Constitution of New Hampshire - 1776 (1)
IN CONGRESS AT EXETER, January
VOTED, That this Congress take up CIVIL GOVERNMENT for this
colony in manner and form following, viz.
WE, the members of the Congress of New Hampshire, chosen
and appointed by the free suffrages of the people of said colony,
and authorized and empowered by them to meet together, and use
such means and pursue such measures as we should judge best for
the public good; and in particular to establish some form of
government, provided that measure should be recommended by the
Continental Congress: And a recommendation to that purpose having
been transmitted to us from the said Congress: Have taken into our
serious consideration the unhappy circumstances, into which this
colony is involved by means of many grievous and oppressive acts
of the British Parliament, depriving us of our natural and
constitutional rights and privileges; to enforce obedience to
which acts a powerful fleet and army have been sent to this
country by the ministry of Great Britain, who have exercised a
wanton and cruel abuse of their power, in destroying the lives and
properties of the colonists in many places with fire and sword,
taking the ships and lading from many of the honest and
industrious inhabitants of this colony employed in commerce,
agreeable to the laws and customs a long time used here.
The sudden and abrupt departure of his Excellency John
Wentworth, Esq., our late Governor, and several of the Council,
leaving us destitute of legislation, and no executive courts being
open to punish criminal offenders; whereby the lives and
properties of the honest people of this colony are liable to the
machinations and evil designs of wicked men, Therefore, for the preservation
of peace and good order, and for the security of the lives and
properties of the inhabitants of this colony, we conceive
ourselves reduced to the necessity of establishing A FORM OF
GOVERNMENT to continue during the present unhappy and unnatural
contest with Great Britain; PROTESTING and DECLARING that we
neaver sought to throw off our dependence upon Great Britain, but
felt ourselves happy under her protection, while we could enjoy
our constitutional rights and privileges. And that we shall
rejoice if such a reconciliation between us and our parent State
can be effected as shall be approved by the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS,
in whose prudence and wisdom we confide.
Accordingly pursuant to the trust reposed in us, WE DO
Resolve, that this Congress assume the name, power and authority
of a house of Representatives or Assembly for the Colony of
that said House then proceed to choose twelve persons, being.
reputable freeholders and inhabitants within this colony, in the
following manner, viz. five in the county of Rockingham, two in
the county of Stratford, two in the county of Hillsborough, two in
the county of Cheshire, and one in the county of Grafton, to be a
distinct and separate branch of the Legislature by the name of a
COUNCIL for this colony, to continue as such until the third
Wednesday in December next; any seven of whom to be a quorum to do
business. That such Council appoint their President, and in his
absence that the senior counsellor preside; that a Secretary be
appointed by both branches, who may be a counssellor, or
otherwise, as they shall choose:
That no act or resolve shall be valid and put into
execution unless agreed to, and passed by both branches of the
That all public officers for the said colony, and each
county, for the current year, be appointed by the Council and
Assembly, except the several clerks of the Executive Courts, who
shall be appointed by the Justices of the respective Courts.
That all bills, resolves, or votes for raising, levying and
collecting money originate in the house of Representatives.
That at any session of the Council and Assembly neither
branch shall adjourn from any longer time than from Saturday till
the next Monday without consent of the other.
And it is further resolved, That if the present
unhappy dispute with Great Britain should continue longer than
this present year, and the Continental Congress give no
instruction or direction to the contrary, the Council be chosen by
the people of each respective county in such manner as the Council
and house of Representatives shall order.
That general and field officers of the militia, on any
vacancy, be appointed by the two houses, and all inferior officers
be chosen by the respective companies.
That all officers of the Army be appointed by the two
houses, except they should direct otherwise in case of any
That all civil officers for the colony and for each county
be appointed, and the time of their continuance in office be
determined by the two houses, except clerks of Courts, and county
treasurers, and recorders of deeds.
That a treasurer, and a recorder of deeds for each county
be annually chosen by the people of each county respectively; the
votes for such officers to be returned to the respective courts of
General Sessions of the Peace in the county, there to be
ascertained as the Council and Assembly shall hereafter direct.
That precepts in the name of the Council and Assembly,
signed by the President of the Council, and Speaker of the house
of Representatives, shall issue annually at or before the first
day of November, for the choice of a Council and house of
Representatives to be returned by the third Wednesday in December
then next ensuing, in such manner as the Council and Assembly
shall hereafter prescribe.
by "Acts and Laws of the State of New Hampshire in America, by
order of The General Assembly. To which is prefixed, The
Resolution of the American Congress for Establishing a Form of
Government in New Hampshire and the Resolve of the Provincial
Congress, for taking up Government in Form. With the Declaration
of Independence. America: Printed at Exeter in the State of New
Hampshire, MDCCLXXX." pp. 2-4.
This constitution was framed by a convention, or
"congress," which assembled at Exeter, December 21, 1775, (in
accordance with a recommendation from the Continental Congress,)
and completed its labors January 5, 1776. The constitution was not
submitted to the people. This was the first constitution framed by
an American Commonwealth. Back