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Constitution unchanged since 1889. The following table shows the dates of the approval of the several acts of the Legislature from 1889–1902, providing for taking the sense of the qualified voters on the expediency of calling a convention to revise the constitution, and the aggregate, the affirmative, and the negative votes on the question as returned by the town clerks :
Pursuant to the last mentioned vote the General Court by an act approved March 21, 1901, which is printed in full on a following page, provided for the election on November 4, 1902, of delegates to a constitutional convention, to assemble at Concord on the second day of December following.
The Basis of Representation in New Hampshire Previous to
the Adoption of the Constitution of 1783.
The people of New Hampshire first appear as participants in a representative legislative body in 1641, when, in response to an order from the General Court of the Colony of Massachusetts, the town of Hampton sent one deputy to the General Court at Boston. Strawberry Bank, or Portsmouth, was admitted to a similar privilege in 1642, and Dover in 1643. From this time until 1679, when the jurisdiction of Massachusetts over New Hampshire terminated, each of these towns was represented, sometimes by one deputy and sometimes by two, in the General Court of Massachusetts.
September 18, 1679, New Hampshire entered upon a separate political existence by the commission of its first independent chief magistrate, John Cutt, a merchant of Portsmouth, as president. With him were associated nine councillors. This commission provided that within three months after taking oath of office the president and council should “... issue forth Sum’ons under Seal by Us appointed to be used in the nature of writs for the calling of a Generall Assembly of the said Prov: using & observing there such rules and methods (as to the persons who are to Chuse their deputies, & the time and place of meeting) as they shall judg most convenient." An examination of such commissions of later governors as have been published, including those in the volume of Province Papers now (1902) in press, does not reveal any essential modification of these directions for convening a General Assembly.
In pursuance of the foregoing instructions, the first Assembly was convened at Portsmouth, March 16, 1680. It consisted of eleven members, three each from Portsmouth, Dover and Hampton, and two from Exeter. The aforesaid towns at this time had respectively 71, 61, 57, and 20 inhabitants qualified to vote, so that the original basis of representation was about one member to twenty voters.
This first Assembly passed the following act, which was approved by the governor and council :
“ It is enacted by this assembly and the authority thereof, yt ye severall constables in each town of ye province doe warne and call together the free men of theire respective townes, on ye first Monday in february, annually, and from among themselves to make their election of Deputies for ye Genll Assembly, who are to meet at Portsmo on ye first Tuesday of March, by 10 of ye Clock in ye forenoon, and ye number of Deputies for each towne to be as followeth, vizt : 3 for ye towne of Ports", 3 for ye towne of Hampton, 3 for ye towne of Dover, and 2 for ye towne of Exeter, whose names, after their election and acceptance, ye severall Consa" shall make return of to ye Assembly, as above under their hands ..."
This Assembly at the same time defined - freemen” by the following act:
“ It is ordered by this Assembly and the authority thereof, yt all Englishmen, being Protestants, yt are settled Inhabitants and freeholders in any towne of this Province, of ye age of 24 years, not viceous in life but of honest and good conversation, and such as have 20 1 Rateable estate wthout heads of persons having also taken the oath of allegiance to his Majs, and no others 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 wth 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
6. 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 :