; and that when seats are contested, and not until then, can this convention act in the matter; such matter in all cases being the special business of this committee." This report was signed by four of the now five members, the dissenting one objecting not to the substance in the first sentence, but to "the concluding part of it," and because he thought that "there was no matter before the convention calling for a report of the committee." It having been proposed to adopt the report, or lay it on the table, the greater number finally voted to lay it on the table "until the 23d of February," a time before the arrival of which the convention would have probably adjourned, as it actually did. The same result attended the motion made by one of the majority, of admitting John W. Butler to sit in convention as delegate of the first district. The committee reported that the delegate elected and returned for the first district was not Mr. Butler, but George Walker, though the latter had not as yet presented himself to take his seat; it was said that he intended not to do so. The majority insisted and obtained that this report also should be recommitted, and three more members added to the committee, one of them being the leader of the party opposed to the original three. The president added still another afterward, thus making nine. A majority of this committee reported, on January 30th, that "from the evidence in the case it appeared that George Walker was the

person for whom the majority vote was cast in the first district and the intention of the electors was so plain that he could present himself and claim his seat, and that the vacancy could be filled by none other. The committee held that, while it would be manifestly improper and illegal to vacate the seat of any member by virtue of General Pope's order, and not clearly made ineligible by the reconstruction acts, it would be equally illegal to fill any vacancy by any person claiming to be a delegate, who received but a small minority of the votes of his district, and who does not claim a seat by order of the commanding general of the military district." The motion here made of further recommittal was followed by a more than stormy debate of two days, and finally carried by a vote of 26 yeas and 11 nays, on February 1st; but the chairman of the committee having immediately moved "that the claims of George Walker and Mr. Butler be postponed until the 1st of March," this motion also was carried at the same sitting, and so the whole matter ended.

Thus the minority outmanoeuvred and kept in check the majority; though the members of the latter used every means to lessen the influence attached to the official position of those belonging to the former, especially by introducing numerous changes in the standing rules governing the management of the convention or the manner of voting. But, upon the occasion of their defeat in reference to Mr. Butler, the convention having adjourned to the 4th of February, fifteen delegates, all belonging to the said majority, resolved not to attend the sessions any further, and, without asking leave or giving notice, absented themselves, as it were, in a body.

The remaining members, however, at their first sitting after the adjournment, on February 4th, adopted concerning the absentees the following preamble and resolution:

Whereas, The following named delegates elected and returned to this convention by General Pope, to wit: George J. Alden, Lyman W. Rowley, W. J. Purman, J. W. Childs, T. W. Osborn, John W, PowJenkins, Jr., Aubern Erwin, E. D. Howse, Samuel ell, Roland T. Rombauer, Thomas Urquhart, Horatio Pearce, C. R. Mobly, and David Mizell, have intentionally and wilfully absented themselves from this body, to prevent and obstruct reconstruction: therefore,

Be it resolved by the people of Florida, in convention assembled, That Colonel F. F. Flint, commanding the post of Tallahassee, be and he is hereby requested to arrest such absent delegates and compel their attendance upon this body.

For the rest, they continued sitting and deliberating, as if nothing had happened. Though there were in the hall only twentyone or twenty-two delegates present, this number they regarded, and afterward declared in express terms, to be "a legal quorum.' They thus not only transacted business by adopting resolutions and passing ordinances on numerous matters, but completed also the work for which the convention had been called

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together. They actually framed, voted upon, and adopted the new State constitution, on February 6th, as appears from the following: Resolved, That the president be empowered to telegraph Major-General George G. Meade that we are through our labors, and have formed a constitution, and await his further instructions.

The following is the dispatch sent by the president to General Meade:

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA, February 6, 1868. Gen. Geo. G. Meade, commanding Third Military District, Atlanta, Georgia:

I have the honor to inform you that we have completed our labors in forming a constitution for this State, and await your further orders.

