top of page

State Constitutions
Prior to the

Philadelphia Convention


IntroductionMark Shubert
00:00 / 05:38

For some reason many historians, academics, and American political theorists leave out the state constitutions that existed prior to the Philadelphia Convention when researching the Federal Constitution. This is an academic error given that many of the delegates to the Philadelphia (Federal) Convention participated in their respective State Constitutional Conventions. The essential experience and all of the political concepts of statecraft which the Philadelphia delegates implemented into the Federal Constitution can be seen in those state constitutions. Their abilities to disquisition, to discuss, and to deliberate, developed from their prior experiences, were instituted into the Constitution which means leaving out those state constitutions in your study will leave a serious gap in your knowledge on the subject.

There were eleven state constitutions active among the several states that influenced the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention of 1787. Each constitution is summarized and organized into three parts: The first part covers the constitution’s preamble, if there is one; the second part describes the state governmental structure; the third part describes the relationship between the government and the people mainly through a Bill of Rights, if there is one.

The preamble sections are a piece of the overall picture to understand the intent of each document. The structure-of-the-government sections describe the offices, separation of powers, checks and balances, authorities, and terms within the state governments. The relationship-between-the-Government-and-people sections describe the rights of individuals, whether or not slavery was legal and how it was regulated, and who had suffrage explicitly protected.

The primary sources are the official constitutions created and ratified by each of the states respectively. Eleven of the thirteen states wrote their constitution after King George III declared war on the rebellious colonies in August of 1775 and prior to 1787. The first State to write its constitution was the State of New Hampshire on January 5, 1776, and the last State to ratify its own constitution by 1787 was Massachusetts in 1780.

Two of the thirteen states were still using their royal charters as their constitutions. Connecticut was using its 1662 Royal Charter and did not write its constitution until 1818. Rhode Island was using its 1663 Royal Charter and did not write its constitution until 1843. This paper leaves out the two states that had Royal Charters since this paper compares the constitutions that the states made and how the delegates of those conventions were impacted by that experience when writing the U.S. Constitution in 1787; any state constitution before 1776 and after 1787 is not included. 

By 1787, two of the states were already on their second (post 1775) constitutions. South Carolina in 1778 and New Hampshire in 1784. These second constitutions are in this paper and not the first ones since these constitutions influenced the Philadelphia Convention more so than their predecessors. For example, New Hampshire's first constitution proclaimed continued loyalty to the British monarch that will "never" break in its preamble. That "never" lasted six months as the State joined the others in declaring independence. Because of this, the first constitution of New Hampshire will not be looked at in this paper since the people held back their authentic design of a self-governing State in order to placate a monarch, while their second constitution is a better representation of the State's idea of a proper government.

The exact state constitutions included are Virginia's, New Jersey's, Delaware's, Pennsylvania's, Maryland's, North Carolina's all of 1776, Georgia's and New York's of 1777, South Carolina's of 1778, Massachusetts' of 1780, and New Hampshire's of 1784. The states of Virginia and Delaware wrote their Bill of Rights in a separate document but were still a part of their constitutions, so they are included; other states have their Bill of Rights enumerated in their constitution directly; some, like Georgia and South Carolina, don't even have a Bill of Rights but do have some individual rights recognized throughout their constitutions.

As mentioned earlier, each state constitution is divided into three parts: preamble, structure, and bill of rights. These state constitutions will be compared to the U.S. Constitution to show what was common among the states and what was enumerated into the Federal Constitution. Only one of these state constitutions is still in effect today, that being the constitution of Massachusetts of 1780, which is older than the Federal Constitution.




Virginia’s preamble begins with a declaration of independence from Great Britain with a list of repeated injuries similar to that of the Declaration of Independence (hint: Thomas Jefferson was from Virginia). The preamble ends with:

We therefore, the delegates and representatives of the good people of Virginia, having maturely considered the premises, and viewing with great concern the deplorable conditions to which this once happy country must be reduced, unless some regular, adequate mode of civil polity is speedily adopted, and in compliance with a recommendation of the general Congress, do ordain and declare the future form of government of Virginia to be as followeth:

The preamble to Virginia’s Declaration of Rights includes the following assertion, “…which rights do pertain to them and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of government.” To Virginia, certain individual rights were viewed as necessary to a properly regulated government which rights are listed in the Bill of Rights section.

Structure of Government

Virginia established a trilateral government composed of a bicameral legislature, an executive and Council, and a supreme court. The Legislature is called the General Assembly, which comprises a House of Delegates and a Senate. For delegates, there are two per county and one for cities with large populations. Delegates are annually elected by the men, who are 21 years old, who own property and are residents of the county they vote in. The requirements to be a delegate include being a man, a resident of the county they are running in, 25 years old, and owning land. The power of the House of Delegates includes electing their speakers, appointing officers, creating procedures, filling vacancies, beginning all bills, approving or rejecting the Senate's amendments, and impeaching the governor or judges. The Senate consists of 24 members, one from each district. The terms are four years with a rotation of ¼ of the Senate annually. The electors and requirements are the same as the delegates. The power of the Senate consists of electing a speaker, appointing officers, creating procedures, filling vacancies, and rejecting house bills or amending them with the consent of the house except for money bills which can only be rejected not amended by the Senate. Joint power includes appointing treasurers and secretaries.

Executive power resides in a governor, a lieutenant governor who will act as president of the Council, and an executive council. The general assembly annually elects the governor for no more than three consecutive terms and afterward has to wait another four years. The general assembly determines requirements. The governor's power includes granting pardons unless prosecuted by the General Assembly, calling the assembly to meet, appointing military officers and holding military courts, and is the commander in chief in times of war. Council of State, or Privy Council, is made of 8 members, with an annual rotation of two members elected by the General Assembly. They also appoint a state secretary and approve county sheriffs and coroners. The power of the Council includes electing its president, who is also the lieutenant governor.

Judicial power resides in the courts, with a supreme court as the highest court of appeals. Both houses appoint all levels of judges, from county courts to the supreme court. Terms are for life on good behavior. Their power includes appointing county constables.

Notable mentions are that oaths are not mentioned, no establishment of religion, no holding multiple offices are mentioned, slavery is not mentioned, an amending process is not mentioned.

