Constitution Of The State Of Tennessee

The first Constitution of the state of Tennessee was written in Knoxville during the winter of 1796, the year the state was created from the geographic area known as the Southwest Territory. The first constitution was not put to a vote of the citizens of the new state for ratification, but was approved by Congress. It gave almost complete control of state government to the legislative branch, thus abrogating the fundamental “balance of power” principle. This fact, among others, led to the calling of a new constitutional convention.

The second convention met in Nashville during the Spring of 1834. A new constitution was approved by the people in March, 1835.

The 1835 document stood until 1870, five years after the ending of the War Between the States. Delegates elected in December, 1869, met in Nashville on January 10, 1870, wrote a new constitution and adjourned on February 23, 1870. The new constitution was ratified by the people on the fourth Saturday in March, 1870.

The 1870 constitution stood unchanged until 1953, when it was first amended. Further amendments followed in 1960, 1966, 1972, 1978, 1998, and 2006.

Preamble and Declaration of Rights

Whereas, The people of the territory of the United States south of the river Ohio, having the right of admission into the general government as a member state thereof, consistent with the Constitution of the United States, and the act of cession of the state of North Carolina, recognizing the ordinance for the government of the territory—of the United States north west of the Ohio River, by their delegates and representatives in convention assembled, did on the sixth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-six, ordain and establish a Constitution, or form of government, and mutually agreed with each other to form themselves into a free and independent state by the name of the state of Tennessee, and,

Whereas, The General Assembly of the said state of Tennessee, (pursuant to the third section of the tenth article of
the Constitution,) by an act passed on the Twenty-seventh day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight
hundred and thirty-three, entitled, “An Act” to provide for the calling of a convention, passed in obedience to the declared will of the voters of the state, as expressed at the general election of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-three, did authorize and provide for the election by the people of delegates and representatives, to meet at Nashville, in Davidson County, on the third Monday in May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-four, for the purpose of revising and amending, or changing, the Constitution, and said convention did accordingly meet and form a Constitution which was submitted to the people, and was ratified by them, on the first Friday in March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-five, and,

Whereas, The General Assembly of said state of Tennessee, under and in vir tue of the first section of the first article of the Declaration of Rights, contained in and forming a part of the existing Constitution of the state, by an act passed on the fifteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine, did provide for the calling of a convention by the people of the state, to meet at Nashville, on the second Monday in January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy, and for the election of delegates for the purpose of amending or revising the present Constitution, or forming and making a new Constitution; and,

Whereas, The people of the state, in the mode provided by said Act, have called said convention, and elected delegates to represent them therein; now therefore,

We, the delegates and representatives of the people of the state of Tennessee, duly elected, and in convention assembled, in pursuance of said act of Assembly have ordained and established the following Constitution and form of government for this state, which we recommend to the people of Tennessee for their ratification: That is to say