The Tennessee Constitution February 19, 2013
Oh, Mommy Oh, Mommy, I ain’t no Commie I’m just doing what I can to live the good old all-American way It says right there in the Constitution It’s really A-OK to have a revolution When the leaders that you choose Really don’t fit their shoes . . .
Constitution of TennesseeArticle I, Section I • § 1 Powers of People That all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; for the advancement of those ends they have at all times, an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.
Constitution of TennesseeArticle I, Section II • § 2 Doctrine of Non-Resistance That government being instituted for the common benefit, the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.
From the Tennessee Supreme CourtPlanned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquist, 38 S.W.3d 1, 14 (Tenn. 2000) “Our constitution also contains specific provisions not found in the federal constitution, the most pertinent being Article 1, Section 2, condemning the doctrine of non-resistance. This provision exemplifies the strong and unique concept of liberty embodied in our constitution in that it ‘clearly assert[s] the right of revolution.’ Otis H. Stephens, Jr., The Tennessee Constitution and the Dynamics of American Federalism, 61 Tenn. L. Rev. 707, 710 (1994). It provides: ‘That government being instituted for the common benefit, the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.’ ” Tenn. Const. art. I, §2.
From the Tennessee Supreme CourtPlanned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee v. Sundquist, 38 S.W.3d 1, 14 (Tenn. 2000) “In essence, this section recognizes that our government serves at the will of the people of Tennessee, and expressly advocates active resistance against the government when government no longer functions to serve the people’s needs. There is no better statement of our constitution’s concept of liberty than this audacious empowerment of Tennesseans to forcibly dissolve the very government established but one Article later in our constitution.”
1796 Constitution • 5 delegates from each of the 11 counties • Met in office of David Hendley for 27 days • Experienced in government, including: • U.S. Constitutional Convention • North Carolina Constitutional Convention • Territorial Government • Watauga Association • Cumberland Compact
Preamble --- asserts the right to admission • General Assembly --- • Two houses (discussed for three days) • Met every other year in the fall • Chose judges, local officials • Established all courts • Had to own 200 acres of land in county represented
Governor --- sets up a weak governor • Two year term • No veto • Commander-in-chief of state’s army and navy and the militia • Had to own 500 acres of land • Judiciary --- • All courts established by the legislature • Legislature appointed judges and state’s attorneys
Declaration of Rights • Worship • Free speech • Trial by jury • Search and seizure • Right to counsel • Double jeopardy • Interesting points • Every freeman age 21 who owned a freehold and had been in the county for six months could vote • Declared the right to the free navigation of the Mississippi cannot be ceded to any prince, potentate, power or person
The 1796 Constitution was not submitted to the people for a vote. • Act admitting Tennessee to the Union as a state was signed on June 1, 1796 by President George Washington.
1835 Constitution • Convention met in Nashville in May 1834. • It included: • Willie Blount (former governor) • Newton Cannon (future governor) • Francis Fogg (Hume-Fogg) • Adam “Pegleg” Huntsman (later defeated Davy Crockett for Congress, prompting Crockett to go to Texas) • West Humphreys (future AG, US District Judge and Confederate District Judge)
Why have a convention? 1. Taxation 2. Judiciary 3. Legislative Power
Tax land according to value • One Supreme Court • Cannot increase or diminish salary during term • Limit SC meeting to one place per grand division • Separation of powers • Only courts can grant divorces • Elect local officials • Governor limits topics for special sessions • Ban lotteries • No suspension of the general law for individuals
Other convention actions: • Limited vote to white males • Established a school fund • Added a legislative method for amending the constitution • Required the legislature to pass laws setting the interest rate • Required permanent capitol designation by 1843 • Constitution approved by a vote of the people in 1835
1853 Changes • By the legislative method, the legislature proposed popular election of judges, the attorney general and the states attorneys for the judicial districts (district attorneys). The people approved these amendments in August, 1853.
1865 “Convention” • November 8, 1864, Andrew Johnson, Military Governor of Tennessee, is elected vice president. • The East Tennessee Union Executive Committee called for a convention to meet December 19 to take steps to restore Tennessee to the Union. • After a delay because of the Battle of Nashville, in January 1865 over 500 “delegates” assembled in Nashville
The delegates proposed: • An amendment abolishing slavery • An amendment forbidding the legislature from making any law recognizing the right of property in man
A schedule that : • Declared the secession act unconstitutional and void • Declared acts of the state government since May 6, 1861 void • Ratified Military Governor Johnson’s actions • Disfranchised ex-confederates and sympathizers • Set a vote on the amendments for Feb. 4, 1865 and elections for governor and legislature for March 4, 1865
Governor Johnson had to leave for Washington, so on Feb. 25 he declared the amendments ratified before all the results were in. • Voting results: 25,293 for and 48 against.
1870 Constitution • Many of the convention’s actions concerned the activities of the Brownlow administration and the aftermath of the Civil War • No political tests for office • Require Governor to state the reasons for special sessions • Safe and comfortable prisons
Amend right to bear arms to clarify the power to regulate to prevent crime • Gubernatorial veto • Single Subject Rule • Limit legislative pay to 75 days • Limit lending of credit by the state and counties
Universal male suffrage • County offices filled by public or by county court • Temporarily increase number of judges on Supreme Court to six to handle backlog cause by the war • The Constitution was approved by the people
1953 Limited Convention • Gave Governor a four year term, could not succeed himself • Gave Governor the item veto • Deleted poll tax • Authorized municipal home rule and city-county government consolidation
Expressly allowed limited constitutional conventions • Prohibited legislature from passing special or local laws to remove local officials from office or change their salaries or their terms • Required local approval of local legislation
1959 Limited Convention • In 1958 the public approved a convention on the subjects of the sheriff’s term, the trustee’s term and lowering the voting age. • The convention only approved lengthening the trustee’s term, and the public approved it.
1965 Limited Convention • Required reapportionment of legislature based on population, with a clause allowing apportionment of one house using geography and other factors if the federal constitution ever allowed it. • Allowed split (annual) sessions • Increased senators term to four years and staggered the terms • Allowed local legislative bodies to fill vacancies in the legislature
1972 Limited Convention • Legislature proposed a limited convention on a variety of subjects, but the people only approved the subject of classification of property for tax purposes • Two proposals were made: • Allowing four classes of property for assessment purposes • Allowed legislature to provide tax relief to elderly, low income and disabled taxpayers
1978 Limited Convention • The Convention proposed: 1. Altering the way legislative vacancies are filled by requiring a new election if more than twelve months are left in the term 2. Requiring three considerations of bills in each house instead of three readings 3. Allowing the governor two consecutive terms of four years 4. Allowing the governor ten days instead of five to decide whether to sign or veto a bill
Creating limits on expenditures, conditioned increases in appropriations beyond the estimated rate of growth of the state’s economy, requiring appropriations to be made during the session in which the bill being funded was passed, requiring the state to share the cost of laws imposing increased expenditure requirements on cities or counties • Allowing 18 year olds to vote
Allowing the legislature to raise the homestead exemption and define it • Revision of the education provision • Allowing the legislature to set maximum interest rate • Delete the prohibition on interracial marriage
Revising the judicial article to create a uniform judicial system; appoint appellate judges by governor using a nominating commission; create a superior court as the main trial court; create general sessions courts; allow the legislature to establish juvenile courts and municipal courts; create a court of discipline and removal for judges, district attorneys, public defenders and the attorney general; provide for the attorney general to be appointed by the governor from nominations from a commission; and reduce the number of court clerks.