Bill of Rights

Right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; Government of and by the people; right to reform; no titles of nobility; regular elections; right of suffrage depends on land ownership, and so no property taxes since property taxes threatens ownership; no one in office can prevent the law from being enforced; fair trial, cause, accusers, witnesses, evidence, speedy, jury, no self-incrimination; no excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishments; no unwarranted searches and seizures; in cases regarding property (slaves) there will be a trial by jury (of the white men "victim"); freedom of the press; maintain a well-regulated militia, but no standing armies; county governments should be of uniform structure; lastly, freedom of religion.

New Jersey

New Jersey’s preamble asserted that the authority of kings is derived from the people for the interest of the entire society. Since the current king was not interested in the entire society but only interested in enforcing his and his Parliament’s dominion, that is just cause for the subjugated people to secede from British despotism. The key principle is reciprocity which is needed to maintain society, “allegiance and protection are, in the nature of things, reciprocal ties; each equally depending upon the other, and liable to be dissolved by the others being refused or withdrawn.”  A constitution was necessary to organize and unite the people of the newly freed state for their common defense against an enemy which seeks to subjugate them.

Structure of Government

Bilateral with a bicameral legislature and a governor. The Legislature consisted of the general assembly and legislative Council. The general assembly was made up of 3 members per county, annually elected, and must be free, resident of their county, own property in the county, and be valued at 500 pounds. Electors will be men and women who are, 21 years old, valued at 50 pounds, property owner, and resident of the county they vote in. The power of the general assembly consisted of electing a speaker, appointing necessary officers, and proposing bills and starting money bills that cannot be rejected or altered by the legislative Council. The Legislative Council consisted of one member from each county, annually elected by the same voters as the general assembly. Legislative councilors required that they be free, a resident of the county, worth 1,000 pounds, and own property in the county. The legislative Council's power included proposing bills and electing a vice president. Joint legislative power includes passing laws with a majority of each house, can change the number of assembly members but no less than 39, appointing generals and other high-ranking officers, and appointing the state treasurer annually.

Executive power was held by the governor, who was annually elected by both houses, and the requirements to become governor were the same as the legislative Council. There is no second in command, and any vacancy resulted in a special election. The governor's power included convening the Legislature, being president of the Legislative Council and could cast votes in the legislative Council, being the commander in chief of the state militia, and counseled by three or more councilors. No executive council is mentioned.

Judicial power was put into two high courts, the high court of appeals, which was made up of the governor and seven legislative councilors where pardons were granted, and a Supreme Court which was in charge of all other lower courts and had terms of seven years while lower court justices had terms of five years, all appointed by the governor and approved by the general assembly.

Notable mentions include oaths, no established religion, no holding multiple offices, sheriffs and coroners were annually elected by the counties with three consecutive terms allowed. Slavery is not mentioned. An amending process is not mentioned.

Bill of Rights

A Bill of Rights is not included, but some rights are added throughout the constitution; The rights to address witnesses and to legal counsel; the property of the deceased goes to heirs, not the State; freedom of religion, freedom from religion, no religious taxes, no public funds to build or repair churches, or for ministry; no religious tests; restrictions on corruption, no person in any public office can be seated in the assembly; rights of trial by jury which will not be repealed ever.


Delaware’s preamble just says that the freemen of the state chose the delegates for the purpose of establishing a system of government. No preamble for their declaration of rights.

Structure of Government

Trilateral but with lots of overlapping offices between branches despite declaring a separation of powers. The legislative branch is called the general assembly, bicameral with a House Assembly and a legislative council. The House Assembly consisted of seven annually elected members from each county; the electors and requirements for this house included freeholders, property owners who had no debt on the property they owned. The power of this house includes electing a speaker, and necessary officers, setting procedures, filling vacancies, and impeaching members; all money bills start here, will act as vice president, adjourn themselves, elect 24 justices of the peace for each county serving for seven years, impeaches the president once out of office, appoints the attorney general. The Legislative Council consisted of nine triennially elected members, three from each county, with a rotation of three every year. The electors and requirements for councilors included being freeholders and above the age of 25. The power of the legislative Council included electing a speaker and necessary officers, setting procedures, filling vacancies and impeaching members, can amend or reject money bills, acting as vice president, and adjourning themselves. Joint power included overturning county court decisions, appointing generals and other high ranking officers

Executive power resides in the president, no second in command is mentioned, but there is an executive council, not to be confused with the legislative Council. The term for president is three years, and the electors will be both houses of the general assembly. The president's power included requesting funds, laying temporary embargoes, granting pardons to convicts, not from the general assembly, can call privy council meetings, will act as commander in chief with the privy council, convening the general assembly, with the privy council appointing secretary. Other state officers with terms of 5 years appoint 12 justices of the peace for each county serving for seven years, appoint low ranking officers not appointed by the Legislature, fill vacancies. The executive Council or Privy Council was made up of four members with terms of four years with a rotation of two members every two years. Each house will elect two members, and the rotation will include one member who was elected by each house. The powers of the Executive Council included appointing sheriffs and coroners annually to each county.

Judicial power resides in courts, and the highest court of appeal was made up of seven members, including the president, three legislative councilors, and three house assembly members, with the state secretary as the clerk. County courts had three members plus a chief justice, elected by the president and general assembly. Terms for justices were lifelong on good behavior. The county courts could appoint their clerks and other necessary officers.

Notable mentions include oaths that required the recognition of Jesus and God, no establishment of religion, no holding multiple offices including religious ministers, no one can be armed near the elections, no one who entered the State after the constitution was ratified can be a slave, but those already born or brought before can remain a slave, there was an amending process.

