Our current Florida Constitution is actually our state's sixth
constitution. It was adopted in 1968 and replaced the 1885 version.
Florida's five previous constitutions reflected the times in which
their drafters lived, 1838, 1861, 1865, 1868, and 1885. Much of
their work is still in place in the 1968 Constitution in such
areas as the elected cabinet system. Let's take a look at Florida's
1838 - Florida's first Constitution was written at a convention
in St. Joseph. Fifty-six delegates drafted the Constitution in
seeking statehood for Florida which was granted on March 3, 1845.
Highlights: Established a government with a one-term governor,
bi-cameral legislature, and departmental administrators selected
by the legislature and eligible for re-election. Bankers and clergymen
were banned from being elected as governors or legislators. The
1838 Florida Constitution strongly affirmed the system of slavery,
prohibiting any legislation to emancipate slaves but authorizing
legislation to prevent free blacks from entering Florida.
1861 - Florida's second constitution drafters adopted an
ordinance of secession and tied Florida to the "Confederate
States of America" as opposed to the United States. The convention
met in Tallahassee. This constitution was not submitted to the
electorate for ratification since the law governing the convention
gave it the power to make the necessary changes.
1865 - The third Florida Constitution was devised by a
convention to annul the ordinance of secession. Adopted shortly
after the Civil War, it never became law because Florida came
under post-Civil War military jurisdiction. Although it acknowledged
the abolition of slavery, it restricted jury service and even
witness testimony to whites only (unless the victim was black)
and denied newly-freed blacks (as well as women) the right to
1868 - Florida's fourth constitution reflected the turbulent
times of post-Civil War Reconstruction and military occupation.
Referred to as the "Carpetbag" Constitution, it centralized
authority in the governor, providing that county officials would
be appointed by him, not elected locally. The 1868 Constitution
also required a system of public schools, a state prison, and
other institutions, required taxes to be uniform, and protected
the homestead of a debtor from forced sale. It extended voting
and other rights to all males, and allocated a seat in the State
Senate and House to Seminole Indians.
1885 - The framers of the fifth constitution sought to
weaken executive authority and impose checks on what they considered
the abuses of Reconstruction governments. They established an
elected cabinet and elected government officials, along with reducing
elected state officials' salaries and limiting the governor to
one term. It authorized a poll tax (which lasted until 1937) that
served to deny poor blacks and whites the right to vote.
The 1885 Florida Constitution was Florida's longest-lived and
most amended constitution. There were 212 amendments proposed
and 149 adopted by the voters in those years.
1968 - By the 1960's, there were dozens of amendments proposed
in each session of the legislature. Florida's current constitution
was adopted in 1968 and replaced the 1885 version. In 1880, Florida
was a frontier society of 269,000 people. By 1970, Florida had
grown into a modern, urbanized, rapidly expanding state of 6,789,000
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