West Florida Constitution of 1810

West Florida Constitution of 1810


or form of Government of the State of Florida,
framed by a Convention of the Representatives of the People,
at a Session begun on the twenty-fourth day of October
in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ten,
& continued by adjournments until the twenty seventh of the same month,
at the town of Baton Rouge.

The good people of this State having a right to institute for themselves such form of government as may best conduce to their safety, prosperity, and happiness, we, their Delegates in convention assembled according to the spirit of our declaration of independence dated the twenty sixth of September of the present year, and to fulfill the obligations which we owe to our Constituents and our Country, have in order to cement union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, adopted the following Constitution.

Article 1

Section 1.  All legislative power herein granted shall be vested in a General Assembly of this State, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Sect. 2.  The House of Representatives shall consist of members chosen on the first Monday of August of each year, and for the term of one year by the free white men of the age of twenty one years and upwards, inhabitants of the five Districts of Baton Rouge, New Feliciana, St. Helena, St. Ferdinand, and Mobile, which now compose the Territory of this State.

Sect. 3.  No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty one years, and have been twelve months a resident of this State, or from the time of the adoption of this Constitution, with a freehold estate therein, and who shall not when elected be an inhabitant of the District in which he shall have been chosen.

Sect. 4.  Representatives for the first Legislature shall be elected on the tenth day of November next in each District, and shall be apportioned as follows, that is to say, for the District of Baton Rouge, Three, for the District of New Feliciana, Four, for the District of St. Helena, Three, for the District of St. Ferdinand, Three, for the District of Mobile, Three. For the next succeeding legislature they shall be apportioned by the General Assembly agreeable to the number of inhabitants in the several Districts, and at the end of every year afterwards an enumeration shall be made of all the free born inhabitants of this State. The number of Representatives after such enumeration shall not be fewer than are herein directed for the whole representation of the State, nor shall they be made by augmentation at any time to exceed one for every three thousand free born inhabitants.

Sect. 5.  When vacancies happen in the Representation from any District, the Executive authority of the State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.

Sect. 6.  The House of Representatives shall choose their President or Speaker and other Officers.

Sect. 7.  The Senate shall be composed of One Senator from each District of this State, chosen by the free white men of the age of twenty one and upwards, freeholders of their respective Districts, for the term of three years.

Sect. 8.  The first Senators shall be elected at the same time and at the same places in each District for the first Legislature, and immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election. The whole number of Senators shall be divided by lot into three classes, placing one in the first class, two in the second, and two in the third, and the Senator of the first class shall serve for one year only, those of the Second Class for two years, and those of the third class for three years, in such manner that one third or near as may be of the whole number of Senators may afterwards be elected every year.

Sect. 9.  When vacancies happen in the Senate by resignation or otherwise, the Executive shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.

Sect. 10.  No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been one year, or from the time of the adoption of this Constitution, a citizen of this State, and who shall not when elected possess in his own right a freehold estate therein, and be an inhabitant of the District for which he shall have been elected.

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Sect. 18.
  Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manners and under such penalties as each House may provide.

Sect. 19.  Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and with the consent of two thirds expel a member.

Sect. 20.  Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and the yeas and nays of either House on any question shall at the decision of one fifth of those present be entered on the Journal.

Sect. 21.  Neither House during their Sessions shall without the consent of the other adjourn for more than three days nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Sect. 22.  The members of the Senate and House of Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law and paid out of the treasury fo the State. They shall in all cases except felony, treason, and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the Sessions of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same. For any speech or debate in either House they shall not be questioned in any other place.

Sect. 23.  No Senator or Representative shall during the time for which he shall have been elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of this State, officers of the militia and Justices of the Peace excepted.

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9th.  To constitute and reform tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court.

10th.  To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the laws of nations.

11th.  To declare war, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.

12th.  To raise and support regular forces, but no appropriation for that purpose shall be for a longer term than one year.

13th.  To make rules for the government and regulation of the regular forces.

14th.  To provide for calling forth the militia to execute hte laws of the State, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.

15.  To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia.

16.  To establish a general system of civil and criminal jurisprudence for the State.

17.  To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the General Government of the State or any Department or Officer thereof.

Article 2

Section 1.  The Supreme Executive power shall be vested in a Governor of this State who shall hold his office for the term of two years, and until a successor be duly qualified.

