Constitution of New Hampshire (1784)

Constitution of New Hampshire  (1784) 


Part I.—The Bill of Rights

article i

All men are born equally free and independent; therefore, all government of right originates from the people, is founded in consent, and instituted for the general good.

II. All men have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights; among which are — the enjoying and defending life and liberty — acquiring, possessing and protecting property — and in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness.

III. When men enter into a state of society, they surrender up some of their natural rights to that society, in order to insure the protection of others; and, without such an equivalent, the surrender is void.

IV. Among the natural rights, some are in their very nature unalienable, because no equivalent can be given or received for them. Of this kind are the rights of conscience.

V. Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and reason; and no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained in his person, liberty or estate for worshipping God, in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience, or for his religious profession, sentiments or persuasion; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or disturb others, in their religious worship.

VI. As morality and piety, rightly grounded on evangelical principles, will give the best and greatest security to government, and will lay in the hearts of men the strongest obligations to due subjection; and as the knowledge of these, is most likely to be propagated through a society by the institution of the public worship of the Deity, and of public instruction in morality and religion; therefore, to promote those important purposes, the people of this state have a right to impower, and do hereby fully impower the legislature to authorize from time to time, the several towns, parishes, bodies-corporate, or religious societies within this state, to make adequate provision at their own expence, for the support and maintenance of public protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality:

Provided notwithstanding, That the several towns, parishes, bodies-corporate, or religious societies, shall at all times have the exclusive right of electing their own public teachers, and of contracting with them for their support and maintenance. And no portion of any one particular religious sect or denomination, shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the teacher or teachers of another persuasion, sect or denomination.

And every denomination of christians demeaning themselves quietly, and as good subjects of the state, shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another, shall ever be established by law.

And nothing herein shall be understood to affect any former contracts made for the support of the ministry; but all such contracts shall remain, and be in the same state as if this constitution had not been made.

VII. The people of this state, have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent state, and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction and right pertaining thereto, which is not, or may not hereafter be by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in Congress assembled.

VIII. All power residing originally in, and being derived from the people, all the magistrates and officers of government, are their substitutes and agents, and at all times accountable to them.

IX. No office or place whatsoever in government, shall be hereditary—the abilities and integrity requisite in all, not being transmissible to posterity or relations.

X. Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought, to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.

XI. All elections ought to be free, and every inhabitant of the state having the proper qualifications, has equal right to elect, and be elected into office.

XII. Every member of the community has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty and property; he is therefore bound to contribute his share in the expence of such protection, and to yield his personal service when necessary, or an equivalent. But no part of a man’s property shall be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. Nor are the inhabitants of this state controllable by any other laws than those to which they or their representative body have given their consent.

XIII. No person who is conscientiously scrupulous about the lawfulness of bearing arms, shall be compelled thereto, provided he will pay an equivalent.

XIV. Every subject of this state is entitled to a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries he may receive in his person, property or character, to obtain right and justice freely, without being obliged to purchase it; completely, and without any denial; promptly, and without delay, conformably to the laws.

XV. No subject shall be held to answer for any crime, or offence, until the same is fully and plainly, substantially and formally, described to him; or be compelled to accuse or furnish evidence against himself. And every subject shall have a right to produce all proofs that may be favorable to himself; to meet the witnesses against him face to face, and to be fully heard in his defence by himself, and counsel. And no subject shall be arrested, imprisoned, despoiled, or deprived of his property, immunities, or privileges, put out of the protection of the law, exiled or deprived of his life, liberty, or estate, but by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land.

XVI. No subject shall be liable to be tried, after an acquittal, for the same crime or offence.—Nor shall the legislature make any law that shall subject any person to a capital punishment, excepting for the government of the army and navy, and the militia in actual service, without trial by jury.

XVII. In criminal prosecutions, the trial of facts in the vicinity where they happen, is so essential to the security of the life, liberty and estate of the citizen, that no crime or offence ought to be tried in any other county than that in which it is committed; except in cases of general insurrection in any particular county, when it shall appear to the Judges of the Superior Court, that an impartial trial cannot be had in the county where the offence may be committed, and upon their report, the assembly shall think proper to direct the trial in the nearest county in which an impartial trial can be obtained.

XVIII. All penalties ought to be proportioned to the nature of the offence. No wise legislature will affix the same punishment to the crimes of theft, forgery and the like, which they do to those of murder and treason; where the same undistinguishing severity is exerted against all offences; the people are led to forget the real distinction in the crimes themselves, and to commit the most flagrant with as little compunction as they do those of the lightest dye: For the same reason a multitude of sanguinary laws is both impolitic and unjust. The true design of all punishments being to reform, not to exterminate, mankind.

XIX. Every subject hath a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions. All warrants, therefore, are contrary to this right, if the cause or foundation of them be not previously supported by oath, or affirmation; and if the order in the warrant to a civil officer, to make search in suspected places, or to arrest one or more suspected persons, or to seize their property, be not accompanied with a special designation of the persons or objects of search, arrest, or seizure; and no warrant ought to be issued but in cases, and with the formalities prescribed by the laws.

