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The 1820 Constitution
Part I

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This page contains the Preamble and Articles I-III of the 1820 Constitution of Missouri.


We, the people of Missouri, inhabiting the limits hereinafter designated, by our representatives in convention assembled, at St. Louis, on Monday, the 12th day of June, 1820, do mutually agree to form and establish a free and independent republic, by the name of "The State of Missouri," and for the government thereof do ordain and establish this constitution.

Article I. Of Boundaries

We do declare, establish, ratify, and confirm the following as the permanent boundaries of said state, that is to say: "Beginning in the middle of the Mississippi river, on the parallel of thirty-six degrees of north latitude; thence, west, along the said parallel of latitude, to the St. Francois river; thence, up, and following the course of that river, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the parallel of latitude of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes; thence, west, along the same, to a point where the said parallel is intersected by a meridian line passing through the middle of the mouth of the Kansas river, where the same empties into the Missouri river; thence, from the point aforesaid, north, along the said meridian line, to the intersection of the parallel of latitude which passes through the rapids of the river Des Moines, making the said line correspond with the Indian boundary line; thence, east, from the point of inter- section last aforesaid, along the said parallel of latitude, to the middle of the channel of the main fork of the said river Des Moines; thence, down, and along the middle of the main channel of the said river Des Moines, to the mouth of the same, where it empties into the Mississippi river; thence, due east, to the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi river; thence, down, and following the course of the Mississippi river, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the place of beginning."

Article II. Of The Distribution Of Powers

The powers of government shall be divided into three distinct departments, each of which shall be confided to a separate magistracy; and no person charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of those departments, shall exercise any power properly belonging to either of the others, except in the instances hereinafter expressly directed or permitted.

Article III. Of The Legislative Power

Section 1. The legislative power shall be vested in a “General Assembly”, which shall consist of a “Senate”, and a “House of Representatives”.

Section 2. The house of representatives shall consist of members to be chosen every second year, by the qualified electors of the several counties. Each county shall have at least one representative, but the whole number of representatives shall never exceed one hundred.

Section 3. No person shall be a member of the house of representatives who shall not have attained to the age of twenty-four years; who shall not be a free white male citizen of the United States; who shall not have been an inhabitant of this state two years, and of the county which he represents, one year, next before his election, if such county shall have been so long established, but, if not, than of the county or counties from which the same shall have been taken; and who shall not, moreover, have paid a state or county tax.

Section 4. The general assembly, at their first session, and in the years one thousand eight hundred and twenty-two, and one thousand eight hundred and twenty-four, respectively, and every fourth year thereafter, shall cause an enumeration of the inhabitants of this state to be made; and, at the first session after each enumeration, shall apportion the number of representatives among the several counties, according to the number of free white male inhabitants therein.

Section 5. The senators shall be chosen by the qualified electors for the term of four years. No person shall be a senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years; shall not be a free white male citizen of the United States; who shall not have been an inhabitant of this state four years, and of the district which he may be chosen to represent, one year, next before his election, if such district shall have been so long established, but, if not, then of the district or districts from which the same shall have been taken; and, who shall not, moreover, have paid a state or county tax.

Section 6. The senate shall consist of not less than fourteen, nor more than thirty-three members; for the election, of whom the state shall be divided into convenient districts, which may be altered from time to time, and new districts established, as public convenience may require; and the senators shall be apportioned among the several districts according to the number of free white male inhabitants in each; provided, that when a senatorial district shall be composed of two or more counties, the counties of which such district consists shall not be entirely separated by any county belonging to another district, and no county shall be divided in forming a district.

Section 7. At the first session of the general assembly the senators shall be divided by lot, as equally as may be, into two classes. The seats of the first class shall be vacated at the end of the second year, and the seats of the second class at the end of the fourth year, so that one-half of the senators shall be chosen every second year.

Section 8. After the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-two, all general elections shall commence on the first Monday in August, and shall be held biennially; and the electors, in all cases, except of treason, felony, or breach of the peace, shall be privileged from arrest during their continuance at elections, and in going to, and returning from, the same.

