Constitution of East Florida
Provisional Government assented to & passed the 17 July 1812.
The Constitution of East Florida
The people of the province of East Florida have lived for years under a bondage almost unsupportable, and though many of them had felt, & all of them had witnessed the happiness which their neighbors, divided from them only by the river St. Marys[,] experienced, they remained in this abject state, sensible of their situation until they discovered that new attempts were made to oppress & degrade them. It might have been expected that a people who neither idolized their priest nor could think it an honor to lick the dust from the feet of their oppressors but who knew that man, in whatever garment he might be cloathed, to whatever power he might be elevated, was like themselves, liable to all the imperfections & weaknesses of our common nature, with probably a larger proportion of its vices, would have been the first in the Spanish Territory to have declared themselves free and independent. They saw however their Brethren of the South seize this honor, and with the liveliest sympathy, wished them every success.
Aware of the dangers ever attendant on revolutions, it was not until after mature deliberation that the people of East Florida took up arms against a Government whose Territories in both Hemispheres could no longer afford that protection, without which allegiance cannot be claimed without enumerating the many impolitic & oppressive Laws & acts of the Spanish Government, which the unhappy man living under it, only can be familiar with, and which our tyrants, the one in the character of Governor with brutal violence and the other in that of Judge with the most shocking corruption, latterly enforced upon us, we have discovered in order that our degradation might be complete, that we have been offered with our Country for sale, to both the Great Beligerents of Europe, patience and submission yielded to the duties we owed ourselves and our posterity, we declared ourselves free and independent and we have driven our oppressors with their mercenaries within the walls of the Theatre of their vile acts, and even the dungeons of their wretched victims. We acknowledge with grateful hearts the Goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe, for the mercies already afforded us, and we hope through his providence shortly to become a Territory and a component part of the Government of the United States, but until it can become our pride and boast to feel that we are citizens of a Territory of the United States, and under rules & regulations of that Government, it becomes highly necessary that a Government should be established in this Province to prevent anarchy and confusion[;] therefore we the delegates of the freemen of East Florida chosen and assembled for the Express purpose of framing a Constitution under the Authority of the people do declare that a Government for this Territory shall be established in manner & form following, to wit:
The Executive, Legislative & Judiciary Departments, shall be separate and distinct, so that neither exercise the powers of the other, nor shall any person exercise the powers of more than one of them at the same time except that the Judges of the Inferior Courts & Justices of the Districts shall be eligible to the Legislative Council.
2d. The legislative Authority shall be composed of fifteen members & be called the Legislative Council of East Florida.
3d. The Members of the Legislative Council shall be elected by the inhabitants of this Territory as pointed out by this Constitution & shall exist until the Territory shall be received by the United States and become subject to the laws thereof and other officers in manner & form of other Territories of the United States.
4th. Every free white man of twenty one years of age and every soldier who has taken an active part in our Revolution, and shall have been a resident in the Territory one year previous to the first day of April last, and will swear or affirm that he considered East Florida his only and actual place of residence at the commencement of the Revolution shall be duly qualified to vote agreeable to this Constitution for the Legislative Council and Director.
5th. All Volunteers who may have been engaged in the Revolution with the people of East Florida, shall at the fall or surrender of St. Augustine be entitled to all the privileges of free Citizens of the Territory.
6th. The Territory of East Florida shall be divided into two Districts, to be known by the appellation of the North & South Districts, the Nausau River shall be the dividing line Commencing at the Mouth of said River and Continuing up its stream according to the Ancient Boundary. The North District to send Eight Members and the South District to send seven Members.
7th. No person shall be eligible to a seat in Council unless he is a free white man of the age of twenty one years and hath been a former subject of this Territory or has been an actual resident in the Country one year previous to the first of April last and considered himself an actual resident before the Revolution, nor unless he be legally seized and possessed in his own right of a free hold Estate or of personal property to the value of one thousand dollars.
