Constitutional Development in the South Atlantic States. 1776-1860

By Fletcher M. Green | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
WRITING THE FIRST CONSTITUTIONS

A constitution is "the fundamental law of a state, directing the principles upon which the state government is founded, and regulating the exercise of the sovereign powers, directing to what bodies or persons these powers shall be confided and the manner of their exercise." -- BOUVIER.

IT was not until after the colonies had come to a decision on independence that they made any move toward establishing a permanent form of government. South Carolina did adopt a constitution, March 26, 1776, before she, or any of the colonies, had decided upon separation; but this constitution, as the document expressly declared, was designed as a temporary form of government to last only until the differences between the colony and England could be amicably settled. This temporary constitution remained the organic law of the state until November, 1778, because of the disordered conditions of the colony and not because of any idea of its permanency.1

North Carolina made an early, but unsuccessful, attempt to establish a temporary civil constitution, independent of the crown, in April, 1776. The provincial congress, which met at Halifax, April 4, 1776, "being all up for independence," on April 12, empowered the delegates of North Carolina in the Continental Congress to concur with the delegates of the other colonies in a declaration of independence. The next day, April 13, the provincial con-

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1
This constitution will be treated in detail later in the discussion.

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