Section 9. The governor shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies as may occur in either house of the general assembly.

Section 10. Every free white male citizen of the United States, who shall have attained to the age of twenty-one years, and who shall have resided in this state one year before an election, the last three months whereof shall have been in the county, or district, in which he offers to vote, shall be deemed a qualified elector of all elective offices; provided, that no soldier, seaman, or marine, in the regular army or navy of the United States, shall be entitled to vote at any election in this state.

Section 11. No judge of any court of law or equity, secretary of state, attorney general, state auditor, state or county treasurer, register, or recorder, clerk of any court of record, sheriff, coroner, member of Congress, nor other person holding any lucrative office under the United States, or this State, militia officers, justices of the peace, and post-masters excepted, shall be eligible to either house of the general assembly.

Section 12. No person who now is, or who hereafter may be, a collector or holder of public money, nor any assistant or deputy of such collector or holder of public money, shall be eligible to either house of the general assembly, nor to any office of profit or trust, until he shall have accounted for and paid all sums for which he may be accountable.

Section 13. No person while he continues to exercise the functions of a bishop, priest, clergymen, or teacher of any religious persuasion, denomination, society, or sect, whatsoever, shall be eligible to either house of the general assembly; nor shall he be appointed to any office of profit within the state, the office of justice of the peace excepted.

Section 14. The general assembly shall have power to exclude from every office of honor, trust, or profit, within this state, and from the right of suffrage, all persons convicted of bribery, perjury, or other infamous crime.

Section 15. Every person who shall be convicted of having, directly or indirectly, given or offered any bribe to procure his election or appointment, shall be disqualified for any office of honor, trust, or profit, under this state; and any person who shall give or offer any bribe to procure the election or appointment of any other person, shall, on conviction thereof, be disqualified for an elector, or for any office of honor, trust, or profit, under this state, for ten years after such conviction.

Section 16. No senator or representative shall, during the term for which he shall have been elected, be appointed to any civil office under this state, which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased, during his continuance in office, except to such offices as shall be filled by elections of the people.

Section 17. Each house shall appoint its own officers, and shall judge of the qualifications, elections, and returns, of its own members. A majority of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may compel the attendance of absent members in such manner, and under such penalties, as such house may provide.

Section 18. Each house may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of all the members elected, expel a member, but no member shall be expelled a second time for the same cause. They shall each, from time to time, publish a journal of their proceedings, except such parts as may in their opinion require secrecy; and the yeas and nays on any question shall be entered on the journal at the desire of any two members.

Section 19. The doors of each house, and of committees of the whole, shall be kept open, except in cases which may require secrecy; and each house may punish, by fine or imprisonment, any person, not a member, who shall be guilty of disrespect to the house, by any disorderly or contemptuous behavior in their presence, during their session; provided, that such fine shall not exceed three hundred dollars, and such imprisonment shall not exceed forty-eight hours for one offence.

Section 20. Neither house shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than two days at any one time, nor to any other place than to that in which the two houses may be sitting.

Section 21. Bills may originate in either house, and may be altered, amended, or rejected, by the other; and every bill shall be read on three different days in each house, unless two-thirds of the house where the same is depending shall dispense with this rule; and every bill, having passed both houses, shall be signed by the speaker of the house of representatives, and by the president of the senate.

Section 22. When any officer, civil or military, shall be appointed by the joint or concurrent vote of both houses, or by separate vote of either house of the general assembly, the votes shall be publicly given viva voce, and entered on the journals. The whole list of the members shall be called, and the names of absentees shall be noted and published with the journal.

Section 23. Senators and representatives shall, in all cases, except of treason, felony, or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during the session of the general assembly, and for fifteen days next before the commencement and after the termination of each session; and for any speech or debate in either house they shall not be questioned in any other place.

Section 24. The members of the general assembly shall severally receive from the public treasury a compensation for their services, which may, from time to time, be increased or diminished by law; but no alteration increasing or tending to increase the compensation of members, shall take effect during the session at which such alterations shall be made.