Bill of Rights

Government of the people; freedom of and from religion; that all persons professing the Christian religion ought forever to enjoy equal rights and privileges in this state, unless, under color of religion, any man disturb the peace, the happiness or safety of society; equal treatment of citizens; right for the people to rebel or reform and start a new government; property owners have a right to vote and participate in the government; that no power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, ought to be exercised unless by the Legislature; that for redress of grievances, and for amending and strengthening of the laws, the Legislature ought to be frequently convened; that every man hath a right to petition the Legislature for the redress of grievances in a peaceable and orderly manner; that every member of society hath a right to be protected in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property, and therefore is bound to contribute his proportion towards the expense of that protection, and yield his personal service when necessary, or an equivalent thereto; but no part of a man’s property can be justly taken from him or applied to public uses without his own consent or that of his legal Representatives: Nor can any man that is conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms in any case be justly compelled thereto if he will pay such equivalent; that retrospective laws, punishing offenses committed before the existence of such laws, are oppressive and unjust, and ought not to be made; that every freeman for every injury done him in his goods, lands or person, by any other person, ought to have remedy by the course of the law of the land, and ought to have justice and right for the injury done to him freely without sale, fully without any denial, and speedily without delay, according to the law of the land; that trial by jury of facts where they arise is one of the greatest securities of the lives, liberties and estates of the people; that in all prosecutions for criminal offenses, every man hath a right to be informed of the accusation against him, to be allowed counsel, to be confronted with the accusers or witnesses, to examine evidence on oath in his favor, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury, without whose unanimous consent he ought not to be found guilty; that no man in the courts of Common Law ought to be compelled to give evidence against himself; that excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishments inflicted; that all warrants without oath to search suspected places, or to seize any person or his property, are grievous and oppressive; and all general warrants to search suspected, or to apprehend all persons suspected, without naming or describing the place or any person in special, are illegal and ought not to be granted; that a well regulated militia is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free government; that standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be raised or kept up without the consent of the Legislature; that in all cases and at all times the military ought to be under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power; that no soldier ought to be quartered in any house in time of peace without the consent of the owner; and in time of war in such manner only as the Legislature shall direct; that the independency and uprightness of judges are essential to the impartial administration of justice, and a great security to the rights and liberties of the people; that the liberty of the press ought to be inviolably preserved.


The preamble begins with the purpose of government being “instituted and supported for the security and protection of the community…enable the individuals… to enjoy their natural rights…” When the government fails at this trust then the people have a right with common consent to change it through any means necessary to promote their safety and happiness. This commonwealth pledged allegiance with the British monarch for its protection and since that monarch has withdrawn that protection to declare a tyrannical war of subjugation in favor of the despotic Parliament; the colony therefore dissolves its fealty and assumes back the legitimate authority once granted to the British government. All colonies, for their welfare and safety, ought to be free and independent states founded on proper forms of government derived from and founded on the authority of the people only. The representatives of Pennsylvania created this constitution by common consent, without violence, and with deliberateness to form a government for the happiness of the people, their posterity, and to provide the means for future improvements without partiality to a particular class, sect, or denomination.

Structure of Government

Bilateral government with a unicameral legislature and an executive with a council. The Legislature is called the Assembly of Representatives, which is made up of annually elected members, six per county, including Philadelphia; any more is based on population. Census every seven years. Term limits of four out of seven years. The electors will be those over the age of 21, tax paying and owning property, and their sons over the age of 21 but not owning property or paying taxes can still vote. Requirements include being a resident of the county they are elected in. The power of the assembly included choosing a speaker, treasurer, and other necessary offices, making rules of proceedings, making bills and laws, impeaching members, no double jeopardy for the exact cause in the same session, swearing oaths for witnesses, redress grievances, granting charters for towns, boroughs, cities, and counties, but no altering, adding, or infringing any part of this constitution.

Executive power resided in a president, vice president, and Council. The president and vice president have one-year terms, elected by the assembly and Council, and the electors made the requirements. The powers of the president included appointing judges, officers both military and civil, appointing a secretary, preparing for war, sitting as judges in the supreme court, granting pardons, calling funds and temporary embargoes, can call the assembly but not adjourn them, and will act as commander in chief of militia forces, but cannot command in person. The Executive Council consisted of 12 members, one for each county, with three years with a rotation of 1/3rd per year and a four-year gap between terms. Judicial power is not on the State but instead the county level where the assembly appoints justices with seven years.

Notable mentions include oaths that have to recognize God, no mention of establishing a religion, no holding multiple offices, all men were trained for military service, and the militiamen elect low ranking officers. The county voters elect sheriff's coroners. No mention of slavery. No mention of an amending process. Proceedings will be posted publicly weekly. All bills will be open to the public before voting to ratify the bill into law, except in times of emergency. Every office can be impeached during or after.

Bill of Rights

Equality of rights, life, liberty, property, pursuit of happiness; freedom of and from religion; citizens of the State have the right to regulate the state government; power comes from the people and therefore officers are trustees and servants; self interest of an individual or few is illegitimate governing; right to recall officers or representatives or re-election; free elections, property owners will have suffrage and the right to run for office; right to life, liberty, property, and has to contribute to the protection of those rights, but with their consent nor those who are morally against taking up arms should be forced to; right to counsel, cause, witnesses, evidence, speedy, public trials, by an impartial jury, unanimity, no self incrimination, nor deprived of their liberty except by law and peers; no illegal searches and seizures; cases of property, or between two people, should be trials by jury; free speech, press; right to bear arms, no standing armies and civilian controlled military; the people ought to voice their concerns all the time; right to emigrate; right of assembly, petition or advise their representatives a redress of grievances; trial by jury; excessive bail shall not be exacted for bailable offenses: And all fines shall be moderate; elections will be by ballot, accessible, and voluntary. No bribery of voters, and if any is caught, their vote will be forfeit, and anyone running for office trying to bribe a voter will be removed from the ballot; freedom of the press to print proceedings of the Legislature; everyone ought to have a job that can provide him necessary wages, and if the Government requires a person to serve to take him away from his profession, he shall be compensated, and any position with high salaries that encourages men to run for office just for those high salaries, the Legislature will decrease the salaries; punishments will be proportional to the crime; for minor crimes, the punishment should be manual labor, not imprisonment, as reparations to the public; no taxes will be imposed, unless approved by the Legislature and after it has been presented to the people; immigrants who swear an oath to the State shall be treated equally as any other citizen. They need to be a resident of the State for two years before being able to be elected to office; hunting during specific seasons will be a right for their own land and land not owned by a private citizen; schools will be established in each county; laws of virtue and morality will be enforced, and religious ministers will be protected and granted privileges; declaration of rights will be a part of this constitution and cannot be violated; Council of Censors, elected by each county, every seven years, to debate for no more than one year, on the effectiveness of the constitution to protect the rights of the people. Any proposals they make will be brought to the assembly to be passed into law.


Maryland’s Constitution
November 11, 1776


Maryland’s preamble only discusses its declaration of rights. Mentions the Declaratory Act by parliament which declared parliament's authority to raise taxes without colonial representation (virtual representation). Parliament used force of arms to subjugate the colonies to its will which went against the consent of the colonists. Therefore, Maryland seceded from the British society and established this constitution for its independence and secure thereof.

