Whereas the conduct of the legislature of Great Britain
for many years past has been so oppressive on the people of
America that of late years they have plainly declared and
asserted a right to raise taxes upon the people of America,
and to make laws to bind them in all cases whatsoever, without
their consent; which conduct, being repugnant to the common
rights of mankind, hath obliged the Americans, as freemen,
to oppose such oppressive measures, and to assert the rights
and privileges they are entitled to by the laws of nature
and reason; and accordingly it hath been done by the general
consent of all the people of the States of New Hampshire,
Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New
Jersey, Pennsylvania, the counties of New Castle, Kent, and
Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South
Carolina, and Georgia, given by their representatives met
together in general Congress, in the city of Philadelphia;
And whereas it hath been recommended by the said Congress, on the fifteenth of May last, to the respective assemblies and conventions of the United States, where no government, sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs, hath been hitherto established, to adopt such government as may, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular and America in general;
And whereas the independence of the United States of America has been also declared, on the fourth day of July, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, by the said honorable Congress, and all political connection between them and the Crown of Great Britain is in consequence thereof dissolved:
We, therefore, the representatives of the people, from whom all power originates, and for whose benefit all government is intended, by virtue of the power delegated to us, do ordain and declare, and it IS hereby ordained and declared, that the following rules and regulations be adopted for the future government of this State:
ARTICLE I. The legislative, executive, and
judiciary departments shall be separate and distinct, so that
neither exercise the powers properly belonging to the other.
ART. II. The legislature of this State shall
be composed of the representatives of the people, as is hereinafter
pointed out; and the representatives shall be elected yearly,
and every year, on the first Tuesday in December; and the
representatives so elected shall meet the first Tuesday in
January following, at Savannah, or any other place or places
where the house of assembly for the time being shall direct.
On the first day of the meeting of the representatives so chosen, they shall proceed to the choice of a governor, who shall be styled "honorable;" and of an executive council, by ballot out of their own body, viz: two from each county, except those counties which are not yet entitled to send ten members. One of each county shall allways attend, where the governor resides, by monthly rotation, unless the members of each county agree for a longer or shorter period. This is not intended to exclude either member attending. The remaining number of representatives shall be called the house of assembly; and the majority of the members of the said house shall have power to proceed on business.
ART. III. It shall be an unalterable rule
that the house of assembly shall expire and be at an end,
yearly and every year, on the day preceding the day of election
mentioned in the foregoing rule.
ART. IV. The representation shall be divided
in the following manner: ten members from each county, as
is hereinafter directed, except the county of Liberty, which
contains three parishes, and that shall be allowed fourteen.
The ceded lands north of Ogechee shall be one county, and known by the name of Wilkes.
The parish of Saint Paul shall be another county, and known by the name of Richmond.
The parish of Saint George shall be another county, and known by the name of Burke.
The parish of Saint Matthew, and the upper part of Saint Philip, above Canouchee, shall be another county, and known by the name of Eflingham.
The parish of Christ Church, and the lower part of Saint Philip, below Canouchee, shall be another county, and known by the name of Chatham.
The parishes of Saint John, Saint Andrew, and Saint James shall be another county, and known by the name of Liberty.
The parishes of Saint David and Saint Patrick shall be another county, and known by the name of Glynn.
The parishes of Saint Thomas and Saint Mary shall be another county, and known by the name of Camden.
The port and town of Savannah shall be allowed four members to represent their trade.
The port and town of Sunbury shall be allowed two members to represent their trade.
ART. V. The two counties of Glynn and Camden
shall have one representative each, and also they, and all
other counties that may hereafter be laid out by the house
of assembly, shall be under the following regulations, VIZ:
at their first institution each county shall have one member,
provided the inhabitants of the said county shall have ten
electors; and if thirty, they shall have two; if forty, three;
if fifty, four; if eighty, six; if a hundred and upward, ten;
at which time two executive councillors shall be chosen from
them, as is directed for the other counties.
