Florida Constitutional Convention (1838)
St. Joseph, West Florida
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or FORM OF GOVERNMENT,
for the PEOPLE OF FLORIDA
We, the People of the Territory of Florida, by our Delegates in
Convention, assembled at the City of St. Joseph, on Monday the 3d
day of December, A.D. 1838, and of the Independence of the
United States the sixty-third year, having and claiming the right of
admission into the Union, as one of the United States of America,
consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution, and by
virtue of the Treaty of Amity, Settlement, and Limits between the
United States of America and the King of Spain, ceding the
Provinces of East and West Florida to the United States; in order to
secure to ourselves and our posterity the enjoyment of all the rights
of life, liberty, and property, and the pursuit of happiness, do
mutually agree, each with the other, to form ourselves into a Free
and Independent State, by the name of the State of Florida.
Declaration of Rights.
That the great and essential principles of liberty and free
government may be recognized and established, we declare:
That all freemen, when they form a social compact, are equal; and
have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are
those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; of acquiring,
possessing, and protecting property and reputation; and of pursuing
their own happiness.
That all political power is inherent in the people, and all free
governments are founded on their authority, and established for
their benefit; and, therefore, they have, at all times, an inalienable
and indefeasible right to alter or abolish their form of government, in
such manner as they may deem expedient.
That all men have a natural and inalienable right to worship
Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience;
and that no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious
establishment, or mode of worship in this State.
That all elections shall be free and equal; and that no property
qualification for eligibility to office, or for the right of suffrage, shall
ever be required in this State.
That every citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his
sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that
liberty; and no law shall ever be passed to curtail, abridge, or
restrain the liberty of speech or of the press.
That the right of trial by jury shall forever remain inviolate.
That the people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and possessions from unreasonable seizures and searches; and
that no warrant to search any place, or to seize any person or thing,
shall issue without describing the place to be searched, and the
person or thing to be seized, as nearly as may be, nor without
probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation.
That no freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his
freehold, liberties, or outlawed or exiled, or in any manner
destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty, or property, but by the law
of the land.
That all Courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury done
him, in his lands, goods, person, or reputation, shall have remedy
by due course of law; and right and justice administered without
sale, denial, or delay.
That in all criminal prosecutions, the accused hath a right to be
heard by himself or counsel, or both; to demand the nature and
cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses
against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in
his favor; and in all prosecutions by indictment or presentment a
speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the County or District,
where the offense was committed; and shall not be compelled to
give evidence against himself.
That all persons shall be bailable, by sufficient securities, unless in
capital offenses, where the proof is evident, or the presumption is
strong; and the privilege of habeas corpus shall not be suspended,
unless when, in case of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may
That excessive bail shall in no case be required; nor shall
excessive fines be imposed; nor shall cruel or unusual punishments
That no person shall, for the same offense, be twice put in jeopardy
of life or limb.
That private property shall not be taken or applied to public use,
unless just compensation be made therefore.
That in all prosecutions and indictments for libel, the truth may be
given in evidence; and if it shall appear to the jury that the libel is
true, and published with good motives and for justifiable ends, the
truth shall be a justification; and the jury shall be the judges of the
law and facts.
That no person shall be put to answer any criminal charge, but by
presentment, indictment or impeachment.
That no conviction shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture of
That retrospective laws, punishing acts committed before the
existence of such laws, and by them only declared penal, or
criminal, are oppressive, unjust, and incompatible with liberty;
wherefore, no ex post facto law shall ever be made.
That no law impairing the obligation of contracts shall ever be
That the people have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble
together to consult for the common good; and to apply to those
invested with the powers of government, for redress of grievances,
or other proper purposes, by petition, address, or remonstrance.
That the free white men of this State shall have the right to keep
and to bear arms, for their common defense.
That no soldier in time of peace, shall be quartered in any house
without the consent of the owner; nor in time of war but in a manner
prescribed by law.
That no standing army shall be kept up without the consent of the
Legislature: and the military shall in all cases and at all times, be in
strict subordination to the civil power.
That perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a
free State, and ought not to be allowed.
That no hereditary emoluments, privileges, or honors, shall ever be
granted or conferred in this State.
That frequent recurrence to fundamental principles, is absolutely
necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty.
That to guard against transgressions upon the rights of the people,
we declare that every thing in this article is excepted out of the
general powers of government, and shall forever remain inviolate;
and that all laws contrary thereto, or to the following provisions,
shall be void.
Distribution of the Powers of Government.
The powers of the Government of the State of Florida, shall be
divided into three distinct departments, and each of them confided
to a separate body of Magistracy, to wit: Those which are
Legislative to one; those which are Executive to another; and those
which are Judicial to another.
No person, or collection of persons, being one of those
departments, shall exercise any power properly belonging to either
of the others, except in the instances expressly provided in this
The Supreme Executive Power shall be vested in a Chief
Magistrate, who shall be styled the Governor of the State of Florida.
The Governor shall be elected for four years, by the qualified
electors, at the time and place where they shall vote for
Representatives, and shall remain in office until a successor be
chosen and qualified, and shall not be eligible to re-election until
the expiration of four years thereafter.
No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor unless he shall
have attained the age of thirty years, shall have been a citizen of
the United States ten years, or an inhabitant of Florida at the time
of the adoption of this Constitution, (being a citizen of the United
States,) and shall have been a resident of Florida at least five years
next preceding the day of election.
