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State constitution (United States)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the United States, each state has its own written constitution.

Usually, they are much longer than the United States Constitution, which only contains 4,543 words. State constitutions are all longer than 8,000 words because they are more detailed regarding the day-to-day relationships between government and the people. The shortest is the Constitution of Vermont, adopted in 1793 and currently 8,295 words long. The longest is Alabama's sixth and current constitution, ratified in 1901, about 345,000 words long. Both the federal and state constitutions are organic texts: they are the fundamental blueprints for the legal and political organizations of the United States and the states, respectively.

The Bill of Rights provides that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The Guarantee Clause of Article 4 of the Constitution states that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." These two provisions indicate states did not surrender their wide latitude to adopt a constitution, the fundamental documents of state law, when the U.S. Constitution was adopted.

Typically state constitutions address a wide array of issues deemed by the states to be of sufficient importance to be included in the constitution rather than in an ordinary statute. Often modeled after the federal Constitution, they outline the structure of the state government and typically establish a bill of rights, an executive branch headed by a governor (and often one or more other officials, such as a lieutenant governor and state attorney general), a state legislature, and state courts, including a state supreme court (a few states have two high courts, one for civil cases, the other for criminal cases). They also provide general governmental framework for what each branch is supposed to do and how it should go about doing it. Additionally, many other provisions may be included. Many state constitutions, unlike the federal constitution, also begin with an invocation of God.

Some states allow amendments to the constitution by initiative.

Many states have had several constitutions over the course of their history.

The territories of the United States are "organized" and, thus, self-governing if the United States Congress has passed an Organic Act. Two of the 14 territories without commonwealth status – Guam and the United States Virgin Islands – are organized, but haven't adopted their own constitutions. One unorganized territory, American Samoa, has its own constitution. The remaining 13 unorganized territories have no permanent populations and are either under direct control of the U.S. Government or operate as military bases.

The commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) do not have organic acts but operate under local constitutions. Pursuant to the acquisition of Puerto Rico under the Treaty of Paris, 1898, the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States is controlled by Article IV of the United States Constitution. Constitutional law in the CNMI is based upon a series of constitutional documents, the most important of which are the 1976 Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in political union with the United States of America, which controls the relationship between the CNMI and the United States;[1] and the local commonwealth constitution, drafted in 1976, ratified by the people of the CNMI in March 1977, accepted by the United States Government in October 1977, and effective from 9 January 1978.[2]

List of constitutions

The following is a list of the current constitutions of the states in the United States. Each entry shows the ordinal number of the current constitution, the official name of the current constitution, the date on which the current constitution took effect, and the estimated length of the current constitution. Also below are a description of organic instruments with respect to additional territory.

Note that constitutions of states that were independent countries prior to admission, and constitutions used by rebelling states participating in the American Civil War are not counted.

General Information on State Constitutions[3]
No. Official name Date of effect Estimated length Notes
6th Constitution of the State of Alabama November 28, 1901 402,852 [4]
1st Constitution of the State of Alaska January 3, 1959 13,479
1st Constitution of the State of Arizona February 14, 1912 47,306
4th Constitution of the State of Arkansas October 13, 1874 59,120
2nd Constitution of the State of California January 1, 1880 76,930
1st Constitution of the State of Colorado August 1, 1876 84,239
2nd Constitution of the State of Connecticut December 30, 1965 16,401
4th Constitution of the State of Delaware June 10, 1897 25,445
5th Constitution of the State of Florida January 7, 1969 49,230
10th Constitution of the State of Georgia July 1, 1983 41,684
1st Constitution of the State of Hawaii August 21, 1959 21,498 [5]
1st Constitution of the State of Idaho July 3, 1890 24,626
4th Constitution of the State of Illinois July 1, 1971 16,401
2nd Constitution of the State of Indiana November 1, 1851 11,610
2nd Constitution of the State of Iowa August 3, 1857 11,089
1st Constitution of the State of Kansas January 29, 1861 14,097 [6]
4th Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky August 3, 1891 27,234
11th Constitution of the State of Louisiana January 1, 1975 76,730
1st Constitution of the State of Maine March 3, 1820 16,313 [7]
4th Constitution of the State of Maryland October 5, 1867 43,198
1st Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts October 25, 1780 45,283 [8]
4th Constitution of the State of Michigan January 1, 1964 31,164
1st Constitution of the State of Minnesota May 11, 1858 12,016
4th Constitution of the State of Mississippi November 1, 1890 26,229
4th Constitution of the State of Missouri March 30, 1945 84,924
2nd Constitution of the State of Montana July 1, 1973 12,790
2nd Constitution of the State of Nebraska November 1, 1875 34,934
1st Constitution of the State of Nevada October 31, 1864 37,418
3rd Constitution of the State of New Hampshire June 2, 1784 13,238 [9]
3rd Constitution of the State of New Jersey January 1, 1948 26,360
1st Constitution of the State of New Mexico January 6, 1912 33,198
4th Constitution of the State of New York January 1, 1895 49,360 [10]
3rd Constitution of the State of North Carolina July 1, 1971 17,177
1st Constitution of the State of North Dakota November 2, 1889 18,746
2nd Constitution of the State of Ohio September 1, 1851 63,140
1st Constitution of the State of Oklahoma November 16, 1907 84,956
1st Constitution of the State of Oregon February 14, 1859 49,430
4th Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania January 1, 1874 26,078 [11]
2nd Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations January 20, 1987 11,407
6th Constitution of the State of South Carolina January 1, 1896 27,421
1st Constitution of the State of South Dakota November 2, 1889 28,840
3rd Constitution of the State of Tennessee March 26, 1870 13,960
4th Constitution of the State of Texas February 17, 1876 92,025 [12]
1st Constitution of the State of Utah January 4, 1896 20,700
1st Constitution of the State of Vermont July 9, 1793 8,565 [13]
7th Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia July 1, 1971 22,570
1st Constitution of the State of Washington November 11, 1889 32,578
2nd Constitution of the State of West Virginia August 22, 1872 33,324
1st Constitution of the State of Wisconsin May 29, 1848 15,102
1st Constitution of the State of Wyoming July 10, 1890 26,349