Sect. 2.  The Governor shall be elected by the members of both Houses of the General Assembly at their first Session in the present year and every two years thereafter at such time and in such manner as shall be provided by law.

Sect. 3.  The Governor shall be commander in chief of all the militia of the State and shall commission all officers therein, who shall be elected, the company officers by the men in their respective companies, the field officers by the officers of the companies, and the General officers by the Field officers. He shall also be commander in chief of all the military and naval officers of the State.

Sect. 4.  The Governor during the recess of the General Assembly and in cases of sudden danger to the State, for the purposes of quelling insurrections and conspiracies or of repelling invasions from without, shall have the unquestioned right of calling into immediate service any part or the whole of the militia as well as of the regular forces of the State, and he may with the concurrence of two thirds of the Senate convened by him for that purpose declare martial law to be the law of the land until he can convene the House of Representatives, when the same may be continued with their concurrence and not otherwise.

Sect. 5.   No person not a citizen of this State at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, or shall not hereafter have resided within State three years, shall be eligible to the office of Governor, neither shall any person be elected to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and who shall not have a freehold estate within this Commonwealth of the value of five thousand dollars.

Sect. 6.   In cases of the removal of the Governor from office or his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the duties thereof, the same shall devolve upon the President of the Senate until an election be made at the next meeting of the General Assembly of some person to fill the said office.

Sect. 7.  The Governor shall at stated times receive for his services a compensation which shall neither be encreased or decreased during the period for which he shall have been elected, and which shall be ascertained and fixed by the General Assembly.

Sect. 8.   Before the Governor shall enter into the Execution of his office he shall take the following oath "I do solemnly swear faithfully to execute the office of Governor for the State of Florida and that I will to the best of my ability preserve protect and defend the Constitution thereof".

Sect. 9.  The Governor shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the State, except in cases of impeachment, and with the advice and consent of a majority of two thirds of the Senate to make treaties and fulfill all engagements which may have been made by the Convention exercising the Sovereignty of this State with any foreign power. He shall have power by and with the advice and consent of a majority of two thirds of the Senate to appoint public ministers or agents, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for and which shall be established by law.

Sect. 10.  There shall be appropriated by law a sum of three thousand dollars from the Public Treasury of the State, to be called a contingent fund which may be encreased at the pleasure of the Legislature, which sum shall be held by the Treasurer of the State at the disposal of the Governor at all times, who shall be authorized accordingly to draw and dispose of the same in secret service for the benefit of the State, provided he shall satisfy two thirds of the members of the then present or next succeeding Session of the Senate, of the expediency and policy of making such appropriations, otherwise he shall be held accountable for the amount.

Sect. 11.  The Governor shall at the commencement of each Session of the General Assembly make known to both Houses assembled the Subjects which may in his opinion require their attention, and recommend such measures as he may deem necessary and expedient. He may on extraordinary occasions convene the Legislature, and in cases of disagreement between the two branches thereof with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he may think proper, not more distant than three months. He shall receive Ministers or agents from Foreign powers. And he shall cause the law of Nations as well as of this State to be faithfully executed.

Sect. 12.  The Governor and all civil officers of the State shall be removed from Office on impeachment for any conviction of Treason, Bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors.

Sect. 13.  A Secretary of State shall be appointed by the Governor and Senate, who shall hold his office for two years unless sooner removed by impeachment; he shall keep all State papers, and a fair register of all the official acts and proceedings of the Governor, and shall when required lay the same and all papers and vouchers relative thereto before either Branch of the Legislature. He shall also perform such other duties as may be enjoined him by law.

Article 3

Section 1.  The Judicial power of the State shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior Courts as the General Assembly may from time to time ordain and establish.

Sect. 2.  The Judges of the Supreme Court shall hold their offices during good behavior & receive for their services a stated Salary which shall be ascertained by law, and shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Sect. 3.  The Citizens of this State shall enjoy the benefit of the writ of Habeus Corpus as defined by the Common Law of England, from the time of the adjournment of the First Session of the General Assembly, unless they shall appoint a different day, and the privilege shall not afterwards be suspended unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the safety of the State may require it. The General Assembly shall also provide by law for the introduction of the trial by jury in such manner as to them may seem fit and expedient.

Sect. 4.  There shall be appointed by the General Assembly a public Accuser, Attorney, or Prosecutor whose duty shall be defined by law, and who shall receive for his services a stated salary from the public Treasury.

