On this day in 1819: Alabama’s first constitutional convention convenes in Huntsville

By Will Blakel, www.1819News.com

On the Fourth of July, Americans celebrated the Declaration of Independence from the English crown and the birth of the new Republic, but today, July 5, Alabamians have something further to celebrate: the anniversary of our state’s conception.

Before the year 1819, Alabama was a U.S. territory. It had been a part of the Mississippi Territory before Mississippi gained statehood in 1817, at which point Congress dubbed Alabama a separate territory.

Though what is now Alabama’s Gulf Coast had been occupied and settled by Spanish and French settlers before the Revolutionary War, most of the Alabama territory was inhabited by Native Americans and rural pioneers.

By the fall of 1818, however, there were more than enough settlers for Alabama to qualify for statehood under federal law. President James Monroe signed an act authorizing settlers of the Alabama territory to organize a state convention and adopt their own system of government on March 2, 1819.

On July 5 of that year, 44 delegates arrived at Constitution Hall in Huntsville. There, they spent a little less than a month creating Alabama’s first constitution, which they ratified on August 2.

The delegates unanimously elected Virginia-born John Williams Walker as president of the convention. Walker had purchased land from the federal government in the newly established Madison County in 1809 and served in the Territorial Legislature since 1818 as Speaker of the House. His descendants include Confederate Secretary of War LeRoy Pope Walker and distinguished Southern Gothic novelist Walker Percy.

Left to right John Williams Walker Le Roy Pope Walker Walker Percy Images from Wikipedia Alabama News
Left to right: John Williams Walker, LeRoy Pope Walker, Walker Percy. Images from Wikipedia.

The Alabama Constitution of 1819 created a system of government similar to the one created just 32 years earlier at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and even included its own Bill of Rights. Though it protected slavery, it also promised the right to a trial by jury for enslaved people.

It established a bicameral legislature, known as the General Assembly, with a House of Representatives and a Senate, both popularly elected by white males at least 21 years old who had been in the state for over a year. The General Assembly had the power to elect members of the executive and judicial branches and could even override the governor by a majority vote.

Alabama would hold its first general election in September 1819. Walker became one of Alabama’s two first U.S. senators alongside North Carolina-born William Rufus King. King would later serve as a minister to France and Russia and briefly as Vice President under Franklin Pierce before dying of tuberculosis shortly after his inauguration.

William Rufus King Photo from Wikipedia Alabama News
William Rufus King. Photo from Wikipedia.

William Wyatt Bibb, who had served as the Alabama territory’s first governor, won an election as the state’s first governor. Bibb was the son of Captain William Bibb, a member of the Virginia Legislature and an officer in the War for Independence. Bibb himself was a former member of the Georgia Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Bibb died in office two years later following a riding accident. His brother Thomas Bibb proceeded him as governor.

Gov William Wyatt Bibb left and Gov Thomas Bibb right Alabama News
Gov. William Wyatt Bibb (left) and Gov. Thomas Bibb (right).

Alabama officially entered the Union on December 14, 1819, when President James Monroe signed a congressional resolution allowing its admittance.

The 1819 Constitution would remain in place until 1861, when delegates drafted a new constitution for Alabama’s secession from the Union. It is but one of six constitutions in Alabama’s 204-year history.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Bob Jones High School

Journey welcomes Ben Smith as Assistant Principal, Athletic Director

Madison

Chandrakasem, Koswoski excel in DAR essay contests

Harvest

American Legion, VFW to retire flags on Flag Day

Madison

Stundtner proves skills as Midtown’s ‘Staff Member of the Year’

James Clemens High School

Guo, Mysore, Saha dominate awards at regional, state science fairs

Harvest

Madison Hospital names Brandon Jones ‘Employee of the Year’

Bob Jones High School

MCS to present ‘Youth Mental Health First Aid’ sessions

Digital Version

Digital version of The Madison Record – June 12, 2024

Events

Annual Juneteenth Festival returns to Big Spring Park Saturday

Bob Jones High School

Braden Booth Named Mr. Baseball, Super All-State, Class 7A All-State

Harvest

Low-key races (on foot and couch) pivotal for Rotary’s ‘Parrots 0.5K’

Bob Jones High School

Mill Creek names Deberry as outstanding staff employee

Bob Jones High School

Madison Public Library readies for Summer Reading experience

James Clemens High School

Moore honored as ‘Staff Member of the Year’ at James Clemens

Harvest

Madison City Community Orchestra to honor D-Day’s 80th anniversary

Digital Version

Digital version of The Madison Record – June 5, 2024

Madison

Rotary Club awards city employees Hall, Overman and Watson

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Carlos Mathews Named Athlete Of The Year

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Cotton Row Run’s 44th Running A Huge Success With Madison Runners

Madison

Zoological Society proposes 3% electric tax on Limestone to start building zoo

Madison

Hayley Davidson earns ‘Teacher of the Year’ at Mill Creek

Events

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience opens today in Huntsville

Madison

‘Sounds of Summer’ concerts return to Home Place Park tonight

Madison

Madison school board approves construction contract for new elementary school

x