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Central America, United Provinces of, Constitution of 1824

Central America, United Provinces of, Constitution of 1824

The Constitution of 1824, the first constitution of the United Provinces of the Center of America, was put into effect in November 1824 by the National Constituent Assembly but was not ratified by the first elected congress until August 1825.

The constitution was based heavily on the Spanish Constitution of 1812, with some influence from the U.S. Constitution of 1789. José Cecilio del Valle played a leading role in its formulation as a compromise between liberal and conservative principals. It came to be regarded as the prototype of liberal constitutions in the subsequent Central American republics of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica throughout the nineteenth century. It established Roman Catholicism as the state religion, excluding any other public worship, but limited the clergy's participation in government. It outlawed slavery and guaranteed individual liberties and provided for a unicameral congress with a relatively weak executive, except for his command of the armed forces. The constitution also provided for a senate (with two senators from each state) that had to approve all legislation and could veto acts of the congress, which could override senate votes with a two-thirds majority. The senate could not initiate legislation and was actually more of an executive council than part of the legislature. Supreme Court justices were elected for two-year, staggered terms. In providing the framework for a federation of the five autonomous states, a major weakness of the document was the lack of sufficient power at the national level.

See alsoCentral America, United Provinces of; Valle, José Cecilio del.


The Constitution of 1824 may be found in Luis Mariñas Otero, Las constituciones de Guatemala (1958), as well as in other compilations of the constitutions of the Central American states. Jorge Mario García Laguardia has written extensively on the development of this constitution, most notably in La génesis del constitucionalismo guatemalteco (1971); Mario Rodríguez has described the importance of the Constitution of 1812 to its formulation in The Cádiz Experiment in Central America, 1810 to 1826 (1978). For briefer discussions of its relevance to Central American history, see Thomas Karnes, Failure of Union (1965); and Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., "The Aftermath of Independence, 1821–c. 1870," in Central America Since Independence, edited by Leslie Bethell (1991), pp. 10-12.

Additional Bibliography

Gudmundson, Lowell, and Héctor Lindo-Fuentes. Central America, 1821–1871: Liberalism Before Liberal Reform. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995.

Leiva Vivas, Rafael. La unión centroamericana: Utopía, lirismo y desafío. Tegucigalpa, Honduras: ENAG, Empresa Nacional Artes Gráficas, 2004.

                            Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.

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