Constitution of Georgia; February 5, 1777
Whereas the conduct of the legislature of Great
Britain for many years past has been so oppressive on the people
of America that of late years they have plainly declared and asserted
a right to raise taxes upon the people of America, and to make laws
to bind them in all cases whatsoever, without their consent; which
conduct, being repugnant to the common rights of mankind, hath obliged
the Americans, as freemen, to oppose such oppressive measures, and
to assert the rights and privileges they are entitled to by the
laws of nature and reason; and accordingly it hath been done by
the general consent of all the people of the States of New Hampshire,
Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, the counties of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware,
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia,
given by their representatives met together in general Congress,
in the city of Philadelphia;
And whereas it hath been recommended by the said
Congress, on the fifteenth of May last, to the respective assemblies
and conventions of the United States, where no government, sufficient
to the exigencies of their affairs, hath been hitherto established,
to adopt such government as may, in the opinion of the representatives
of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their
constituents in particular and America in general;
And whereas the independence of the United States
of America has been also declared, on the fourth day of July, one
thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, by the said honorable Congress,
and all political connection between them and the Crown of Great
Britain is in consequence thereof dissolved:
We, therefore, the representatives of the people,
from whom all power originates, and for whose benefit all government
is intended, by virtue of the power delegated to us, do ordain and
declare, and it IS hereby ordained and declared, that the following
rules and regulations be adopted for the future government of this
ARTICLE I. The legislative, executive, and judiciary
departments shall be separate and distinct, so that neither exercise
the powers properly belonging to the other.
ART. II. The legislature of this State shall be
composed of the representatives of the people, as is hereinafter
pointed out; and the representatives shall be elected yearly, and
every year, on the first Tuesday in December; and the representatives
so elected shall meet the first Tuesday in January following, at
Savannah, or any other place or places where the house of assembly
for the time being shall direct.
On the first day of the meeting of the representatives
so chosen, they shall proceed to the choice of a governor, who shall
be styled "honorable;" and of an executive council, by ballot out
of their own body, viz: two from each county, except those counties
which are not yet entitled to send ten members. One of each county
shall allways attend, where the governor resides, by monthly rotation,
unless the members of each county agree for a longer or shorter
period. This is not intended to exclude either member attending.
The remaining number of representatives shall be called the house
of assembly; and the majority of the members of the said house shall
have power to proceed on business.
ART. III. It shall be an unalterable rule that the
house of assembly shall expire and be at an end, yearly and every
year, on the day preceding the day of election mentioned in the
ART. IV. The representation shall be divided in
the following manner: ten members from each county, as is hereinafter
directed, except the county of Liberty, which contains three parishes,
and that shall be allowed fourteen.
The ceded lands north of Ogechee shall be one county,
and known by the name of Wilkes.
The parish of Saint Paul shall be another county,
and known by the name of Richmond.
The parish of Saint George shall be another county,
and known by the name of Burke.
The parish of Saint Matthew, and the upper part
of Saint Philip, above Canouchee, shall be another county, and known
by the name of Eflingham.
The parish of Christ Church, and the lower part
of Saint Philip, below Canouchee, shall be another county, and known
by the name of Chatham.
The parishes of Saint John, Saint Andrew, and Saint
James shall be another county, and known by the name of Liberty.
The parishes of Saint David and Saint Patrick shall
be another county, and known by the name of Glynn.
The parishes of Saint Thomas and Saint Mary shall
be another county, and known by the name of Camden.
The port and town of Savannah shall be allowed four
members to represent their trade.
The port and town of Sunbury shall be allowed two
members to represent their trade.
ART. V. The two counties of Glynn and Camden shall
have one representative each, and also they, and all other counties
that may hereafter be laid out by the house of assembly, shall be
under the following regulations, VIZ: at their first institution
each county shall have one member, provided the inhabitants of the
said county shall have ten electors; and if thirty, they shall have
two; if forty, three; if fifty, four; if eighty, six; if a hundred
and upward, ten; at which time two executive councillors shall be
chosen from them, as is directed for the other counties.