The returns of every election for Governor shall be sealed up and
transmitted to the seat of Government, directed to the Speaker of
the House of Representatives, who shall, during the first week of
the session, open and publish them in the presence of both Houses
of the General Assembly, and the person having the highest
number of votes, shall be Governor; but if two or more shall be
equal and highest in votes, one of them shall be chosen Governor
by the joint vote of the two Houses; and contested elections for
Governor shall be determined by both Houses of the General
Assembly, in such manner as shall be prescribed by law.
He shall, at stated times, receive a compensation for his services,
which shall not be increased or diminished during the term for
which he shall have been elected.
He shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of this
State, and of the Militia thereof.
He may require information in writing from the officers of the
Executive Departments, on any subject relating to the duties of their
He may, by proclamation, on extraordinary occasions, convene the
General Assembly at the seat of Government, or at a different
place, if that shall have become dangerous from an enemy, or from
disease; and in case of disagreement between the two Houses with
respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such
time as he shall think proper, not beyond the day of the next
meeting designated by this Constitution.
He shall, from time to time, give to the General Assembly
information of the State of the Government, and recommend to
their consideration such measures as he may deem expedient.
He shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
In all criminal and penal cases, (except of treason and
impeachment,) after conviction, he shall have power to grant
reprieves and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures under such
rules and regulations as shall be prescribed by law; and in cases of
treason, he shall have power, by and with the advice and consent
of the Senate, to grant reprieves and pardons; and he may, in the
recess of the Senate, respite the sentence until the end of the next
session of the General Assembly.
There shall be a seal of the State, which shall be kept by the
Governor, and used by him officially, with such device as the
Governor first elected may direct, and the present seal of the
Territory shall be the seal of the State until otherwise directed by
the General Assembly.
All commissions shall be in the name, and by the authority of the
State of Florida, be sealed with the State seal, and signed by the
Governor, and attested by the Secretary of State.
There shall be a Secretary of State appointed by joint vote of both
Houses of the General Assembly, who shall continue in office
during the term of four years; and he shall keep a fair register of the
official acts and proceedings of the Governor, and shall, when
required, lay the same and all papers, minutes, and vouchers,
relative thereto, before the General Assembly, and shall perform
such other duties as may be required of him by law.
Vacancies that happen in offices, the appointment to which is
vested in the General Assembly, or given to the Governor, with the
advice and consent of the Senate, shall be filled by the Governor
during the recess of the General Assembly, by granting
commissions, which shall expire at the end of the next session.
Every bill, which shall have passed both Houses of the General
Assembly, shall be presented to the Governor; if he approve, he
shall sign it; but if not, he shall return it with his objections to the
House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the
objections at large upon the journals, and proceed to re-consider it;
and if, after such re-consideration, a majority of the whole number
elected to that House, shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent
with the objections to the other House, by which it shall likewise be
re-considered; and if approved by a majority of the whole number
elected to that House, it shall become a law; but in such cases, the
votes of both Houses shall be by yeas and nays, and the names of
the members voting for, or against the bill, shall be entered on the
journals of each House respectively; and if any bill shall not be
returned by the Governor, within five days (Sundays excepted) after
it shall have been presented to him the same shall be a law in like
manner, as if he had signed it; unless the General Assembly by
their adjournment, prevent its return, in which case, it shall not be a
Every order, resolution, or vote, to which concurrence of both
Houses may be necessary, except on questions of adjournment,
shall be presented to the Governor; and before it shall take effect,
be approved by him, or being disapproved, be re-passed by both
Houses, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in case of
In case of the impeachment of the Governor, his removal from
office, death, refusal to qualify, resignation, or absence from the
State, the President of the Senate shall exercise all the power and
authority appertaining to the office of Governor, during the term for
which the Governor was elected; unless the General Assembly
shall provide by law for the election of a Governor to fill such
vacancy; or, until the Governor absent, or impeached, shall return,
or be acquitted.
If during the vacancy of the office of Governor, the President of the
Senate shall be impeached, removed from office, refuse to qualify,
resign, die, or be absent from the State, the Speaker of the House
of Representatives shall in like manner, administer the
The President of the Senate, or Speaker of the House of
Representatives, during the time he administers the Government,
shall receive the same compensation which the Governor would
The Governor shall always reside, during the sessions of the
General Assembly, at the place where their sessions are held, and
at all other times wherever, in their opinion, the public good may
No person shall hold the office of Governor, and any other office or
commission, civil or military, either in this State, or under any State,
or the United States, or any other power, at one and the same time,
except the President of the Senate, or the Speaker of the House of
Representatives, when he shall hold the office, as aforesaid.
A State Treasurer, and Comptroller of Public Accounts, shall be
elected by joint vote of both Houses of the General Assembly, at
each regular session thereof.
The Legislative power of this State shall be vested in two distinct
branches, the one to be styled the Senate, the other the House of
Representatives, and both together, "The General Assembly of the
State of Florida," and the style of all the laws shall be "Be it enacted
by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Florida
in General Assembly convened."
The members of the House of Representatives shall be chosen by
the qualified voters, and shall serve for the term of one year from
the day of the commencement of the general election and no
longer, and the sessions of the General Assembly shall be annual,
and commence on the fourth Monday in November in each year, or
at such other time, as may be prescribed by law.
The Representatives shall be chosen every year, on the first
Monday in the Month of October, until otherwise directed by law.
