Editor's Note: The North Carolina Convention met from July 21 through
August 4, 1788, but after debate agreed only to neither ratify or reject the
Constitution, but did adopt a resolution containing a Declaration of
Rights and a list of proposed Amendments to the Constitution on
August 2, 1788. After the Constitution had been ratified by a sufficient number
of states, the members of the convention reconvened and, apparently without
further debate, ratified the Constitution November 21, 1789, and announced the
Declaration below, which includes the resolution of August 2, 1788.
Ratification of the Constitution by the State of North
November 21, 1789.
In Convention, August 1, 1788.
Resolved, That a Declaration of Rights, asserting and securing from
encroachment the great Principles of civil and religious Liberty, and the
unalienable Rights of the People, together with Amendments to the most
ambiguous and exceptional Parts of the said Constitution of Government, ought
to be laid before Congress, and the Convention of the States that shall or may
be called for the Purpose of Amending the said Constitution, for their
consideration, previous to the Ratification of the Constitution aforesaid, on
the part of the State of North Carolina.
DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
1st. That there are certain natural rights of which men, when they form a
social compact, cannot deprive or divest their posterity, among which are the
enjoyment of life, and liberty, with the means of acquiring, possessing, and
protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
2d. That all power is naturally vested in, and consequently derived from the
people; that magistrates therefore are their trustees, and agents, and at all
times amenable to them.
3d. That Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit,
protection and security of the people; and that the doctrine of non-resistance
against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive to
the good and happiness of mankind.
4th That no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive or separate public
emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public
services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate,
legislator or judge, or any other public office to be hereditary.
5th. That the legislative, executive and judiciary powers of government
should be separate and distinct, and that the members of the two first may be
restrained from oppression by feeling and participating the public burthens,
they should at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into the
mass of the people; and the vacancies be supplied by certain and regular
elections; in which all or any part of the former members to be eligible or
ineligible, as the rules of the Constitution of Government, and the laws shall
6th. That elections of Representatives in the legislature ought to be free
and frequent, and all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common
interest with, and attachment to the community, ought to have the right of
suffrage: and no aid, charge, tax or fee can be set, rated, or levied upon the
people without their own consent, or that of their representatives, so elected,
nor can they be bound by any law, to which they have not in like manner
assented for the public good.
7th. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws by any
authority without the consent of the representatives, of the people in the
Legislature, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.
8th. That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man hath a right to
demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the
accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence and be allowed counsel in his
favor, and to a fair and speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage,
without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty (except in the
government of the land and naval forces) nor can he be compelled to give
evidence against himself.
9th That no freeman ought to be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his
freehold, liberties, privileges or franchises, or outlawed or exiled, or in any
manner destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty, or property but by the law
of the land.
10th. That every freeman restrained of his liberty is entitled to a remedy
to inquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the same, if unlawful,
and that such remedy ought not to be denied nor delayed.
11th. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man
and man, the ancient trial by jury is one of the greatest securities to the
rights of the people, and ought to remain sacred and inviolable.
12th. That every freeman ought to find a certain remedy by recourse to the
laws for all injuries and wrongs he may receive in his person, property, or
character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely without sale, completely
and without denial, promptly and without delay, and that all establishments, or
regulations contravening these rights, are oppressive and unjust.
13th. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines
imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
14th. That every freeman has a right to be secure from all unreasonable
searches, and seizures of his person, his papers, and property: all warrants
therefore to search suspected places, or seize any freeman, his papers or
property, without information upon oath (or affirmation of a person religiously
scrupulous of taking an oath) of legal and sufficient cause, are grievous and
oppressive, and all general warrants to search suspected places, or to
apprehend any suspected person without specially naming or describing the place
or person, are dangerous and ought not to be granted.
15th. That the people have a right peaceably to assemble together to consult
for the common good, or to instruct their representatives; and that every
freeman has a right to petition or apply to the Legislature for redress of
16th. That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and
publishing their sentiments; that the freedom of the press is one of the
greatest bulwarks of Liberty, and ought not to be violated.
17th. That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well
regulated militia composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the
proper, natural and safe defence of a free state. That standing armies in time
of peace are dangerous to Liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as
the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in all
cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by
the civil power.
18th. That no soldier in time of peace ought to be quartered in any house
without the consent of the owner, and in time of war in such manner only as the
19th. That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be
exempted upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his
20th. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner
of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force
or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural and unalienable right
to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, and
that no particular religious sect or society ought to be favoured or
established by law in preference to others.
AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION
I. THAT each state in the union shall, respectively,
retain every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this constitution
delegated to the Congress of the United States, or to the departments of the
II. That there shall be one representative for every 30.000, according to
the enumeration or census, mentioned in the constitution, until the whole
number of representatives amounts to two hundred; after which, that number
shall be continued or increased, as Congress shall direct, upon the principles
fixed in the constitution, by apportioning the representatives of each state to
some greater number of people from time to time, as population encreases.
III. When Congress shall lay direct taxes or excises, they shall immediately
inform the executive power of each state, of the quota of such State, according
to the census herein directed, which is proposed to be thereby raised: And if
the legislature of any state shall pass a law, which shall be effectual for
raismg such quota at the time required by Congress, the taxes and excises laid
by Congress shall not be collected in such state.
IV. That the members of the senate and house of representatives shall be
ineligible to, and incapable of holding any civil office under the authority of
the United States, during the time for which they shall, respectively, be
V. That the journals of the proceedings of the senate and house of
representatives shall be published at least once in every year, except such
parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances, or military operations, as in
their judgment require secrecy.
