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

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 was Alabama's sixth constitution, ratified in 1901, about 345,000 words long, but rewritten in 2022. 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). 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 have not 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.

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
1st Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts October 25, 1780 45,283 [note 1]
2nd Constitution of the State of New Hampshire June 5, 1793[4] 13,238 [note 2]
3rd Constitution of the State of Vermont July 9, 1793 8,565 [note 3]
4th Constitution of the State of Maine March 3, 1820 16,313 [note 4]
5th Constitution of the State of Wisconsin May 29, 1848 15,102
6th Constitution of the State of Ohio September 1, 1851 63,140
7th Constitution of the State of Indiana November 1, 1851 11,610
8th Constitution of the State of Iowa August 3, 1857 11,089
9th Constitution of the State of Minnesota May 11, 1858 12,016
10th Constitution of the State of Oregon February 14, 1859 49,430
11th Constitution of the State of Kansas January 29, 1861 14,097 [note 5]
12th Constitution of the State of Nevada October 31, 1864 37,418
13th Constitution of the State of Maryland October 5, 1867 43,198
14th Constitution of the State of Tennessee March 26, 1870 13,960
15th Constitution of the State of West Virginia August 22, 1872 33,324
16th Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania January 1, 1874 26,078 [note 6]
17th Constitution of the State of Arkansas October 13, 1874 59,120
18th Constitution of the State of Nebraska November 1, 1875 34,934
19th Constitution of the State of Texas February 17, 1876 92,025 [note 7]
20th Constitution of the State of Colorado August 1, 1876 84,239
21st Constitution of the State of California January 1, 1880 76,930
22nd Constitution of the State of North Dakota November 2, 1889 18,746
23rd Constitution of the State of South Dakota November 2, 1889 28,840
24th Constitution of the State of Washington November 11, 1889 32,578
25th Constitution of the State of Idaho July 3, 1890 24,626
26th Constitution of the State of Wyoming July 10, 1890 26,349
27th Constitution of the State of Mississippi November 1, 1890 26,229
28th Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky August 3, 1891 27,234
29th Constitution of the State of New York January 1, 1895 49,360 [note 8]
30th Constitution of the State of South Carolina January 1, 1896 27,421
31st Constitution of the State of Utah January 4, 1896 20,700
32nd Constitution of the State of Delaware June 10, 1897 25,445
33rd Constitution of the State of Alabama November 28, 1901 402,852 [note 9]
34th Constitution of the State of Oklahoma November 16, 1907 84,956
35th Constitution of the State of New Mexico January 6, 1912 33,198
36th Constitution of the State of Arizona February 14, 1912 47,306
37th Constitution of the State of Missouri March 30, 1945 84,924
38th Constitution of the State of New Jersey January 1, 1948 26,360
39th Constitution of the State of Alaska January 3, 1959 13,479
40th Constitution of the State of Hawaii August 21, 1959 21,498 [note 10]
41st Constitution of the State of Michigan January 1, 1964 31,164
42nd Constitution of the State of Connecticut December 30, 1965 16,401
43rd Constitution of the State of Florida January 7, 1969 49,230
44th Constitution of the State of Illinois July 1, 1971 16,401
46th Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia July 1, 1971 22,570
45th Constitution of the State of North Carolina July 1, 1971 17,177
47th Constitution of the State of Montana July 1, 1973 12,790
48th Constitution of the State of Louisiana January 1, 1975 76,730
49th Constitution of the State of Georgia July 1, 1983 41,684
50th Constitution of the State of Rhode Island January 20, 1987 11,407

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 three constitutions in 1982[5] 1987,[6] and 2016[7] all referring to the district as the "State of New Columbia".

Commonwealth and Territorial constitutions

Organic acts

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The Constitution of Massachusetts is currently the world's oldest written constitution that is still in effect.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Excludes the two constitutions of the Vermont Republic.
  4. ^ Excludes the 1876 recodification of the Constitution of the State of Maine.
  5. ^ The Wyandotte Constitution supplanted the rejected Topeka Constitution, Lecompton Constitution, and Leavenworth Constitution.
  6. ^ Excludes the 1968 recodification of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  7. ^ Excludes the constitutions of Coahuila y Tejas and of the Republic of Texas.
  8. ^ Excludes the 1938 recodification of the Constitution of the State of New York.
  9. ^ Excludes the 2022 recodification of the Constitution of Alabama. 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).
  10. ^ Excludes the constitutions of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the Republic of Hawaiʻi.

References

  1. ^ "Covenant". June 17, 1975.
  2. ^ "Proclamations". January 9, 1978.
  3. ^ "Book of the States 2019, Chapter 1: State Constitutions". knowledgecenter.csg.org. Retrieved September 17, 2020.[dead link]
  4. ^ "The Green Papers". www.thegreenpapers.com. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  5. ^ http://dccode.westgroup.com/toc/default.wl?oFindType=V&oDocName=DC&oDB=DC%2DST%2DWEB%3BSTADC&DocName=DC010463193&FindType=X&DB=DC-TOC-WEB%3BSTADCTOC&RS=WLW2%2E07&VR=2%2E0[dead link]
  6. ^ http://dccode.westgroup.com/Find/Default.wl?DocName=DCHINEWCOLUMBIACONSTITUTIONENACTED1987&FindType=W&DB=DC-TOC-WEB%3BSTADCTOC&RS=WLW2%2E07&VR=2%2E0[dead link]
  7. ^ Council of the District of Columbia (October 18, 2016). "Constitution and Boundaries for the State of Washington, D.C. Approval Resolution of 2016" (PDF). Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  8. ^ "Proclamations". October 24, 1977.
  9. ^ "American Samoa Constitution". October 17, 1960.

Further reading