XX. In all controversies concerning property, and in all suits between two or more persons, except in cases in which it has been heretofore otherwise used and practiced, the parties have a right to a trial by jury; and this method of procedure shall be held sacred, unless in causes arising on the high seas, and such as relate to mariners wages, the legislature shall think it necessary hereafter to alter it.

XXI. In order to reap the fullest advantage of the inestimable privilege of the trial by jury, great care ought to be taken that none but qualified persons should be appointed to serve; and such ought to be fully compensated for their travel, time and attendance.

XXII. The Liberty of the Press is essential to the security of freedom in a state; it ought, therefore, to be inviolably preserved.

XXIII. Retrospective laws are highly injurious, oppressive and unjust. No such laws, therefore, should be made, either for the decision of civil causes, or the punishment of offences.

XXIV. A well regulated militia is the proper, natural, and sure defence of a state.

XXV. Standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be raised or kept up without the consent of the legislature.

XXVI. In all cases, and at all times, the military ought to be under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power.

XXVII. No soldier in time of peace, shall be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner; and in time of war, such quarters ought not to be made but by the civil magistrate, in a manner ordained by the legislature.

XXVIII. No subsidy, charge, tax, impost or duty shall be established, fixed, laid, or levied, under any pretext whatsoever, without the consent of the people or their representatives in the legislature, or authority derived from that body.

XXIX. The power of suspending the laws, or the execution of them, ought never to be exercised but by the legislature, or by authority derived therefrom, to be exercised in such particular cases only as the legislature shall expressly provide for.

XXX. The freedom of deliberation, speech, and debate, in either house of the legislature, is so essential to the rights of the people, that it cannot be the foundation of any action, complaint, or prosecution, in any other court or place whatsoever.

XXXI. The legislature ought frequently to assemble for the redress of grievances, for correcting, strengthening and confirming the laws, and for making new ones, as the common good may require.

XXXII. The people have a right in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble and consult upon the common good, give instructions to their representatives; and to request of the legislative body, by way of petition or remonstrance, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.

XXXIII. No magistrate or court of law shall demand excessive bail or sureties, impose excessive fines, or inflict cruel or unusual punishments.

XXXIV. No person can in any case be subjected to law martial, or to any pains, or penalties, by virtue of that law, except those employed in the army or navy, and except the militia in actual service, but by authority of the legislature.

XXXV. It is essential to the preservation of the rights of every individual, his life, liberty, property and character, that there be an impartial interpretation of the laws, and administration of justice. It is the right of every citizen to be tried by judges as impartial as the lot of humanity will admit. It is therefore not only the best policy, but for the security of the rights of the people, that the judges of the supreme (or superior) judicial court should hold their offices so long as they behave well; and that they should have honorable salaries, ascertained and established by standing laws.

XXXVI. Economy being a most essential virtue in all states, especially in a young one; no pension shall be granted, but in consideration of actual services, and such pensions ought to be granted with great caution, by the legislature, and never for more than one year at a time.

XXXVII. In the government of this state, the three essential powers thereof, to wit, the legislative, executive and judicial, ought to be kept as separate from and independent of each other, as the nature of a free government will admit, or as is consistent with that chain of connection that binds the whole fabric of the constitution in one indissoluble bond of union and amity.

XXXVIII. A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of the Constitution, and a constant adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, industry, frugality, and all the social virtues, are indispensably necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty and good government; the people ought, therefore, to have a particular regard to all those principles in the choice of their officers and representatives: and they have a right to require of their law-givers and magistrates, an exact and constant observance of them in the formation and execution of the laws necessary for the good administration of government.

Part II.—The Form of Government

The people inhabiting the territory formerly called the Province of New-Hampshire, do hereby solemnly and mutually agree with each other, to form themselves into a free, sovereign, and independent Body-politic, or State, by the name of the State of New Hampshire.

the general court

The supreme legislative power within this state shall be vested in the senate and house of representatives, each of which shall have a negative on the other.

The senate and house shall assemble every year on the first Wednesday of June, and at such other times as they may judge necessary; and shall dissolve, and be dissolved, seven days next preceding the said first Wednesday of June; and shall be stiled The General Court of New-Hampshire.

The general court shall forever have full power and authority to erect and constitute judicatories and courts of record, or other courts, to be holden in the name of the state, for the hearing, trying, and determining all manner of crimes, offences, pleas, processes, plaints, actions, causes, matters and things whatsoever, arising, or happening within this state, or between or concerning persons inhabiting or residing, or brought within the same, whether the same be criminal or civil, or whether the crimes be capital or not capital, and whether the said pleas be real, personal, or mixed; and for the awarding and issuing execution thereon. To which courts and judicatories are hereby given and granted full power and authority, from time to time to administer oaths or affirmations, for the better discovery of truth in any matter in controversy, or depending before them.

