The Confederacy enacted the Confederate Constitution in opposition to the Union and the United States Constitution. The Confederate Constitution sought various assurances of state rights and preserved slavery as an institution, which were significant contrasts between the two. However these similarities are more important than differences with respect to the form of government established by each document. Both the Confederate Constitution and the U.S. Constitution establish a federal system of government. The primary difference between the two documents is that the Confederate Constitution limits the powers of the federal government while the U.S. Constitution restricts the powers of the states.
In terms of process, the Confederate Constitution was adopted on February 12, 1868, in Richmond, Virginia. The original text of the document was signed by President Jefferson Davis but later amended several times. Today, only a copy of the final version remains because the original has been lost. The U.S. Constitution was ratified by the required number of states on September 17, 1787, at Federal Hall in New York City. It took nearly a year for all the states to ratify the document because many people believed that it should include a bill of rights to protect individual freedoms. However, this belief was not shared by all members of the founding generation and they feared that including such protections would cripple the new government's power to act.
The Confederate Constitution underwent significant revisions. Instead of a "more perfect union," they opted for "permanent federal governance." There was no such thing as citizenship at the national level; instead, there were only "persons united by common interests who agreed to form a government for themselves." This means that the men who created the constitution believed it would not be permanent unless the states also wanted it to be temporary. They knew that if the states left, then too would go the Confederacy.
Some people believe that the main difference between the governments of the United States and the Confederacy is that the former was founded on principles of liberty and equality, while the latter was based on slavery and oppression. However, this is only part of the story. The men who drafted the Confederate Constitution believed that their right to create their own government was being threatened by Congress, so they decided to go ahead and do it anyway. In fact, the Confederate Constitution was quite similar to its Federal counterpart in many ways. Both documents included a supreme court, electoral system, and method of amendment. The main difference was that the men who wrote the Confederate Constitution wanted to keep their country together even if this meant doing things their way rather than the way of the federal government in Washington DC.
Unsurprisingly, considering that the Confederate Constitution was based on the United States Constitution, the Confederate State Supreme Courts frequently relied on decisions from the United States Supreme Court. Thus, the Marshall Court's jurisprudence affected the interpretation of the Confederate Constitution. In turn, this affected how the states ratified the Confederate Constitution because they needed to know whether their own state constitutions could be interpreted in a similar manner.
Confederate courts used three main methods to interpret the meaning of the Confederate Constitution: (1) looking at the original understanding of "the people who drafted and approved the Constitution"; (2) examining how other countries' constitutional processes worked; and (3) finding clues within the text itself. These methods produced different results in terms of what rights were protected by the constitution. For example, the courts found that certain rights were implied rather than expressed, so they allowed governments to make laws restricting those rights as long as they had a reasonable reason for doing so.
The way that the Confederate States Supreme Courts interpreted the United States Constitution is an important part of any study of American law because many states adopted amendments or new provisions to their constitutions through legislative action instead of relying on the federal government to do so. The process by which these changes were made known to the public and accepted by them required court approval in almost every case.