No person shall be a representative, unless he be a white man, a
citizen of the United States, and shall have been an inhabitant of
the State, two years next preceding his election, and the last year
thereof a resident of the county for which he shall be chosen, and
shall have attained the age of twenty-one years.
The Senators shall be chosen by the qualified electors, for the term
of two years, at the same time, in the same manner, and in the
same places where they vote for members of the House of
Representatives; and no man shall be a Senator, unless he be a
white man, a citizen of the United States, and shall have been an
inhabitant of this State, two years next preceding his election, and
the last year thereof, a resident of the District or County for which
he shall be chosen, and shall have attained the age of twenty-five
The Senators after their first election, shall be divided by lot, into
two classes, and the seats of the Senators of the first class, shall
be vacated at the expiration of the first year, and of the second
class, shall be vacated at the expiration of the second year, so that
one half thereof, as near as possible, may be chosen for ever
thereafter, annually, for the term of two years.
The House of Representatives, when assembled, shall choose a
Speaker and its other officers, and the Senate a President and its
other officers, and each House shall be judge of the qualifications,
elections, and returns of its members; but a contested election shall
be determined in such manner as shall be directed by law.
A majority of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business,
but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may
compel the attendance of absent members in such manner and
under such penalties as each House may prescribe.
Each House may determine the rules of its own proceedings,
punish its members for disorderly behavior, and with the consent of
two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same
Each House, during the session, may punish by imprisonment any
person, not a member, for disrespectful or disorderly behavior in its
presence, or for obstructing any of its proceedings, provided such
imprisonment shall not extend beyond the end of the session.
Each House shall keep a Journal of its proceedings, and cause the
same to be published immediately after its adjournment, and the
yeas and nays of the members of each House shall be taken and
entered upon the journals upon the final passage of every bill, and
may, by any two members, be required upon any other question,
and any member of either House shall have liberty to dissent from
or protest against any act or resolution which he may think injurious
to the public or an individual, and have the reasons of his dissent
entered on the journal.
Senators and Representatives shall in all cases, except treason,
felony or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during the
session of the General Assembly, and in going to or returning from
the same, allowing one day for every twenty miles such member
may reside from the place at which the General Assembly is
convened, and for any speech or debate in either House they shall
not be questioned in any other place.
The General Assembly shall make provision by law for filling
vacancies that may occur in either House by the death, resignation,
(or otherwise,) of any of its members.
The doors of each House shall be open, except on such occasions
as, in the opinion of the House, the public safety may imperiously
Neither House shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for
more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which they
may be sitting.
Bills may originate in either House of the General Assembly, and all
bills passed by one House may be discussed, amended, or rejected
by the other, but no bill shall have the force of law until on three
several days it be read in each House, and free discussion be
allowed thereon, unless in cases of urgency four-fifths of the House
in which the same shall be depending may deem it expedient to
dispense with the rule; and every bill having passed both Houses
shall be signed by the Speaker and President of their respective
Each member of the General Assembly shall receive from the
public Treasury such compensation for his services as may be fixed
by law, but no increase of compensation shall take effect during the
term for which the Representatives were elected when such law
The number of members of the House of Representatives shall
never exceed sixty.
The Judicial power of this State, both as to matters of law and
equity, shall be vested in a Supreme Court, Courts of Chancery,
Circuit Courts and Justices of the Peace, provided the General
Assembly may also vest such criminal jurisdiction as may be
deemed necessary in Corporation Courts, but such jurisdiction shall
not extend to capital offenses.
The Supreme Court, except in cases otherwise directed in this
Constitution, shall have appellate jurisdiction only, which shall be
co-extensive with the State, under such restrictions and regulations,
not repugnant to this Constitution, as may from time to time be
prescribed by law, provided that the said Court shall always have
power to issue writs of injunction, mandamus, quo warrant,
habeas corpus, and such other remedial and original writs as may
be necessary to give it a general superintendence and control of all
For the term of five years from the election of the Judges of the
Circuit Courts, and thereafter until the General Assembly shall
otherwise provide, the powers of the Supreme Court shall be
vested in, and its duties performed by the Judges of the several
Circuit Courts within this State, and they, or a majority of them shall
hold such sessions of the Supreme Court, and at such times as
may be directed by law.
The Supreme Court, when organized, shall be holden at such times
and places as may be provided by law.
The State shall be divided into at least four convenient Circuits, and
until other Circuits shall be provided for by the General Assembly,
the arrangement of the Circuits shall be the Western, Middle,
Eastern and Southern Circuits, and for each Circuit there shall be
appointed a Judge, who shall after his appointment, reside in the
Circuit for which he has been appointed, and shall, at stated times,
receive for his services a salary of not less than two thousand
dollars per annum, which shall not be diminished during the
continuance of such Judge in office; but the Judges shall receive no
fees or perquisites of office, nor hold any other office of profit under
the State, the United States, or of any other power.
The Circuit Courts shall have original jurisdiction in all matters, civil
and criminal, within this State, not otherwise excepted in this
A Circuit Court shall be held in such Counties, and at such times
and places therein, as may be prescribed by law, and the Judges of
the several Circuit Courts may hold Courts for each other, and shall
do so when directed by law.
The General Assembly shall have power to establish and organize
a separate Court or Courts of original equity jurisdiction; but until
such Court or Courts shall be established and organized, the Circuit
Courts shall exercise such jurisdiction.
