By 1868, momentous changes had occurred in Mississippi since the Constitution of 1832 was written. Slavery had grown enormously in Mississippi before the Civil War. By 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, enslaved Black Mississippians outnumbered White Mississippians. The sale of Native American lands had created a great boom in cotton agriculture.
In 1860, the United States was being split: the South was generally a slave-owning society, while the North predominately favored emancipation. The issue of slavery precipitated the Civil War. At the end of that great war, Mississippi was devastated, and slavery was outlawed. Those formerly enslaved, who made up a majority of the state’s population, received some civil rights and were allowed to participate in government for the first time. In this revolutionary time, called Reconstruction, the Constitution of 1868 was written. It was the first Mississippi Constitution sent to the people for ratification.
Among the provisions of the 1868 Constitution were:
- Voting rights for Black males, as required by Congress.
- Framework for comprehensive system of public schools for the state.
- Protection of property rights for married women.
- Governor's term extended from two to four years.
- Judges above the rank of justice of the peace appointed by governor.
- Future apportionment of the legislature to be based on qualified voters.
To read the 1868 Constitution, go here.
For more information about the 1868 Constitution, go here.
John Ray Skates, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history, University of Southern Mississippi.