Florida Constitution of 1838


On December 3, 1838, delegates from across the Territory of Florida gathered in the town of Saint Joseph to draft a constitution in preparation for statehood. Although Saint Joseph was to disappear from the map within a decade, after suffering a devastating hurricane and repeated outbreaks of yellow fever, the work of the constitutional convention survived, resulting in this document. The 1838 constitution established a one-term governor, a bicameral legislature, tight restrictions on banking (a response to the national banking crisis of 1837), and a strict separation of church and state (no clergyman could serve as governor or legislator). Delegates used the constitutions of several other southern states as models. This constitution, approved in 1845 by the United States Congress, remained the basic governing document of the state through the Civil War. Confederate Florida amended, but did not replace, the 1838 constitution. In 1865, Reconstruction delegates adopted a new constitution as part of the process of restoring Florida to the Union. The original constitution, signed by the delegates, has never been found. Considered a "secretary's copy," this document is the only known copy of the 1838 constitution.

Last updated: October 17, 2011