And farther, full power and authority are hereby given and granted to the said general court, from time to time, to make, ordain and establish, all manner of wholesome and reasonable orders, laws, statutes, ordinances, directions and instructions, either with penalties or without; so as the same be not repugnant, or contrary to this constitution, as they may judge for the benefit and welfare of this state, and for the governing and ordering thereof, and of the subjects of the same, for the necessary support and defence of the government thereof; and to name and settle annually, or provide by fixed laws, for the naming and settling all civil officers within this state; such officers excepted, the election and appointment of whom, are hereafter in this form of government otherwise provided for; and to set forth the several duties, powers and limits, of the several civil and military officers of this state, and the forms of such oaths or affirmations, as shall be respectively administered unto them for the execution of their several offices and places, so as the same be not repugnant or contrary to this constitution; and also to impose fines, mulcts, imprisonments, and other punishments; and to impose and levy proportional and reasonable assessments, rates and taxes, upon all the inhabitants of, and residents within the said state; and upon all estates within the same; to be issued and disposed of by warrant under the hand of the president of this state for the time being, with the advice and consent of the council, for the public service, in the necessary defence and support of the government of this state, and the protection and preservation of the subjects thereof, according to such acts as are, or shall be in force within the same.

And while the public charges of government or any part thereof, shall be assessed on polls and estates in the manner that has heretofore been practiced; in order that such assessments may be made with equality, there shall be a valuation of the estates within the state taken anew once in every five years at least, and as much oftener as the general court shall order.


There shall be annually elected by the freeholders and other inhabitants of this state, qualified as in this constitution is provided, twelve persons to be senators for the year ensuing their election; to be chosen in and by the inhabitants of the districts, into which this state may from time to time be divided by the general court, for that purpose; and the general court in assigning the number to be elected by the respective districts, shall govern themselves by the proportion of public taxes paid by the said districts; and timely make known to the inhabitants of the state, the limits of each district, and the number of senators to be elected therein; provided the number of such districts shall never be more than ten, nor less than five.

And the several counties in this state, shall, until the general court shall order otherwise, be districts for the election of senators, and shall elect the following number, viz.

Rockingham, five. Strafford, two. Hillsborough, two. Cheshire, two. Grafton, one.

The senate shall be the first branch of the legislature: and the senators shall be chosen in the following manner, viz. Every male inhabitant of each town and parish with town privileges in the several counties in this state, of twenty-one years of age and upwards, paying for himself a poll tax, shall have a right at the annual or other meetings of the inhabitants of said towns and parishes, to be duly warned and holden annually forever in the month of March; to vote in the town or parish wherein he dwells, for the senators in the county or district whereof he is a member.

And every person qualified as the constitution provides, shall be considered an inhabitant for the purpose of electing and being elected into any office or place within this state, in that town, parish, and plantation where he dwelleth and hath his home.

The selectmen of the several towns and parishes aforesaid, shall, during the choice of senators, preside at such meetings impartially, and shall receive the votes of all the inhabitants of such towns and parishes present and qualified to vote for senators, and shall sort and count the same in the meeting, and in presence of the town-clerk, who shall make a fair record in presence of the selectmen, and in open meeting, of the name of every person voted for, and the number of votes against his name; and a fair copy of this record shall be attested by the selectmen and town-clerk, and shall be sealed up and directed to the secretary of the state, with a superscription expressing the purport thereof, and delivered by said clerk to the sheriff of the county in which such town or parish lies, thirty days at least, before the first Wednesday of June; and the sheriff of each county, or his deputy, shall deliver all such certificates by him received, into the secretary’s office, seventeen days at least, before the first Wednesday of June.

And the inhabitants of plantations and places unincorporated, qualified as this constitution provides, who are or shall be required to assess taxes upon themselves towards the support of government, or shall be taxed therefor, shall have the same privilege of voting for senators in the plantations and places wherein they reside, as the inhabitants of the respective towns and parishes aforesaid have. And the meetings of such plantations and places for that purpose, shall be holden annually in the month of March, at such places respectively therein, as the assessors thereof shall direct; which assessors shall have like authority for notifying the electors, collecting and returning the votes, as the selectmen and town-clerks have in their several towns by this constitution.

And, that there may be a due meeting of senators, on the first Wednesday of June, annually, the president and three of the council for the time being, shall as soon as may, examine the returned copies of such records; and fourteen days before the said first Wednesday of June, he shall issue his summons to such persons as appear to be chosen senators by a majority of votes, to attend and take their seats on that day: Provided, nevertheless, that for the first year the said returned copies shall be examined by the president and five of the council of the former constitution of government; and the said president shall in like manner notify the persons elected, to attend and take their seats accordingly.