The General Assembly shall provide by law for the appointment, in
each County, of an officer to take probate of wills, to grant letters
testamentary of administration and guardianship; to attend to the
settlement of the estates of decedents and of minors, and to
discharge the duties usually appertaining to Courts of Ordinary,
subject to the direction and supervision of the Courts of Chancery,
as may be provided by law.
A competent number of Justices of the Peace shall be, from time to
time, appointed or elected in and for each County, in such mode,
and for such term of office, as the General Assembly may direct;
and shall possess such jurisdiction as may be prescribed by law;
and in cases tried before a Justice of the Peace, the right of appeal
shall be secured under such rules and regulations as may be
prescribed by law.
Justices of the Supreme Court, Chancellors, and Judges of the
Circuit Courts, shall be elected by the concurrent vote of a majority
of both Houses of the General Assembly.
The Judges of the Circuit Courts, shall, at the first session of the
General Assembly to be holden under this Constitution, be elected
for the term of five years, and shall hold their offices for that term,
unless sooner removed under the provisions made in this
Constitution for removal of Judges by address or impeachment;
and at the expiration of five years, the Justices of the Supreme
Court and the Judges of the Circuit Courts, shall be elected for the
term of and during their good behavior; and for wilful neglect of
duty, or other reasonable cause, which shall not be sufficient
ground for impeachment, the Governor shall remove any of them,
on the address of two-thirds of each House of the General
Assembly; provided, however, that the cause or causes shall be
stated at length in such address, and entered on the journals of
each House; and provided further, that the cause or causes shall
be notified to the Judge so intended to be removed, and he shall be
admitted to a hearing in his own defense, before any vote for such
address shall pass; and in such cases, the vote shall be taken by
yeas and nays, and entered on the journals of each House
The Clerk of the Supreme Court and the Clerks of the Courts of
Chancery, shall be elected by the General Assembly; and the
Clerks of the Circuit Courts shall be elected by the qualified
electors, in such mode as may be prescribed by law.
The Justices of the Supreme Court, Chancellors, and Judges of the
Circuit Courts, shall, by virtue of their offices, be conservators of the
peace throughout the State; and Justices of the Peace in their
The style of all process shall be "the State of Florida," and all
criminal prosecutions shall be carried on in the name of the State of
Florida, and all indictments shall conclude, "against the peace and
dignity of the same."
There shall be an Attorney General for the State, who shall reside
at the Seat of Government. It shall be his duty to attend all sessions
of the General Assembly, and upon the passage of any act, to draft
and submit to the General Assembly, at the same session, all
necessary forms of proceedings under such laws, which, when
approved, shall be published therewith, and he shall perform such
other duties at may be prescribed by law. He shall be elected by
joint vote of the two Houses of the General Assembly, and shall
hold his office for four years; but may be removed by the Governor,
on the address of two-thirds of the two Houses of the General
Assembly, and shall receive for his services a compensation to be
fixed by law.
There shall be one Solicitor for each Circuit, who shall reside
therein, to be elected by the joint vote of the General Assembly,
who shall hold his office for the term of four years; and shall receive
for his services a compensation to be fixed by law.
No Justice of the Supreme Court shall sit as Judge or take part in
the Appellate Court on the trial or hearing of any case which shall
have been decided by him in the Court below.
The General Assembly shall have power to establish in each
County, a Board of Commissioners for the regulation of the County
No duty not Judicial shall be imposed by law upon the Justices of
the Supreme Court, Chancellors, or the Judges of the Circuit
Courts of this State.
The Right of Suffrage and Qualifications of Officers; Civil
Offices; and Impeachments, and Removals from Office.
Every free white male person of the age of twenty-one years and
upwards, and who shall be at the time of offering to vote a citizen of
the United States; and who shall have resided, and had his
habitation, domicil, home, and place of permanent abode in Florida
for two years next preceding the election at which he shall offer to
vote; and who shall have at such time, and for six months
immediately preceding said time, shall have had his habitation,
domicil, home, and place of permanent abode in the County in
which he may offer to vote, and who shall be enrolled in the Militia
thereof, (unless by law exempted from serving in the Militia,) shall
be deemed a qualified elector at all elections under this
Constitution, and none others; except in elections by general ticket
in the State or District prescribed by law, in which cases the elector
must have been a resident of the State two years next preceding
the election, and six months within the election district in which he
offers to vote: provided that no soldier, seaman, or marine in the
regular Army or Navy of the United States, unless he be a qualified
elector of the State previous to his enlistment as such soldier,
seaman, or marine in the regular Army or Navy of the United States
or of the Revenue Service, shall be considered a resident of the
State, in consequence of being stationed within the same.
The General Assembly shall, at its first session, provide, for the
registration of all the qualified electors in each county; and
thereafter from time to time, of all who may become such qualified
No President, Director, Cashier, or other officer of any Banking
company in this state, shall be eligible to the office of Governor,
Senator or Representative to the General Assembly of this State,
so long as he shall be such President, Director, Cashier, or other
officer, nor until the lapse of twelve months from the time at which
he shall have ceased to be such President, Director, Cashier, or
The General Assembly shall have power to exclude from every
office of honor, trust or profit, within the State, and from the right of
suffrage, all persons convicted of bribery, perjury, or other infamous
No person shall be capable of holding, or of being elected to any
post of honor, profit, trust, or emolument, civil or military, legislative,
executive, or judicial, under the government of this State, who shall
hereafter fight a duel, or send, or accept a challenge to fight a duel,
the probable issue of which may be the death of the challenger, or
challenged, or who shall be a second to either party, or who shall in
any manner aid, or assist in such duel, or shall be knowingly the
bearer of such challenge, or acceptance, whether the same occur,
or be committed in or out of the State.
