Nicaragua was an original signatory of the Federal Constitution of the Central American Federation in 1824. In April 1838, it left the union and promulgated its first constitution in November of that year. Ideas of liberty, sovereignty, and individual rights were borrowed from the French Revolution and the U.S. Constitution. A new constitution was written in November 1857, after the Conservative General Tomás Martínez came to power in a coup. Separation of church and state was incorporated into the constitution drafted by the Liberal government of General José Santos Zelaya in 1893.
The first three decades of the twentieth century were marked by U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. The next constitution was not written until March 1939, two years after National Liberal Party leader Anastasio Somoza García became president. In 1950 Somoza and Conservative leader Emiliano Chamorro reached a peace settlement and modified the 1939 document. From that point, the Somoza family ruled arbitrarily until the Sandinistas ousted Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979.
In July 1979 the Governing Junta of National Reconstruction abolished the constitution and governed by decree until 1986. On 9 January 1987 the National Assembly promulgated the current constitution. The Sandinista principles of self-determination, political pluralism, a mixed economy, and a nonaligned foreign policy imbue the legal framework.
Thomas Karnes, The Failure of Union: Central America, 1824–1960 (1961).
Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr., Central America: A Nation Divided, 2d ed. (1985).
Kenneth J. Mijeski, The Nicaraguan Constitution of 1987 (1991).
Esgueva Gómez, Antonio. Las constituciones políticas y sus reformas en la historia de Nicaragua. Managua: IHNCA, 2000.