VI. That a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of
the public money shall be published at least once in every year.
VII. That no commercial treaty shall be ratified without the concurrence of
two-thirds of the whole number of the members of the Senate: And no treaty,
ceding, contracting, or restraining or suspending the territorial rights or
claims of the United States, or any of them or their, or any of their rights or
claims to fishing in the American seas, or navigating the American rivers shall
be made, but in cases of the most urgent and extreme necessity; nor shall any
such treaty be ratified without the concurrence of three-fourths of the whole
number of the members of both houses respectively.
VIII. That no navigation law, or law regulating commerce shall be passed
without the consent of two-thirds of the members present in both houses.
IX. That no standing army or regular troops shall be raised or kept up in
time of peace, without the consent of two thirds of the members present in both
X. That no soldier shall be enlisted for any longer term than four years,
except in time of war, and then for no longer term than the continuance of the
XI. That each state, respectively, shall have the power to provide for
organizing, arming and disciplining its own militia whensoever Congress shall
omit or neglect to provide for the same. That the militia shall not be subject
to martial law, except when in actual service in time of war, invasion or
rebellion: And when not in the actual service of the United States, shall be
subject only to such fines, penalties, and punishments as shall be directed or
inflicted by the laws of its own state.
XII. That Congress shall not declare any state to be in rebellion without
the consent of at least two-thirds of all the members present of both houses.
XIII. That the exclusive power of Legislation given to Congress over the
federal town and its adjacent district, and other places, purchased or to be
purchased by Congress, of any of the states, shall extend only to such
regulations as respect the police and good government thereof.
XIV. That no person shall be capable of being president of the United States
for more than eight years in any term of sixteen years.
XV. That the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one
supreme court, and in such courts of admiralty as Congress may from time to
time ordain and establish in any of the different states. The judicial power
shall extend to all cases in law and equity, arising under treaties made, or
which shall be made under the authority of the United States; to all cases
affecting ambassadors, other foreign ministers and consuls; to all cases of
admiralty, and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United
States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more stares, and
between parties claiming lands under the grants of different states. In all
cases affecting ambassadors, other foreign ministers and consuls, and those in
which a state shall be a party; the supreme court shall have original
jurisdiction, in all other cases before mentioned; the supreme court shall have
appellate jurisdiction as to matters of law only, except in cases of equity,
and of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, in which the supreme court shall
have appelate jurisdiction both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and
under such regulations as the Congress shall make. But the judicial power of
the United States shall extend to no case where the cause of action shall have
originated before the ratification of this constitution, except in disputes
between states about their territory; disputes between persons claiming lands
under the grants of different states, and suits for debts due to the united
XVI. That in criminal prosecutions, no man shall be restrained in the
exercise of the usual and accustomed right of challenging or excepting to the
XVII. That Congress shall not alter, modify, or interfere in the times,
places, or manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, or
either of them, except when the legislature of any state shall neglect, refuse
or be disabled by invasion or rebellion, to prescribe the same.
XVIII. That those clauses which declare that Congress shall not exercise
certain powers, be not interpreted in any manner whatsoever to extend the
powers of Congress; but that they be construed either as making exceptions to
the specified powers where this shall be the case, or otherwise, as inserted
merely for greater caution.
XIX. That the laws ascertaining the compensation of senators and
representatives for their services be posponed in their operation, until after
the election of representatives immediately succeeding the passing thereof,
that excepted, which shall first be passed on the subject.
XX. That some tribunal, other than the senate, be provided for trying
impeachments of senators.
XXI. That the salary of a judge shall not be increased or diminished during
his continuance in once, otherwise than by general regulations of salary which
may take place, on a revision of the subject at stated periods of not less than
seven years, to commence from the time such salaries shall be first ascertained
XXII. That Congress erect no company of merchants with exclusive advantages
XXIII. That no treaties which shall be directly opposed to the existing laws
of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be valid until such laws
shall be repealed, or made conformable to such Meaty; nor shall any Meaty be
valid which is contradictory to the constitution of the United States.
XXIV. That the latter part of the fifth paragraph of the 9th section of the
first article be altered to read thus,-Nor shall vessels bound to a particular
state be obliged to enter or pay duties in any other; nor when bound from any
one of the States be obliged to clear in another.
XXV. That Congress shall not directly or indirectly, either by themselves or
thro' the judiciary, interfere with any one of the states in the redemption of
paper money already emitted and now in circulation, or in liquidating and
discharging the public securities of any one of the states: But each and every
state shall have the exclusive right of making such laws and regulations for
the above purposes as they shall think proper.
XXVI. That Congress shall not introduce foreign troops into the United
States without the consent of two-thirds of the members present of both houses.
SAM JOHNSTON President,
J HUNT Secretary . . .
Whereas The General Convention which met in Philadelphia in Pursuance of a
recommendation of Congress, did recommend to the Citizens of the United States
a Constitution or form of Government in the following words Vizt.
Resolved, that this Convention in behalf of the freemen, citizens and
inhabitants of the State of North Carolina, do adopt and ratify the said
Constitution and form of Government. Done in Convention this 21 day of November
SAM JOHNSTON, President of the Convention
J HUNT Secretaries
Reprinted from Documentary History of the Constitution,
Vol. II (1894), pp. 266-275, 276, 290.
Debates in North Carolina
Convention on Ratification of the Constitution
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