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The Constitution, 1776
North Carolina. Provincial Congress
December 18, 1776
Volume 23, Pages 980-984

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THE CONSTITUTION, 1776.

The Constitution or Form of Government agreed to and resolved upon by the Representatives of the Freemen of the State of North Carolina, elected and chosen for that particular Purpose, in Congress assembled, at Halifax, the Eighteenth Day of December, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-six.

Whereas Allegiance and Protection are in their Nature reciprocal, and the one should of Right be refused when the other is withdrawn. And whereas George the Third, King of Great Britain, and late Sovereign of the British American Colonies, hath not only withdrawn from them his Protection, but by an Act of the British Legislature declared the Inhabitants of these States out of the Protection of the British Crown, and all their Property found upon the High Seas liable to be seized and confiscated to the Uses mentioned in the said Act. And the said George the Third has also sent Fleets and Armies to prosecute a cruel War against them, for the Purpose of reducing the Inhabitants of the said Colonies to a State of abject Slavery. In Consequence whereof, all Government under the said King within the said Colonies, hath ceased, and a Total Dissolution of Government in many of them hath taken Place. And whereas the Continental Congress having considered the Premises, and other previous Violations of the Rights of the good People of America, have therefore declared, that the Thirteen United Colonies are of Right, wholly absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown or any other foreign Jurisdiction whatsoever, and that the said Colonies now are and forever shall be, Free and Independent States: Wherefore, in our present State, in order to prevent Anarchy and Confusion, it becomes necessary that a Government should be established in this state: Therefore, We, the Representatives of the Freemen of North Carolina, chosen and assembled in Congress for the express Purpose of framing a Constitution under Authority of the People, most conducive to their Happiness and Prosperity, do declare that a Government for this State, shall be established in Manner and Form following, to-wit,

Section I. That the Legislative Authority shall be vested in two distinct Branches, both dependant on the People, to-wit, a Senate and House of Commons.

Section II. That the Senate shall be composed of Representatives annually chosen by Ballot, one from each County in this State.

Section III. That the House of Commons shall be composed of Representatives annualy chosen by Ballot, two for each County, and one for each of the Towns of Edenton, New Bern, Wilmington, Salisbury, Hillsborough and Halifax.

Section IV. That the Senate and House of Commons, assembled for the Purpose of Legislation, shall be denominated the General Assembly.

Section V. That each Member of the Senate shall have usually resided in the County in which he is chosen, for one Year immediately preceding his Election; and for the same Time shall have possessed, and continue to possess, in the County which he represents, not less than three hundred Acres of Land in Fee.

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Section VI. That each Member of the House of Commons shall have usually resided in the County in which he is chosen, for one Year immediately preceding his Election, and for Six Months shall have possessed, and continue to possess, in the county which he represents, not less than one hundred Acres of Land in Fee, or for the Term of his own Life.

Section VII. That all Freemen of the Age of twenty-one Years, who have been Inhabitants of any one County within the State twelve Months immediately preceding the Day of any Election, and possessed of a Freehold within the same County of fifty Acres of Land for six Months next before and at the Day of Election, shall be entitled to vote for a Member of the Senate.

Section VIII. That all Freemen of the Age of twenty-one Years, who have been Inhabitants of any County within this State twelve Months immediately preceding the day of any Election, and shall have paid public Taxes, shall be entitled to vote for Members of the House of Commons for the County in which he resides.

Section IX. That all Persons possessed of a Freehold in any Town in this State having a Right of Representation, and also all Freemen who have been Inhabitants of any such Town twelve Months next before and at the Day of Election, and shall have paid public Taxes, shall be entitled to vote for a Member to represent such Town in the House of Commons. Provided always, That this Section shall not entitle any Inhabitant of such Town to vote for Members of the House of Commons for the County in which he may reside; nor any Freeholder in such County, who resides without or beyond the Limits of such Town, to vote for a Member for said Town.

Section X. That the Senate and House of Commons when met, shall each have power to choose a Speaker and other their Officers, be Judges of the Qualifications and elections of their Members, sit upon their own Adjournments from Day to Day, and prepare Bills to be passed into Laws: The two Houses shall direct Writs of Election for supplying intermediate Vacancies, and shall also jointly by Ballot adjourn themselves to any future Day and Place.

Section XI. That all Bills shall be read three times in each House before they pass into Laws, and be signed by the Speaker of both Houses.

Section XII. That every Person who shall be chosen a Member of the Senate or House of Commons, or appointed to any Office or Place of Trust, before taking his seat, or entering upon the Execution of his Office, shall take an Oath to the State; and all officers shall also take an Oath of Office.