Structure of Government

Bilateral with a bicameral legislature and an executive with Council. The Legislature was called the general assembly and made up of a house of delegates and a senate. The house of delegates consisted of 4 members per county who were annually elected. The electors included men, 21 of age, owning property over 30 pounds, and a resident in the county they vote in. The requirements to become a delegate included being a man, 21 of age, owning 50 acres of land, and a resident in the county they run in. The power of the house of delegates included originating money bills, proposing bills to the Senate, amending senate bills, calling witnesses, hearing complaints, committing people to jail, impeaching members, and imposing taxes. The House of Delegates will appoint treasurers and commissioners. The Senate consisted of 15 members total, elected for five-year terms, and had the requirements of being over 25 years old and having a value of 1000 pounds. The electors will be elected by the same as the voters for the house of delegates for five-year terms with two per county, assessing candidates and choosing members for the Senate. The powers of the Senate included passing bills, rejecting money bills, filling their vacancies, and electing a president of the Senate. Both houses can fill the vacancy of the governor.

The executive powers resided in the governor and a council. The governorship had one-year terms with three consecutive terms being the limit and was elected by both houses. Requirements included being over 25 years old, a resident, and having a value of 5,000 pounds. The power of the governor consisted of appointing temporary officers, being commander in chief of the militia, granting pardons, laying embargoes for less than 30 days, and enforcing quarantine for vessels during plagues. Appoint one sheriff per county appoints the Chancellor, judges, and justices, the attorney general, military officers, surveyors. The Council was made up of 5 members, with terms of five years, elected by both houses, required candidates to be 25 years old and valued at 1,000 pounds. The Council's power included advising the governor and filling their own vacancies. Judicial power was put into county courts regulated by the general assembly. County justices appointed their own clerks, and the highest chancery court will have one Chancellor.

Notable mentions include oaths that required recognizing the Christian God and denouncing England. No mention of establishing a state religion. No multiple holding offices, including religious ministers. The sheriffs were elected by their counties—no mention of slavery. The amending process included getting a majority in the general assembly three months before the next election.

Bill of Rights

Power originates from the people for the public good; the people have a right to regulate the government and police; citizens have the rights to several common laws of England including trial by Jury, and other rights made by the assembly; accountability to public officers, the people may recall members, or reform the government, or abolish it completely, as the people have a right to resist; people have a right to participate in the government, elections will be free, frequent, and suffrage will be granted to all who own property; separation of powers between the three branches; no power to suspend laws; freedom of speech, in the legislature will be impeached; meeting place will be fixed, convenient, public; legislature should meet frequently to amend laws; right to petition in a peaceful manner; no taxes without consent of the legislature; no poll tax, taxes should be done proportionate to individual wealth; no cruel or unusual punishments; no retrospective laws; no laws to attain people of treason or felony should exist; every person should be compensated for injuries and a right to a speedy trial; trial with evidence; all criminals will be informed of their crime, allowed counsel, confront witnesses, include supportive witnesses, examine witnesses on oath, speedy trial by an impartial jury, with unanimous consent; no self incrimination; no imprisonment, or violations of his liberty, property, or exile or outlawed, or life without legal process; no excessive bail, no cruel or unusual punishments; no illegal searches or seizures; no property taken unless for the crimes of murder, treason and only after conviction; state militia; no standing armies without consent of the legislature; military ought to be under civil authority; no quartering of troops; no person, except active military officers, be punished under martial law; impeachments of partial judges, by the governor and general assembly, by 2/3rds vote, and salaries should be modest, and no judge should hold any other office; frequent rotation of executive members; no public officer should hold multiple offices; freedom of religion, no disturbance of the peace is justified by religion, freedom from religion, other than an equal tax for the Christian religion, where taxpayers decide which church their religious tax goes to. No taxes for the building and repairing of new churches; no religious tests except for the general oath of the Christian faith; some denominations can swear an oath they are accustomed to; freedom of the press; monopolies are outlawed; no titles of nobility; amendments to the constitution can be made.


No preamble for its Bill of Rights but one for its structure. “WHEREAS allegiance and protection are, in their nature, reciprocal, and the one should of right be refused when the other is withdrawn:” Since the late King declared war on these colonies, he is no longer our protector and since he is no longer our protector we no longer owe our allegiance. Now that the state is detached from British protection and society, the state needs to establish its own society by the creation of a government authorized by the people for their happiness and prosperity.

Structure of Government

Bilateral, consisting of a bicameral legislature and a governor with an executive council. The Legislature consisted of a general assembly and a senate. The general assembly consisted of two annually elected representatives from each county. The electors were citizens over the age of 21, residents of the county, and a taxpayer. The requirements for candidates included being a resident of the county and owning 100 acres of land. The powers of the general assembly included electing their speaker, appointing necessary officers, passing bills, and filling their vacancies. The Senate was made up of annually elected members, one per county. The electors for senators were residents over the age of 21 and owned 50 acres of land. The senatorial requirements included being a resident and owning 300 acres of land in the State. The powers of the Senate included electing their own speaker and other necessary officers, passing bills, and filling their own vacancies. Joint responsibilities include reading bills three times and signing by speakers, elect judges, military leaders, annually elect treasurer, impeach all officers, appoint secretary for three-year terms, and purchasing native land.

The executive powers of the State reside in a governor, a lieutenant governor, and a governor's Council. The president of the Senate was the lieutenant governor. The governorship had one-year terms and was allowed fewer than three terms in six years. The governor was elected by the general assembly and had to have been 30 years old, a resident of the State, and valued at 1,000 pounds. The powers of the governorship included being commander in chief, calling funds supported by the general assembly, lay embargoes for 30 days, grant pardons for crimes not convicted by the general assembly, and enforce executive authority restricted by the constitution, fill vacancies. The governor's Council was made up of seven members, annually elected by the general assembly, which had the power to advise the governor. Judicial powers are not mentioned.

Notable mentions include oaths that required religious recognition, no establishment of religion or religious taxes. No multiple holding offices, including religious ministers. No mention of slavery or an amending process. Anyone who received money from the State had to pay it back in full before running for office.