The senate shall be final judges of the elections, returns, and qualifications of their own members, as pointed out in this constitution, and shall on the said first Wednesday of June annually, determine and declare, who are elected by each district to be senators by a majority of votes: and in case there shall not appear to be the full number returned elected by a majority of votes for any district, the deficiency shall be supplied in the following manner, viz. The members of the house of representatives and such senators as shall be declared elected, shall take the names of such persons as shall be found to have the highest number of votes in each district, and not elected, amounting to twice the number of senators wanting, if there be so many voted for; and out of these shall elect by joint ballot the number of senators wanted for such district: and in this manner all such vacancies shall be filled up in every district of the state, and in like manner all vacancies in the senate, arising by death, removal out of the state, or otherwise, shall be supplied as soon as may be after such vacancies happen.

Provided nevertheless, That no person shall be capable of being elected a senator, who is not of the protestant religion, and seized of a freehold estate in his own right of the value of two hundred pounds, lying within this state, who is not of the age of thirty years, and who shall not have been an inhabitant of this state for seven years immediately preceding his election; and at the time thereof he shall be an inhabitant of the district for which he shall be chosen.

The senate shall have power to adjourn themselves, provided such adjournment do not exceed two days at a time.

The senate shall appoint their own officers, and determine their own rules of proceedings. And not less than seven members of the senate shall make a quorum for doing business; and when less than eight senators shall be present, the assent of five at least shall be necessary to render their acts and proceedings valid.

The senate shall be a court with full power and authority to hear and determine all impeachments made by the house of representatives, against any officer or officers of the state, for misconduct, or mal-administration in their offices. But previous to the trial of any such impeachment, the members of the senate shall respectively be sworn, truly and impartially to try and determine the charge in question according to evidence. Their judgment, however, shall not extend farther than removal from office, disqualification to hold or enjoy any place of honor, trust or profit under this state; but the party so convicted, shall nevertheless be liable to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to laws of the land.

house of representatives

There shall be in the legislature of this state a representation of the people annually elected and founded upon principles of equality: and in order that such representation may be as equal as circumstances will admit, every town, parish or place intitled to town privileges, having one hundred and fifty rateable male polls, of twenty-one years of age, and upwards, may elect one representative; if four hundred and fifty rateable polls, may elect two representatives; and so proceeding in that proportion, making three hundred such rateable polls the mean increasing number, for every additional representative.

Such towns, parishes or places as have less than one hundred and fifty rateable polls shall be classed by the general-assembly for the purpose of chusing a representative, and seasonably notified thereof. And in every class formed for the above-mentioned purpose, the first annual meeting shall be held in the town, parish, or place wherein most of the rateable polls reside; and afterwards in that which has the next highest number, and so on annually by rotation, through the several towns, parishes or places, forming the district.

Whenever any town, parish, or place intitled to town privileges as aforesaid, shall not have one hundred and fifty rateable polls, and be so situated as to render the classing thereof with any other town, parish, or place very inconvenient, the general-assembly may upon application of a majority of the voters in such town, parish, or place, issue a writ for their electing and sending a representative to the general-court.

The members of the house of representatives shall be chosen annually in the month of March, and shall be the second branch of the legislature.

All persons qualified to vote in the election of senators shall be intitled to vote within the town, district, parish, or place where they dwell, in the choice of representatives. Every member of the house of representatives shall be chosen by ballot; and for two years at least next preceding his election, shall have been an inhabitant of this state, shall have an estate within the town, parish, or place which he may be chosen to represent, of the value of one hundred pounds, one half of which to be a freehold, whereof he is seized in his own right; shall be at the time of his election, an inhabitant of the town, parish, or place he may be chosen to represent; shall be of the protestant religion, and shall cease to represent such town, parish, or place immediately on his ceasing to be qualified as aforesaid.

The travel of each representative to the general-assembly, and returning home, once in every session, and no more, shall be at the expence of the state, and the wages for his attendance, at the expence of the town, parish, or places he represents; such members attending seasonably, and not departing without licence. All intermediate vacancies in the house of representatives, may be filled up from time to time, in the same manner as annual elections are made.

The house of representatives shall be the grand inquest of the state, and all impeachments made by them, shall be heard and tried by the senate.

All money bills shall originate in the house of representatives, but the senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.

The house of representatives shall have power to adjourn themselves, but no longer than two days at a time.

A majority of the members of the house of representatives shall be a quorum for doing business; but when less than two-thirds of the representatives elected shall be present, the assent of two-thirds of those members shall be necessary to render their acts and proceedings valid.

No member of the house of representatives or senate, shall be arrested or held to bail on mean process, during his going to, returning from, or attendance upon the court.

The house of representatives shall choose their own speaker, appoint their own officers, and settle the rules of proceedings in their own house. They shall have authority to punish by imprisonment, every person who shall be guilty of disrespect to the house in its presence, by any disorderly or contemptuous behaviour, or by threatening, or ill treating any of its members; or by obstructing its deliberations; every person guilty of a breach of its privileges in making arrests for debt, or by assaulting any member during his attendance at any session; in assaulting or disturbing any one of its officers in the execution of any order or procedure of the house, in assaulting any witness, or other person, ordered to attend by and during his attendance of the house, or in rescuing any person arrested by order of the house, knowing them to be such. The senate, president and council, shall have the same powers in like cases; provided that no imprisonment by either, for any offence, exceed ten days.