ART. VI. The representatives shall be chosen
out of the residents in each county, who shall have resided
at least twelve months in this State, and three months in
the county where they shall be elected; except the freeholders
of the counties of Glynn and Camden, who are in a state of
alarm, and who shall have the liberty of choosing one member
each, as specified in the articles of this constitution, in
any other county, until they have residents sufficient to
qualify them for more; and they shall be of the Protestent
religion, and of the age of twenty-one years, and shall be
possessed in their own right of two hundred and fifty acres
of land, or some property to the amount of two hundred and
ART. VII. The house of assembly shall have
power to make such laws and regulations as may be conducive
to the good order and wellbeing of the State; provided such
laws and regulations be not repugnant to the true intent and
meaning of any rule or regulation contained In this constitution.
The house of assembly shall also have power to repeal all laws and ordinances they find injurious to the people; and the house shall choose its own speaker, appoint its own officers, settle its own rules of proceeding, and direct writs of election for supplying intermediate vacancies, and shall have power of adjournment to any time or times within the year.
ART. VIII. All laws and ordinances shall
be three times read, and each reading shall be on different
and separate days, except in cases of great necessity and
danger; and all laws and ordinances shall be sent to the executive
council after the second reading, for their perusal and advice.
ART. IX. All male white inhabitants, of
the age of twenty-one years, and possessed in his own right
of ten pounds value, and liable to pay tax in this State,
or being of any mechanic trade, and shall have been resident
six months in this State, shall have a right to vote at all
elections for representatives, or any other officers, herein
agreed to be chosen by the people at large; and every person
having a right to vote at any election shall vote by ballot
ART. X. No officer whatever shall serve
any process, or give any other hinderances to any person entitled
to vote, either in going to the place of election' or during
the time of the said election, or on their returning home
from such election; nor shall any military officer, or soldier,
appear at any election in a military character, to the intent
that all elections may be free and open.
ART. XI. No person shall be entitled to
more than one vote, which shall be given in the county where
such person resides, except as before excepted; nor shall
any person who holds any title of nobility lie entitled to
a vote, or be capable of serving as a representative, or hold
any post of honor, profit, or trust in this State, whilst
such person claims his title of nobility; but if the person
shall give up such distinction, in the manner as may be directed
by any future legislation, then, and in such case, he shall
be entitled to a vote, and represent, as before directed,
and enjoy all the other benefits of a free citizen.
ART. XII. Every person absenting himself
from an election, and shall neglect to give in his or their
ballot at such election, shall be subject to a penalty not
exceeding five pounds; the mode of recovery and also the appropriation
thereof, to be pointed out and directed by act of the legislature:
Provided, nevertheless, That a reasonable excuse shall be
ART. XIII. The manner of electing representatives
shall be by ballot, and shall be taken by two or more justices
of the peace in each county, who shall provide a convenient
box for receiving the said ballots: and, on closing the poll,
the ballots shall be compared in public with the list of votes
that have been taken, and the majority immediately declared;
a certificate of the same being given to the persons elected,
and also a certificate returned to the house of representatives.
ART. XIV. Every person entitled to vote
shall take the following oath or affirmation, if required,
" I, A B. do voluntarily and solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I do owe true allegiance to this State, and will support the constitution thereof; so help me God."
ART. XV. Any five of the representatives
elected, as before directed, being met, shall have power to
administer the following oath to each other; and they, or
any other member, being so sworn, shall, in the house, administer
the oath to all other members that attend, in order to qualify
them to take their seats, viz:
" I, A B. do solemnly swear that I will bear true allegiance to the State of Georgia, and will truly perform the trusts reposed in me; and that I will execute the same to the best of my knowledge, for the benefit of this State, and the support of the constitution thereof, and that I have obtained my election without fraud or bribe whatever; so help me God."