8th. The Legislative Council shall be chosen at or near the five mile house on the twenty fifth of July and shall assemble on the twenty seventh at Mr. Zephaniah Kingsley’s plantation on the west side of St. Johns river and at such other times and places as they may think necessary and not less than 2 thirds of the Legislative Council shall constitute a quorum for doing business, but a less number may attend and adjourn from day to day & compell the attendance of absent members.
9th. No Bill or Resolve of the Council shall be a law and have force as such until it shall have been laid before the Director for his revisal, and if he upon such a revision approve thereof, he shall signify his approbation by signing the same, but if he have any objections to the passing such bill or Resolve he shall return the same together with his objections thereto in writing to the Council who shall enter the objections made by the Director on the Records and proceed to reconsider the said Bill or Resolution, but after such reconsideration, two thirds of the Council present shall notwithstanding said objection agree to pass the same it shall have the force of law.
10th. The Council shall have full power & authority to erect and constitute Judicatures and Courts of record or other Courts to be held in the name of the Territory for the hearing, trying and determining all manner of crimes, offenses, pleas, processes, plaints, actions, matters & things whatever arising or hapening within the Territory, or between or concerning persons inhabiting, residing, or brought within the same, whether the same be commercial or civil, and whether the said pleas be real, personal or mixed and for the awarding and making out Executions thereupon to which Courts and Judicatures are hereby given and granted full power and Authority from time to time to administer oaths or affirmations for in the better discovery of truth in any matter of controversy or depending before them.
11th. And further, full power and authority is hereby given and granted to the said Legislative Council from time to time to make[,] ordain & establish all manner of wholesome & reasonable orders, Laws, Statutes, and ordinances and instructions either with penalty or without, (so as the same be not repugnant to the Constitution) as they shall judge to be for the welfare and happiness of the Territory, and for the Government and ordering thereof, and of the subjects of the same and for the necessary support and defence of the Government thereof, and to name and appoint as is hereafter provided for, All Civil & Military Officers of this Territory, and the forms of such oaths and affirmations as may respectively be administered unto them for the Execution of their several offices and places, so as the same be not repugnant to the Constitution of this Territory, and to impose and Levy proportional, and reasonable assessments[,] rates and taxes upon all the inhabitants of, and persons resident within the said territory and also to impose & levy reasonable duties and Excises upon any produce, goods, wares, Merchandize & Commodities whatsoever, brought into, produced, manufactured, or being within the same, to be issued & disposed of by warrant under the hand of the Director of this Territory, with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council, for the public service, in the necessary defence & support of the said Territory & the protection & preservation of the Citizens thereof, according to such acts as are & shall be in force within the same.
12th. The Legislative Council shall be a Court with full authority to hear and determine all impeachments made by the petition of any fifty of the people of the Territory against any officer or officers of this Territory for misconduct or maladministration in their office. But previous to every impeachment the members of the Council shall respectively swear truly and impartially to try & determine the charge in question, according to ordinance. Their judgment however, which must consist of at least two thirds of the members present, shall not extend further than removal from office under this Territory, but the party so convicted shall be nevertheless liable to indictment, trial judgment & punishment according to the laws of this Territory or those of the United States.
13th. The Legislative Council shall appoint a President from their own body, and shall judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members & may determine the rules of their own proceeding, punish their members for disorderly conduct, and with the consent of two thirds of the Members present expel a Member.
14th. The Members of the Legislative Council shall take the following oath, I do solemnly swear that I will give my vote on all questions that may come before me as a representative of the people, in such a manner as in my judgement may best promote the good of this Territory, & that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same & to the utmost of my power, observe, support, & defend the same.
15th. All Officers immediately attached to the Government of the Territory, as Secretary, Treasurer etc. and all officers attached to the Judiciary, as Judges of the Superior and Inferior Courts, Justices of the Peace[,] Attorney General, Sheriff & Coroner, & all Military Officers but Captains & Subalterns, shall be chosen by the Legislative Council with the consent of the Director. But should the Director dissent to any such appointment, it shall nevertheless be confirmed by the concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.