Bill of Rights

All political power is vested in and derived from the people only; the people have the right to regulate the Government; equal rights; the three branches ought to be separate; any government force not sanctioned by the representatives of the people is illegitimate; that elections of members, to serve as Representatives in General Assembly, ought to be free; right to trials of evidence, witnesses and no self incrimination; people cannot be charged unless indictment or impeached; trial by jury vote unanimous; no excessive fines nor cruel or unusual punishments; no illegal searches and seizures; no arrests unless warranted by law; compensation for unlawful treatment; trial by jury; free press; no taxation without representation; right to bear arms for the State, no standing armies; right to assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances; freedom of religion; frequent elections, redress of grievances and amending the political system; preserve liberty; no titles of nobility; no monopolies; no retrospective laws and punishments; right to property and that this Declaration of Rights shall not prejudice any nation or nations of Indians, from enjoying such hunting-grounds.

North Carolina

Georgia's Constitution
February 5, 1777


Georgia does not have a Bill of Rights but they do have a preamble to their structure. This preamble mentions the Declaratory Act which declared Parliament’s authority to raise taxes and pass other laws on the colonies without the consent (direct representation) of the governed. Due to this violation of social trust, Americans must oppose oppression to assert their natural and reasonable rights and privileges. The Continental Congress, being made of representatives of the people of the states, asked each state, “...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;” That Georgia along with her sister states are independent from British authority. The preamble ends with, “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 State:”

Structure of Government

Trilateral, consisting of a unicameral legislature, an executive with a cabinet, and a supreme court. The Legislature is called the House of Assembly, which comprises eight annually elected members per county. The electors were explicitly white, male, 21, resident, taxpayer, and valued at 10 pounds. Requirements included being a resident, being protestant, 21, and owning 250 acres of land valued at over 250 pounds. The assembly's powers include electing the governor, passing laws, filling vacancies, electing a speaker, and establishing superior courts in each county.

Executive power resides in a governor and a cabinet. The lieutenant governor was also the president of the Council. Governors are elected annually by the assembly. Governor's power includes enforcing executive authority, granting pardons, convening house vacancies and commissions coming from the governor, can sit with the Council unless the Council is discussing house bills, and being the commander in chief. The cabinet was made up of two members from each county, elected by the housing assembly. The power of the assembly included advising bills before they were passed and electing a councilor president from their members. Judicial power resides in a supreme court consisting of a chief justice and three judges from each county.

Notable mentions include no Bill of Rights, oaths of office, no establishing a state religion, no holding multiple offices, including religious ministers. Slavery is not mentioned. There is an amending process where the majority of the counties need to approve—no titles of nobility. Mandatory voting with a fine for those who don’t vote. Trials have to be held near the crime, trial by jury, schools funded in each county: freedom of religion, no excessive trial fines, maintaining habeas corpus, and freedom of the press.

Bill of Rights

No Bill of Rights

New York

The tyranny of the British King and Parliament against the rights and liberties of the people necessitates independence and self-governance. The inconveniences of this conflict has led to the creation of an emergency government. New York’s preamble includes verbatim resolutions passed by the Second Continental Congress following the Proclamation of War by the King, along with the Declaration of Independence. The separation and reclamation of rights from Britain has stored to the people their natural rights which they now relinquish through their suffrage to institute and establish a government made to secure their rights and liberties most conducive of the happiness and safety of them and of America in general.

Structure of Government

Trilateral with a bicameral legislature, a governor with a council, and a supreme court. The Legislature is made up of an assembly and a senate. The assembly was made up of 70 members with different representatives per county depending on population; the census was taken every seven years. The terms were seven years; the electors were the male residents who owned 20 pounds worth of land. The requirements included being a freeholder and being valued at 1,000 pounds. The powers of the assembly included electing a speaker, passing bills, and starting money bills. The senate proportions were based on districts, of which there were four, and three had six senators while the southern, NYC, district had 9. The senatorial term was four years, with at least one senator from each district up for election every year. The joint power of the Legislature included electing a treasurer originating in the assembly, appointing sheriffs annually with no more than four consecutive terms, and holding a monopoly with buying native land.

The executive power of the State resided in a governor, a lieutenant governor, and a council. The lieutenant governor was also the president of the Senate. Gubernatorial terms were three years. The electors were the same as for the assembly, and requirements were not mentioned. Powers of the governor included being the commander in chief, granting particular pardons, calling the Legislature temporarily, giving State of the state addresses, and appointing military officers. The Council included the governor, the Chancellor, and the supreme court. The power of the Council was to assess and approve laws passed by the Legislature.

The judicial power was divided between the Chancellor and the supreme court. The Chancellor was the chief justice of the chancery courts, while the supreme court was the highest court of appeals. Courts appointed their clerks and other necessary officers of the court. The impeachment court was made up of the president of the Senate, senators, Chancellor, and supreme court justices.

Notable mentions include oaths that needed to be taken by politicians and voters, no establishment of religion, no holding multiple offices including religious ministers, no mention of slavery, no mention of an amending process. A bill of rights was not included, but some rights were put in the constitution on various points, including protecting property and rights, proceedings open to the public, freedom of religion for Christian denominations, a well-regulated militia made by every man except Quakers, trial by jury.

Bill of Rights

No Bill of Rights


The first constitution established in March of 1776 as a temporary government waiting for the resolution to the conflict between the colonies and Great Britain became obsolete with the Declaration of War by the King and with the Declaration of Independence by the Congress; therefore a new constitution is needed. The freemen of this state have agreed to this new constitution.

Structure of Government

Bilateral with a bicameral legislature and a divided executive. The Legislature was made up of a house of representatives and a senate. House proportions were based on the taxpaying population, with a census occurring every 14 years. Terms for house seats were two years and were elected by explicitly white men, protestant, 21 years old, resident of the county, owned 50 acres and was a taxpayer. Requirements to be a house member included being protestant, resident of the county, clear of debt, and owning land valued at 3,500 pounds. The house's power included passing bills, starting money bills that cannot be altered by the Senate, electing a speaker, filling vacancies, and impeaching other officers. The Senate included one from each parish and district and was elected annually. Electors were the same as a house, but the requirements included being protestant, 30 years old, resident of the parish or district, clear of debt, and owning 2,000 pounds of land value. The power of the Senate included passing bills, electing a president of the Senate, filling vacancies, and trying impeachment cases. The joint powers included electing justices of the peace for each county, and all other judge positions, sheriffs and other lower executive officers, and high military officers are elected by the Legislature for two-year terms, declare war, or make peace.