D. RICHARDS, President.

With a view to secure the validity of the enactments passed after the fifteen delegates had arbitrarily absented themselves, the Convention adopted, on February 7th, the following preamble and resolution:

Whereas, after a session of fourteen days, we find that forty-one delegates have taken and subscribed to the oath adopted for delegates by this convention,

therefore be it

Resolved, That a majority of that number is a legal quorum of this body.

By another resolution, adopted on the same day, the assembly adjourned as a Constitutional Convention to the next day, and immediately organized itself into a Nominating Convention (the president being the same in either), for the purpose of nominating "the State officers provided for in the constitution." The result of this meeting was the nomination of Governor and Lieutenant-Governor, and that of other high officers of the State, as well as of the member of Congress, mostly out of their

own number.

On February 8th, the delegates, twenty-one in number, subscribed their names to the new constitution, whereupon they adopted the following resolution:

Resolved, That this convention send to General Meade a special member from this convention, who shall take with him a corrected copy of the proceedings, and make before General Meade a full statement of the facts.

One from amongst themselves was here appointed for the said mission to General Meade, when they adjourned to the 15th of February. No sooner had this adjournment taken place, than the fifteen absentees, who seem to have been watching the movements of those sitting in the convention, returned to Tallahassee, late in the night of the next day, accompanied by nine more delegates, and went directly to the House of Representatives, where a protest was read by one of them, charging Daniel Richards, hitherto president of the convention, with heavy offences in the exercise of his office. The protest was signed by the twenty-four delegates present, who then deposed Mr. Richards from the presidency, and elected Horatio Jenkins in his place. Mr. Jenkins having immediately taken the chair, all the former officers of the convention, ex

cept the secretary and the chaplain, were replaced by others, and all the standing committees appointed anew. The convention being thus thoroughly reorganized, it was adjourned to the afternoon of February 10th.

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On the 11th the new Committee "on Eligibility" presented their report, stating that Daniel Richards, mentioned above, as well as Liberty Billings, William U. Saunders, and C. H. Pierce (who composed the former Committee "on Privileges and Elections," and that on Eligibility"), being non-residents of Florida, were by the law of both State and Congress in the reconstruction acts expressly declared ineligible as delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and therefore to be removed from their seats in it. This report, together with the accompanying resolutions, was unanimously adopted by the twenty-six delegates present. Thus were the four named persons unseated, while Messrs. Hart, Davidson, Hill, Stearns, and Wells, whose claims had not been previously acted upon, and in favor of whom the said committee had now reported, were admitted and sworn at the same time.


These proceedings could not but increase the flame of discord which already existed between the two parties. The four expelled not only asserted their right to sit in convention, but they and their adherents claimed for in that capacity framed and adopted the new themselves to be the convention, and to have State constitution; while the other party as firmly denied all this, and claimed the same thing for itself. The contention spread, and rose in its violence to such a point that, in order to prevent disastrous results, which common prudence must have apprehended, the thority, and on February 17th General Meade military power presently interposed its aupersonally appeared at Tallahassee. hearing both parties, he recommended mutual agreement on the disputed points, proposing at the same time that both presidents should resign their positions, and that the delegates assemble to organize the convention anew, that Colonel Sprague, the commander of the sub-District of Florida, preside in the assembly till the reorganization should be effected. In his efforts to bring about a reconciliation, the General was so far successful that the members of both parties, after separate consultation amongst themselves, recognized his plan to be preferable to all others. The two presidents actually resigned (Richards under protest), and on February 18th the delegates met at the Convention Hall, Colonel Sprague occupying the chair. The resignations of the two presidents having been read, Horatio Jenkins was, on motion, elected permanent president by a vote of thirty-two yeas to twelve nays. The chair being now occupied by Mr. Jenkins, the secretary and other officers were appointed, and many resolutions adopted in quick succession, mostly pertaining to a permanent organization of the body, until the

convention peaceably adjourned to the next day. This convention, both before and after its reorganization, was fitly addressed by Colonel Sprague and General Meade.