ART. VI. The representatives shall be chosen out
of the residents in each county, who shall have resided at least
twelve months in this State, and three months in the county where
they shall be elected; except the freeholders of the counties of
Glynn and Camden, who are in a state of alarm, and who shall have
the liberty of choosing one member each, as specified in the articles
of this constitution, in any other county, until they have residents
sufficient to qualify them for more; and they shall be of the Protestent
religion, and of the age of twenty-one years, and shall be possessed
in their own right of two hundred and fifty acres of land, or some
property to the amount of two hundred and fifty pounds.
ART. VII. The house of assembly shall have power
to make such laws and regulations as may be conducive to the good
order and wellbeing of the State; provided such laws and regulations
be not repugnant to the true intent and meaning of any rule or regulation
contained In this constitution.
The house of assembly shall also have power to repeal
all laws and ordinances they find injurious to the people; and the
house shall choose its own speaker, appoint its own officers, settle
its own rules of proceeding, and direct writs of election for supplying
intermediate vacancies, and shall have power of adjournment to any
time or times within the year.
ART. VIII. All laws and ordinances shall be three
times read, and each reading shall be on different and separate
days, except in cases of great necessity and danger; and all laws
and ordinances shall be sent to the executive council after the
second reading, for their perusal and advice.
ART. IX. All male white inhabitants, of the age
of twenty-one years, and possessed in his own right of ten pounds
value, and liable to pay tax in this State, or being of any mechanic
trade, and shall have been resident six months in this State, shall
have a right to vote at all elections for representatives, or any
other officers, herein agreed to be chosen by the people at large;
and every person having a right to vote at any election shall vote
by ballot personally.
ART. X. No officer whatever shall serve any process,
or give any other hinderances to any person entitled to vote, either
in going to the place of election' or during the time of the said
election, or on their returning home from such election; nor shall
any military officer, or soldier, appear at any election in a military
character, to the intent that all elections may be free and open.
ART. XI. No person shall be entitled to more than
one vote, which shall be given in the county where such person resides,
except as before excepted; nor shall any person who holds any title
of nobility lie entitled to a vote, or be capable of serving as
a representative, or hold any post of honor, profit, or trust in
this State, whilst such person claims his title of nobility; but
if the person shall give up such distinction, in the manner as may
be directed by any future legislation, then, and in such case, he
shall be entitled to a vote, and represent, as before directed,
and enjoy all the other benefits of a free citizen.
ART. XII. Every person absenting himself from an
election, and shall neglect to give in his or their ballot at such
election, shall be subject to a penalty not exceeding five pounds;
the mode of recovery and also the appropriation thereof, to be pointed
out and directed by act of the legislature: Provided, nevertheless,
That a reasonable excuse shall be admitted.
ART. XIII. The manner of electing representatives
shall be by ballot, and shall be taken by two or more justices of
the peace in each county, who shall provide a convenient box for
receiving the said ballots: and, on closing the poll, the ballots
shall be compared in public with the list of votes that have been
taken, and the majority immediately declared; a certificate of the
same being given to the persons elected, and also a certificate
returned to the house of representatives.
ART. XIV. Every person entitled to vote shall take
the following oath or affirmation, if required, viz:
" I, A B. do voluntarily and solemnly swear (or
affirm, as the case may be) that I do owe true allegiance to this
State, and will support the constitution thereof; so help me God."
ART. XV. Any five of the representatives elected,
as before directed, being met, shall have power to administer the
following oath to each other; and they, or any other member, being
so sworn, shall, in the house, administer the oath to all other
members that attend, in order to qualify them to take their seats,
" I, A B. do solemnly swear that I will bear true
allegiance to the State of Georgia, and will truly perform the trusts
reposed in me; and that I will execute the same to the best of my
knowledge, for the benefit of this State, and the support of the
constitution thereof, and that I have obtained my election without
fraud or bribe whatever; so help me God."
