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shall be admitted to ye liberty of being freemen of this Province, and to give theire votes for the choice of Deputies for the Generall Assembly, Constables, Selectmen, Jurors and other officers and concernes in ye townes where they dwell; provided this order give no liberty to any pson or psons to vote in the dispossion or distribution of any lands, timber or other properties in ye Towne, but such as have reall right thereto; and if any difference arise about s' right of voting, it shall be judged and determined by ye Presidt and Councill wih the Gen" Assembly of this Province.”
On the fourteenth of November, 1682, these qualifications were so modified
“That all persons, setled inhabitants & freeholders in any Town of this Province of Twenty one years, and no other, Shall have liberty of giving their votes for the choice of Assemblymen, Jurors, Trustees or Overseers for the respective Towns, Constables, or other necessary Town officers, or in any Town concerns. Nor shall any be chosen Assemblymen, Jurors, or Trustees &c. for the Towns, but such. And further, No person shall be deemed a freeholder, but such as hath a ratable estate of 151 according to valuation of stated by law."
The foregoing enactment remained in force nearly seventeen years, when, on the seventh of August, 1699, the qualifications were again revised in the following
“ And be it further enacted by the authority afore said, That no person Inhabiting within this Province, other than Freeholders of the value or income of Forty Shillings per Annum, or upwards in Land, or worth Fifty Pounds Sterling at the least, in personal Estate,
shall have any vote in the Election of Representatives, or be capable of being elected, to Serve in the General Assembly; and the Tryal of such Qualifications as aforesaid shall be by the last Lists of Rates and assessments, which the Selectmen of each respective Town are hereby required to bring with them for that end, upon all days, and times appointed for such Elections.”
From the passage of the act of 1680, which assigned representation to the four original towns, until 1698, no list has been found which gives the representatives together with their respective towns, but it appears from the Journals of the Council and Assembly that as early as 1693 the Assembly had increased from eleven to thirteen, one member having been returned from the “ Isle of Shols." The other probably appeared for Newcastle or Great Island. In 1698, however, it is certain that, in addition to the eleven representatives from the four original towns, Newcastle returned two.
From this time forward the growth of the Assembly is most clearly indicated by the following table compiled from the Province Papers, dates after 1698 indicating when towns are definitely known first to have sent representatives :
Plaistow and Hampton .
Dunstable and Merrimack
Nottingham West and Litchfield
Rochester 1768. Keene
Several minor changes in representation which do not lend themselves readily to tabulation should also be noted. In 1762 Dunstable and Merrimack, which formerly had been grouped together with one representative, were disassociated, and regrouped, Dunstable with Hollis, and Merrimack with Monson. Each of these new groups was allowed one representative, which added one to the total. In 1722 Hampton Falls, which was set off from Hampton in 1712, was assigned one member, and the latter town, which previously had sent three, was reduced to two. A similar readjustment occurred again in 1727, when Rye, which was incorporated in 1726, was allowed a representative, and Newcastle, from which it was taken, was reduced from two to one. These two last mentioned changes did not affect the total representation, nor did the grouping of Atkinson with Plaistow and Hampstead in 1770. Dover returned only one representative for each triennial term of the Assembly from 1755 until 1762, but sent two in the latter year, and thereafter until the first Provincial Congress.
In 1727 the term of service of representatives was limited to three years. Previous to that date the term had been indefinite, and Assemblies continued in existence until prorogued by the governor, when a new election was ordered.
A list of ratable polls prepared for the General Assembly in 1768, shows that, in the case of the four original towns represented, while the proportion of polls to population had greatly increased, the apportionment had become extremely irregular. Portsmouth had increased from 71 polls in 1679 to 910 in 1768; Dover, from 61 to 384; Hampton, from 57 to 199; and Exeter, from 20 to 390. But each of these towns during the entire period from 1680 to the first Provincial Congress in 1774 was represented by the same number of deputies provided by the act of 1680, except Dover during the period 1755-1774, as previously described.
During the period from 1698 to 1774, however, it is to be noticed that each town, or group of towns, when admitted to representation, whatever its population, was allowed only one deputy, and was given no more till the end of the period.
The last session of the provincial General Assembly, whose basis of representation from its beginning in 1680 has now been traced, was adjourned by Gov. John Wentworth, July 15, 1775, by message from Fort William and Mary, whither he had withdrawn at the opening of the revolutionary conflict. For some time, however, the necessity of some stable form of government during the impending struggle had been clearly foreseen, and in spite of Governor Wentworth's protests of illegality the Assembly, as early as the 28th of May, 1774, had taken measures through a committee to provide for a representative governing body.
As an immediate result of this action, on July 6, 1774, a call was issued to the "several towns and parishes" to send deputies to Exeter upon the 21st of July, and in accordance with this call eighty-five delegates appeared on the appointed day. The journals of this body, known as the First Provincial Congress, were not preserved, but an account of the proceedings was published in the New Hampshire Gazette of July 29, 1774. The membership as far as it is known has been compiled from town records. Portsmouth sent seven, Dover and Exeter each five, Hampton four, Kingston three, Chester, Durham, East Kingston, Epping, Greenland, Lee, Rye, Somersworth and Stratham, each two, and twenty-two other towns are known to have sent one each. Of the remaining twenty-one members no record can be found.
A second Provincial Congress met at Exeter, January 25, 1775, with 144 delegates in attendance, though from town records a list of only 121 can be compiled.
A third Provincial Congress met April 21, 1775, in the same town, with a membership of 109. According to the journal of this Congress the number of representatives was considered inadequate properly to express