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SYNOPSIS OF THE
CONSTITUTIONS OF THE SEVERAL UNITED STATES.
ADOPTION OF THE FIRST STATE CONSTITUTIONS.
The continental congress, on the 10th of May, 1776, recom. mended to the assemblies and conventions of the several colonies where no governments sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs had been established, to adopt such systems as, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, would best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and British America in general.
The difficulties in forming state governments or constitutions were much less than in forming a system embracing all the states. The people had long been familiar with the civil institutions of their respective states, and could, with comparative ease, make such alterations as would suit their new political situation. The people of Connecticut and Rhode Island had, from their first settlement, chosen all their rulers, and in these states, a change of forms was only requisite.
Massachusetts, after the alteration of her charter by parliament, continued her old system, as far as practicable, agreeably to the advice of congress, until she was able and had leisure to form a new and more permanent one. From the peculiar situation of New Hampshire, Virginia, and South Carolina, congress, in November, 1775, recommended to them, if they judged it necessary for their peace and security, to establish governments, , to continue during the disputes with Great Britain. In pursuance of these recommendations, the states of New Hampshire, South Carolina, Virginia, and New Jersey, established new systems of government before the declaration of independence. They were followed by four other states, during the year 1776, and with the exception of that of Virginia, these state systems of government were expressly limited in their duration to the continuance of the dispute between the colonies and Great Britain. In all the constitutions thus formed, except that of Pennsylvania, the legislative power was vested in two branches.*
Vermont did not become a member of the Union until 1791. That state was originally settled under grants from New Hampshire, and principally by the hardy yeomanry of New England, who became acquainted with the country in the war of 1756. It was a long time known by the name of “the New Hampshire grants,” and its inhabitants were called “the green-mountain boys.” It was claimed by New York, under the old grant to the duke of York; and in 1764, on an ex parle application to the king and council, the country, as far east as Connecticut river, was placed under the jurisdiction of that province. This was done without the knowledge and contrary to the wishes of the inhabitants, who at the revolution declared themselves independent, and in 1777, established a temporary government. They afterward requested to be admitted a member of the confederacy, but were opposed by New Hampshire and New York, and congress were unwilling to offend those states. A frame of state government was established July 4, 1786, and in 1790, New York was induced, by the payment of $30,000, to withdraw its claims, and in 1791, Vermont was admitted into the Union.
The following are the dates when the first constitutions of the old states were adopted :New Hampshire, January 5
1776 South Carolina, March 24
1776 Virginia, June 29
1776 New Jersey, July 2
1776 Maryland, August 14 .
1776 Pennsylvania, September
1776 Delaware, September .
1776 North Carolina, December
1776 New York, April
1777 Massachusetts, March .
1780 Vermont, July 4
1786 Georgia, May
* Pitkin's History of the United States.
A Synopsis or Outline of the Principal Features of the Constitutions
of each of the United States.
The constitution of this state was formed in 1819, and went into operation in 1820.
The legislative power is vested in a senate and a house of representatives, both elected annually by the people, on the se. cond Monday of September. These two bodies are together styled the Legislature of Maine.
The number of representatives cannot be less than 100, nor more than 200. By the original apportionment named in the constitution, subject to change by the increase of population, a town having 1,500 inhabitants is entitled to send one representative; having 3,750, two ; 6,750, three ; 10,500, four; 15,000, five; 20,250, six ; 26,250, seven ; but no town can entitled to more than seven representatives. The number of senators cannot be less than twenty, nor more than thirty-one.
The legislature meets at Augusta, annually, in the month of May; it formerly met in January.
The executive power is vested in a governor, who is elected annually by the people, on the second Monday in September, and his term of office commences on the first Wednesday in January. A council of seven members is elected annually, by joint ballot of the senators and representatives, to advise the governor in the executive part of government.
The right of suffrage is granted to every male citizen aged twenty-one years or upward (excepting paupers, persons under guardianship, and Indians not taxed), having had his residence established in the state for the term of three months next preceding an election.
The judicial power is vested in a supreme judicial court, and such other courts as the legislature may, from time to time, establish. All the judges are appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the council ; and they hold their offices during good behavior, but not beyond the age of seventy years.
NEW HAMPSHIRE. A constitution was established in 1784 ; and in 1792, this constitution was altered and amended by a convention of delegates held at Concord, and is now in force.
The legislative power is vested in a senate and house of representatives, which, together, are styled the General Court of New Hampshire.
Every town, or incorporated township, having 150 ratable polls, may send one representative; and for every 300 additional polls, it is entitled to an additional representative.
The senate consists of twelve members, who are chosen by the people in districts.
The executive power is vested in a governor and a council, which consists of five members.
The governor, council, senators, and representatives, are all elected annually, by the people, on the second Tuesday in March, and their term of service commences on the first Wednesday in June.
The general court meets annually at Concord, on the first Wednesday in June.
The right of suffrage is granted to every male inhabitant of twenty-one years of age, excepting paupers, and persons excused from paying taxes at their own request.
The judiciary power is vested in a superior court, and a court of common pleas. The judges are appointed by the governor and council, and hold their offices during good behavior, but not be. yond the age of seventy years.
VERMONT. The first constitution of this state was formed in 1777, and revised in 1786 ; the one now in operation was adopted on the 4th of July, 1793; and amendments establishing a senate were adopted in January, 1836.
The legislative power is now vested in a senate and house of representatives, elected by the people annually, on the Tuesday in September.
The senate consists of thirty members ; each county being entitled to at least one, and the remainder to be apportioned according to population; and the house of representatives is composed
of one member from each town. The senators must be thirty years of age, and the lieutenant-governor is ex-officio president of the senate.
The legislature is styled the General Assembly of the State of Vermont, and meets annually, on the second Thursday of October, at Montpelier.
The executive power is vested in a governor, or, in his absence, a lieutenant-governor, both elected annually by the people, on the first Tuesday in September, and their term of office expires on the second Thursday in October.
The judiciary powers are vested in a supreme court, consisting of five judges, chosen every year by the legislature; in a county court, consisting of three judges, chosen in the same manner (one of the judges of the supreme court being chief-justice), who hold courts twice a year, in their respective counties, and in justices of the peace, appointed in the same manner.
The constitution grants the right of suffrage to every man, of the full
age of twenty-one years, who has resided in the state for the space
of one whole year, next before the election of representatives, and is of quiet and peaceable behavior.
A council of censors, consisting of thirteen persons, is chosen every seven years (first elected in 1785), on the last Wednesday in March, and meet on the first Wednesday in June. Their duty is to inquire whether the constitution has been preserved in violate ; whether the legislative and executive branches of government have performed their duty as guardians of the people ; whether the public taxes have been justly laid and collected; in what
1 manner the public moneys have been disposed of ; and whether the laws have been duly executed. The council has also power to call a state convention to amend the constitution.
MASSACHUSETTS. The constitution of this state was formed in 1780, and amended, by a state convention and the people, in 1821. Several amendments have since been recommended by the legislature, and adopted by the people.
The legislative power is vested in a senate and house of repre. sentatives, which together are styled the General Court of Massachusetts.