State constitution (United States)

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

Usually, they are longer than the 8,500-word federal Constitution and 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, at 357,157 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 Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, part of 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). 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 its history.

The organized territories of the United States also have constitutions or organic acts of their own, if they have an organized government through an Organic Act passed by the federal Congress. These constitutions are subject to congressional approval and oversight, which is not the case with state constitutions. If territories wish to enter the Union (that is, to attain statehood), they seek an enabling act from Congress and must draft an acceptable state constitution as a prerequisite to statehood.

List of constitutions[edit]

The following is a list of the current constitutions of the United States of America and its constituent political divisions. Each entry shows the original number of the current constitution, the official name of the current constitution, and the date on which the current constitution took effect.

Federal constitution[edit]

No. Official name Date of effect Notes
1st Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union March 1, 1781 [1]
2nd Constitution of the United States of America March 4, 1789

State constitutions[edit]

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

No. Official name Date of effect Notes
6th Alabama, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Alabama November 28, 1901
1st Alaska, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Alaska January 3, 1959
1st Arizona, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Arizona February 14, 1912
4th Arkansas, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Arkansas October 13, 1874
2nd California, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of California January 1, 1880
1st Colorado, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Colorado August 1, 1876
2nd Connecticut, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Connecticut December 30, 1965
4th Delaware, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Delaware June 10, 1897
5th Florida, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Florida January 7, 1969
9th Georgia, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Georgia July 1, 1983
1st HawaiiConstitution of the State of Hawaiʻi August 21, 1959 [2]
1st Idaho, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Idaho July 3, 1890
4th Illinois, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Illinois July 1, 1971
2nd Indiana, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Indiana November 1, 1851
2nd Iowa, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Iowa August 3, 1857
1st Kansas, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Kansas January 29, 1861 [3]
4th Kentucky, Constitution of the Commonwealth ofConstitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky August 3, 1891
9th Louisiana, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Louisiana January 1, 1975
1st Maine, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Maine March 3, 1820 [4]
4th Maryland, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Maryland October 5, 1867
1st Massachusetts, Constitution of the Commonwealth ofConstitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts October 25, 1780 [5]
4th Michigan, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Michigan January 1, 1964
1st Minnesota, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Minnesota May 11, 1858
4th Mississippi, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Mississippi November 1, 1890
4th Missouri, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Missouri March 30, 1945
2nd Montana, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Montana July 1, 1973
2nd Nebraska, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Nebraska November 1, 1875
1st Nevada, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Nevada October 31, 1864
3rd New Hampshire, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of New Hampshire June 5, 1793 [6]
3rd New Jersey, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of New Jersey January 1, 1948
1st New Mexico, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of New Mexico January 6, 1912
4th New York, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of New York January 1, 1895 [7]
4th North Carolina, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of North Carolina July 1, 1971
1st North Dakota, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of North Dakota November 2, 1889
2nd Ohio, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Ohio September 1, 1851
1st Oklahoma, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Oklahoma November 16, 1907
1st Oregon, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Oregon February 14, 1859
4th Pennsylvania, Constitution of the Commonwealth ofConstitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania January 1, 1874 [8]
2nd Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations May 2, 1843
6th South Carolina, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of South Carolina January 1, 1896
1st South Dakota, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of South Dakota November 2, 1889
3rd Tennessee, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Tennessee March 26, 1870
4th Texas, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Texas February 17, 1876 [9]
1st Utah, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Utah January 4, 1896
1st Vermont, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Vermont July 9, 1793 [10]
7th Virginia, Constitution of the Commonwealth ofConstitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia July 1, 1971
1st Washington, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Washington November 11, 1889
2nd West Virginia, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of West Virginia August 22, 1872
1st Wisconsin, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Wisconsin May 29, 1848
1st Wyoming, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Wyoming July 10, 1890

Federal district charter[edit]

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

The District of Columbia (Washington City in 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[11] and 1987[12] respectively referring to the district as the State of New Columbia.

Territorial constitutions[edit]

Organic acts[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Despite its very different title, the United States Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, adopted on November 15, 1777, and ratified on March 1, 1781, was actually the first constitution of the United States of America. See Christian G. Fritz, American Sovereigns: The People and America's Constitutional Tradition Before the Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2008) at p. 131 [ISBN 978-0-521-88188-3 (noting that "Madison, along with other Americans clearly understood" the Articles of Confederation "to be the first federal Constitution.")
  2. ^ Excludes the constitutions of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the Republic of Hawaiʻi.
  3. ^ The Wyandotte Constitution supplanted the rejected Topeka Constitution, Lecompton Constitution, and Leavenworth Constitution.
  4. ^ Excludes the 1876 recodification of the Constitution of the State of Maine.
  5. ^ The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is currently the world's oldest written constitution that is still in effect.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Excludes the 1938 recodification of the Constitution of the State of New York.
  8. ^ Excludes the 1968 recodification of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  9. ^ Excludes the constitution of the Republic of Texas.
  10. ^ Excludes the two constitutions of the Vermont Republic.
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ [2][dead link]
  13. ^ Proclamation 4534--Constitution of the Northern Mariana Islands

Bibliography[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]