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John A. Quitman

John A. Quitman, delegate to the 1832 convention. Courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Feature Story

The Mississippi Constitution of 1832

In 1817 when the state's first Constitution was adopted, only the southern one-third of Mississippi was open to American settlement. The northern two-thirds was owned by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. In 1820, the Choctaws ceded their lands in west-central Mississippi to the United States. In 1830, all remaining Choctaw lands were ceded to the United States. In 1832, the Chickasaws ceded their lands in northeastern Mississippi.

The Indians moved to Arkansas and Oklahoma, and the lands in Mississippi were sold to American settlers. It is noteworthy that Mississippi's 1832 Constitution admitted Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians as citizens. The admission of Choctaws and Chickasaws was not done to allow them to become citizens. On the contrary, extending the laws of Mississippi would force the Choctaws and Chickasaws to move west to maintain their sovereignty. Only by moving west could they continue living under their tribal governments.

New constitution demanded

A great land rush by American settlers into the northern two-thirds of Mississippi encouraged a huge population growth in the state. These new settlers demanded a new constitution that would bring Mississippi's government closer to the people. They demanded shorter terms for government officials, elective judgeships, frequent elections, and other provisions that would bring government closer to the people.

Changes made to the Constitution in 1832 include:

  • It was no longer a requirement to own property in order to vote or to seek elective office. (The right to vote and run for office, however, continued as an option for white males only.)
  • Judges were to be elected, not appointed.
  • Term limits were set for elective offices.
  • Dueling was outlawed.
  • Legislature was prohibited from passing any law intended to free slaves.
  • Slave owners were permitted to bring slaves into the state, but slave traders were prohibited from operating in the state.

Read the 1832 Mississippi Constitution

John Ray Skates, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history, University of Southern Mississippi.

Posted August 2000

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