On February 19th, the regular standing committees were newly appointed, and in the afternoon of the same day the Committee " Eligibility," which was now composed of five members, submitted a majority report in respect to Messrs. Billings, Saunders, and Pierce, and a separate one concerning Mr. Richards, repeating the above-mentioned reasons why neither of them could be allowed to sit in the convention. Hereupon a long and most stormy debate, approaching very near to a combat, took place, chiefly between the leaders of the two opposite parties, till, the reports being put to the vote, they were adopted by a large majority. The beforenamed persons were thus ousted, and left the hall.

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On February 20th, and the few succeeding days, the convention proceeded in its regular business, but principally in the work of framing the new constitution. This was submitted to the House, voted upon and adopted by a good majority, on February 25th. The delegates being then invited to sign the instrument, eight did so under protest, and nine refused altogether. This circumstance might serve as an indication to show the number of those who opposed the new constitution, either in regard

to its general or particular measures. But a resolution having been adopted and spread on the journal, "that such members as refused to sign the constitution should not receive per diem, nor mileage," several among them reluctantly subscribed their names to the document, while the others still refused.

The chief provisions of this instrument, as distinguished from the constitution formerly obtaining in Florida, and those of other States, are the Bill of Rights and the article on franchise, as they refer to the negro, who is here recognized to be politically and socially equal to the white man. The same was the purport of that other constitution, which this same convention (or that part of it who remained in session during the absence of the fifteen delegates) had framed and adopted three weeks before. The Democratic papers of the State pronounced the second instrument to be less rigid and objectionable than the first, and a large portion of the Republican party condemned it indeed as being too mild, so much so, that a committee of ministers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church issued a circular, and dispatched a number of speakers, to persuade the negroes throughout the State to prefer living "under military rule, guided by the reconstruction acts of Congress, " and to oppose the ratification of the State constitution framed by the late convention, chiefly on account "of its enlargement of the franchise in favor of the disloyal," namely, the whites who had fought for secession, or their sympathizers. The second constitution seems

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Section 1. Every male person of the age of twentyone years and upward, of whatever race, color, nationality, or previous condition, who shall, at the time of offering to vote, be a citizen of the United States, or who shall have declared his intention to become such in conformity to the laws of the United States, and who shall have resided and had his habitation, domicil, home, and place of permanent abode in Florida for one year, and in the county for six months, next preceding the election at which he shall offer to vote, shall in such county be deemed a qualified elector at all elections under this constitution. Every elector shall at the time of his registration take and subscribe to the following oath :

I,, do solemnly swear that I will support, protect, and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States, and the constitution and government of the State of Florida, against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith, loyresolution of any State convention or Legislature to alty, and allegiance to the same, any ordinances or the contrary notwithstanding. So help me God.

whites in political rights, as well as in every Yet, concerning the equality of negroes and part of common and social life, the intent of the framers of the first constitution could not have been fuller nor more comprehensive than by the leader of the party called Conservative, is expressed in the following resolution, offered who framed the second, and, on his motion, adopted by them:

Resolved, That no Legislature shall ever have the power to prohibit by law any class of persons, on achaving and exercising equal rights and privileges on count of race, or color, or previous condition, from all public conveyances, in all places of public worship and amusement, and in all public conveniences and the laws of this State, nor to pass any law that would, accommodations created by charter or license under in the least, infringe upon that civil and political equality of all citizens, established and secured forever by the provisions of our constitution: And be it further Resolved, That in all counties where the white and colored populations are equal, or where the colored predominates, the venire for all jurors shall be made up of an equal number of jurors from each population, and in counties where the colored is less than the white population, the venire for jurors shall be made out in the proportion of the two populations.

This second constitution, which the fifteen delegates had, perhaps, prepared at Monticello during their absence from the convention, as it seems too full and elaborate to admit of its contents having been digested in three days, goes into details through all the departments of organic State law. It provides also that the State of Florida shall ever remain under the Federal Government of the United States. We subjoin the section containing this provision and a few others, taken from the Declaration of Rights, as follows:

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