No person who may hereafter be a collector, or holder of public
moneys, shall have a seat in either House of the General
Assembly, or be eligible to any office of trust, or profit, under this
State, until he shall have accounted for, and paid into the Treasury,
all sums for which he may be accountable.
No Governor, Member of Congress, or of the General Assembly of
this State, shall receive a fee, be engaged as counsel, agent, or
attorney, in any civil case, or claim, against this State, or to which
this State shall be a party, during the time he shall remain in office.
No Governor, Justice of the Supreme Court, Chancellor or Judge of
this State, shall be eligible to election, or post of honor, or
emolument, under this State, or to the station of Senator, or
Representative in Congress of the United States, from this State,
until one year after he shall have ceased to be such Governor,
Justice, Chancellor, or Judge.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the term for which he
shall have been elected, be appointed to any civil office of profit,
under this State which shall have been created, or the emoluments
of which shall have been increased, during such term, except such
offices as may be filled by elections by the people.
No minister of the Gospel shall be eligible to the office of Governor,
Senator, or member of the House of Representatives of this State.
Members of the General Assembly, and all officers, Civil or Military,
before they enter upon the execution of their respective offices,
shall take the following oath or affirmation: I do swear (or affirm,)
that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State,
to exercise the office to which I have been elected, (or appointed)
and will, to the best of my abilities, discharge the duties thereof,
and preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of this State,
and of the United States.
Every person shall be disqualified from serving as Governor,
Senator, Representative, or from holding any other office of honor,
or profit in this State, for the term for which he shall have been
elected, who shall have been convicted of having given or offered
any bribe to procure his election.
Laws shall be made by the General Assembly, to exclude from
office, and from suffrage, those who shall have been or may
thereafter be convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high
crime, or misdemeanor; and the privilege of suffrage shall be
supported by laws regulating elections, and prohibiting, under
adequate penalties, all undue influence thereon, from power,
bribery, tumult, or other improper practices.
All civil officers of the State at large, shall reside within the State,
and all District or county officers within their respective Districts, or
counties, and shall keep their respective offices at such places
therein as may be required by law.
It shall be the duty of the General Assembly to regulate by law, in
what cases, and what deduction from the salaries of public officers,
shall be made, for neglect of duty in their official capacity.
Returns of elections for members of Congress, and the General
Assembly, shall be made to the Secretary of State, in manner to be
prescribed by law.
In all elections by the General Assembly, the vote shall be viva
voce, and in all elections by the people, the vote shall be by ballot.
No member of Congress, or person holding or exercising any office
of profit under the United States, or under any foreign power shall
be eligible as a member of the General Assembly of this State, or
hold, or exercise any office of profit, at the same time, except the
office of Justice of the Peace, notary public, constable and militia
The General Assembly shall by law provide for the appointment, or
election, and the removal from office, of all officers, civil, and
military, in this State, not provided for in this Constitution.
The power of impeachment shall be vested in the House of
All impeachments shall be tried by the Senate; and when sitting for
that purpose, the Senators shall be upon oath, or affirmation; and
no person shall be convicted, without the concurrence of two-thirds
of the members present.
The Governor and all civil officers shall be liable to impeachment
for any misdemeanor in office: but judgment in such cases shall not
extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to
hold any office of honor, trust, or profit under this State; but the
parties shall nevertheless be liable to indictment, trial, and
punishment according to law.
All Militia officers shall be elected by the persons subject to military
duty, within the bounds of their several companies, battalions,
regiments, brigades, and divisions, under such rules and
regulations as the General Assembly may, from time to time, direct
The Governor shall appoint all the officers of the executive staff,
except the Adjutant General, and Paymaster General, who shall be
appointed by the Governor, by, and with the advice and consent of
the Senate. The majors general and brigadiers general, and
commanding officers of regiments, shall appoint such staff officers
as may be prescribed by law; provided, no person shall be eligible
to any staff appointment, unless he hold a commission in the line.
Taxation and Revenue.
The General Assembly shall devise and adopt a system of
Revenue having regard to an equal and uniform mode of taxation,
to be general throughout the State.
No other or greater amount of Tax, or Revenue, shall at any time
be levied, than may be required for the necessary expenses of
No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of
an appropriation by law and a regular statement of the receipts, and
the expenditures of all public moneys shall be published and
promulgated annually with the laws of the General Assembly.
The General Assembly shall have power to authorize the several
counties, and incorporated towns in this State, to impose taxes for
county and corporation purposes, respectively, and all property
shall be taxed upon the principles established in regard to State
Census and Apportionment of Representation.
The General Assembly shall, in the year one thousand eight
hundred and forty-five, and every tenth year thereafter, cause an
enumeration to be made of all the inhabitants of the state, and to
the whole number of free white inhabitants shall be added three-
fifths of the number of slaves, and they shall then proceed to
apportion the representation, equally among the different counties,
according to such enumeration, giving however one representative
to every county, and increasing the number of Representatives on
a uniform ratio of population, according to the foregoing basis, and
which ratio shall not be changed until a new census shall have
The General Assembly shall also, after every such enumeration,
proceed to fix by law the number of Senators which shall constitute
the Senate of the State of Florida, and which shall never be less
than one-fourth nor more than one-half of the whole number of the
House of Representatives; and they shall lay off the State into the
same number of Senatorial Districts, as nearly equal in the number
of inhabitants as may be, according to the ratio of representation
established in the preceding section, each of which Districts shall
be entitled to one Senator.