The journals of the proceedings of both houses of the general-court, shall be printed and published, immediately after every adjournment, or prorogation; and upon motion made by any one member, the yeas and nays upon any question, shall be taken and entered in the journals.

executive power.—president

There shall be a supreme executive magistrate, who shall be stiled, The President of the State of New-Hampshire; and whose title shall be His Excellency.

The President shall be chosen annually; and no person shall be eligible to this office, unless at the time of his election, he shall have been an inhabitant of this state for seven years next preceding, and unless he shall be of the age of thirty years; and unless he shall, at the same time, have an estate of the value of five hundred pounds, one half of which shall consist of a freehold, in his own right, within the state; and unless he shall be of the Protestant religion.

Those persons qualified to vote for senators and representatives, shall within the several towns, parishes or places, where they dwell, at a meeting to be called for that purpose, some day in the month of March annually, give in their votes for a president to the selectmen, who shall preside at such meeting, and the clerk in the presence and with the assistance of the selectmen, shall in open meeting sort and count the votes, and form a list of the persons voted for, with the number of votes for each person against his name, and shall make a fair record of the same in the town books, and a public declaration thereof in the said meeting; and shall in the presence of said inhabitants, seal up a copy of said list attested by him and the selectmen, and transmit the same to the sheriff of the county, thirty days at least before the first Wednesday of June, or shall cause returns of the same to be made to the office of the secretary of the state, seventeen days at least, before said day, who shall lay the same before the senate and house of representatives on the first Wednesday of June, to be by them examined: and in case of an election by a majority of votes through the state, the choice shall be by them declared, and published; but if no person shall have a majority of votes, the house of representatives shall by ballot elect two out of the four persons who had the highest number of votes, if so many shall have been voted for; but if otherwise, out of the number voted for; and make return to the senate of the two persons so elected, on which the senate shall proceed by ballot to elect one of them who shall be declared president.

The president of the state shall preside in the senate, shall have a vote equal with any other member; and shall also have a casting vote in case of a tie.

The president with advice of council, shall have full power and authority in the recess of the general court, to prorogue the same from time to time, not exceeding ninety days in any one recess of said court; and during the session of said court, to adjourn or prorogue it to any time the two houses may desire, and to call it together sooner than the time to which it may be adjourned, or prorogued, if the welfare of the state should require the same.

In cases of disagreement between the two houses, with regard to the time of adjournment, or prorogation, the president, with advice of council, shall have a right to adjourn or prorogue the general court, not exceeding ninety days, at any one time, as he may determine the public good may require. And he shall dissolve the same seven days before the said first Wednesday of June. And in case of any infectious distemper prevailing in the place where the said court at any time is to convene, or any other cause whereby dangers may arise to the healths or lives of the members from their attendance, the president may direct the session to be holden at some other the most convenient place within the State.

The president of this state for the time being, shall be commander in chief of the army and navy, and all the military forces of the state, by sea and land; and shall have full power by himself, or by any chief commander, or other officer, or officers, from time to time, to train, instruct, exercise and govern the militia and navy; and for the special defence and safety of this state to assemble in martial array, and put in warlike posture, the inhabitants thereof, and to lead and conduct them, and with them to encounter, expulse, repel, resist and pursue by force of arms, as well by sea as by land, within and without the limits of this state; and also to kill slay, destroy, if necessary, and conquer by all fitting ways, enterprize and means, all and every such person and persons as shall, at any time hereafter, in a hostile manner, attempt or enterprize the destruction, invasion, detriment, or annoyance of this state; and to use and exercise over the army and navy, and over the militia in actual service, the law-martial in time of war, invasion, and also in rebellion, declared by the legislature to exist, as occasion shall necessarily require: and surprize by all ways and means whatsoever, all and every such person or persons, with their ships, arms, ammunition, and other goods, as shall in a hostile manner invade or attempt the invading, conquering, or annoying this state: and in fine, the president hereby is entrusted with all other powers incident to the office of captain-general and commander in chief, and admiral, to be exercised agreeably to the rules and regulations of the constitution, and the laws of the land; provided that the president shall not at any time hereafter, by virtue of any power by this constitution granted, or hereafter to be granted to him by the legislature, transport any of the inhabitants of this state, or oblige them to march out of the limits of the same, without their free and voluntary consent, or the consent of the general court, nor grant commissions for exercising the law-martial in any case, without the advice and consent of the council.

The power of pardoning offences, except such as persons may be convicted of before the senate by impeachment of the house, shall be in the president by and with the advice of the council: but no charter of pardon granted by the president with advice of council, before conviction, shall avail the party pleading the same, notwithstanding any general or particular expressions contained therein, descriptive of the offence or offences intended to be pardoned.

