New Hampshire Constitution/Part I

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Table of Contents | Part First - Bill of Rights | Part Second - Form of Government

Part First - Bill of Rights[edit]

Article 1. [Equality of Men; Origin and Object of Government.][edit]

All men are born equally free and independent; therefore, all government of right originates from the people, is founded in consent, and instituted for the general good.
June 2, 1784 [1]

[Art.] 2. [Natural Rights.][edit]

All men have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights - among which are, the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting, property; and, in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this state on account of race, creed, color, sex or national origin.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1974 adding sentence to prohibit discrimination.

[Art.] 2-a. [The Bearing of Arms.][edit]

All persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state.
December 1, 1982

[Art.] 3. [Society, its Organization and Purposes.][edit]

When men enter into a state of society, they surrender up some of their natural rights to that society, in order to ensure the protection of others; and, without such an equivalent, the surrender is void.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 4. [Rights of Conscience Unalienable.][edit]

Among the natural rights, some are, in their very nature unalienable, because no equivalent can be given or received for them. Of this kind are the Rights of Conscience.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 5. [Religious Freedom Recognized.][edit]

Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and reason; and no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession, sentiments, or persuasion; provided he doth not disturb the public peace or disturb others in their religious worship.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 6. [Morality and Piety.][edit]

As morality and piety, rightly grounded on high principles, will give the best and greatest security to government, and will lay, in the hearts of men, the strongest obligations to due subjection; and as the knowledge of these is most likely to be propagated through a society, therefore, the several parishes, bodies, corporate, or religious societies shall at all times have the right of electing their own teachers, and of contracting with them for their support or maintenance, or both. But no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination. And every person, denomination or sect shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect, denomination or persuasion to another shall ever be established.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1968 to remove obsolete sectarian references.

[Art.] 7. [State Sovereignty.][edit]

The people of this state have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent state; and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right, pertaining thereto, which is not, or may not hereafter be, by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in congress assembled.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 8. [Accountability of Magistrates and Officers; Public's Right to Know.][edit]

All power residing originally in, and being derived from, the people, all the magistrates and officers of government are their substitutes and agents, and at all times accountable to them. Government, therefore, should be open, accessible, accountable and responsive. To that end, the public's right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1976 by providing right of access to governmental proceedings and records.

[Art.] 9. [No Hereditary Office or Place.][edit]

No office or place, whatsoever, in government, shall be hereditary - the abilities and integrity requisite in all, not being transmissible to posterity or relations. June 2, 1784

[Art.] 10. [Right of Revolution.][edit]

Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 11. [Elections and Elective Franchises.][edit]

All elections are to be free, and every inhabitant of the state of 18 years of age and upwards shall have an equal right to vote in any election. Every person shall be considered an inhabitant for the purposes of voting in the town, ward, or unincorporated place where he has his domicile. No person shall have the right to vote under the constitution of this state who has been convicted of treason, bribery or any willful violation of the election laws of this state or of the United States; but the supreme court may, on notice to the attorney general, restore the privilege to vote to any person who may have forfeited it by conviction of such offenses. The general court shall provide by law for voting by qualified voters who at the time of the biennial or state elections, or of the primary elections therefor, or of city elections, or of town elections by official ballot, are absent from the city or town of which they are inhabitants, or w ho by reason of physical disability are unable to vote in person, in the choice of any officer or officers to be elected or upon any question submitted at such election. Voting registration and polling places shall be easily accessible to all persons including disabled and elderly persons who are otherwise qualified to vote in the choice of any officer or officers to be elected or upon any question submitted at such election. The right to vote shall not be denied to any person because of the non-payment of any tax. Every inhabitant of the state, having the proper qualifications, has equal right to be elected into office.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1903 to provide that in order to vote or be eligible for office a person must be able to read the English language and to write.
Amended 1912 to prohibit those convicted of treason, bribery or willfull violation of the election laws from voting or holding elective office.
Amended 1942 to provide for absentee voting in general elections.
Amended 1956 to provide for absentee voting in primary elections.
Amended 1968 to provide right to vote not denied because of nonpayment of taxes. Also amended in 1968 to delete an obsolete phrase.
Amended 1976 to reduce voting age to 18.
Amended 1984 to provide accessibility to all registration and polling places.

[Art.] 12. [Protection and Taxation Reciprocal.][edit]

Every member of the community has a right to be protected by it, in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property; he is therefore bound to contribute his share in the expense of such protection, and to yield his personal service when necessary. But no part of a man's property shall be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. Nor are the inhabitants of this state controllable by any other laws than those to which they, or their representative body, have given their consent.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1964 by striking out reference to buying one's way out of military service.

[Art.] 13. [Conscientious Objectors not Compelled to Bear Arms.][edit]

No person, who is conscientiously scrupulous about the lawfulness of bearing arms, shall be compelled thereto.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1964 by striking out reference to buying one's way out of military service.