ART. XVI. The continental delegates shall
be appointed annually by ballot, and shall have a right to
sit, debate, and vote in the house of assembly, and be deemed
a part thereof, subject, however, to the regulations contained
in the twelfth article of the Confederation of the United
ART. XVII. No person bearing any post of
profit under this State, or any person bearing any military
commission under this or any other State or States, except
officers of the militia, shall be elected a representative.
And if any representative shall be appointed to any place
of profit or military commission, which he shall accept, his
seat shall immediately become vacant, and he shall be incapable
of reelection whilst holding such office.
By this article it is not to be understood that the office of a justice of the peace is a post of profit.
ART. XVIII. No person shall hold more than
one office of profit under this State at one and the same
ART. XIX. The governor shall, with the advice
of the executive council, exercise the executive powers of
government, according to the laws of this State and the constitution
thereof, save only in the case of pardons and remission of
fines, which he shall in no instance grant; but he may reprieve
a criminal, or suspend a fine, until the meeting of the assembly,
who may determine therein as they shall Judge fit.
ART. XX. The governor, with the advice of
the executive council, shall have power to call the house
of assembly together, upon any emergency, before the time
which they stand adjourned to.
ART. XXI. The governor, with the advice
of the executive council shall fill up all intermediate vacancies
that shall happen in offices till the next general election;
and all commissions, civil and military, shall be issued by
the governor, under his hand and the great seal of the State.
ART. XXII. The governor may preside in the
executive council at all times, except when they are taking
into consideration and perusing the laws and ordinances offered
to them by the house of assembly.
ART. XXIII. The governor shall be chosen
annually by ballot, and shall not be eligible to the said
office for more than one year out of three, nor shall he hold
any military commission under any other State or States.
The governor shall reside at such place as the house of assembly for the time being shall appoint.
ART. XXIV. The governor's oath:
" I, A B, elected governor of the State of Georgia, by the representatives thereof, do solemnly promise and swear that I will, during the term of my appointment, to the best of my skill and judgment, execute the said office faithfully and conscientiously' according to law, without favor, affection, or partiality; that I will, to the utmost of my power, support, maintain, and defend the State of Georgia, and the constitution of the same; and use my utmost endeavors to protect the people thereof in the secure enjoyment of all their rights, franchises and privileges; and that the laws and ordinances of the State be duly observed, and that law and justice in mercy be executed in all judgments. And I do further solemnly promise and swear that I will peaceably and quietly resign the government to which I have been elected at the period to which my continuance in the said office is limited by the constitution. And, lastly, I do also solemnly swear that I have not accepted of the government whereunto I am elected contrary to the articles of this constitution; so help me God."
This oath to be administered to him by the speaker of the assembly.
The same oath to be administered by the speaker to the president of the council.
No person shall be eligible to the office of governor who has not resided three years in this State.
ART. XXV. The executive council shall meet
the day after their election, and proceed to the choice of
a president out of their own body; they shall have power to
appoint their own officers and settle their own rules of proceedings.
The council shall always vote by counties, and not individually.
ART. XXVI. Every councillor, being present,
shall have power of entering his protest against any measures
in council he has not consented to, provided he does it in
ART. XXVII. During the sitting of the assembly
the whole of the executive council shall attend, unless prevented
by sickness, or some other urgent necessity; and, in that
case, a majority of the council shall make a board to examine
the laws and ordinances sent them by the house of assembly;
and all laws and ordinances sent to the council shall be returned
in five days after, with their remarks hereon.
ART. XXVIII. A committee from the council,
sent with any proposed amendments to any law or ordinance,
shall deliver their reasons for such proposed amendments,
sitting and covered; the whole house at that time, except
the speaker, uncovered.
ART. XXIX. The president of the executive
council, in the absence or sickness of the governor, shall
exercise all the powers of the governor.