All judicial officers, the attorney-general, solicitor-general, all sheriffs, coroners, registers of probate, and all officers of the navy, and general and field-officers of the militia, shall be nominated and appointed by the president and council; and every such nomination shall be made at least seven days prior to such appointment, and no appointment shall take place, unless three of the council agree thereto. The captains and subalterns in the respective regiments shall be nominated and recommended by the field-officers to the president, who is to issue their commissions immediately on receipt of such recommendation.

No officer duly commissioned to command in the militia, shall be removed from his office, but by the address of both houses to the president, or by fair trial in court-martial, pursuant to the laws of the state for the time being.

The commanding officers of the regiments shall appoint their adjutants and quarter-masters; the brigadiers their brigade-majors, the major-generals their aids; the captains and subalterns their non-commissioned officers.

The president and council, shall appoint all officers of the continental army, whom by the confederation of the United States it is provided that this state shall appoint, as also all officers of forts and garrisons.

The division of the militia into brigades, regiments and companies, made in pursuance of the militia laws now in force, shall be considered as the proper division of the militia of this state, until the same shall be altered by some future law.

No monies shall be issued out of the treasury of this state, and disposed of (except such sums as may be appropriated for the redemption of bills of credit or treasurers’ notes, or for the payment of interest arising thereon) but by warrant under the hand of the president for the time being, by and with the advice and consent of the council, for the necessary support and defence of this state, and for the necessary protection and preservation of the inhabitants thereof, agreeably to the acts and resolves of the general court.

All public boards, the commissary-general, all superintending officers of public magazines and stores, belonging to this state, and all commanding officers of forts and garrisons within the same, shall once in every three months, officially, and without requisition, and at other times, when required by the president, deliver to him an account of all goods, stores, provisions, ammunition, cannon, with their appendages, and small arms, with their accoutrements, and of all other public property under their care respectively; distinguishing the quantity, and kind of each, as particularly as may be; together with the condition of such forts and garrisons: and the commanding officer shall exhibit to the president, when required by him, true and exact plans of such forts, and of the land and sea, or harbour or harbours adjacent.

The president and council shall be compensated for their services from time to time by such grants as the general court shall think reasonable.

Permanent and honorable salaries shall be established by law for the justices of the superior court.

Whenever the chair of the president shall be vacant, by reason of his death, absence from the state, or otherwise, the senior senator for the time being, shall, during such vacancy, have and exercise all the powers and authorities which by this constitution the president is vested with when personally present.


Annually, on the first meeting of the general court, two members of the senate and three from the house of representatives, shall be chosen by joint ballot of both houses as a council, for advising the president in the executive part of government, whom the president for the time being, shall have full power and authority to convene from time to time, at his discretion, and the president with the counsellors, or three of them at least, shall and may from time to time hold and keep a council, for ordering and directing the affairs of the state according to the laws of the land.

The qualifications for counsellors, shall be the same as those required for senators. The members of the council shall not intermeddle with the making or trying impeachments, but shall themselves be impeachable by the house, and triable by the senate for mal-conduct.

The resolutions and advice of the council shall be recorded in a register, and signed by the members present, and this record may be called for at any time, by either house of the legislature, and any member of the council may enter his opinion contrary to the resolution of the majority.

And whereas the elections appointed to be made by this constitution on the first Wednesday of June annually, by the two houses of the legislature, may not be completed on that day, the said elections may be adjourned from day to day until the same shall be completed. And the order of the elections shall be as follows: the vacancies in the senate, if any, shall be first filled up; the president shall then be elected, provided there should be no choice of him by the people: and afterwards the two houses shall proceed to the election of the council.

secretary, treasurer, commissary-general, &c

The Secretary, treasurer, and commissary-general, shall be chosen by joint ballot of the senators and representatives assembled in one room.

The records of the state shall be kept in the office of the secretary, who may appoint his deputies, for whose conduct he shall be answerable, and he shall attend the president and council, the senate and representatives, in person or by deputy, as they may require.

county-treasurer, &c

The County-treasurers, and registers of deeds shall be elected by the inhabitants of the several towns, in the several counties in the state, according to the method now practiced, and the present laws of the state: and before they enter upon the business of their offices, shall be respectively sworn faithfully to discharge the duties thereof, and shall severally give bond with sufficient sureties, in a reasonable sum for the use of the county, for the punctual performance of their respective trusts.

judiciary power

The tenure, that all commission officers shall have by law in their offices, shall be expressed in their respective commissions. All judicial officers, duly appointed, commissioned and sworn, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, excepting those concerning whom there is a different provision made in this constitution: Provided nevertheless, the president, with consent of council, may remove them upon the address of both houses of the legislature.

Each branch of the legislature, as well as the president and council, shall have authority to require the opinions of the justices of the superior court upon important questions of law, and upon solemn occasions.