Executive power resided in a governor, lieutenant governor, and a privy council. Gubernatorial terms were two years, and no consecutive terms were allowed. Electors were the Legislature. Requirements were being protestant, resident of the State, clear of debt, valued at 10,000 pounds. Powers of the executive included being commander in chief, appointing lower-ranked military officers, and laying temporary embargoes. The privy council was made up of the lieutenant governor and eight other members chosen by the Legislature with a rotation of half the Council up for election every year. The only explicit requirement for the Council was that members had to be Protestant. The power of the Council included choosing a lieutenant governor if a vacancy occurred and that the Council was the chancery court. Judicial power was regulated by the legislative branch on the county level.

Notable mentions include oaths that denounced England, an establishment of the protestant religion, no multiple holding offices including religious ministers, no mention of slavery, and no mention of an amending process. There was no bill of rights, but some rights were added throughout the constitution, including the right of Christians to worship, punishment should be proportional to the crime, free press, no illegal seizures or imprisonments, and reparations had to be given when violations occurred.

Bill of Rights

No Bill of Rights

South Carolina

The preamble asserts, 


The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government is to secure the existence of the body-politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquility, their natural rights and the blessings of life; and whenever these great objects are not obtained the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity, and happiness.

The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals; it is a social compact by which the whole people covenants with each citizen and each citizen with the whole people that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good. It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a constitution of government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them.

We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence, or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other, and of forming a new constitution of civil government for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, do agree upon, ordain, and establish the following declaration of rights and frame of government as the constitution of the commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Structure of Government

Trilateral with a bicameral legislature, bicameral executive, and a supreme court. The Legislature, called the general court, consisted of a House of Representatives and a Senate. House proportions were based on population, and each town was allowed at least one representative. House members were annually elected. Electors were men, 21 years old, had a salary of 3 pounds, and were residents of the town. The power of the house consisted of impeaching, starting money bills, and passing bills. The Senate consisted of members from districts based on tax revenue with no more than 6 per district. Senators were annually elected by freeholders above the age of 21, valued at 60 pounds, and a resident. Requirements to be a senator included being a freeholder, a resident of the district, and valued at 600 pounds. The powers of the Senate included filling the vacancy of the lieutenant governor, electing their own president, impeachments, and passing bills. Joint powers include overturning vetoes, interpreting laws, electing the secretary and treasurer of the State.

Executive power resides in the governor, lieutenant governor, and Council. The lieutenant governor was elected by the people, the same as the house. Freeholders annually elected the governorship, residents of seven years, and 1,000 pounds in land value. The governor's power included veto power, hearing appeals, calling council meetings, with Council can dissolve the general court temporarily, commander in chief, grant pardons, appoint high ranking officers, with Council, take funds for defense. The Council consisted of nine members annually elected by the Legislature and chosen by the legislative body. Their power included advising the enforcing executive authority.

Judicial power in a supreme court whose justices had lifelong appointments by the governor and Council on good behavior, the power of the supreme court was to hear appeals and advise the other branches.

Notable mentions include oaths that recognize religion and denounce England. No establishment of religion, no multiple holding offices, including religious ministers. Low-ranking military officers are elected by their troops—no mention of slavery. There is an amending process—the protection of habeas corpus and the establishment of a university.

Bill of Rights

All men are born free and equal, have the right to self-defense, and to the right to property; religious freedom to worship the creator of the Universe provided it does not disturb the peace; the people can invest in their Legislator to institute specific communities to provide a place of worship. The Legislature may legislate that there must be a teacher in said parish or communities that must attend. The money provided may go to the teacher and support him and his parish denomination alone. All denominations of Christians have equal rights under the law so be that they are peaceful; outside of what the American congress decides, the people of this State have a right to self-determination delegated through the State; the offices of this Government are subject to the will of the people; no man shall possess a title that gives him an advantage or a title that he may pass on to his children; the Government exists to serve the happiness of the people, and they may amend and reform it as they see fit; to protect against tyranny the seats of the Government will be subject to election via the people; all elections should be free, and everyone may vote or run for office on equal grounds; everyone has the right to liberty and happiness, and their property can not be confiscated from them by the State, unless the people or publicly declare it so. In this case, the property taken for public use requires compensation towards the individual for his property confiscation; everyone has protection under the laws equally and may seek compensation via them, and this should not be barred via payments or taxes; everyone has a right to trial by the court, to be read their charges, and have access to legal defense. No citizen can be punished by the legislation without trial save for those in the army and navy; in criminal prosecution obtaining facts are vital to the protection of the citizen; every citizen is protected from starches of his property and person unless it is ordained by court or law that a warrant should be granted to the authorities to do so; property disputes will be settled in court via jury, save for maritime disputes, unless altered by Legislature; freedom of the press shall not be impeached; the people have a right to bear arms in peacetime that shall not be infringed, but all military authority be subject to civil authority; the people have a right to observe their Legislator and to instruct them on what they require of them in the Government; the people have a right to assembly and to address their representatives; the power of suspending the laws is to be exercised only by the Legislator or via it's permission; debate used in the Legislator may not be brought against an individual in prosecution in court; the Legislature ought to assemble frequently to address matters of law; no tax or tariff can be leveled against the people without their consent or that of the Legislator; laws may not punish actions committed before that law's creation; the Legislator can not declare someone guilty; no magistrate or court of law can demand cruel and excessive punishments; in peace no soldier can be quartered in any one's home without their consent, and in times of war this action requires legislation; martial law may not be app[lied to those not in the armed forces, and the Militia shall be disciplined by the Legislature; everyone has the right to trial by a fair and unbiased court; the branches of executive, legislative, and Judicial shall never exercise the others power.

New Hampshire

The preamble only states, “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.”

Structure of Government

Trilateral with a bicameral legislature, a two-sectioned executive, and a supreme court. The Legislature is made up of a general court and a senate. The general court is proportionate to the population of men who are 21 years old in each town. The terms are annual, and representatives are elected by men, 21 years old, pay a poll tax, and are residents of the town. The general court's power included impeachment, and money bills can be amended by the Senate, propose laws, elect speakers and state secretaries, and appoint necessary officers. The Senate is based on counties that contributed 12 senators, and the rest were from districts based on tax revenue. Senators held annual positions and were elected by the same electors as the general court. Both requirements were that candidates had to be protestants, free of debt, 30 years old, resident for several years prior, and be valued at 200 pounds. The power of the Senate included appointing officers, determining proceedings, trying impeachments. The senior senator was the president pro tempore. Jointly, the Legislature established lower courts, passed laws, elected military and civil officers, made necessary arrangements for the defense of the State, and took a census every five years.