Section XIII. That the General Assembly shall, by joint Ballot of both Houses, appoint Judges of the Supreme Courts of Law and Equity, Judges of Admirality, and an Attorney-General, who shall be commissioned by the Governor, and hold their Offices during good Behaviour.

Section XIV. That the Senate and House of Commons shall have Power to appoint the Generals and Field-Officers of the Militia, and all Officers of the regular Army of this State.

Section XV. That the Senate and House of Commons, jointly at their first Meeting after each annual Election, shall by Ballot elect a Governor for one Year; who shall not be eligible to that Office longer than three Years in six successive Years: That no Person under thirty Years of Age, and who has not been a Resident in this State above five Years, and having in the State a Freehold in Lands and Tenements above the Value one Thousand Pounds, shall be eligible as Governor.

Section XVI. That the Senate and House of Commons, jointly at their first Meeting after each annual Election, shall by Ballot elect seven Persons

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to be a Council of State for one Year; who shall advise the Governor in the Execution of his Office; and that four Members shall be a Quorum: Their Advice and Proceedings shall be entered in a Journal to be kept for that Purpose only, and signed by the Members present; to any Part of which any Member present may enter his Dissent; and such Journal shall be laid before the General Assembly when called for by them.

Section XVII. That there shall be a Seal of this State, which shall be kept by the Governor, and used by him as occasion may require; and shall be called the Great Seal of the State of North Carolina, and be affixed to all Grants and Commissions.

Section XVIII. That Governor for the Time being, shall be Captain-General and Commander in Chief of the Militia; and in the Recess of the General Assembly, shall have Power, by and with the Advice of the Council of State, to embody the Militia for the public Safety.

Section XIX. That the Governor for the Time being, shall have Power to draw for and apply such Sums of Money as shall be voted by the General Assembly for the Contingencies of Government, and be accountable to them for the same; He also may, by and with the Advice of the Council of State, lay Embargoes, or prohibit the Exportation of any Commodity for any Term not exceeding thirty Days at any one Time, in the Recess of the General Assembly; and shall have the Power of granting Pardons and Reprieve., except where the Prosecution shall be carried on by the General Assembly, or the Law shall otherwise direct; in which Case he may, in the Recess, grant a Reprieve until the next Sitting of the General Assembly: And may exercise all other executive Powers of Government limited and restrained as by this Constitution is mentioned, and according to the Laws of the State: And on his Death, Inability, or Absence from the State, the Speaker of the Senate for the Time being, and in Case of his Death, Inability, or Absence from the State, the Speaker of the House of Commons shall exercise the Powers of the Governor, after such Death, or during such Absence or Inability of the Governor or Speaker of the Senate, or until a new Nomination is made by the General Assembly.

Section XX. That in every Case where any Officer, the Right of whose Appointment is by this Constitution vested in the General Assembly, shall during their Recess die, or his Office by other Means become vacant, the Governor shall have Power, with the Advice of the Council of State, to fill up such Vacancy by granting a temporary Commission, which shall expire at the End of the next Session of the General Assembly.

Section XXI. That the Governor, Judges of the Supreme Courts of Law and Equity, Judges of Admiralty, and Attorney-General, shall have adequate Salaries during their Continuance in Office.

Section XXII. That the General Assembly shall, by joint Ballot of both Houses, annually appoint a Treasurer or Treasurers for this State.

Section XXIII. That the Governor and other Officers offending against the State, by violating any Part of this Constitution, Mal-Administration or Corruption, may be prosecuted on the Impeachment of the General Assembly, or Presentment of the Grand-Jury of any Court of Supreme Jurisdiction in this State.

Section XXIV. That the General Assembly shall, by joint Ballot of both Houses, triennially appoint a Secretary.

Section XXV. That no Persons who heretofore have been, or hereafter may be, Receivers of Public Monies, shall have a Seat in either House of General Assembly, or be eligible to any office in this State, until such Person

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shall have fully accounted for and paid into the Treasury, all Sums for which they may be accountable and liable.

Section XXVI. That no Treasurer shall have a Seat in either the Senate, House of Commons or Council of State, during his Continuance in that Office, or before he shall have finally settled his Accounts with the Public, for all Monies which may be in his Hands at the Expiration of his Office belonging to the State, and hath paid the same into the Hands of the succeeding Treasurer.

Section XXVII. That no Officer in the regular Army or Navy, in the Service and Pay of the United States, of this or any other State, nor any Contractor or Agent for supplying such Army or Navy with Clothing or Provisions, shall have a Seat in either the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State, or be eligible thereto; and any member of the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State, being appointed to and accepting of such Office, shall thereby vacate his seat.

Section XXVIII. That no Member of the Council of State shall have a Seat either in the Senate or House of Commons.

