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The 1861 Arkansas Constitution was the constitution of the Confederate State of Arkansas, created upon Arkansas's secession from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War. It was written by hand on nine pages of vellum.

Biographical/Historical Note

After Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860, many southern states contemplated secession. In January of 1861, officials called for an election to decide whether Arkansas should hold a convention to consider secession from the Union. The February 18 election results favored such a convention.

Delegates met in Little Rock on March 4, 1861. David Walker of Fayetteville was elected chairman. Walker opposed secession at the time, and his selection foreshadowed the convention's decision. An election would place the matter before the voters in August. Arkansas was generally divided along geographical lines: the northwestern half of the state was against secession, and the southeastern half favored it. However, other events intervened before voters could decide the issue.

On April 12, 1861, the Civil War began at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. President Lincoln called for a regiment of troops from Arkansas to help defend the United States against the rebellion. Governor Henry Rector refused, and David Walker asked convention delegates to reconvene in Little Rock. On May 6, 1861, a secession ordinance passed by a vote of sixty-five to five. Walker asked for unanimity, but one man refused. Isaac Murphy of Huntsville would not change his vote. Arkansas withdrew from the Union and later joined the Confederate States of America on May 20, 1861.

The Secession Convention also enacted a new constitution. Delegates drafted a document very similar to the 1836 Constitution. The government's basic structure remained the same, but the words "United States of America" were replaced with "Confederate States of America." Text in the Declaration of Rights article changed from all free men to "all free white men" or "all free white men, or Indian." Emancipation became legally impossible in Arkansas. The new constitution was adopted by the convention on June 1, 1861, but it was never submitted to a vote of the people.


Constitutions; Constitutional conventions; State government; Secession; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865

Physical Description

9 pages, 23.5" x 17.5"


Walker, David, (1806-1879); Boudinot, Elias C.(Elias Cornelius), (1835-1890); Totten, James L., (1805-1871); Hawkins, Marcus Lafayette, (1833-1906); Bolinger, Henry Hunter, (1808-1895; Murphy, Isaac, (1799-1882; Austin, Thomas Fletcher, (1819- 1905); Dinsmore, Alexander Winchester, (1820-1894); Jackson, Haley, (1810-1892); Gould, Josiah, (1811-1872); Echols, Phillip Henry, (1836-1884); Hobbs, Benjamin Hamilton, (1826-); Watkins, William Wirt, (1826-1898); Hilliard, Isaac Henry, (1811- 1869); Flanagin, Harris, (1817-1872); Smoote, George Parker, (1828-1891); Wallace, Isaiah Christian, (1808- 1871); Stallings, Samuel James, (1825-1865); Thomason, Hugh French, (1826-1893); Turner, Jesse, (1805-1894); Bradley, Thomas H., (1808-1864); Fuller, Robert Thomas, (1821-1904); Johnson, Jilson Payne, (1828-1879); Rhodes, Joel A., (1816-1869); Slemons, William F. (William Ferguson), (1830-1918); Mansfield, William Walker, (1830-1912); Cochran, Samuel Wharton, (1820-1904); Bush,James W., (1830-); Carrigan, Alfred Holt, (1827-1899); Garland, Rufus King, Jr., (1830-1886); Jester, Joseph, (1846-1866); Desha, Franklin Wharton, (1819-1869); Fort, Urban Elias, (1818-1891); Lanier, Felix R., (1829- 1907); Mayo, William Montgomery, (1822-1890); Clingman, Alexander Michael, (1830-1870); Dodson, Isaiah, (1809-1866); Hobson, Anson W., (1825-1882); Hill, Levin D., (1808-1868); Adams, Charles W., (1817-1878); Hanly, Thomas Burton, (1812-1880); Kelley, Samuel, (1817- 1894); Ray, Archibald, (1807- 1876); Stout, William, (1806- 1865); Totten, Benjamin Clinton, (1806-1869); Garland, Augustus Hill, (1832-1899); Stilwell, Joseph, (1826-1870); Crenshaw, James W., (1818-1898); Laughinghouse, George W., (1816- 1876); Shelton, James N., (1803- 1867); Smith, Jabez Mitchell, (1828-1888); Walker, Elijah Talbot, (1818- 1892); Fishback, William M. (William Meade), (1831-1903); Kennard, Michael Shelby, (1833-1901; Adams, Alexander Hamilton, (1824-1866); Patterson, James H., (1812- ; Grace, William Porter, (1827-1898); Yell, James, (1811-1867); Batson, Felix Ives, (1819-1871); Floyd, William B., (1810- 1886); Cryer, Wiley Powell, (1825-1900); Baber, Milton Dyer, (1837-1893); Robinson, Samuel, (1805- 1865); Griffith, Samuel Lewis, (1817-1893); Dollarhide, James Samples, (1818-1899); Hawkins, Benjamin F., (1813- 1887); Bussey, Hezakiah, III, (1814-1866); Tatum, William Vardeman, (1815-1896); Patterson, James Henry, (1819-1878); Gunter, Thomas M.(Thomas Monatgue), (1826-1904); Parks, John Perry Aaron, (1808-1892); Stirman, James H., (1807-1879); Cypert, Jesse Newton, (1823-1913); Spivey, William H., (1829-1865)

Geographical Area





1861 Arkansas Constitution, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Resource Type



Arkansas Constitutions, MS.000540


Arkansas State Archives

Contributing Entity

Arkansas State Archives

Recommended Citation

1861 Arkansas Constitution, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.


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1861 Arkansas Constitution