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Ab Initio Question

Seymour V. Connor General Entry

The ab initio question arose in the Constitutional Convention of 1866 over the legal status of secession. Radical Republicans led by Morgan C. Hamilton maintained that secession was null and void ab initio ("from the beginning") and that all laws and transactions based on laws passed since secession in 1861 were null and void. Moderates led by Andrew J. Hamilton contended that secession was null and void as a result of the war but preferred to validate all laws not in conflict with the laws and constitution of the United States. Moderates opposed ab initio because of possible economic and political consequences. Had the radicals won, no government act in Texas between 1861 and 1866 would have been valid. The ab initio theory was rejected by Elisha M. Pease, by the military, by the constitutional conventions, and by the Republican state committee.

James A. Baggett, "Birth of the Texas Republican Party," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 78 (July 1974). Dale A. Somers, "James P. Newcomb: The Making of a Radical," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 72 (April 1969).

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Seymour V. Connor, “Ab Initio Question,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 15, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994