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STATE OF RHODE-ISLAND
We, the people of the State of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the same, unimpaired, to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this constitution of government.
Declaration of certain Constitutional Rights and Principles.
In order effectually to secure the religious and political freedom established by our venerated ancestors, and to preserve the same for our posterity, we do declare, that the essential and unquestionable rights and principles hereinafter mentioned, shall be established, maintained and preserved, and shall be of paramount obligation in all legislative, judicial and executive proceedings.
Section 1. In the words of the Father of his Country, we declare, that “the basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government; but that the constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all."
Sec. 2. All free governments are instituted for the protection, safety and happiness of the people. All laws, therefore, should be made for the good of the whole; and the burdens of the state ought to be fairly distributed among its citizens.
Sec. 3. Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; and all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness; and whereas a principal object of our venerable ancestors, in their migration to this country and their settlement of this state, was, as they expressed it, to hold forth a lively experiment, that a flourishing civil state may stand and be best maintained with full liberty in religious concernments : we, therefore, declare, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or to support any religious worship, place or ministry whatever, except in fulfilment of his own voluntary contract; nor enforced, restrained, molested or burthened in his body or goods; nor disqualified from holding any office; nor otherwise suffer on account of his religious belief; and that every man shall be free to
worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and to profess and by argument to maintain his opinion in matters of religion ; and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect his civil capacity.
Sec. 4. Slavery shall not be permitted in this state.
Sec. 5. Every person within this state ought to find a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which he may receive in his person, property, or character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely, and without purchase, completely and without denial ; promptly and without delay; conformably, to the laws.
Sec. 6. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers, and possessions, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue, but on complaint in writing, upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and describing as nearly as may be, the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Sec. 7. No person shall be held to answer for a capital or other infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment by a grand jury, except in cases of impeachment, or of such offences as are cognizable by a justice of the peace; or in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger. No person shall, after an acquittal, be tried for the same offence.
Sec. 8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel punishments inflicted; and all punishments ought to be proportioned to the offence.
Sec. 9. All persons imprisoned ought to be bailed by sufficient surety, unless for offences punishable by death or by imprisonment for life, when the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption great. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety shall require it; nor ever without the authority of the general assembly.
Sec. 10. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury ; to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining them in his favor, to have the assistance of counsel in his defence, and shall be at liberty to speak for himself; nor shall he be deprived of life, liberty, or property, unless by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land.
Sec. 11. The person of a debtor, when there is not strong presumption of fraud, ought not to be continued in prison, after he shall have delivered up his property for the benefit of his creditors, in such manner as shall be prescribed by law.
Sec. 12. No ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall be passed.
Sec. 13. - No man in a court of common law shall be compelled to give evidence criminating himself.
Sec. 14. Every man being presumed innocent, until he is pronounced guilty by the law, no act of severity which is not necessary to secure an accused person, shall be permitted.
The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate.
Sec. 16. Private property shall not be taken for public uses, without just compensation.
Sec. 17. The people shall continue to enjoy and freely exercise all the rights of fishery, and the privileges of the shore, to which they have been heretofore entitled under the charter and usages of this state. But no new right is intended to be granted, nor any existing right impaired, by this declaration.
Sec. 18. The military shall be held in strict subordination to the civil authority. And the law martial shall be used and exercised in such cases only as occasion shall necessarily require.
Sec. 19. No soldier shall be quartered in any house, in time of peace, without the consent of the owner; nor, in time of war, but in manner to be prescribed by law.
Sec. 20. The liberty of the press being essential to the security of freedom in a state, any person may publish his sentiments on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty; and in all trials for libel, both civil and criminal, the truth, unless published from malicious motives, shall be sufficient defence to the person charged.
21. The citizens have a right in a peaceable manner to assemble for their common good, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government, for redress of grievances, or for other purposes, by petition, address or remonstrance.
Sec. 22. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Sec. 23. The enumeration of the foregoing rights shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people.
Of the Qualification of Electors.
Sec. I. Every male citizen of the United States, of the age of twenty-one years, who has had his residence and home in this state for one year, and in the town or city in which he may claim a right to vote, six months, next preceding the time of voting, and who is really and truly possessed in his own right of real estate in such town or city of the value of one hundred and thirty-four dollars over and above all incumbrances, or which shall rent for seven dollars per annum over and above any rent reserved or the interest of any incumbrances thereon, being an estate in fee simple, fee tail, for the life of any person, or an estate in reversion or remainder, which qualifies no other person to vote, the conveyance of which estate, if by deed, shall have been recorded at least ninety days, shall thereafter have a right to vote in the election of all civil officers and on all questions in all legal town or ward meetings so long as he continues so qualified. And if any person hereinbefore described shall own any such estate within this state out of
the town or city in which he resides, he shall have a right to vote in the election of all general officers and members of the general assembly in the town or city in which he shall have had his residence and home for the term of six months next preceding the election, upon producing a certificate from the clerk of the town or city in which his estate lies, bearing date within ten days of the time of his voting, setting forth that such person has a sufficient estate therein to qualify him as a voter; and that the deed, if any, has been recorded ninety days.