When any Senatorial District shall be composed of two or more
counties, the counties, of which such district consists, shall not be
entirely separated by any county belonging to another district, and
no county shall be divided.
No new county shall be entitled to separate representation, until its
population equal the ratio of representation, then existing; nor shall
any county be reduced in population by division, below the existing
Until the apportionment of representation by the General Assembly,
as directed in the foregoing section, the several counties shall be
entitled to the following Representatives, vis:--Escambia three,
Walton one, Washington one, Jackson three, Franklin two, Calhoun
two, Gadsden four, Leon six, Jefferson three, Madison one,
Hamilton one, Columbia two, Alachua two, Duval two, Nassau one,
St. Johns three, Mosquito one, Dade one, Monroe one,
Hillsborough one: And until the apportionment of Senators under
the census as aforesaid, there shall be sixteen Senatorial Districts
in this State, which shall be as follows:
The county of Escambia, shall compose the first District.
The counties of Walton and Washington, shall compose the
The county of Jackson, shall compose the third District.
The county of Calhoun, shall compose the fourth District.
The county of Franklin, shall compose the fifth District.
The county of Gadsden, shall compose the sixth District.
The county of Leon, shall compose the seventh District.
The county of Jefferson, shall compose the eighth District
The county of Madison, shall compose the ninth District.
The county of Hamilton, shall compose the tenth District.
The county of Columbia, shall compose the eleventh
The county of Alachua, shall compose the twelfth District.
The county of Duval, shall compose the thirteenth District.
The county of Nassau, shall compose the fourteenth District.
The counties of St. Johns and Mosquito, shall compose the
The counties of Dade, Monroe, and Hillsborough, shall
compose the sixteenth District.
And each Senatorial District shall elect one Senator, and the
seventh District shall be entitled to two.
The proceeds of all lands that have been or may hereafter be
granted by the United States for the use of Schools, and a
Seminary or Seminaries, of learning, shall be and remain a
perpetual fund, the interest of which, together with all monies
derived from any other source applicable to the same object, shall
be inviolably appropriated to the use of Schools and Seminaries of
learning respectively, and to no other purpose.
The General Assembly shall take such measures as may be
necessary to preserve from waste or damage all land so granted
and appropriated to the purposes of Education.
Public Domain and Internal Improvements.
It shall be the duty of the General Assembly to provide for the
prevention of waste and damage of the public lands now
possessed, or that may hereafter be ceded to the Territory or State
of Florida, and it may pass laws for the sale of any part or portion
thereof; and in such case provide for the safety, security, and
appropriation of the proceeds.
A liberal system of Internal Improvements being essential to the
development of the resources of the country, shall be encouraged
by the Government of this State, and it shall be the duty of the
General Assembly, as soon as practicable, to ascertain by law
proper objects of improvement in relation to roads, canals and
navigable streams, and to provide for a suitable application of such
funds as may be appropriated for such improvements.
The jurisdiction of the State of Florida shall extend over the
Territories of East and West Florida, which, by the Treaty of Amity,
Settlement and Limits, between the United States and his Catholic
Majesty, on the 22nd day of February, A. D., 1819, were ceded to
the United States.
Banks and other Corporations.
The General Assembly shall pass a general law for the
incorporation of all such churches, and religious or other societies
as may accept thereof; but no special act of incorporation thereof
shall be passed.
The General Assembly shall pass no act of incorporation, or make
any alteration therein, unless with the assent of at least two-thirds
of each House, and unless public notice in one or more
newspapers in the State shall have been given for at least three
months immediately preceding the session at which the same may
be applied for.
No Banking corporation shall be created or continue which is
composed of a less number than twenty individuals, a majority of
whom at least, shall be residents of the State; and no other
corporation shall be created or continue composed of a less
number than ten, of whom at least five shall be residents of this
No Bank Charter, or any act of incorporation granting exclusive
privileges, shall be granted for a longer period than twenty years,
and no Bank Charter shall ever be extended or renewed.
The Charters of Banks granted by the General Assembly shall
restrict such Banks to the business of exchange, discount and
deposit, and they shall not speculate or deal in real estate or the
stock of other corporations or associations, or in merchandise or
chattels, or be concerned in insurance, manufacturing, exportation
or importation, except of bullion or specie; shall not act as Trustee
in anywise; nor shall they own real estate or chattels, except such
as shall be necessary for their actual use in the transaction of
business, or which may be pledged as further security, or received
towards, or in satisfaction of previously contracted debts, or
purchased at legal sales, to satisfy such debts, of which they shall
be required to make sale within two years after the acquisition
The capital stock of any Bank shall not be less than one hundred
thousand dollars, and shall be created only by the actual payment
of specie therein, and no Bank shall borrow money to create or add
to its capital, or to conduct its business, and no loans shall be made
All liabilities of such Banks shall be payable in specie, and the
aggregate of the liabilities and issues of a Bank shall at no time
exceed double the amount of its capital stock paid in.