Executive power was placed into a president and cabinet. The president served annual terms and was elected by the voting population. Requirements to become a president included being 30 years old, resident of the State for several years prior, protesting, and valuing 500 pounds. The power of the president included breaking ties in the Senate, temporarily adjourning the general court, commander in chief, granting pardons, all officers not in the general court will be appointed by the president, and can use state funds for defense with permission from the general court. The cabinet was made up of two senators and three representatives annually by the two houses, respectively.

Judicial power was established in a supreme court and lower courts. All justices were elected by the general court and held life-long terms on good behavior. The courts had the power to appoint clerks and other necessary officers.

Notable mentions include oaths, no establishment of religion, no holding multiple offices including religious ministers, no mention of slavery and amending process, encouraged education, and protected habeas corpus.

Bill of Rights

Consent of the governed; all men have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; when men enter into a state of society, they surrender up some of their natural rights to that society in order to ensure the protection of others; and, without such an equivalent, the surrender is void; of this kind are the rights of conscience; freedom of religion; right to establish churches and other religious institutions. No taxes will be imposed for religious establishments No state religion; the people rule the Government; no titles of nobility; Government of the public good and the right to resist tyranny; free elections, terms and conditions may apply; because everyone has a right to life, liberty, and property, therefore they must contribute to protect those rights, but no property will be taken for public use without their consent; no one will be forced to bear arms but they must pay to support the arms of the State; compensation for wrongdoing; right to criminal information, no self incrimination, meet witnesses, provide evidence, question witnesses, fully heard in their defense, receive Council, and no arrests, seizing of property, are taking of liberties and life unless done so via due process; no double jeopardy, and no capital punishment unless under military courts; trials will be held where the crimes are committed; fair punishments, punishments should reform not exterminate; no illegal searches and seizures; trial by jury; appropriate jury; freedom of the press; no retrospective laws; a well regulated militia is the proper, natural, and sure defense of a state; no standing armies; civilian controlled military; no quartering of troops in private homes; no taxation without representation; no suspending laws; freedom of speech in the Legislature; right to protest and petition the Government; no excessive fines nor cruel or unusual punishments; no martial law except in the military; just justices; three branches of Government that are separate; government proceedings ought to be recorded.

In Summation

Six of eleven states had a clear and separated trilateral structure and the rest had bilateral governments with their legislative or executive branches with judicial functions. Nine of eleven states had a bicameral legislature, and the rest had a unicameral legislature. Only two states had something like a unitary executive: New Jersey and New York. For New Jersey, there was no executive council and so there was only a president; for New York the Executive Council included the president, Chancellor, and supreme court where the president ran the Council. The rest of the states had a bicameral executive where the president or governor was separated from the Council. For nine of the eleven states, the chief executive was elected by the Legislature and not directly by the people. Only four states had a separate judicial branch on the state level. Most had county courts as the highest court of appeals, while a council made up of legislative and executive officers made up for other types of courts. 

The most common type of suffrage included property or wealth requirements, all above the age of 21, and had to be a resident of a county in the State for a certain number of years. Some states explicitly required voters to be white and male; some states required voters to be Protestant. Georgia was the only State to have mandatory voting. South Carolina was the only one to establish a state religion, the Protestant religion, while some states had oaths of offices that included the recognition of God. Only one State, Delaware, explicitly mentions slavery when it restricts the importation of slaves. Most had an amending process. Some states had representatives based on both population and equal representation of the counties. Some states did not include a bill of rights but did incorporate individual rights which significantly varied between them. 

There seems to be nothing novel about the U.S. Constitution, given that there is nothing unique about it relative to the sum of the state constitutions. All political concepts of statecraft present in the federal Constitution can be found in the states prior to 1787. This defends the reasoning for writing this paper; that properly understanding the Constitution requires studying the state constitutions since many of those who wrote and ratified the Constitution participated in their respective state constitutional conventions. More can and should be added to this study including the state ratifying conventions for the Constitution, the Philadelphia convention itself, and how several of the states would rewrite their state constitutions following the ratification of the federal constitution.

Civil Polity Axioms

Based on the principles and structures of these constitutions and the Constitution we can extrapolate a probity for a civil polity. This probity should be understood and used by those who wish to study statecraft; they are as follows:


Consent of the Governed

Consent of the governed is the princeps of principles; the first among equals of this probity. It is the start of the social contract necessary for a society, especially a civil society, to form & continue existing. The consent of the governed can only be properly given & transpires through suffrage since voting is the only existing institution that gathers consent. This means that the only way the government can be legitimate is if the people elect the highest government offices. This is the idea of direct representation and anything that is not direct is virtual and therefore illegitimate; the further separated an officer is from the people the more despotic they are even when they act accordingly. The highest authorities in government ought to be elected while their subordinate offices do not since those subordinates only hold delegated powers from their superiors who are elected. Without this proper consent, the government is despotic since it is acting arbitrarily and the people are placed into a state of nature. The only civil means of escaping that state of nature is the creation of a new government or at least an amended one created by the people as a whole, one that is more civil than its despotic predecessor. Every segment and branch of the government ought to directly represent the people and having different constituencies an individual is apart of makes the government as a whole more representative of the people. There is no one way to perfectly represent the people and so having multiple separate but complementary ways or constituencies is how someone can be more properly represented. For example, right now Americans are in two Federal constituencies, Congressional Districts which elect Representatives in the House, and States which elect Senators. If someone is in the minority in their Congressional District they have a second opportunity to be in the majority in the State and vice versa. The more constituencies an individual is a part of the more opportunities they have at being represented in the government. These two constituencies are concentrated in the legislature, however, we should add two more constituencies one for the executive and the other for the judiciary. For the judiciary, the constituency territory should be based on the federal circuit courts where the people within the circuit elect a justice to the supreme court. For the executive the constituency is the whole nation and so the president should be elected by the people. This would give individuals four separate but complementary opportunities to be directly represented by the federal government and would in turn make the federal government more representative of the people.


