Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

council, and all bills having passed both houses, were to receive the assent of the president.

The president, however, had no power to adjourn, prorogue, or dissolve the council and assembly, but might convene them, if necessary, before the time to which they had adjourned.

A privy council was to be formed, to consist of the vice-presi dent, and six others, three chosen by the assembly, and three by the legislative council; but no officer in the service of the united colonies or that of South Carolina, to be eligible as a member. This council was to advise the president when required, but he was not bound to consult them, except in particular cases.

The members of the assembly were to be chosen by the people, after October, 1776, for two years; and the president and vice-president were still to be chosen by the assembly and council.

The executive authority was vested in the president, with the limitations specified in the constitution.

Justices of the peace were to be nominated by the general assembly, and commissioned by the president, during good behav ior; all other judicial officers to be elected by the assembly and legislative council, and to receive their commissions from the president, and to hold their offices during good behavior, subject to be removed, on the address of both houses. Sheriffs, commissioners of the treasury, the secretary of the colony, register of mesne conveyances, attorney general, and powder receiver, also to be chosen by joint ballot of the two houses, the sheriffs to continue for two years only, and the others during good behavior.

All field officers in the army and captains in the navy, to be appointed by the legislature, and all other officers either in the army or navy by the president; and the president, with the advice and consent of the privy council, was to fill all vacancies until an election by the legislature. The president was not to make war or peace, or enter into any final treaty, without the assent of the general assembly and legislative council.

This form of government remained until June, 1790, when a new constitution was formed by a convention called for that purpose. The legislative authority of that state, was now vested in

a general assembly, consisted of a house of representatives and senate. The members of the house were chosen for two years from certain districts, and the senators from the same districts.

The senate was chosen for four years, and divided into two classes, the seats of the first class to be vacated at the end of two, and of the second at the end of four years.

The executive authority was lodged in a governor, to be chosen once in two years, by joint ballot of both houses. No person was eligible to the office of governor, unless he had attained the age of thirty, had resided in and been a citizen of the state ten years, and possessed of a settle estate in the same, in his own right, of the value of fifteen hundred pounds sterling clear of debt; nor could any person, having served two years as governor, be reelected, till after the expiration of four years. A lieutenant governor was to be chosen at the same time, and in the same manner, and have the same qualifications as the governor. The governor was commander in chief of the army and navy, and of the militia-had power to grant pardons and reprieves,was to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and had power to prohibit the exportation of provisions, for any time not exceeding thirty days-to convene the assembly on extraordinary occasions, and to recommend to their consideration such measures as he should judge necessary.

The judges of the supreme court, commissioners of the treasury, secretary of state, and surveyor general, were to be elected by the joint ballot of both houses-the judges of the superior and inferior courts to hold their offices during good behavior-the commissioners of the treasury, secretary of state, and surveyor general, to continue in office for four years only, and to be ineligible for the same period. The qualifications of an elector, a freehold of fifty acres of land, or a town lot, of which he had been legally seized and possessed six months, or not having a freehold or town lot, a residence of six months, and the payment of a tax of three shillings sterling, the preceding year, towards the support of government. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preferance, was to be VOL. II.

38

allowed to all-but no minister of the gospel, or public preacher of any religious profession, was eligible to the office of governor, lieutenant governor, or to a seat in either house of assembly.

The convention of Virginia, on the 15th of May, 1776, appointed a committee to prepare a declaration of rights, and a plan of government calculated "to maintain peace and order in that colony, and secure substantial and equal liberty to the people." A declaration of rights was reported and agreed to on the 12th of June following, and on the 29th of the same month a constitution was unanimously adopted by the convention without any limitation as to time. The preliminary declaration not only contained an enumeration of rights, but also the fundamental principles on which a constitution should be founded. It asserted, among other things, that all men were born equally free and independent, and had certain important and natural rights, of which they could not, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; that among these was the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety-That all power was vested in and derived from the people, that magistrates were their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.That government was, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation, or community, and that form the best, which was capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration; and that a majority of the community had an indubitable, unalienable and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it, in such manner as should be judged most conducive to the public weal.

After declaring that the legislative, executive and judiciary departments should be separate and distinct, the constitution divided the legislative department into two branches, the house of delegates and senate, to be called the general assembly of Virginia. The house of delegates to consist of two representatives, to be chosen from each county, annually, one from the city of

Williamsburgh, and one from the borough of Norfolk. The senate to consist of twenty four members, chosen from as many districts; which districts were to be divided into four classes by lot; and at the end of the first year, the members from the first class to be displaced, and the vacancies supplied by others from the same class, and so on in rotation through each class. All laws were to originate in the house of delegates, to be approved, rejected or amended by the senate; but money bills were not subject to any alteration.

A governor and council of state were chosen annually by joint ballot of both houses, but no person was to continue in the office of governor more than three years in succession, nor be eligible, until the expiration of four years after he should be out of office. The governor, with the advice of the council of state, was "to exercise the executive powers of government, according to the laws of the commonwealth, and was not, under any pretence, to exercise any power or prerogative, by virtue of any law, statute or custom of England." The council of state consisted of eight members, and out of their number was annually to choose a president. Two members of the council were to be removed and their vacancies supplied by the joint ballots of both houses, at the end of every three years, and those so removed to be ineligible for the next three years. The powers of the governor and council were very limited, though in general terms constituted the executive department of the government, and vested with executive powers. The legislature appointed the judges of the supreme court of appeals, and general court, judges in chancery, judges in admiralty, secretary, and attorney general, to be commissioned by the governor, and to continue in office during good behavior. The governor and council, in the first instance appointed justices of the peace for the counties, but in case of vacancies, or increase of numbers afterwards, the appointments were to be made on recommendation of the county courts. They also had power to grant reprieves or pardons, to embody the militia, and to direct them when embodied-to supply vacancies occasioned by death, incapacity or resignation, by appointments to

be approved or rejected by the legislature. The governor and other officers were made liable to impeachment when out of office, for mal-administration, corruption or other means by which the safety of the state might be endangered.

Sheriffs and coroners were to be appointed by the courts, subject to the approbation of the governor and council.

The qualification of an elector was to continue the same, as then provided by law. This was, as is understood, a freehold of fifty acres of land, or a town lot.

The people of Virginia had always claimed that the charters of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and North and South Carolina, had taken part of the territories originally granted to them. To quiet the inhabitants of the latter states on this subject, the Virginia constitution specially declared, that the territories within the charters, creating those colonies, "were ceded, released, and forever confirmed to the people of those states, with all the rights of property, jurisdiction, and government, which might, at any time before, have been claimed by Virginia, with the exception of the free navigation and use of the rivers Potomac and Pokomoke, with the property of the Virginia shores and strands, bordering on those rivers. The western and northern extent of Virginia was, in all other respects, to stand as fixed by the charter of king James I, in 1609, and by the treaty of peace in 1763; unless by acts of the legislature, one or two governments should be established, west of the Allegany mountains."

It is not a little extraordinary, that this form of government has ever since remained the constitution of so large a state as Virginia, without any of those amendments, which experience has proved necessary in most of the other states.

The government of New Jersey, as established by a provincial congress, on the 2d of July, 1776, was vested in a governor, legislative council, and general assembly. The council was to consist of one person, and the assembly of three persons from each county, both to be chosen annually; but the legislature at any time thereafter, had power to apportion the members of the assembly among the counties, provided the number should be never less than thirty-nine.

« AnteriorContinuar »