In order that the people may not suffer from the long continuance in place of any justice of the peace, who shall fail in discharging the important duties of his office with ability and fidelity, all commissions of justices of the peace shall become void, at the expiration of five years from their respective dates; and upon the expiration of any commission, the same may, if necessary, be renewed, or another person appointed, as shall most conduce to the well-being of the state.

The judges of probate of wills, and for granting letters of administration, shall hold their courts at such place or places, on such fixed days, as the convenience of the people may require. And the legislature shall, from time to time, hereafter appoint such times and places, until which appointments, the said courts shall be holden at the times and places which the respective judges shall direct.

All causes of marriage, divorce and alimony, and all appeals from the respective judges of probate, shall be heard and tried by the superior court, until the legislature shall, by law make other provision.

clerks of courts

The clerks of the superior court of judicature, inferior courts of common pleas, and general sessions of the peace, shall be appointed by the respective courts during pleasure. And to prevent any fraud or unfairness in the entries and records of said courts, no such clerk shall be of counsel in any cause in the court of which he is clerk, nor shall he fill any writ in any civil action whatsoever.

delegates to congress

The delegates of this state to the Congress of the United States, shall some time between the first Wednesday of June, and the first Wednesday of September annually, be elected by the senate and house of representatives in their separate branches; to serve in Congress for one year, to commence on the first Monday in November then next ensuing. They shall have commissions under the hand of the president, and the great seal of the state; but may be recalled at any time within the year, and others chosen and commissioned, in the same manner, in their stead: and they shall have the same qualifications, in all respects, as by this constitution are required for the president.

No person shall be capable of being a delegate to Congress, for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or any other for his benefit, receives any salary, or emolument of any kind.

encouragement of literature, &c

Knowledge, and learning, generally diffused through a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; and spreading the opportunities and advantages of education through the various parts of the country, being highly conducive to promote this end; it shall be the duty of the legislators and the magistrates, in all future periods of this government to cherish the interest of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries and public schools, to encourage private and public institutions, rewards and immunities for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures and natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and economy, honesty and punctuality, sincerity, sobriety, and all social affections, and generous sentiments, among the people.

oath and subscriptions; exclusion from offices; commissions; writs; confirmation of laws; habeas corpus; the enacting stile; continuance of officers; provision for a future revision of the constitution, &c

Any person chosen president, counsellor, senator, or representative, military or civil officer, (town officers excepted,) accepting the trust, shall, before he proceeds to execute the duties of his office, make and subscribe the following declaration, viz.

I, A. B. do truly and sincerely acknowledge, profess, testify and declare, that the state of New-Hampshire is, and of right ought to be, a free, sovereign and independent state; and do swear that I will bear faith and true allegiance to the same, and that I will endeavor to defend it against all treacherous conspiracies and hostile attempts whatever: and I do further testify and declare, that no man or body of men, hath or can have, a right to absolve me from the obligation of this oath, declaration or affirmation; and that I do make this acknowledgement, profession, testimony, and declaration, honestly and truly, according to the common acceptation of the foregoing words, without any equivocation, mental evasion or secret reservation whatever.

So help me God.

I, A. B. do solemnly and sincerely swear and affirm, that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me as according to the best of my abilities, agreeably to the rules and regulations of this constitution, and the laws of the state of New-Hampshire.

So help me God.

Provided always, When any person chosen or appointed as aforesaid, shall be of the denomination called quakers, or shall be scrupulous of swearing, and shall decline taking the said oaths, such shall take and subscribe them omitting the word “swear” and likewise the words “So help me God” subjoined instead thereof, This I do under the pains and penalties of perjury.

And the oaths or affirmations shall be taken and subscribed by the president before the senior senator present, in the presence of the two houses of assembly; and by the senate and representatives first elected under this constitution, before the president and council for the time being; and by the residue of the officers aforesaid, before such persons, and in such manner as from time to time shall be prescribed by the legislature.

All commissions shall be in the name of the state of New Hampshire, signed by the president, and attested by the secretary, or his deputy, and shall have the great seal of the state affixed thereto.

All writs issuing out of the clerk’s office in any of the courts of law, shall be in the name of the state of New-Hampshire; shall be under the seal of the court whence they issue, and bear test of the chief, first, or senior justice of the court; but when such justice shall be interested, then the writ shall bear test of some other justice of the court, to which the same shall be returnable; and be signed by the clerk of such court.

All indictments, presentments and informations shall conclude against the peace and dignity of the state.

The estates of such persons as may destroy their own lives, shall not for that offence be forfeited, but descend or ascend in the same manner, as if such persons had died in a natural way. Nor shall any article which shall accidentally occasion the death of any person, be henceforth deemed a deodand, or in any wise forfeited on account of such misfortune.

All the laws which have heretofore been adopted, used and approved, in the province, colony, or state of New-Hampshire, and usually practiced on in the courts of law, shall remain and be in full force, until altered and repealed by the legislature; such parts thereof only excepted, as are repugnant to the rights and liberties contained in this constitution: Provided that nothing herein contained, when compared with the twenty-third article in the bill of rights, shall be construed to affect the laws already made respecting the persons or estates of absentees.