No Bank shall make a note or security of any kind for a smaller sum
than five dollars, and the General Assembly may increase such
restriction to twenty dollars.
No dividends of profits exceeding ten per centum per annum on the
capital stock paid in shall be made, but all profits over ten per
centum per annum shall be set apart and retained as a safety fund.
Stockholders in a bank, when an act of forfeiture of its Charter is
committed, or when it is dissolved or expires, shall be individually
and severally liable for the payment of all its debt, in proportion to
the stock owned by each.
Banks shall be open to inspection under such regulations as may
be prescribed by law, and it shall be the duty of the Governor to
appoint a person or persons, not connected in any manner with any
Bank in the State, to examine at least once a year into their state
and condition, and the officers of every Bank shall make quarterly
returns to the Governor of its state and condition, and the names of
the stockholders, and shares held by each.
Non user for the space of one year, or any act of a corporation, or
those having the control and management thereof, or intrusted
therewith inconsistent with or in violation of the provisions of this
Constitution or of its charters, shall cause its forfeiture, and the
General Assembly shall, by general law provide a summary
process for the sequestration of its effects and assets, the
appointment of officers to settle its affairs, and no forfeited charter
shall be restored. The foregoing provision shall not be construed to
prevent the General Assembly from imposing other restrictions and
provisions in the creation of corporations.
The General Assembly shall not pledge the faith and credit of the
State, to raise funds in aid of any corporation whatsoever.
The General Assembly shall at its first session, have power to
regulate, restrain and control, all associations claiming to exercise
corporate privileges in the State, so as to guard, protect, and
secure the interests of the people of the State, not violating vested
rights, or impairing the obligation of contracts.
Amendments and Revision of the Constitution.
No Convention of the people shall be called, unless by the
concurrence of two-thirds of each House of the General Assembly.
No part of this Constitution shall be altered; unless a bill to alter the
same, shall have been read three times in the House of
Representatives, and three times in the Senate, and agreed to by
two-thirds of each House of the General Assembly; neither shall
any alteration take place until the bill so agreed to, be published six
months previous to a new election for members to the House of
Representatives; and if the alteration proposed by the General
Assembly shall be agreed to at their first session by two-thirds of
each House of the General Assembly, after the same shall have
been read three times on three several days in each House, then
and not otherwise, the same shall become a part of the
The Seat of Government.
The Seat of Government, of the State of Florida, shall be and
remain permanent at the city of Tallahassee, for the term and time
of five years, from and after the end of the first session of the
General Assembly, to be holden under this Constitution; and after
the expiration of the said five years, the General Assembly shall
have power to remove the Seat of Government, from Tallahassee,
and fix the same at any other point; Provided, that the General
Assembly shall immediately after the expiration of ten years, from
the end of the said first session thereof, fix permanently the Seat of
The General Assembly shall have no power to pass laws for the
emancipation of slaves.
They shall have no power to prevent emigrants to this State, from
bringing with them, such persons as may be deemed slaves, by the
laws of any one of the United States: Provided, they shall have
power to enact laws to prevent the introduction of any slaves who
may have committed crimes in other States.
The General Assembly shall have power to pass laws to prevent
free negroes, mulattoes, and other persons of color, from
emigrating to this State, or from being discharged from on board
any vessel, in any of the ports of Florida.
Treason against the State shall consist only in levying war against
it, or in adhering to its enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No
person shall be convicted of treason, unless on the testimony of
two witnesses to the same overt act, or his confession in open
Divorces from the bonds of matrimony shall not be allowed, but by
the judgment of a court, as shall be prescribed by law.
The General Assembly shall declare by law, what parts of the
common law, and what parts of the civil law, not inconsistent with
this Constitution, shall be in force in this State.
The oaths of officers directed to be taken under this Constitution,
may be administered by any judge, or justice of the peace, of the
Territory, or State of Florida until otherwise prescribed by law.
Schedule and Ordinance.
In order that no inconvenience may arise from the organization and
establishment of the State Government, it is declared:
That all laws and parts of laws, now in force, or which may be
hereafter passed by the Governor and Legislative Council, of the
Territory of Florida, not repugnant to the provisions of this
Constitution, shall continue in force, until by operation of their
provisions or limitations, the same shall cease to be in force, or until
the General Assembly of this State shall alter or repeal the same;
and all writs, actions, prosecutions, judgments, and contracts, shall
be, and continue unimpaired, and all process which has heretofore
issued, or which may be issued, prior to the last day of the first
session of the General Assembly of this State, shall be as valid as if
issued in the name of the State; and nothing in this Constitution
shall impair the obligation of contracts, or violate vested rights,
either of individuals or of associations, claiming to exercise
corporate privileges in this State.
All fines, penalties, forfeitures, obligations, and escheats, accruing
to the Territory of Florida, shall accrue to the use of the State of
All recognizances heretofore taken, or which may be taken before
the organization of the Judicial Department under this Constitution,
shall remain valid, and shall pass over to, and may be prosecuted
in the name of the State; and all bonds, executed to the Governor
of the Territory of Florida, or to any other officer in his official
capacity, shall pass over to the Governor or other proper State
authority, and to their successors in office for the uses therein
respectively expressed, and may be sued for, and recovered
accordingly; and all criminal prosecutions and penal actions, which
have arisen, or which may arise before the organization of the
Judicial Department under this Constitution, and which shall then
be depending, may be prosecuted to judgment and execution in the
name of the State.