[Art.] 14. [Legal Remedies to be Free, Complete, and Prompt.][edit]

Every subject of this state is entitled to a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries he may receive in his person, property, or character; to obtain right and justice freely, without being obliged to purchase it; completely, and without any denial; promptly, and without delay; conformably to the laws.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 15. [Right of Accused.][edit]

No subject shall be held to answer for any crime, or offense, until the same is fully and plainly, substantially and formally, described to him; or be compelled to accuse or furnish evidence against himself. Every subject shall have a right to produce all proofs that may be favorable to himself; to meet the witnesses against him face to face, and to be fully heard in his defense, by himself, and counsel. No subject shall be arrested, imprisoned, despoiled, or deprived of his property, immunities, or privileges, put out of the protection of the law, exiled or deprived of his life, liberty, or estate, but by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land; provided that, in any proceeding to commit a person acquitted of a criminal charge by reason of insanity, due process shall require that clear and convincing evidence that the person is potentially dangerous to himself or to others and that the person suffers from a mental disorder must be established. Every person held to answer in any crime or offense punishable by deprivation of liberty shall have the right to counsel at the expense of the state if need is shown; this right he is at liberty to waive, but only after the matter has been thoroughly explained by the court.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1966 to provide the right to counsel at state expense if the need is shown.
Amended 1984 reducing legal requirement proof beyond a reasonable doubt to clear and convincing evidence in insanity hearings.

[Art.] 16. [Former Jeopardy; Jury Trial in Capital Cases.][edit]

No subject shall be liable to be tried, after an acquittal, for the same crime or offense. Nor shall the legislature make any law that shall subject any person to a capital punishment, (excepting for the government of the army and navy, and the militia in actual service) without trial by jury.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 17. [Venue of Criminal Prosecutions.][edit]

In criminal prosecutions, the trial of facts, in the vicinity where they happened, is so essential to the security of the life, liberty and estate of the citizen, that no crime or offense ought to be tried in any other county or judicial district than that in which it is committed; except in any case in any particular county or judicial district, upon motion by the defendant, and after a finding by the court that a fair and impartial trial cannot be had where the offense may be committed, the court shall direct the trial to a county or judicial district in which a fair and impartial trial can be obtained.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1792 to change "assembly" to: legislature.
Amended 1978 so that court at defendant's request may change trial to another county or judicial district.

[Art.] 18. [Penalties to be Proportioned to Offenses; True Designof Punishment.][edit]

All penalities ought to be proportioned to the nature of the offense. No wise legislature will affix the same punishment to the crimes of theft, forgery , and the like, which they do to those of murder and treason. Where the same undistinguishing severity is exerted against all offenses, the people are led to forget the real distinction in the crimes themselves, and to commit the most flagrant with as little compunction as they do the lightest offenses. For the same reason a multitude of sanguinary laws is both impolitic and unjust. The true design of all punishments being to reform, not to exterminate mankind. June 2, 1784
Amended 1792 deleting "those of" after do in 3d sentence and changing "dye" to: offenses.

[Art.] 19. [Searches and Seizures Regulated.][edit]

Every subject hath a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions. Therefore, all warrants to search suspec ted places, or arrest a person for examination or trial in prosecutions for criminal matters, are contrary to this right, if the cause or foundation of them be not previously supported by oath or affirmation; and if the order, in a warrant to a civil offi cer, to make search in suspected places, or to arrest one or more suspected persons or to seize their property, be not accompanied with a special designation of the persons or objects of search, arrest, or seizure; and no warrant ought to be issued; but i n cases and with the formalities, prescribed by law.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1792 to change order of words.

[Art.] 20. [Jury Trial in Civil Causes.][edit]

In all controversies concerning property, and in all suits between two or more persons except those in which another practice is and has been customary and except those in which the value in co ntroversy does not exceed $1,500 and no title to real estate is involved, the parties have a right to a trial by jury. This method of procedure shall be held sacred, unless, in cases[2] arising on the high seas and in cases relating to mariners' wages, the legislature shall think it necessary hereafter to alter it.
June 2, 1784 Amended in 1877 to prohibit jury trials unless the amount in controversy exceeds $l00. Amended in 1960 to increase the amount to $500 before a jury trial may be requested. Amended in 1988 to change $500 to $1,500

[Art.] 21. [Jurors; Compensation.][edit]

In order to reap the fullest advantage of the inestimable privilege of the trial by jury, great care ought to be taken, that none but qualified persons should be appointed to serve; and such ought to be fully compensated for their travel, time and attendance.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 22. [Free Speech; Liberty of the Press.][edit]

Free speech and liberty of the press are essential to the security of freedom in a state: They ought, therefore, to be inviolably preserved.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1968 to include free speech.

[Art.] 23. [Retrospective Laws Prohibited.][edit]

Retrospective laws are highly injurious, oppressive, and unjust. No such laws, therefore, should be made, either for the decision of civil causes, or the punishment of offenses.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 24. [Militia.][edit]

A well regulated militia is the proper, natural, and sure defense, of a state.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 25. [Standing Armies.][edit]

Standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be raised, or kept up, without the consent of the legislature.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 26. [Military Subject to Civil Power.][edit]

In all cases, and at all times, the military ought to be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 27. [Quartering of Soldiers.][edit]

No soldier in time of peace, shall be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner; and in time of war, such quarters ought not to be made but by the civil authorities in a manner ordai ned by the legislature.
June 2, 1784
Amended in 1980 substituting "authorities" for "magistrate."

