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The following table shows the dates of the approval of the several acts of the Legislature between 1850 and 1876, 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 :
Sixth Constitutional Convention, 1876. The delegates elected to this convention assembled in the hall of the house of representatives in the Capitol at Concord on Wednesday, December 6, 1876, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon.
At the afternoon session the convention elected Daniel Clark, of Manchester, to be its president, and Thomas J. Smith, of Dover, to be secretary, and Alpheus W. Baker, of Lebanon, to be assistant secretary.
On December 7th, Mr. Sargent, of Concord, for the Committee on Rules, reported the following rules which were adopted by the convention :
1. The President shall take the chair at precisely the hour to which the Convention shall have adjourned, shall immediately call the members to order, and at the commencement of each day's session shall cause the journal of the preceding day to be read.
He shall preserve decorum and order, and may speak on points of order in preference to other members, and may substitute any member to perform the duties of the chair, such substitution not to extend beyond an adjournment.
2. All committees shall be appointed by the President, unless otherwise directed by the convention; and the first named member of any committee appointed by the President shall be chairman.
3. No person but the members and officers of the convention shall be admitted within the chamber, unless by invitation of the President or some member of the convention.
4. No member shall speak more than twice to the same question without leave of the convention.
5. When any question is under debate, no motion shall be received but, ist, to adjourn; 2d, to lie on the table; 3d, to postpone to a day certain ; 4th, to commit; 5th, to amend,—which several motions shall take precedence in the order in which they are arranged. Motions to adjourn and lie on the table shall be decided without debate.
6. Any member may call for a division of the question, when the sense will admit of it; but a motion to strike out and insert shall not be divided.
7. A motion for commitment, until it is decided, shall precede all amendments to the main question; and all motions and reports may be committed at the pleasure of the convention.
8. No vote shall be reconsidered unless the motion for reconsideration be made by a member who voted with the majority.
9. Every question shall be decided by yeas and nays, whenever a demand for the same shall be made and sustained by at least ten members.
10. The convention may resolve itself into a committee of the whole convention, at any time, on the motion of a member; and, in forming a committee of the whole, the president shall leave the chair, and appoint a chairman to preside in committee; and the rules of proceeding in convention, and the rule relating to calls for the yeas and nays, shall be observed in committee of the whole, except the rule limiting the times of speaking.
II. After the journal has been read and corrected, the order of business shall be as follows, viz., Ist, the presentation of resolutions and petitions ; 2d, the reports of committees; 3d, the unfinished business of the preceding day.
Mr. Sargent of Concord, for the Committee on Rules and Methods of Procedure, also reported the following resolution, which was adopted :
Resolved, That this convention will proceed to revise the present Constitution of the state by considering it as in committee of the whole, till gone through with under consecutive and separate heads, and by sending to special and appropriate committees, from time to time, such amendments as may be adopted by the convention; that there shall be appointed four separate committees, by the president, consisting of two members from each county, which shall be committees on the following subjects, viz. :
1. The Bill of Rights, the Executive Department, and the Religious Test.
The Legislative Department. 3. The Judicial Department.
4. Future mode of amending the Constitution, and other miscellaneous matters.
These committees shall consider the amendments submitted to them by the convention, and put the same in proper form, and recommend such modifications and amendments of the same as they may deem necessary.
(J. 1876, pp. 26, 27.)
The president on December 8 appointed the standing committees of the convention, naming their chairmen as follows:
Committee on Bill of Rights, Executive Department, and Religious Test.
Chairman, Samuel M. Wheeler, of Dover. Committee on Legislative Department.
Chairman, Harry Bingham, of Littleton. Committee on Judiciary Department.
Chairman, Jonathan E. Sargent, of Concord. Committee on Future Amendments of the Constitution, and other miscellaneous matters.
Chairman, John S. H. Frink, of Greenland.
Some of the other prominent members of the convention were, John J. Bell and Gilman Marston, of Exeter; Ichabod Goodwin, William H. Y. Hackett, of Portsmouth; Franklin McDuffee, of Rochester; Thomas J. Whipple, of Laconia ; John W. Sanborn, of Wakefield; John M. Shirley, of Andover ; James O. Lyford, of Canterbury; Ai B. Thompson, Jacob H. Gallinger, John Kimball, William E. Chandler, Joseph Wentworth, Benjamin A. Kimball, and Isaac W. Hammond, of Concord; Isaac N. Blodgett and Edward B. S. Sanborn, of Franklin; George C. Gilmore, Frederick Smyth, James F. Briggs and Charles H. Bartlett, of Manchester; George A. Ramsdell and Edward Spaulding, of Nashua; Silas Hardy and Francis A. Faulkner, of Keene; Dexter Richards, of Newport; John G. Sinclair, of Bethlehem; Henry E. Parker, of Hanover; John L. Spring, of Lebanon ; Samuel B. Page, of Haverhill, and Jacob Benton, of Lancaster.
This convention was in session for eleven days and prepared and submitted to the people thirteen amendments to the constitution, and provided that the General Court should fix the time when such of them as might be adopted should take effect. Of these amendments, eleven of which were ratified by the people, the most important was that changing the basis of representation from ratable polls to population. Other important changes were the provision for biennial sessions, the increase of the number of senators from twelve to twenty-four, the election of sheriffs by popular vote, the abolition of the religious test and the change in time of holding elections from March to November.
The convention voted to submit its amendments to the people at the annual town meetings on March 13, 1877, in the form of thirteen questions. (Governer Cheney on the 16th of the following April by public proclamation announced the result of the vote.)
(Annual Message of Governor Prescott, June, 1877.)
The text of the thirteen questions and proposed amendments to the constitution with the vote thereon is given on pages 224–229.
After having provided by resolution for its reassembling at the call of the president should the welfare of the State seem to him to demand it, the convention on Dec. 16, 1876, adjourned sine die. By order of this convention the Journal of its proceedings was published.