All officers, civil and military, now holding their offices and
appointments in the Territory, under the authority of the United
States, or under the authority of the Territory, shall continue to hold
and exercise their respective offices and appointments until
superseded under this constitution; and all actions at law, or suits in
chancery, or any proceeding pending, or which may be pending, in
any Court of the Territory of Florida, may be commenced in or
transferred to such Court of the State as may have jurisdiction of
the subject-matter thereof.
This Constitution shall be submitted to the people for ratification at
the election for Delegate on the first Monday of May next. Each
qualified voter shall express his assent or dissent to the
Constitution by directing the managers of said election to write
opposite to his name on the poll-book, either the word
"Constitution," or "No Constitution." And in case the time of election
for Delegate be changed to any other day, than the first Monday of
May next, then the Judges or Clerks of the County Courts
respectively, shall appoint managers to hold an election on the said
first Monday of May, for ratification of the Constitution, and said
managers shall conduct said election in the manner provided by the
laws of the Territory respecting elections, and make return of the
result of such vote forthwith, by depositing the original poll-book in
the Clerk's Office of their Counties respectively, and by transmitting
a certificate of the result to the President of the Convention, who
shall forthwith make Proclamation of the same; and in case the
Constitution be ratified by the People, and immediately after official
information shall have been received that Congress have approved
the Constitution, and provided for the admission of Florida, the
President of this Convention shall issue writs of election to the
proper officers in the different Counties, enjoining them to cause an
election to be held for Governor, Representative in Congress, and
Members of the General Assembly in each of their respective
Counties. The election shall be held on the first Monday after the
lapse of sixty days following the day of the date of the President's
proclamation, and shall take place on the same day throughout the
State. The said election shall be conducted according to the then
existing election laws of the Territory of Florida: Provided, however
that in case of the absence or disability of the President of the
Convention, to cause the said election to be carried into effect, the
Secretary of this Convention shall discharge the duties hereby
imposed upon the President; and in case of the absence or
disability of the Secretary, a committee consisting of five, to wit:
Leigh Read, George T. Ward, James D. Westcott, Jr., Thomas
Brown, and Leslie A. Thompson, or a majority of them, shall
discharge the duties herein imposed on the Secretary of the
Convention, and, the Members of the General Assembly, so
elected, shall assemble on the fourth Monday thereafter, at the
Seat of Government. The Governor, Representative in Congress,
and Members of the General Assembly, shall enter upon the duties
of their respective offices immediately after their election, under the
provisions of this Constitution, and shall continue in office in the
same manner, and during the same period, they would have done,
had they been elected on the first Monday in October.
The General Assembly shall have power by the votes of two-thirds
of both Houses to accede to such propositions as may be made by
the Congress of the United States, upon the admission of the State
of Florida into the National confederacy and Union, if they shall be
deemed reasonable and just, and to make declaration of such
assent by law; and such declaration when made shall be binding
upon the people and the State of Florida as a compact; and the
Governor of the State of Florida, shall notify the President of the
United States of the Acts of the General Assembly relating thereto;
and in case of declining to accede to such propositions or any part
thereof, the General Assembly shall instruct the Senators and
Representative of the State of Florida in Congress, to procure such
modification or alteration thereof as may be deemed reasonable
and just, and assent thereto, subject to the ratification of the
General Assembly by law as aforesaid.
The Courts of this State shall never entertain jurisdiction of any
grants of land, in the Floridas, made by the King of Spain, or by his
authority, subsequent to the twenty-fourth day of January, eighteen
hundred and eighteen, nor shall the said Courts receive as
evidence, in any case, certain grants said to have been made by
the said King of Spain, in favor of the Duke of Alagon, the Count
Punon Rostro, and Don Pedro de Vargas, or any title derived from
either of said Grants, unless with the express assent of the
Congress of the United States.
Done in Convention held in pursuance of an act of the Governor
and Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida, entitled, "An Act
to call a Convention for the purpose of organizing a State
Government," passed 30th day of January, 1838, and approved
2nd February, eighteen hundred and thirty-eight. In witness
whereof, the undersigned, the President of said Convention and
Delegates, representing the people of Florida, do hereunder sign
our names, this the eleventh day of January, Anno Domini,
eighteen hundred and thirty-nine, and of the Independence of the
United States of America, the sixty-third year; and the Secretary of
said Convention, doth countersign the same.
ROBERT RAYMOND REID, President.
Walker Anderson, J. McCants, John L. McKinnon, John C.
McGehee, Daniel G. McLean, Joseph B. Watts, Stephen J. Roche,
William B. Hooker, E. Robbins, Wilson Brooks, Cosam Emir
Bartlett, George E. McClellan, Thomas Baltzell, John F. Webb,
Saml. C. Bellamy, John M. G. Hunter, Alfred L. Woodward, I.
Garrison, Richard H. Long, E. K. White, R. C. Allen, A. W. Crichton,
Banks Meacham, Oliver Wood, John W. Malone, Wm. Haddock,
George T. Ward, Jose Simeon Sanchez, W. Wyatt, Edwin T.
Jenckes, James D. Westcott, Jr., D. Levy, Leigh Read, W. H.
Williams, A. Bellamy, William Marvin, John N. Partridge, J. B.
Browne, William Bunce, Edmund Bird, E. Carrington Cabell, L. A.
JOSHUA KNOWLES, Secretary of the Convention.