1st. The Executive of the Territory of East Florida shall be vested in a Director who shall hold his Office until this Country shall be received by the United States & become subject to her laws and regulations; he shall be elected by a majority of the voters present, and at the same time and in the same manner, as the Legislative Council; and should no person have a majority of the voters present, the Legislative Council shall have full power to elect him by ballot provided that he is not a member of their own body.
2d. No person shall be eligible to the Office of Director who shall not have borne an active part in the Revolution of this territory, & who hath not attained to the age of thirty years & who does at this time possess five hundred acres of Land in his own right within the Territory & other species of property to the amount of fifteen hundred Dollars.
3d. In case of death, resignation[,] disability or necessary absence of the Director the President of the Legislative Council shall exercise the Executive powers of Government until such disability or necessary absence be removed.
4th. He shall be Commander in Chief in and over the Territory of East Florida, and of the Militia thereof. He shall have power to grant reprieves for offences against the Territory, except in cases of impeachment, and to grant pardons in all cases after conviction except for Treason or murder, in which cases he may respite the execution, and make a report thereof to the Legislative Council, by whom a pardon may be granted.
5th. He shall issue writs of Election to fill all vacancies that may happen in the Legislative Council, and shall have power to convene the Legislative Council on extraordinary occasions and shall give them from time to time information of the state of the Territory, & recommend to their consideration such measures as he may deem necessary & expedient.
6th. He shall have the revision of all bills, resolves and appointments passed by the Legislative Council before the same be valid or become a law, but two thirds of the Legislative Council present may pass a law or make an appointment, notwithstanding his dissent, or should not inform the Legislative Council within three days after the same shall be presented to him the same shall be considered valid as if it had received his signature.
7th. The great seal of the Territory shall be deposited in the Office of Secretary & it shall not be affixed to any instrument of writing without it be by order of the Director & Legislative Council.
8th. All persons who shall be chosen or appointed to any office of trust before entering on the Execution thereof shall take the following oath or affirmation, I do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will to the best of my abilities discharge the duties of the Office to which I am appointed & preserve, protect & defend the Constitution of this Territory.
9th. The trial by Judge and freedom of the press shall be held inviolate.
10th. All persons shall be entitled to the benefits of the writ of Habeas Corpus.
1st. The inhabitants of the Territory of East Florida being generally better acquainted with the laws of the State of Georgia than of other States, the laws of this said state and of the United States shall be considered as the Laws of this Territory as far as they agree with the Constitution of the same and until altered by the Legislative Authority.
2d. The Legislative Council shall have power to confirm all the resolutions and ordinances of the constituted authority which have or may be passed prior to the session of the Legislative Council.
3d. No person who hath been convicted of felony before any Court of the United States, shall be eligible to any office or appointment of honor[,] profit or trust within this territory.
4th. The Legislative Council with the advice & consent of the Director, shall have power in all cases to make reasonable compensation to all Public Officers in such manner as they may by law direct.
This form of Government was assented to and passed this seventeenth of July one thousand eight hundred & twelve, in Convention of the Delegates of the freemen of East Florida. But it is expressly & unequivocally & unanimously declared by them, that it is intended to exist & be in operation only until the United States shall acknowledge this Territory as a part of the United States. And they have full confidence that the justice of the United States will direct them to ratify the Treaty of Session made between the Commissioners of this Territory and their agent, and that they will also enable the people of this Territory to fulfil such contracts as their necessities and perilous situation have or may oblige them hereafter to make.
John H. McIntosh President
D. S. H. Miller
John C. Houston
William G. Christopher
John D. Braddock
- Brethren of the South: the rebels in West Florida who established the Republic of West Florida in September, 1810, by declaring independence from Spain.