|North Carolina Constitution
(Dec 18, 1776)
NORTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION
December 18, 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and the one should of Right be refused, when the other is withdrawn;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of the British American Colonies, hath not only withdrawn from them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 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 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 the 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:
I. That the legislative Authority shall be vested in two distinct
Branches, both dependent on the People, to wit, a Senate and House
II. That the Senate shall be composed of Representatives
annually chosen by Ballot, one from each County in the State.
III. That the House of Commons shall be composed of
Representatives annually chosen by Ballot, two for each County,
and one for each of the Towns of Edenton, Newbern, Wilmington, Salisbury,
Hillsborough, and Halifax.
IV. That the Senate and House of Commons, assembled for the Purpose
of Legislation, shall be denominated the General Assembly.
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.
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
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.
VIII. That all Freemen of the Age of Twenty One Years who have
been Inhabitants of any county within the State twelve months immediately
preceding the Day of any Election, and shall have paid Public Taxes,
shall be entitled to vote for a member of the House of Commons for
the county in which he resides.
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 intitled to vote for a member to represent such Town in the House
of Commons: Provided always, That this Section shall not intitle
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
is such County who resides without, or beyond the limits of such
Town, to vote for a member for said Town.
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
in 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.
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.
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.
XIII. That the General Assembly shall, by joint ballot of both
Houses, appoint Judges of the Supreme Courts of Law and Equity,
Judges of Admiralty, and Attorney General, who shall be commissioned
by the Governor and hold their offices during good behaviour.
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.
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 30 years of age, and who has not been a resident in
this State above 5 years, and having in the State a freehold in
lands and tenements above the value of one thousand pounds, shall
be eligible as Governor.
XVI. That the Senate and House of Commons, jointly, at their first
meeting after each annual election, shall by ballot elect seven
persons 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
into 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.
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.
XVIII. The 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.
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 Reprieves, 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 he General Assembly; and may exercise all the
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 State 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 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.
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.
XXI. That the Governor, Judges of the Supreme Court
of Law and Equity, Judges of Admiralty, and Attorney General shall
have adequate Salaries during their Continuance in Office.
XXII. That the General Assembly shall, by joint Ballot of both
Houses, annually appoint a Treasurer or Treasurers for this State.
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.
XXIV. That the General Assembly shall, by joint Ballot of both
Houses, triennially appoint a Secretary for this State.
XXV. That no Person 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 shall have fully accounted for and paid into the Treasury
all Sums for which they may be accountable and liable.
XXVI. That no Treasurer shall have a seat in either
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,
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 or 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.
XXVIII. That no Member of the Council of State shall have a seat
either in the Senate or House of Commons.
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.
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.
XXXI. That no Clergyman or Preacher of the Gospel, of any Denomination,
shall be capable of being a member either of the Senate, House of
Commons or Council of State, while he continues in the Exercise
of the Pastoral Function.
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 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.
XXXIII. That the Justices of the Peace within their respective
Counties in 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.
XXXIV. That there shall be no Establishment of any one religious
Church or Denomination in this State in Preference to any other,
neither shall any person, on any pretence whatsoever, be compelled
to attend aty Place of worship contrary to his own Faith or Judgment,
or 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
and seditious Discourses, from legal trial and Punishment.
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 the Office of a Justice of the Peace, shall be considered as
a lucrative Office.
XXXVI. That all Commissions and Grants shall run in the name of
the State of North Carolina and bear Test, and be signed by the
Governor. All writs shall 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.
XXXVII. That the Delegates from this State to the Continental Congress,
while necessary, shall be chosen annually by the General Assembly,
by Ballot, but may be superseded in the mean time in the same manner,
and no person shall be elected to serve in that Capacity for more
than three years successively.
XXXVIII. That there shall be a Sheriff, Coroner, or Coroners, and
Constable, in each County in this State.
XXXIX. That the person of a Debtor, where there is not a strong
Presumption of Fraud, shall not be continued in Prison, after delivering
up, bona fide, all his Estate, real and personal, 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 Presumption great.
XL. That every Foreigner who comes to settle in this State, having
first taken the 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.
XLI. That a school or schools be established by the Legislature,
for the convenient Instruction of youth, with such Salaries to the
Masters, paid by the Public as may enable them to instruct at low
prices; and all useful Learning shall be duly encouraged and promoted
in one or more Universities.
XLII. That no purchase of lands shall be made of the Indian natives,
but on behalf of the public, by the authority of the General Assembly.
XLIII. That the future Legislature of this State shall
regulate intails, in such a manner as to prevent perpetuities.
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 whatsoever.
XLV. That any member of either House of the General Assembly shall
have liberty to dissent from, and protest against any act or resolve
which he may think injurious to the public, or any individual, and
have the reasons of his dissent entered on the Journals.
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 described.
December the Eighteenth, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy
Six, read the third time, and ratified in open Congress.