ART. XXX. When any affair that requires
secrecy shall be laid before the governor and the executive
council, it shall be the duty of the governor,. and he is
hereby obliged, to administer the following Oath, viz:
" I, A B. do solemnly swear that any business that shall be at this time communicated to the council I will not, in any manner whatever, either by speaking, writing, or otherwise, reveal the same to any person whatever, until leave given by the council, or when called upon by the house of assembly; and all this I swear without any reservation whatever; so help me God."
And the same oath shall be administered to the secretary and other officers necessary to carry the business into execution.
ART. XXXI. The executive power shall exist
till renewed as pointed out by the rules of this constitution.
ART. XXXII. In all transactions between
the legislative and executive bodies the same shall be communicated
by message, to be delivered from the legislative body to the
governor or executive council by a committee, and from the
governor to the house of assembly by the secretary of the
council, and from the executive council by a committee of
the said council.
ART. XXXIII. The governor for the time being
shall be captains general and commander-in-chief over all
the militia, and other military and naval forces belonging
to this State.
ART. XXXIV. All militia commissions shall
specify that the person commissioned shall continue during
ART. XXXV. Every county in this State that
has, or hereafter may have, two hundred and fifty men, and
upwards, liable to bear arms, shall be formed into a battalion;
and when they become too numerous for one battalion, they
shall be formed into more, by bill of the legislature; and
those counties that have a less number than two hundred and
fifty shall be formed into independent companies.
ART. XXXVI. There shall be established in
each county a court, to be called a superior court, to be
held twice in each year.
On the first Tuesday in March, in the county of Chatham.
The second Tuesday in March, in the county of Effingham.
The third Tuesday in March, in the county of Burke
The fourth Tuesday in March, in the county of Richmond.
The next Tuesday, in the county of Wilkes.
And Tuesday fortnight, in the county of Liberty.
The next Tuesday, in the county of Glynn.
The next Tuesday, in the county of Camden.
The like courts to commence in October and continue as above.
ART. XXXVII. All causes and matters of dispute,
between any parties residing in the same county, to be tried
within the county.
ART. XXXVIII. All matters in dispute between
contending parties residing in different counties shall be
tried in the county where the defendant resides, except in
cases of real estate, which shall be tried in the county where
such real estate lies.
ART. XXXIX. All matters of breach of the
peace, felony, murder, and treason against the State to be
tried in the county where the same was committed. All matters
of dispute, both civil and criminal, in any county where there
is not a sufficient number of inhabitants to form a court,
shall be tried in the next adjacent county where a court is
ART. XL. All causes, of what nature soever,
shall be tried in the supreme court, except as hereafter mentioned;
which court shall con sist of the chief-justice, and three
or more of the justices residing in the county. In case of
the absence of the chief-justice, the senior justice on the
bench shall act as chief-justice, with the clerk of the county,
attorney for the State, sheriff, coroner, constable, and the
jurors; and in case of the absence of any of the aforementioned
officers, the justices to appoint others in their room pro
tempore. And if any plaintiff or defendant in civil causes
shall be dissatisfied with the determination of the jury,
then, and in that case, they shall be at liberty, within three
days, to enter an appeal from that verdict, and demand a new
trial by a special jury, to be nominated as follows, viz:
each party, plaintiff and defendant, shall choose six, six
more names shall be taken indifferently out of a box provided
for that purpose, the whole eighteen to be summoned, and their
names to be put together into the box, and the first twelve
that are drawn out, being present, shall be the special jury
to try the cause, and from which there shall be no appeal.
ART. XLI. The jury shall be judges of law,
as well as of fact, and shall not be allowed to bring in a
special verdict; but if all or any of the jury have any doubts
concerning points of law, they shall apply to the bench, who
shall each of them in rotation give their opinion.
ART. XLII. The jury shall be sworn to bring
in a verdict according to lair, and the opinion they entertain
of the evidence; provided it be not repugnant to the rules
and regulations contained in this constitution.
