Constitution of the State of South Carolina, 1868


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The 1868 state constitution for South Carolina was revolutionary because it embodied many democratic principles absent from previous constitutions. The new document provided for population alone, rather than wealth or the combination of wealth and population, as the basis for House representation. It also continued popular election of the governor. Additionally, the 1868 constitution abolished debtors’ prison, provided for public education, abolished property ownership as a qualification for office holding, granted some rights to women, and created counties.

The popularly elected governor was given a veto that required a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly to override. A two-thirds legislative vote was also required to issue any bonded debt. In 1873 an additional amendment required that two-thirds of the voters confirm an increase in the general obligation debt of the state.

The 1868 constitution’s Article X provided for a uniform system of free public schools. Although not implemented until decades later, the constitution mandated that the schools should separate for at least six months each year and that all children had to attend school at least twenty-four months (four academic years) as soon as enough facilities were available. Provisions for the deaf and blind were also ordered. Schools were financed by a poll tax, and an 1878 amendment added a property tax to increase support for public education. Maintenance of the state university was made mandatory, and the creation of a normal school and an agricultural college was also required. The status of the newly freed African Americans was also solidified in the 1868 constitution. Race was abolished as a limit on male suffrage. Disfranchisement could be only for murder, robbery, and dueling. The Black Codes that had passed under the constitution of 1865 were overturned. There was no provision against interracial marriage, and public schools were open to all races.


Constitutional Convention (1868).  Constitution of 1868.  S 131081.  State Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.



of the

State of

South Carolina



We, the People of the State of South Carolina, in Convention – assembled, Grateful to Almighty God for this opportunity, deliberately and peaceably of entering into a explicit and solemn compact with each other, and forming a new Constitution of civil Government for ourselves and posterity, recognizing the necessity of the protection of the people in all that pertains to their freedom, safety and tranquility, and imploring the direction of the Great Legislator of the Universe, do agree upon, - ordain and establish the following Declaration of the Rights and Form of Government as the - Constitution of the Commonwealth of South Carolina.


Article 1

Declaration of Rights.

Section 1.  All men are born free and equal – endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are the rights of enjoying and – defending their lives and liberties, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

Section 2.  Slavery shall never exist in this State; neither shall- involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

Section 3.  All political power is rested in and derived from the people only; therefore they have the right, at all times, to modify their form of government in such manner as they may deem expedient, when the public good demands.

Section 4.  Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.

Indicators 3-4.5 Summarize the effects of the Civil War on the daily lives of people of different classes in South Carolina, including the lack of food, clothing, and living essentials and the continuing racial tensions.

Indicators 3-4.7 Summarize the effects of Reconstruction in South Carolina, including the development of public education, racial advancements and tensions, and economic changes.

Standard 8-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of Reconstruction on the people and government of South Carolina.

Indicators 8-4.3 Summarize the events and the process that led to the ratification of South Carolina’s constitution of 1868, including African American representation in the constitutional convention; the major provisions of the constitution; and the political and social changes that allowed African Americans, Northerners, “carpetbaggers,” and “scalawags” to play a part in South Carolina state government.

Standard USHC-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction in America.

Indicator USHC-4.4 Summarize the effects of Reconstruction on the southern states and the roles of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments in that era.


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