January 5, 1776
IN CONGRESS AT EXETER, January 5, 1776.
VOTED, That this Congress take up CIVIL GOVERNMENT for this colony in
manner and form following, viz.
WE, the members of the Congress of New Hampshire, chosen and appointed
by the free suffrages of the people of said colony, and authorized and
empowered by them to meet together, and use such means and pursue such
measures as we should judge best for the public good; and in particular
to establish some form of government, provided that measure should be recommended
by the Continental Congress: And a recommendation to that purpose having
been transmitted to us from the said Congress: Have
taken into our serious consideration the unhappy circumstances, into which
this colony is involved by means of many grievous and oppressive acts of
the British Parliament, depriving us of our natural and constitutional
rights and privileges; to enforce obedience to which acts a powerful fleet
and army have been sent to this country by the ministry of Great Britain,
who have exercised a wanton and cruel abuse of their power, in destroying
the lives and properties of the colonists in many places with fire and
sword, taking the ships and lading from many of the honest and industrious
inhabitants of this colony employed in commerce, agreeable to the laws
and customs a long time used here.
The sudden and abrupt departure of his Excellency John Wentworth, Esq.,
our late Governor, and several of the Council, leaving us destitute of
legislation, and no executive courts being open to punish criminal offenders;
whereby the lives and properties of the honest people of this colony are
liable to the machinations and evil designs of wicked men, Therefore,
for the preservation of peace and good order, and for the security of the
lives and properties of the inhabitants of this colony, we conceive ourselves
reduced to the necessity of establishing A FORM OF GOVERNMENT to continue
during the present unhappy and unnatural contest with Great Britain; PROTESTING
and DECLARING that we neaver sought to throw off our dependence upon Great
Britain, but felt ourselves happy under her protection, while we could
enjoy our constitutional rights and privileges. And that we shall rejoice
if such a reconciliation between us and our parent State can be effected
as shall be approved by the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, in whose prudence and
wisdom we confide.
Accordingly pursuant to the trust reposed in us, WE DO Resolve, that
this Congress assume the name, power and authority of a house of Representatives
or Assembly for the Colony of New-Hampshire And that said House
then proceed to choose twelve persons, being. reputable freeholders and
inhabitants within this colony, in the following manner, viz. five in the
county of Rockingham, two in the county of Stratford, two in the county
of Hillsborough, two in the county of Cheshire, and one in the county of
Grafton, to be a distinct and separate branch of the Legislature by the
name of a COUNCIL for this colony, to continue as such until the third
Wednesday in December next; any seven of whom to be a quorum to do business.
That such Council appoint their President, and in his absence that the
senior counsellor preside; that a Secretary be appointed by both branches,
who may be a counssellor, or otherwise, as they shall choose:
That no act or resolve shall be valid and put into execution unless
agreed to, and passed by both branches of the legislature
That all public officers for the said colony, and each county, for the
current year, be appointed by the Council and Assembly, except the several
clerks of the Executive Courts, who shall be appointed by the Justices
of the respective Courts.
That all bills, resolves, or votes for raising, levying and collecting
money originate in the house of Representatives.
That at any session of the Council and Assembly neither branch shall
adjourn from any longer time than from Saturday till the next Monday without
consent of the other.
And it is further resolved, That if the present unhappy dispute
with Great Britain should continue longer than this present year, and the
Continental Congress give no instruction or direction to the contrary,
the Council be chosen by the people of each respective county in such manner
as the Council and house of Representatives shall order.
That general and field officers of the militia, on any vacancy, be appointed
by the two houses, and all inferior officers be chosen by the respective
That all officers of the Army be appointed by the two houses, except
they should direct otherwise in case of any emergency.
That all civil officers for the colony and for each county be appointed,
and the time of their continuance in office be determined by the two houses,
except clerks of Courts, and county treasurers, and recorders of deeds.
That a treasurer, and a recorder of deeds for each county be annually
chosen by the people of each county respectively; the votes for such officers
to be returned to the respective courts of General Sessions of the Peace
in the county, there to be ascertained as the Council and Assembly shall
That precepts in the name of the Council and Assembly, signed by the
President of the Council, and Speaker of the house of Representatives,
shall issue annually at or before the first day of November, for the choice
of a Council and house of Representatives to be returned by the third Wednesday
in December then next ensuing, in such manner as the Council and Assembly
shall hereafter prescribe.
Verified by "Acts and Laws of the State of New Hampshire
in America, by order of The General Assembly. To which is prefixed, The
Resolution of the American Congress for Establishing a Form of Government
in New Hampshire and the Resolve of the Provincial Congress, for taking
up Government in Form. With the Declaration of Independence. America: Printed
at Exeter in the State of New Hampshire, MDCCLXXX." pp. 2-4.
This constitution was framed by a convention, or "congress,"
which assembled at Exeter, December 21, 1775, (in accordance with a recommendation
from the Continental Congress,) and completed its labors January 5, 1776.
The constitution was not submitted to the people. This was the first constitution
framed by an American Commonwealth.
Source: The Federal and State Constitutions Colonial Charters, and
Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore
Forming the United States of America
Compiled and Edited Under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906 by Francis
Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1909.
©1999 National Humanities Institute