Constitution of Georgia; February 5, 1777 (1)
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;
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
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
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:
I. The legislative, executive, and judiciary departments shall be
separate and distinct, so that neither exercise the powers
properly belonging to the other.
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.
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.
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.
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.
ceded lands north of Ogechee shall be one county, and known by the
name of Wilkes.
parish of Saint Paul shall be another county, and known by the
name of Richmond.
parish of Saint George shall be another county, and known by the
name of Burke.
parish of Saint Matthew, and the upper part of Saint Philip, above
Canouchee, shall be another county, and known by the name of
parish of Christ Church, and the lower part of Saint Philip, below
Canouchee, shall be another county, and known by the name of
parishes of Saint John, Saint Andrew, and Saint James shall be
another county, and known by the name of Liberty.
parishes of Saint David and Saint Patrick shall be another county,
and known by the name of Glynn.
parishes of Saint Thomas and Saint Mary shall be another county,
and known by the name of Camden.
and town of Savannah shall be allowed four members to represent
and town of Sunbury shall be allowed two members to represent
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.
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 fifty
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
a reasonable excuse shall be admitted.
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.
XIV. Every person entitled to vote shall take the following oath
or affirmation, if required, viz:
" 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."
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."
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 States.
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.
article it is not to be understood that the office of a justice of
the peace is a post of profit.
XVIII. No person shall hold more than one office of profit under
this State at one and the same time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
governor shall reside at such place as the house of assembly for
the time being shall appoint.
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."
oath to be administered to him by the speaker of the assembly.
oath to be administered by the speaker to the president of the
person shall be eligible to the office of governor who has not
resided three years in this State.
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.
council shall always vote by counties, and not individually.
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 three days.
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
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.
XXIX. The president of the executive council, in the absence or
sickness of the governor, shall exercise all the powers of the
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."
same oath shall be administered to the secretary and other
officers necessary to carry the business into execution.
XXXI. The executive power shall exist till renewed as pointed out
by the rules of this constitution.
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.
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.
XXXIV. All militia commissions shall specify that the person
commissioned shall continue during good behavior.
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.
XXXVI. There shall be established in each county a court, to be
called a superior court, to be held twice in each year.
first Tuesday in March, in the county of Chatham.
second Tuesday in March, in the county of Effingham.
third Tuesday in March, in the county of Burke
fourth Tuesday in March, in the county of Richmond.
Tuesday, in the county of Wilkes.
Tuesday fortnight, in the county of Liberty.
Tuesday, in the county of Glynn.
Tuesday, in the county of Camden.
courts to commence in October and continue as above.
XXXVII. All causes and matters of dispute, between any parties
residing in the same county, to be tried within the county.
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.
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 held.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
XLV. No grand jury shall consist of less than eighteen, and twelve
may find a bill.
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 ten pounds.
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.
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.
XLIX. Every officer of the State shall be liable to be called to
account by the house of assembly.
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.
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.
LII. A register of probates shall be appointed by the legislature
in every county, for proving wills and granting letters of
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
LIV. Schools shall be erected in each county, and supported at the
general expense of the State, as the legislature shall hereafter
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.
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.
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
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
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.
LIX. Excessive fines shall not be levied, not excessive bail
The principles of the habeas-corpus act shall be a part
of this constitution.
LXI. Freedom of the press and trial by jury to remain inviolate
LXII. No clergyman of any denomination shall be allowed a seat in
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.
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.
from "Watkin's Digest of the Laws of the state of Georgia
Philadelphia; 1800," pp. 7-16.
constitution was framed by a convention which assembled at
Savannah October 1, 1776 in accordance with the recommendation of
the Continental Congress that the people of the Colonies should
form independent state governments. It was unanimously agreed to
February 5, 1777. It was not submitted to the people.