ART. XVI. The continental delegates shall be appointed
annually by ballot, and shall have a right to sit, debate, and vote
in the house of assembly, and be deemed a part thereof, subject,
however, to the regulations contained in the twelfth article of
the Confederation of the United States.
ART. XVII. No person bearing any post of profit
under this State, or any person bearing any military commission
under this or any other State or States, except officers of the
militia, shall be elected a representative. And if any representative
shall be appointed to any place of profit or military commission,
which he shall accept, his seat shall immediately become vacant,
and he shall be incapable of reelection whilst holding such office.
By this article it is not to be understood that
the office of a justice of the peace is a post of profit.
ART. XVIII. No person shall hold more than one office
of profit under this State at one and the same time.
ART. XIX. The governor shall, with the advice of
the executive council, exercise the executive powers of government,
according to the laws of this State and the constitution thereof,
save only in the case of pardons and remission of fines, which he
shall in no instance grant; but he may reprieve a criminal, or suspend
a fine, until the meeting of the assembly, who may determine therein
as they shall Judge fit.
ART. XX. The governor, with the advice of the executive
council, shall have power to call the house of assembly together,
upon any emergency, before the time which they stand adjourned to.
ART. XXI. The governor, with the advice of the executive
council shall fill up all intermediate vacancies that shall happen
in offices till the next general election; and all commissions,
civil and military, shall be issued by the governor, under his hand
and the great seal of the State.
ART. XXII. The governor may preside in the executive
council at all times, except when they are taking into consideration
and perusing the laws and ordinances offered to them by the house
ART. XXIII. The governor shall be chosen annually
by ballot, and shall not be eligible to the said office for more
than one year out of three, nor shall he hold any military commission
under any other State or States.
The governor shall reside at such place as the house
of assembly for the time being shall appoint.
ART. XXIV. The governor's oath:
" I, A B, elected governor of the State of Georgia,
by the representatives thereof, do solemnly promise and swear that
I will, during the term of my appointment, to the best of my skill
and judgment, execute the said office faithfully and conscientiously'
according to law, without favor, affection, or partiality; that
I will, to the utmost of my power, support, maintain, and defend
the State of Georgia, and the constitution of the same; and use
my utmost endeavors to protect the people thereof in the secure
enjoyment of all their rights, franchises and privileges; and that
the laws and ordinances of the State be duly observed, and that
law and justice in mercy be executed in all judgments. And I do
further solemnly promise and swear that I will peaceably and quietly
resign the government to which I have been elected at the period
to which my continuance in the said office is limited by the constitution.
And, lastly, I do also solemnly swear that I have not accepted of
the government whereunto I am elected contrary to the articles of
this constitution; so help me God."
This oath to be administered to him by the speaker
of the assembly.
The same oath to be administered by the speaker
to the president of the council.
No person shall be eligible to the office of governor
who has not resided three years in this State.
ART. XXV. The executive council shall meet the day
after their election, and proceed to the choice of a president out
of their own body; they shall have power to appoint their own officers
and settle their own rules of proceedings.
The council shall always vote by counties, and not
ART. XXVI. Every councillor, being present, shall
have power of entering his protest against any measures in council
he has not consented to, provided he does it in three days.
ART. XXVII. During the sitting of the assembly the
whole of the executive council shall attend, unless prevented by
sickness, or some other urgent necessity; and, in that case, a majority
of the council shall make a board to examine the laws and ordinances
sent them by the house of assembly; and all laws and ordinances
sent to the council shall be returned in five days after, with their
ART. XXVIII. A committee from the council, sent
with any proposed amendments to any law or ordinance, shall deliver
their reasons for such proposed amendments, sitting and covered;
the whole house at that time, except the speaker, uncovered.
ART. XXIX. The president of the executive council,
in the absence or sickness of the governor, shall exercise all the
powers of the governor.