Federal district charter

No. Official name Date of effect Notes
1st Charter of the District of Columbia December 24, 1973

The District of Columbia has a charter similar to charters of major cities, instead of having a constitution like the states and territories. The District of Columbia Home Rule Act establishes the Council of the District of Columbia, which governs the entire district and has certain devolved powers similar to those of major cities. Congress has full authority over the district and may amend the charter and any legislation enacted by the Council. Attempts at statehood for the District of Columbia have included the drafting of two constitutions in 1982[14] and 1987,[15] both referring to the district as the "State of New Columbia".

Commonwealth and Territorial constitutions

  • The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, July 25, 1952. It was ratified by Puerto Rico's electorate in a referendum on March 3, 1952, approved by the United States Congress.
  • The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands was drafted by thirty-nine elected delegates meeting in a constitutional convention on Saipan in 1976. Their proposed constitution was subsequently ratified by Northern Mariana Islands voters on March 6, 1977, and became effective January 9, 1978. Pursuant to the provisions of Section 202 of the Covenant, the Constitution of the Northern Mariana Islands was deemed to have been approved by the Government of the United States six months after the date of submission to the president. The six-month period having expired on October 22, 1977, President Carter issued a proclamation announcing the Constitution of the Northern Mariana Islands was deemed approved.[16]
  • The Constitution of the Territory of American Samoa was signed by 68 members of the 1960 constitutional convention and was approved by United States Secretary of the Interior Fred Andrew Seaton on 27 April 1960. It became effective 17 October 1960. Several amendments to the Constitution were approved in a referendum in the general elections in 1966, subsequently by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall on 2 June 1967, and became effective 1 July 1967.[17]

Organic acts

See also


  1. ^ "Covenant". June 17, 1975.
  2. ^ "Proclamations". January 9, 1978.
  3. ^ "Book of the States 2019, Chapter 1: State Constitutions". Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  4. ^ The Constitution of Alabama is currently the longest active written constitution in the world, more than two-and-a-half times the length of the second-longest (the Constitution of India).
  5. ^ Excludes the constitutions of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the Republic of Hawaiʻi.
  6. ^ The Wyandotte Constitution supplanted the rejected Topeka Constitution, Lecompton Constitution, and Leavenworth Constitution.
  7. ^ Excludes the 1876 recodification of the Constitution of the State of Maine.
  8. ^ The Constitution of Massachusetts is currently the world's oldest written constitution that is still in effect.
  9. ^ The first Constitution of the State of New Hampshire, adopted on January 5, 1776, was the first written constitution for an independent state in the New World and set the stage for the United States Declaration of Independence the following summer.
  10. ^ Excludes the 1938 recodification of the Constitution of the State of New York.
  11. ^ Excludes the 1968 recodification of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  12. ^ Excludes the constitution of the Republic of Texas.
  13. ^ Excludes the two constitutions of the Vermont Republic.
  14. ^[dead link]
  15. ^[dead link]
  16. ^ "Proclamations". October 24, 1977.
  17. ^ "American Samoa Constitution". October 17, 1960.

Further reading

  • Bryce, James, viscount. The American Commonwealth (2nd ed., rev.; London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), vol. 1, p. [413]-445, [683]-724, et passim.
  • Hammons, Christopher W. (1999). Was James Madison wrong? Rethinking the American preference for short, framework-oriented constitutions. American Political Science Review. Dec. 1999.
    • The appendices to this article contain substantial data on state constitutions.
  • Robinson Woodward-Burns. 2021. Hidden Laws: How State Constitutions Stabilize American Politics. Yale University Press.

External links

This page was last edited on 19 August 2021, at 05:12
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