[Art.] 28. [Taxes, by Whom Levied.][edit]

No subsidy, charge, tax, impost, or duty, shall be established, fixed, laid, or levied, under any pretext whatsoever, without the consent of the people, or their representatives in the legislature, or authority derived from that body.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 28-a. [Mandated Programs.][edit]

The state shall not mandate or assign any new, expanded or modified programs or responsibilities to any political subdivision in such a way as to necessitate additional local expenditures by the political subdivision unless such programs or responsibilities are fully funded by the state or unless such programs or responsibilities are approved for funding by a vote of the local legislative body of the political subdivision.
November 28, 1984

[Art.] 29. [Suspension of Laws by Legislature Only.][edit]

The power of suspending the laws, or the execution of them, ought never to be exercised but by the legislature, or by authority derived therefrom, to be exercised in such particular cases only as the legislature shall expressly provide for.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 30. [Freedom of Speech.][edit]

The freedom of deliberation, speech, and debate, in either house of the legislature, is so essential to the rights of the people, that it cannot be the foundation of any action, complaint, or prosecution, in any other court or place whatsoever.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 31. [Meetings of Legislature, for What Purposes.][edit]

The legislature shall assemble for the redress of public grievances and for making such laws as the public good may require.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1792 generally rewording sentence and omitting "for correcting, strengthening and confirming the laws."

[Art.] 32. [Rights of Assembly, Instruction, and Petition.][edit]

The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble and consult upon the common good, give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by way of petition or remonstrance, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 33. [Excessive Bail, Fines, and Punishments Prohibited.][edit]

No magistrate, or court of law, shall demand excessive bail or sureties, impose excessive fines, or inflict cruel or unusual punishments.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 34. [Martial Law Limited.][edit]

No person can, in any case, be subjected to law martial, or to any pains or penalties by virtue of that law, except those employed in the army or navy, and except the militia in actual service, but by authority of the legislature.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 35. [The Judiciary; Tenure of Office, etc.][edit]

It is essential to the preservation of the rights of every individual, his life, liberty, property, and character, that there be an impartial interpretation of the laws, and administration of justice. It is the right of every citizen to be tried by judges as impartial as the lot of humanity will admit. It is therefore not only the best policy, but for the security of the rights of the people, that the judges of the supreme judicial court should hold their offices so long as they behave well; subject, however, to such limitations, on account of age, as may be provided by the constitution of the state; and that they should have honorable salaries, ascertained and established by standing laws.
June 2, 1784
Amended 1792 to provide for age limitation as provided by the constitution.

[Art.] 36. [Pensions.][edit]

Economy being a most essential virtue in all states, especially in a young one, no pension shall be granted, but in consideration of actual services; and such pensions ought to be granted with great caution, by the legislature, and never for more than one year at a time.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 36-a [Use of Retirement Funds.][edit]

The employer contributions certified as payable to the New Hampshire retirement system or any successor system to fund the system's liabilities, as shall be determined by sound actuarial valuation and practice, independent of the executive office, shall be appropriated each fiscal year to the same extent as is certified. All of the assets and proceeds, and income therefrom, of the New Hampshire retirement system and of any and all other retirement systems for public officers and employees operated by the state or by any of its political subdivisions, and of any successor system, and all contributions and payments made to any such system to provide for retirement and related benefits shall be held, invested or disbursed as in trust for the exclusive purpose of providing for such benefits and shall not be encumbered for, or diverted to, any other purposes.
November 28, 1984

[Art.] 37. [Separation of Powers.][edit]

In the government of this state, the three essential powers thereof, to wit, the legislative, executive, and judicial, ought to be kept as separate from, and independent of, each other, as the nature of a free government will admit, or as is consistent with that chain of connection that binds the whole fabric of the constitution in one indissoluble bond of union and amity.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 38. [Social Virtues Inculcated.][edit]

A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of the constitution, and a constant adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, industry, frugality, and all the social virtues, are indispensably necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty and good government; the people ought, therefore, to have a particular regard to all those principles in the choice of their officers and representatives, and they have a right to require of their lawgivers and magistrates, an exact and constant observance of them, in the formation and execution of the laws necessary for the good administration of government.
June 2, 1784

[Art.] 39. [Changes in Town and City Charters, Referendum Required.][edit]

No law changing the charter or form of government of a particular city or town shall be enacted by the legislature except to become effective upon the approval of the voters of such city or town upon a referendum to be provided for in said law. The legislature may by general law authorize cities and towns to adopt or amend their charters or forms of government in any way which is not in conflict with general law, provided that such charters or amendments shall become effective only upon the approval of the voters of each such city or town on a referendum.
November 16, 1966


  1. ^  The date on which each article was proclaimed as having been adopted is given after each article. This is followed by the year in which amendments were adopted and the subject matter of all the amendments.
  2. ^  "Cases" appears in 1792 parchment copy of constitution. Original constitution had "causes."


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