ART. XXX. When any affair that requires secrecy
shall be laid before the governor and the executive council, it
shall be the duty of the governor,. and he is hereby obliged, to
administer the following Oath, viz:
" I, A B. do solemnly swear that any business that
shall be at this time communicated to the council I will not, in
any manner whatever, either by speaking, writing, or otherwise,
reveal the same to any person whatever, until leave given by the
council, or when called upon by the house of assembly; and all this
I swear without any reservation whatever; so help me God."
And the same oath shall be administered to the secretary
and other officers necessary to carry the business into execution.
ART. XXXI. The executive power shall exist till
renewed as pointed out by the rules of this constitution.
ART. XXXII. In all transactions between the legislative
and executive bodies the same shall be communicated by message,
to be delivered from the legislative body to the governor or executive
council by a committee, and from the governor to the house of assembly
by the secretary of the council, and from the executive council
by a committee of the said council.
ART. XXXIII. The governor for the time being shall
be captains general and commander-in-chief over all the militia,
and other military and naval forces belonging to this State.
ART. XXXIV. All militia commissions shall specify
that the person commissioned shall continue during good behavior.
ART. XXXV. Every county in this State that has,
or hereafter may have, two hundred and fifty men, and upwards, liable
to bear arms, shall be formed into a battalion; and when they become
too numerous for one battalion, they shall be formed into more,
by bill of the legislature; and those counties that have a less
number than two hundred and fifty shall be formed into independent
ART. XXXVI. There shall be established in each county
a court, to be called a superior court, to be held twice in each
On the first Tuesday in March, in the county of
The second Tuesday in March, in the county of Effingham.
The third Tuesday in March, in the county of Burke
The fourth Tuesday in March, in the county of Richmond.
The next Tuesday, in the county of Wilkes.
And Tuesday fortnight, in the county of Liberty.
The next Tuesday, in the county of Glynn.
The next Tuesday, in the county of Camden.
The like courts to commence in October and continue
ART. XXXVII. All causes and matters of dispute,
between any parties residing in the same county, to be tried within
ART. XXXVIII. All matters in dispute between contending
parties residing in different counties shall be tried in the county
where the defendant resides, except in cases of real estate, which
shall be tried in the county where such real estate lies.
ART. XXXIX. All matters of breach of the peace,
felony, murder, and treason against the State to be tried in the
county where the same was committed. All matters of dispute, both
civil and criminal, in any county where there is not a sufficient
number of inhabitants to form a court, shall be tried in the next
adjacent county where a court is held.
ART. XL. All causes, of what nature soever, shall
be tried in the supreme court, except as hereafter mentioned; which
court shall con sist of the chief-justice, and three or more of
the justices residing in the county. In case of the absence of the
chief-justice, the senior justice on the bench shall act as chief-justice,
with the clerk of the county, attorney for the State, sheriff, coroner,
constable, and the jurors; and in case of the absence of any of
the aforementioned officers, the justices to appoint others in their
room pro tempore. And if any plaintiff or defendant in civil causes
shall be dissatisfied with the determination of the jury, then,
and in that case, they shall be at liberty, within three days, to
enter an appeal from that verdict, and
demand a new trial by a special jury, to be nominated
as follows, viz: each party, plaintiff and defendant, shall choose
six, six more names shall be taken indifferently out of a box provided
for that purpose, the whole eighteen to be summoned, and their names
to be put together into the box, and the first twelve that are drawn
out, being present, shall be the special jury to try the cause,
and from which there shall be no appeal.
ART. XLI. The jury shall be judges of law, as well
as of fact, and shall not be allowed to bring in a special verdict;
but if all or any of the jury have any doubts concerning points
of law, they shall apply to the bench, who shall each of them in
rotation give their opinion.
ART. XLII. The jury shall be sworn to bring in a
verdict according to lair, and the opinion they entertain of the
evidence; provided it be not repugnant to the rules and regulations
contained in this constitution.