ART. XLIII. The special jury shall be sworn
to bring in a verdict according to law, and the opinion they
entertain of the evidence; provided it be not repugnant to
justice, equity, and conscience, and the rules and regulations
contained in this constitution, of which they shall Judge.
ART. XLIV. Captures, both by sea and land,
to be tried in the county where such shall be carried in;
a special court to be called by the chief-justice, or in his
absence by the then senior justice in the said county, upon
application of the captors or claimants, which cause shall
be determined within the space of ten days. The mode of proceeding
and appeal shall be the same as in the superior courts, unless,
after the second trial, an appeal is made to the Continental
Congress; and the distance of time between the first and second
trial shall not exceed fourteen days; and all maritime causes
to be tried in like manner.
ART. XLV. No grand jury shall consist of
less than eighteen, and twelve may find a bill.
ART. XLVI. That the court of conscience
be continued as heretofore practiced, and that the jurisdiction
thereof be extended to try causes not amounting to more than
ART. XLVII. All executions exceeding five
pounds, except in the case of a court-merchant, shall be stayed
until the first Monday in March; provided security be given
for debt and costs.
ART. XLVIII. All the costs attending any
action in the superior court shall not exceed the sum of three
pounds, and that no cause be allowed to depend in the superior
court longer than two terms.
ART. XLIX. Every officer of the State shall
be liable to be called to account by the house of assembly.
ART. L. Every county shall keep the public
records belonging to the same, and authenticated copies of
the several records now in the possession of this State shall
be made out and deposited in that county to which they belong.
ART. LI. Estates shall not be entailed;
and when a person dies intestate, his or her estate shall
be divided equally among their children; the widow shall have
a child's share, or her dower, at her option; all other intestates'
estates to be divided according to the act of distribution,
made in the reign of Charles the Second, unless otherwise
altered by any future act of the legislature.
ART. LII. A register of probates shall be
appointed by the legislature in every county, for proving
wills and granting letters of administration.
ART. LIII. All civil officers in each county
shall be annually elected on the day of the general election,
except justices of the peace and registers of probates, who
shall be appointed by the house of assembly.
ART. LIV. Schools shall be erected in each
county, and supported at the general expense of the State,
as the legislature shall hereafter point out.
ART. LV. A court-house and jail shall be
erected at the public expense in each county, where the present
convention or the future legislature shall point out and direct.
ART. LVI. All persons whatever shall have
the free exercise of their religion; provided it be not repugnant
to the peace and safety of the State; and shall not, unless
by consent, support any teacher or teachers except those of
their own profession.
ART. LVII. The great seal of this State
shall have the following device: on one side a scroll, whereon
shall be engraved, " The Constitution of the State of
Georgia; " and the motto, "Pro bono publico."
On the other side, an elegant house, and other buildings,
fields of corn, and meadows covered with sheep and cattle;
a river running through the same, with a ship under full sail,
and the motto, "Deus nobis haec otia fecit."
ART. LVIII. No person shall be allowed to
plead in the courts of law in this State, except those who
are authorized so to do by the house of assembly; and if any
person so authorized shall be found guilty of malpractice
before the house of assembly, they shall have power to suspend
them. This is not intended to exclude any person from that
inherent privilege of every freeman, the liberty to plead
his own cause.
ART. LIX. Excessive fines shall not be levied,
not excessive bail demanded.
ART. LX. The principles of the habeas-corpus
act shall be a part of this constitution.
ART. LXI. Freedom of the press and trial
by jury to remain inviolate forever.
ART. LXII. No clergyman of any denomination
shall be allowed a seat in the legislature.
ART. LXIII. No alteration shall be made in this constitution without petitions from a majority of the counties, and the petitions from each county to be signed by a majority of voters in each county within this State; at which time the assembly shall order a convention to be called for that purpose, specifying the alterations to be made, according to the petitions preferred to the assembly by the majority of the counties as aforesaid.
Done at Savannah, in convention, the fifth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven, and in the first year of the Independence of the United States of America.