Separation of Powers

As a safeguard from arbitrary & despotic governments, the powers relinquished from & by the people and granted to the government in trust, must be separated into unique parts. The reason being that when an individual has all of their rights, especially those which they ought not have, then they are in the state of Nature so when an individual has all of their natural rights, say in government, then they are in a state of nature with the people. This separation should include at least three parts for more stability and they include a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary. One legislates the law, the other executes the law, and the third judicates the law. A separation of powers includes the nonintervention of one power over the other when it comes to the appointment of officers. For example, the executive should not be able to bar new appointments to the legislature and likewise the legislature ought not to prevent the proper election of the executive. This separation of powers, if consistently applied in our government structure would also be applied to the judiciary, however, at the moment it is not since both the executive & the legislature have an active role in the appointments of justices. This separation of powers can also be applied within each branch; an example would be the current legislature which is bicameral and consists of two separated but complementary houses. Since the law and the constitution are different institutions, where the law is under the jurisdiction of the government, that means that no single branch should dictate what the constitution is. Rather, all three branches have the right to interpret the constitution as they see fit checking and balancing the interpretation of the others. This is called departmentalism, where each branch can interpret and act upon those interpretations as opposed to just the Judiciary having the final say in what the constitution means.


Checks and Balances

Once the powers are separated, they should check & balance each other. A check is a negative by one branch on the power of another. An example would be the executive veto. Similarly the legislature can block any proposed bills from the executive. The judiciary, just like with the separation of powers, was not fully developed in the Constitution but if the principle of checks and balances is to be consistent then it too would have a check or negative on the other two branches. De facto, the judiciary has judicial review where it can interpret a statute passed by the legislature or enforced by the executive as constitutional and therefore null in void. This judicial review power should be enumerated in the constitution. Although the executive can veto a bill passed through the legislature, the legislature can override the veto which means that the branches are not co equal but instead coordinate under the legislature. Another argument for this legislative supremacy is the fact that the legislature can impeach and remove either executive or judicial officers while neither the executive nor judiciary can impeach or remove any legislature. Just as the legislature can override an executive negative on its power so too should the legislature be able to override a judicial negative on its power. This means that any judicial review that decides a statute unconstitutional and therefore nullified, the legislature should be able to override that judicial review in a process similar to overriding a veto, perhaps it should be called legislative or constitutional review. 


Due Process

Due process, although similar to checks and balances, is when all three branches of the government concur with enacting a policy. Each branch has its own respective and separate mode of operations but a branch acting on its own accord does not have the full authority of the law. Only all three branches in concord can claim to legitimately exercise the law under a constitution. The proper officers of each branch need to communicate in order to cooperate; this communication is determined by the officers of each branch. This due process is important to civility because it limits despotism, remember despotism is arbitrary governance, and so in order for governance to be legitimate, at least not as much despotic, there needs to be a due process which limits the actions of officers.


Enumerated Powers

The power of the government is limited to what the people relinquish from themselves and grant to the government. This can only be known if said powers were enumerated or in other words written down. The reason for enumeration is to prevent arbitrary governance which is the definition of despotism, and despotism is something civil society ought to prevent. After all the root of the term legitimate is legi which means to read and the only way to read is to have something written down. Therefore the only legitimate power is power written down while anything not written down is less legitimate; if there is a power that the people consent to then it is best for that power to be enumerated to make it less arbitrary. This is the basis of American Constitutionalism since before the US constitutions were abstract concepts consisting mostly of statutes. American Constitutionalism separates the Constitution from the Law since the constitution is held to a higher standard than some random statute passed by the legislature. The constitution is not established by the government but by the people, while the law is established by the government. 



Federalism is a specific type of separation of powers where the powers are not separated between branches within the same level but instead between different levels of government. This does a number of things. First, it establishes specialization as a local government is best suited to deal with local issues than larger levels of government; however, federalism allows for higher levels of government to intervene when the lower levels fail to fulfill their responsibilities. If a local government fails to protect the people then the state government has the power and ought to step in and make the necessary changes to better secure the people. Likewise, if the state government fails to protect the people then the federal government can intervene and the reason for this is because no government at any level has the right nor were instituted to fail. Second, federalism creates multiple constituencies that an individual can be apart of and be represented by. If a minority in a locality is not properly represented by their local government then they can appeal to their state government but only if each constituency directly represents the people. If the federal government is instituted by states and the states subjugate the people how can the federal government look after the interests of the people? In that situation it wouldn’t because it is not representing the people but instead the states. So each level and also each branch of the government needs to directly represent the people; this is the concept of direct representation mentioned earlier. The people would therefore elect their local, state, and federal officers themselves and no level would have the right to create another level; only the people should create and give power to different levels of government as they see fit necessary to their happiness. A state cannot declare its own authority, only the people in the state can relinquish their power and grant it to the state; the same applies to all levels of government and each branch in each level. 


Bill of Rights

Similarly to the concept of enumeration which properly lists government authority and which rights or powers the people relinquish & grant to the government; there are many rights that the people do not relinquish and therefore do not grant to the government. These retained rights are civil rights, the rights the people have in a civil society. These also need to be enumerated especially when conflict arises regarding which rights should be kept by the people. The rights of the people are not limited to the Bill of Rights but are best known and defended when they are enumerated. If there is a right held in common and questioned threatened by the government, then it is safe to enumerate it into the supreme charter of the polity. The Bill of Rights lays forth the civil rights which are the rights retained by the people and no segment of government can violate these rights. Civil Rights can be categorized into two parts: legal rights - what is enumerated and social rights - what is unenumerated but are socially accepted as a right which may in due time become enumerated following an amendment.



No enumerated rights, structures, powers, or procedures, is perfect and so in order for the perpetual development of a more perfect society future generations need to be able to amend what is enumerated or add to it. This amending process cannot be impossible nor compromise stability lest the entire political system loses its trust and therefore consent of its constituents endangering everyone in a state of nature. The living and those who will live ought to be free from the tyrannies of the past and owe no allegiance to antiquity. There is the concern that making the amending process easy will jeopardize the rights already enumerated, and so a solution would be to have the amending process be easy when only adding to the constitution and keep the amending process hard when trying to change or repeal anything already in it.

Civil Polity Axioms
Works Cited

Works Cited

  1. US Constitution 1787

  2. Virginia Constitution (1776)

    1. Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776)

  3. New Jersey Constitution (1776)

  4. Delaware Constitution (1776)

    1. Delaware declaration of rights (1776)

  5. Pennsylvania Constitution (1776)

  6. Maryland Constitution (1776)

  7. North Carolina Constitution (1776)

  8. Georgia’s Constitution (1777)

  9. New York Constitution (1777)

  10. South Carolina Constitution (1778)

  11. Massachusetts Constitution (1780)

  12. New Hampshire Constitution (1784)

bottom of page