ART. XLIII. The special jury shall be sworn to bring
in a verdict according to law, and the opinion they entertain of
the evidence; provided it be not repugnant to justice, equity, and
conscience, and the rules and regulations contained in this constitution,
of which they shall Judge.
ART. XLIV. Captures, both by sea and land, to be
tried in the county where such shall be carried in; a special court
to be called by the chief-justice, or in his absence by the then
senior justice in the said county, upon application of the captors
or claimants, which cause shall be determined within the space of
ten days. The mode of proceeding and appeal shall be the same as
in the superior courts, unless, after the second trial, an appeal
is made to the Continental Congress; and the distance of time between
the first and second trial shall not exceed fourteen days; and all
maritime causes to be tried in like manner.
ART. XLV. No grand jury shall consist of less than
eighteen, and twelve may find a bill.
ART. XLVI. That the court of conscience be continued
as heretofore practiced, and that the jurisdiction thereof be extended
to try causes not amounting to more than ten pounds.
ART. XLVII. All executions exceeding five pounds,
except in the case of a court-merchant, shall be stayed until the
first Monday in March; provided security be given for debt and costs.
ART. XLVIII. All the costs attending any action
in the superior court shall not exceed the sum of three pounds,
and that no cause be allowed to depend in the superior court longer
than two terms.
ART. XLIX. Every officer of the State shall be liable
to be called to account by the house of assembly.
ART. L. Every county shall keep the public records
belonging to the same, and authenticated copies of the several records
now in the possession of this State shall be made out and deposited
in that county to which they belong.
ART. LI. Estates shall not be entailed; and when
a person dies intestate, his or her estate shall be divided equally
among their children; the widow shall have a child's share, or her
dower, at her option; all other intestates' estates to be divided
according to the act of distribution, made in the reign of Charles
the Second, unless otherwise altered by any future act of the legislature.
ART. LII. A register of probates shall be appointed
by the legislature in every county, for proving wills and granting
letters of administration.
ART. LIII. All civil officers in each county shall
be annually elected on the day of the general election, except justices
of the peace and registers of probates, who shall be appointed by
the house of assembly.
ART. LIV. Schools shall be erected in each county,
and supported at the general expense of the State, as the legislature
shall hereafter point out.
ART. LV. A court-house and jail shall be erected
at the public expense in each county, where the present convention
or the future legislature shall point out and direct.
ART. LVI. All persons whatever shall have the free
exercise of their religion; provided it be not repugnant to the
peace and safety of the State; and shall not, unless by consent,
support any teacher or teachers except those of their own profession.
ART. LVII. The great seal of this State shall have
the following device: on one side a scroll, whereon shall be engraved,
" The Constitution of the State of Georgia; " and the motto, "Pro
bono publico." On the other side, an elegant house, and other buildings,
fields of corn, and meadows covered with sheep and cattle; a river
running through the same, with a ship under full sail, and the motto,
"Deus nobis haec otia fecit."
ART. LVIII. No person shall be allowed to plead
in the courts of law in this State, except those who are authorized
so to do by the house of assembly; and if any person so authorized
shall be found guilty of malpractice before the house of assembly,
they shall have power to suspend them. This is not intended to exclude
any person from that inherent privilege of every freeman, the liberty
to plead his own cause.
ART. LIX. Excessive fines shall not be levied, not
excessive bail demanded.
ART. LX. The principles of the habeas-corpus act
shall be a part of this constitution.
ART. LXI. Freedom of the press and trial by jury
to remain inviolate forever.
ART. LXII. No clergyman of any denomination shall
be allowed a seat in the legislature.
ART. LXIII. No alteration shall be made in this
constitution without petitions from a majority of the counties,
and the petitions from each county to be signed by a majority of
voters in each county within this State; at which time the assembly
shall order a convention to be called for that purpose, specifying
the alterations to be made, according to the petitions preferred
to the assembly by the majority of the counties as aforesaid.
Done at Savannah, in convention, the fifth day of
February, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and
seventy-seven, and in the first year of the Independence of the
United States of America.