Section 25. The general assembly shall direct, by law, in what manner, and in what courts, suits may be brought against the state.

Section 26.* The general assembly shall have no power to pass laws; First, For the emancipation of slaves without the consent of their owners, or without paying them, before such emancipation, a full equivalent for such slaves so emancipated; and, Second, To prevent bona fide emigrants to this state, or actual settlers therein, from bringing from any of the United States, or from any of their territories, such persons as may there be deemed to be slaves, so long as any persons of the same description are allowed to be held as slaves by the laws of this state.
They shall have power to pass laws; First, To prohibit the introduction into this state of any slave who may have committed any high crime in any other state or territory; Second, To prohibit the introduction of any slave for the purpose of speculation, or as an article of trade or merchandise; Third, To prohibit the introduction of any slave, or the offspring of any slave, who heretofore may have been or who hereafter may be, imported from any foreign country into the United States, or any territory thereof, in contravention of any existing statute of the United States; and, Fourth, To permit the owners of slaves to emancipate them, saving the rights of creditors, where the person so emancipating will give security that the slave so emancipated shall not become a public charge.
It shall be their duty, as soon as may be, to pass such laws as may be necessary.
First, To prevent free negroes and mulattoes from coming to, and settling in, this state, under any pretext whatsoever; and,
Second, To oblige the owners of slaves to treat them with humanity, and to abstain from all injuries to them extending to life or limb.

Section 27. In prosecutions for crimes, slaves shall not be deprived of an impartial trial by jury; and a slave convicted of a capital offence shall suffer the same degree of punishment, and no other, that would be inflicted on a free white person for a like offence; and courts of justice before whom slaves shall be tried, shall assign them counsel for their defense.

Section 28. Any person who shall maliciously deprive of life or dismember a slave, shall suffer such punishment as would be inflicted for the like offence if it were committed on a free white person.

Section 29. The governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, attorney general, and all judges of the courts of law and equity, shall be liable to impeachment for any misdemeanor in office; but judgment in such case shall not extend farther than removal from office, and disqualification to hold any office of honor, trust, or profit, under this state. The party impeached, whether convicted or acquitted, shall, nevertheless, be liable to be indicted, tried and punished, according to law.

Section 30. The house of representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment. All impeachments shall be tried by the senate; and, when sitting for that purpose, the senators shall be on oath or affirmation to do justice according to law and evidence. When the governor shall be tried, the presiding judge of the supreme court shall preside; and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all the senators present.

Section 31. A state treasurer shall be biennially appointed by joint vote of the two houses of the general assembly, who shall keep his office at the seat of government. No money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and an accurate account of the receipts and expenditures of the public money shall be annually published.

Section 32. The appointment of all officers, not otherwise directed by this constitution, shall be made in such manner as may be prescribed by law; and all officers, both civil and military, under the authority of this state, shall, before entering on the duties of their respective offices, take an oath or affirmation to support the constitution of the United States, and of this State, and to demean themselves faithfully in office.

Section 33. The general assembly shall meet on the third Monday in September next; on the first Monday in November, eighteen hundred and twenty-one; on the first Monday in November, eighteen hundred and twenty-two; and thereafter the general assembly shall meet once in every two years, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in November, unless a different day shall be appointed by law.

Section 34. No county now established by law shall ever be reduced, by the establishment of new counties, to less than twenty miles square; nor shall any county hereafter be established which shall contain less than four hundred square miles.

Section 35. Within five years after the adoption of this constitution, all the statute laws of a general nature, both civil and criminal, shall be revised, digested, and promulgated, in such manner as the general assembly shall direct, and a like revision, digest, and promulgation, shall be made at the expiration of every subsequent period of ten years.

Section 36. The style of the laws of this state shall be--“Be it enacted by the general assembly of the state of Missouri.”


* - Portions of Article III, Section 26 of the 1820 Constitution that are in bold and italized contributed to or directly caused the Second Missouri Crisis and the Second Missouri Compromise

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