Article 4.

Section 1.  The General Assembly shall have power to dispose of public lands and other public property for the benefit of the State, and to appoint such agents as they shall deem proper to investigate land titles, to confirm the same when of right they ought to be confirmed, and to reject such as may be unfounded, allowing an appeal under such restrictions as to the time of prosecuting it, as may be provided by law.

Sect. 2.  Every actual settler who now inhabits and cultivates a tract of land within the Commonwealth, for which he has obtained no complete title, and which has not been legally granted to any other person shall be entitled to such quantity including his improvements as has usually been granted to settlers according to the laws, usages and customs of the Spanish Government, provided the forms prescribed by law respecting the enregistering and surveying thereof be complied with in due time; and no actual settler as aforesaid shall be deprived of a tract so inhabited and cultivated by him, in consequence of any claim hereafter brought by any person of which the said inhabitant has not now or heretofore been notified.

Sect. 3.  All French and British Patents for land within this Commonwealth, which lands have been covered by Spanish patents, and all French and British patents for land within this Commonwealth which have not been recognized and established by the Spanish government shall be void, and shall never be received as evidence of such claims in any Court of Justice in either this State, without an express act of the Legislature for the relief of some individual in which two thirds of both Houses shall concur.

Sect. 4.  The General Assembly shall have the power when they may think it expedient to divide any District of this State into two or more Districts or to take parts from several adjoining Districts to form a new one, assigning to each District a due proportion of members in the House of Representatives, and in all cases allowing one Senator to each District.

Article 5.

Section 1.  The General Assembly shall have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of Slaves without the consent of their owners, or without paying their owners previous to such emancipation a full equivalent for the Slaves so emancipated. They shall have no power to prevent persons migrating to this State from bringing with them such persons as are deemed Slaves by the laws of this State. They may pass laws to permit the owners of Slaves to emancipate them, saving the right of creditors, and preventing them from becoming a charge to any District of the Commonwealth. They shall have full power to prevent Slaves being brought into this State as merchandize from any foreign Nation whatever, but may from year to year regulate and establish the introduction by law, under such restrictions as they may judge proper. And they shall have full power to pass such laws as may be necessary to oblige the owners of slaves to treat them with humanity, to provide for them necessary clothing and provisions, to abstain from all injuries to them extending to life, limb or mutilation, and in case of their neglect or refusal to comply with the directions laws to have such slave or slaves sold for the benefit of the owners.

Sect. 2.  In the prosecution of Slaves for felony, no Inquest by a Grand Jury shall be necessary, but the proceedings in such cases shall be regulated by law; except that the General Assembly have no power to deprive them of the privileges of an impartial trial by a petty jury.

Sect. 3.  No person holding any office of profit or trust under the authority of this State shall without the consent of the General Assembly accept of any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or Foreign State.

Sect. 4.  No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law, and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public monies shall be published from time to time.

Sect. 5.  There shall be a free toleration of religion; and no preference shall be given by law to any one sect or form of Religion above another, provided that nothing in this article may be considered to countenance any practices of Religious Ministers or others, dangerous to the principles of this Constitution, and to the safety and tranquility of the good people of this State.

Article 6.

Section 1.  Whereas experience may prove the necessity of amending or altering this Constitution, it shall be lawful for either the first or second Legislature convened agreeably to the provisions herein established to call a convention for the purpose, a majority of two thirds of both Houses concurring on the expediency of the measure. After that period it shall not be amended or altered unless by a vote of two thirds of both Houses of two successive legislatures, in which case a Convention may be called by the last of the two Legislatures who shall have voted for the expediency of the measure. And at any time when a Convention shall be called, it shall be composed of the same number of members as the House of Representatives, and shall be elected by the same persons in each district who are entitled to vote for Representatives; all other circumstances relative to the meeting of the Convention shall be prescribed by law, and no assembly, body of magistracy, or authority whatever shall alter or amend this Constitution except a Convention of Delegates constituted and chosen as herein provided.

Article 7.
That the great and essential principles of Liberty and free Government may be recognized and established, we declare:

1st.  That all free men when they form a social compact are equal, and that no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive separate public emoluments or privileges from the Community but in consideration of public services.

2d.  That all power is derived from the people, and all free Governments are founded on this authority, and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness.

3d.  That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according

[Document ends here. Remainder of text missing in Library of Congress original.]