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COLONY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE.
BY THE COUNCIL AND ASSEMBLY, A PROCLAMATION.
Whereas, the Congress of this colony have, agreeable to a recommendation from the honorable Continental Congress, resolved on and formed themselves upon a plan of government by a Council and House of Representatives, which plan has been published, and dispersed through the colony, and is to be in force during the present dispute with Great Britain, unless otherwise advised by the Continental Congress ; conformable to which said plan of government, the Council and Assembly have chosen and appointed the proper officers for the administration of justice in the several counties, who are to be sworn to the faithful discharge of their several trusts. It is therefore expected that no person or persons claim or exercise any civil authority but such as are, or may be, appointed as aforesaid, on the penalty of being deemed inimical to their country.
Provided, nevertheless, and this proclamation is intended not to interfere with the power of the necessary committees of inspection, or safety, chosen in the several towns through the colony by virtue and in consequence of any recommendation or resolves of the Continental Congress.
Whereof, all persons concerned are to take due notice, and govern themselves accordingly.
And at the same time it is earnestly recommended that in this distressing day of public calamity, when our enemies are watching all opportunities to ensnare and divide us, every one would strive to prevent, and, if possible, to quell all appearance of party spirit, to cultivate and promote peace, union, and good order, and by all means in their power to discourage profaneness, immorality, and injustice.
By order of the Council and Assembly at Exeter, the 19th day of March, Anno Domini 1776.
M. WEARE, E. THOMPSON, Secretary. President of the Council.
God save the people.
Character of Government Formed. Chief Justice Joel Parker commenting upon this Frame of Government in Brewster vs. Hough, New Hampshire Reports, vol. 10, p.
143, said :
The constitution of January 5, 1776, was not in fact al grant of power by the people, or an instrument submitted to them for their sanction, but was a form of civil government adopted by a congress of representatives, elected by the inhabitants of the several towns, in pursuance of the vote of a convention, and empowered to prosecute such measures as they should deem necessary for the public good, during the term of one year. It provided for a form of government to continue during the contest with Great Britain, and was afterwards continued in force one year longer, by the vote of the people.
Associate Justice William M. Chase, in an address delivered at Concord, November 2, 1902, more fully described the nature and effects of this temporary constitution, as well as the powers which were exercised under it. He said :
It has been asserted that Virginia was the first of the colonies to adopt a written constitution; but its convention did not assemble until May, 1776, and New Hampshire is entitled to that distinction. This constitution is very brief, containing only about nine hundred words, and nearly half of these are in the preamble. Its brevity is more apparent when it is compared with the present constitution, which contains nearly eleven thousand words. It deals with few subjects only, and is very general in its terms.
It will be noticed that there was no provision for separate executive and judicial departments of government, and that no restraints were placed upon the council and assembly in any direction. These two bodies had full power to exercise all the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government. This was in accordance with a theory of government then entertained by some of the leading men of the times. It is said that Franklin and Samuel Adams favored it; and the principle was adopted in the first constitutions of Pennsylvania and Georgia.
This constitution was not submitted to the people; but, as has already been intimated, went into effect upon its adoption by the convention, the members of which were clothed with full authority for the purpose. Although adopted as a temporary measure, it continued in force until the first Wednesday of June, 1784 - a period of nearly eight years and a half.
The council and assembly while in session exercised executive authority; and at every adjournment they appointed a committee of safety, consisting of from six to sixteen persons, to act during the recess. By an act passed July 5, 1776, they established courts of law. They changed the name from the Colony of New Hampshire to the State of New Hampshire, September 19; and early in the next year, to remove all doubts on the subject, they re-established the general system of laws that was in force when the constitution was adopted, in so far as the laws were not repugnant to the provisions of the constitution.
During the existence of this constitution, the legislature raised money by taxation and loans, and apportioned it to public uses, and passed laws relating to marriages, the care of paupers, the regulation of highways, the establishment and regulation of the militia, the punishment of crimes — in short, acted upon all subjects that required legislative action. The statutes so passed covered more than three hundred quarto printed pages. The maintenance of civil government under a fundamental law so incomplete, imperfect, and weak, as was this constitution, for so long a period, during which the stress and demoralization attending a war of revolution existed, shows that the people generally recognized and respected the rights of individuals, and were able to control their ambitions and jealousies for the common good. Notwithstanding they had rebelled against the existing government, they were a law-abiding people.
NEW HAMPSHIRE DECLARATION OF INDE
On the rith day of June, 1776, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed the following vote :
“ That Samuel Cutts, Timothy Walker, and John Dudley, Esqrs., be a committee of this house to join a committee of the honorable board, to make a draft of a declaration of this General Assembly for independence of the United Colonies on Great Britain.”
IN COUNCIL, JUNE II, 1776. “A vote appointing Samʼl Cutts, Timothy Walker, and John Dudley a committee, with such as the board should join, to make a draft of a declaration of the General Assembly for independence of the United Colonies on Great Britain, brought up, read, and concurred with this amendment, that the committee prepare a draft setting forth the sentiments and opinion of the Council and Assembly of this colony relative to the United Colonies forming themselves into independent States, in order that when passed the same may be transmitted to our delegates at the Continental Congress, and that Messrs. Hurd, Claggett, and the secretary* be added to the committee.”
JUNE 15, 1776. “ The committee of both houses, appointed to prepare a draft setting forth the sentiments and opinion of the Council and Assembly of this colony relative to the United Colonies setting up an independent State, made report as on file, which report being read and considered, voted unanimously that the report of said committee be received and accepted, and that the draft by them brought in be sent to our delegates at the Continental Congress forthwith as the sense of this house."
* Ebenezer Thompson.
The draft made by the committee of both houses, relating to independency, is as follows, viz. :
Whereas, it now appears an undoubted fact, that notwithstanding all the dutiful petitions and decent remonstrances from the American colonies, and the utmost exertions of their best friends in England on their behalf, the British ministry, arbitrary and vindictive, are yet determined to reduce, by fire and sword, our bleeding country to their absolute obedience; and for this purpose, in addition to their own forces, have engaged great numbers of foreign mercenaries, who may now be on their passage here, accompanied by a formidable fleet, to ravage and plunder the seacoast; from all which we may reasonably expect the most dismal scenes of distress the ensuing year, unless we exert ourselves by every means and precaution possible ; and whereas, we, of this colony of New Hampshire, have the example of several of the most respectable of our sister colonies before us for entering upon that most important step of a disunion from Great Britain, and declaring ourselves free and independent of the crown thereof, being impelled thereto by the most violent and injurious treatment ; and it appearing absolutely necessary in this most critical juncture of our public affairs that the honorable the Continental Congress, who have this important object under their immediate consideration, should be also informed of our resolutions thereon without loss of time, we do hereby declare that it is the