Sec. 2. Every male native citizen of the United States, of the age of twenty-one years, who has had his residence and home in this state two years, and in the town or city in which he may offer to vote, six months next preceding the time of voting, whose name is registered pursuant to the act calling the convention to frame this constitution, or shall be registered in the office of the clerk of such town or city at least seven days before the time he shall offer to vote, and before the last day of December'in the present year; and who has paid or shall pay a tax or taxes assessed upon his estate within this state and within a year of the time of voting to the amount of one dollar, or who shall voluntarily pay, at least seven days before the time he shall offer to vote, and before said last day of December, to the clerk or treasurer of the town or city where he resides, the sum of one dollar, or such sum as with his other taxes shall amount to one dollar, for the support of public schools therein, and shall make proof of the same, by the certificate of the clerk, treasurer or collector of any town or city where such payment is made: or who, being so registered, has been enrolled in any military company in this state, and done military service or duty therein, within the present year, pursuant to law, and shall, (until other proof is required by law) prove by the certificate of the officer legally commanding the regiment, or chartered, or legally authorized volunteer company in which he may have served or done duty, that he has been equipped and done duty according to law, or by the certificate of the commissioners upon military claims, that he has performed military service, shall have a right to vote in the election of all civil officers, and on all questions in all legally organized town or ward meetings, until the end of the first year after the adoption of this constitution, or until the end of the year eighteen hundred and fortythree.
From and after that time, every such citizen who has had the residence herein required, and whose name shall be registered in the town where he. resides, on or before the last day of December, in the year next preceding the time of his voting, and who shall show by legal proof, that he has for and within the year next preceding the time he shall offer to vote, paid a tax or taxes assessed against him in any town or city in this state, to the amount of one dollar, or that he has been enrolled in a military company in this state, been equipped and done duty therein, according to law, and at least for one day during such year, shall have a right to vote in the election of all civil officers, and on all questions, in all legally organized town or ward meetings: Provided, that no person shall at any time be allowed to vote in the election of the city council of the city of Providence, or upon any proposition to impose a tax or for the expenditure of money in any town or.city, unless he shall within the year next preceding, have paid a tax assessed upon his property therein, valued at least at one hundred and thirty-four dollars.
Sec. 3. The assesso:s of each town or city shalì annually assess upon every person whose name shall be registered, a tax of one dollar, or such sum as with his other taxes shall amount to one dollar, which registry tax shall be paid into the treasury of such town' or city, and be applied to the
support of public schools therein : but no compulsory process shall issue for the collection of any registry tax: Provided, that the registry tax of every person who has performed military duty according to the provisions of the preceding section, shall be remitted for the year he shall perform such duty; and the registry tax assessed upon any mariner, for any year while he is at sea, shall, upon his application, be remitted; and no person shall be allowed to vote whose registry tax for either of the two years next preceding the time of voting is not paid or remitted as herein provided.
Sec. 4. No person in the military, naval, marine or any other service of the United States, shall be considered as having the required residence by reason of being employed in any garrison, barrack, or military or naval station in this state : and no pauper, lunatic, person non compos mentis, person under guardianship, or member of the Narragansett tribe of Indians, shall be permitted to be registered or to vote. Nor shall any person convicted of bribery, or of any crime deemed infamous at common law, be
permitted to exercise that privilege, until he be expressly restored thereto by act of the general assembly.
Sec. 5. Persons. residing on lands 'ceded by this state to the United States shall not be entitled to exercise the privilege of electors.
Sec. 6. The general assembly shall have full power to provide for a registry of voters, to prescribe the manner of conducting the elections, the form of certificates, the nature of the evidence to be required in case of a dispute as to the right of any person to vote, and generally to "enact all laws necessary to carry this article into effect, and to prevent abuse, corruption, and fraud in voting.
Of the Distribution of Powers.
The powers of the government shall be distributed into three departments: the legislative, executive and judicial.
Of the Legislative Power.
Sec. 1. This constitution shall be the supreme law of the state,
and any law inconsistent therewith shall be void. The general assembly, shall pass all laws necessary to carry, this constitution into effect.
Sec. 2. The legislative power, under this constitution, shall be vested in two houses, the one to be called the senate, the other the house of representatives ; and both together the general assembly. The concurrence of the two houses shall be necessary to the enactment of laws. The style of their laws shall be, It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows :
Sec. 3. There shall be two sessions of the general assembly holden annually: one at Newport, on the first Tuesday of May, for the purposes of election and other business; the other on the last Monday of October, which last session shall be holden at South Kingstown once in two years,