Section XXIX. That no Judge of the Supreme Court of Law or Equity, or Judge of Admiralty, shall have a Seat in the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State.

Section XXX. That no Secretary of this State, Attorney-General, or Clerk of any Court of Record, shall have a Seat in the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State.

Section XXXI. That no Clergyman, or Preacher of the Gospel, of any Denomination, shall be capable of being a Member of either the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State, while he continues in the exercise of the pastoral Function.

Section XXXII. That no Person who shall deny the being of God, or the Truth of the Protestant Religion, or the Divine Authority either of the Old or New Testament, or who shall hold Religious Principles incompatible with the Freedom and Safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any Office or Place of Trust or Profit in the Civil Department, within this State.

Section XXXIII. That the Justices of the Peace, within the respective Counties within this State, shall in Future be recommended to the Governor for the Time being, by the Representatives in General Assembly, and the Governor shall commission them accordingly: And the Justices, when so commissioned, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall not be removed from Office by the General Assembly unless for Misbehaviour, Absence, or Inability.

Section XXXIV. That there shall be no Establishment of any one Religious Church in this State in Preference to any other; neither shall any Person, on any Pretence whatsoever, be compelled to attend any Place of Worship, contrary to his own Faith or Judgment; nor be obliged to pay for the Purchase of any Glebe, or the building of any House of Worship, or for the Maintenance of any Minister or Ministry, contrary to what he believes right, or has voluntarily and personally engaged to perform; but all Persons shall be at Liberty to exercise their own Mode of Worship. Provided, That nothing herein contained, shall be construed to exempt Preachers of treasonable or seditious Discourses from legal Trial and Punishment.

Section XXXV. That no Person in the State shall hold more than one lucrative Office at any one Time, Provided, That no Appointment in the Militia, or to the Office of a Justice of the Peace, shall be considered as a lucrative Office.

Section XXXVI. That all Commissions and Grants shall run in the Name

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of the State of North Carolina, and bear Test and be signed by the Governor; and all Writs run in the same Manner, and bear Test and be signed by the Clerks of the respective Courts; Indictments shall conclude, against the Peace and Dignity of the State.

Section XXXVII. That the Delegates for this State to the Continental Congress, while necessary, shall be chosen annually by the General Assembly, by Ballot, but may be superceded in the mean Time, in the same Manner; and no Person shall be elected to serve in that Capacity more than three Years successively.

Section XXXVIII. That there shall be a Sheriff, Coroner or Coroners, and Constables in each County within this State.

Section XXXIX. That the Person of a Debtor, where there is not a strong Presumption of Fraud, shall not be confined in Prison after delivering up, bona fide, all his Estate, real and personal, for the Use of his Creditors, in such Manner as shall be hereafter regulated by Law. All Prisoners shall be bailable by sufficient Sureties, unless for capital Offences, when the Proof is evident, or the Presumption great.

Section L. That every Foreigner who comes to Settle in this State, having first taken an Oath of Allegiance to the same, may purchase, or by other just Means acquire, hold, and transfer Land or other real Estate; and after one Year's Residence, shall be deemed a Free Citizen.

Section XLI. That a School or Schools shall be established by the Legislature for the convenient Instruction of Youth, with such Salaries to the Masters paid by the Public, as many enable them to instruct at low Prices; and all useful Learning shall be duly encouraged and promoted in one or more Universities.

Section XLII. That no Purchase of Lands shall be made of the Indian Natives, out on Behalf of the Public, and by Authority of the General Assembly.

Section XLIII. That the future Legislature of this State shall regulate Entails in such a Manner as to prevent Perpetuities.

Section XLIV. That the Declaration of Rights is hereby declared to be Part of the Constitution of this State, and ought never to be violated on any Pretence whatever.

Section XLV. That any Member of either House of the General Assembly, shall have Liberty to dissent from, and protest against any Act or Resolve think injurious to the Public of any Individual, and have the Reasons of his Dissent entered on the Journals.

Section XLVI. That neither House of the General Assembly shall proceed upon public Business, unless a Majority of all the Members of such House are actually present; and that upon a Motion made and seconded, the Yeas and Nays upon any Question shall be taken and entered on the Journals; and that the Journals of the Proceedings of both Houses of the General Assembly, shall be printed and made public immediately after their Adjournment.

This Constitution is not intended to preclude the present Congress from making a temporary Provision for the well ordering of this State, until the General Assembly shall establish Government agreeable to the Mode herein before prescribed.

December the 18th Day, A. D. 1776, read the Third Time, and ratified in open Congress.

R. CASWELL, President.
J. GLASGOW, Secretary.
JAS. GREEN, JUN., Secretary.
Copy Test.