The privilege and benefit of the habeas corpus, shall be enjoyed in this state, in the most free, easy, cheap, expeditious, and ample manner, and shall not be suspended by the legislature, except upon the most urgent and pressing occasions, and for a time not exceeding three months.

The enacting stile in making and passing acts, statutes and laws, shall be—Be it enacted by the senate and house of representatives, in general court convened.

No president or judge of the superior court, shall hold any office or place under the authority of this state, except such as by this constitution they are admitted to hold, saving that the judges of the said court may hold the offices of justices of the peace throughout the state; nor shall they hold any place or office, or receive any pension or salary, from any other state, government, or power whatever.

No person shall be capable of exercising at the same time, more than one of the following offices within this state, viz. Judge of probate, sheriff, register of deeds; and never more than two offices of profit, which may be held by appointment of the president, or president and council, or senate and house of representatives, or superior or inferior courts; military offices, and offices of justices of the peace, excepted.

No person holding the office of judge of the superior court, secretary, treasurer of the state, judge of probate, attorney-general, commissary-general, judge of the maritime court, or judge of the court of admiralty, military officers receiving pay from the continent or this state, excepting officers of the militia occasionally called forth on an emergency; judge of the inferior court of common pleas, register of deeds, president, professor or instructor of any college, sheriff, or office of the customs, including naval-officers, shall at the same time have a seat in the senate or house of representatives, or council; but their being chosen or appointed to, and accepting the same, shall operate as a resignation of their seat in the senate, or house of representatives, or council; and the place so vacated shall be filled up.

No person shall ever be admitted to hold a seat in the legislature, or any office of trust or importance under this government, who in the due course of law, has been convicted of bribery or corruption, in obtaining an election or appointment.

In all cases where sums of money are mentioned in this constitution, the value thereof shall be computed in silver, at six shillings and eight pence per ounce.

To the end that there may be no failure of justice or danger arise to this state from a change in the form of government, all civil and military officers, holding commissions under the government and people of New-Hampshire, and other officers of the said government and people, at the time this constitution shall take effect, shall hold, exercise and enjoy all the powers and authorities to them granted and committed, until other persons shall be appointed in their stead. All courts of law in the business of their respective departments, and the executive, and legislative bodies and persons, shall continue in full force, enjoyment and exercise of all their trusts and employments, until the general court, and the supreme and other executive officers under this constitution, are designated, and invested with their respective trusts, powers and authority.

This form of government shall be enrolled on parchment, and deposited in the secretary’s office, and be a part of the laws of the land, and printed copies thereof shall be prefixed to the books containing the laws of this state, in all future editions thereof.

To preserve an effectual adherence to the principles of the constitution, and to correct any violation thereof, as well as to make such alterations therein, as from experience may be found necessary, the general court shall at the expiration of seven years from the time this constitution shall take effect, issue precepts, or direct them to be issued from the secretary’s office, to the several towns and incorporated places, to elect delegates to meet in convention for the purposes aforesaid: the said delegates to be chosen in the same manner, and proportioned as the representatives to the general assembly; provided that no alteration shall be made in this constitution before the same shall be laid before the towns and unincorporated places, and approved by two-thirds of the qualified voters present, and voting upon the question.

In Convention,
Held at Concord, The thirty-first day of October, 1783.

The Returns from the several towns being examined, and it appearing that the foregoing Bill of Rights and Form of Government, were approved of by the People; the same are hereby agreed on and established by the Delegates of the People, and declared to be the Civil Constitution for the State of New-Hampshire, to take place on the first Wednesday of June, 1784; and that in the mean time the General Court under the present government, make all the necessary arrangements for introducing this Constitution, at that time, and in the manner therein described.

Nathaniel Folsom, President, P. T

J. M. Sewall, Secretary.

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  1. “Early State Papers of New Hampshire, Including the Constitution of 1784, Journals of the Senate and House of Representatives, and Records of the President and Council from June 1784 to June 1787, with an Appendix Containing an Abstract of the Official Records Relative to the Formation, Promulgation, Consideration, and Adoption of the Federal Constitution, and Illustrative Notes. Volume XX. Albert Stillman Batchellor, editor and compiler. Manchester: John B. Clarke, Public Printer, 1891.” pp. 9–31.
  2. A convention met at Concord, June 10, 1778, and framed a constitution, which was submitted to the people at their town-meetings in 1779, and rejected. A new convention was called, which met at Exeter, June 12, 1781, and framed another constitution, which was submitted to the people at their town-meetings for approval or amendments. So numerous were the amendments suggested, and so difficult was it to reconcile conflicting opinions, that the convention did not complete its labors until October 31, 1783. The constitution, thus discussed, amended, and approved in detail by the people of New Hampshire in their town-meetings assembled under the supervision of the convention, was inaugurated June 2, 1784.