Congress passed a series of laws known as the Reconstruction Acts in 1867. These laws required the former Confederate states to dissolve existing state governments, register all eligible men (white or African-American) to vote, and then hold conventions to create new state constitutions. To be readmitted to the United States, each state’s constitution had to accept the end of slavery and adopt the 14th amendment, which guaranteed equal rights for all men, regardless of race. Florida’s voters selected delegates to a state constitutional convention in November 1867. The convention met on January 20, 1868, and the new constitution was ratified by the voters the following May.
Be it Ordained by the People of the State of Florida in Convention assembled, That the Governor elected under this Constitution is authorized and directed to employ three men learned in the law, and familiar with its practice, to make a complete and accurate Digest of all the laws in Florida in force, of a general nature, embracing the Territorial and State laws inclusive, of the Acts of the Legislature previous to the work being submitted to the Governor as hereinafter provided in this Ordinance. Such Digest shall be in the form and upon the plan of “Brightley’s Digest” of the Statutes of the United States, and shall contain the Constitution of the United States and of the State.
2d. Such board shall be directed to review the manuscript work prepared by LESLIE A. THOMPSON, containing the Laws of England, now in force in the State, and if such work shall be found of sufficient value, said board shall correct or abbreviate the same as they may deem proper.
3d. Said board shall be directed to edit all the reports of the Supreme Court of the State since its organization; to prepare a full index of the opinions of said Court, with such notes as may be deemed necessary for the elucidation of the same; also [to] prepare for publication, with the reports, the several Constitutions of the State, and their respective amendments, under which the opinions reported were made.
4th. Said board shall also be directed to compile all the local and private acts and resolutions still in force.
5th. Said board shall be directed to prepare a code of practice for the county courts, defining definitely the rules and power of said courts; the mode and limitation of punishment; all forms necessary for the use of said courts, and any and all other instructions that may be necessary for the complete exercise of the jurisdiction thereof, whether in criminal, civil, or probate capacity.
6th. Said board shall be directed to prepare a code for the practice of justices of the peace, setting forth their power and jurisdiction and defining their duties under the provisions of the Constitution and acts of the Legislature; also all forms necessary for the use thereof.
7th. In the Digest of the general laws, local and private acts and resolutions, all useless verbiage or superfluous matter, and all that has a tendency to mystify and obscure the true meaning of any act or section thereof, shall be carefully omitted; the whole to be accompanied with marginal notes and references and with a suitable index.
8th. Whenever the works above designated, or any one of them, shall have been completed, they or it shall be submitted by the Governor to the justices of the Supreme Court, by whom they shall be reviewed, and if necessary, amended, and thereafter said work shall be [the] law and rules of practice respectively, unless they are afterwards repealed or altered by the Legislature.
9th. The Governor is further authorized and directed to make the necessary contracts for the publication of the aforesaid works. Of the Digest of the laws there shall be printed and bound five hundred copies; of the English Law five hundred; of the Reports of the Supreme Court five hundred; of the Local and Private Acts and Resolutions five hundred; of the Code of Practice of County Courts five hundred; and of the Code of Practice of Justices of the Peace five hundred copies.
10th. The Legislature is hereby authorized and directed to provide the necessary means for the compensation of the members of the aforesaid board, and for defraying all expenses of publication, and provide by law for such distribution of the works aforesaid as may be deemed proper and necessary, to the officers of the State and several counties, and for exchange with other States.
11th. The aforesaid works, until disposed of by action of the Legislature, shall remain in the custody of the State Librarian.
12th. The aforesaid works shall be compiled in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, except in those cases where there are express provisions to the contrary. Passed in open Convention, February 21, A. D. 1868.