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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

January 28, 1861

Secession Convention Selected Commissioners and Adopted Bill of Rights

At Georgia’s secession convention, commissioners to other states were selected (since Georgia now considered itself an independent entity). Commissioners were selected for Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Delaware, and North Carolina. Note that the list did not include states which had already seceded, as Georgia fully expected to form a Confederacy with them. In doing so, they clearly intended the government of that Confederacy to be formulated at the February 4 convention in Montgomery, AL, and for it to closely follow the forms of the government from which they had just seceded, as shown by this resolution:

Resolved, That the delegates sent from this State by this Convention, to the proposed Congress to assemble at Montgomery, Alabama, on the 4th day of February next, be fully authorized and empowered, upon free conference and consultation with delegates that may be sent from other seceding States, to said Congress, to unite with them in forming and putting into immediate operation, a temporary or Provisional Government, for the common safety and defence of all the States represented in said Congress. Such temporary or Provisional Government not to extend beyond the period of twelve months from the time it goes into operation, and to be modeled as nearly as practicable on the basis and principles of the late Government of the United States of America. The powers of the delegates so appointed by this Convention in this particular, being hereby declared to be full and plenary. Be it further Resolved, That said Delegates be likewise authorized, upon like conference and consultation with the delegates from the other States in said Congress, to agree upon a plan of permanent Government for said States, upon the principles and basis of the Constitution of the late United States of America, which said plan or Constitution of permanent Government shall not be binding or obligatory upon the People of Georgia, unless submitted to, approved, and ratified by this Convention.

As a step towards making a government akin to the U.S. government, the convention also adopted the following, familiar sounding, Bill of Rights:

BILL OF RIGHTS. All Government derives its authority from the consent of the governed; who may modify, alter or annul the same whenever their safety or happiness requires it. No Government should be changed for slight or transient causes, nor unless upon reasonable assurance that a better will be established. Protection to person and property is the consideration of allegiance; and a Government which knowingly and persistently denies or withholds such protection from the governed, releases them from the obligation of obedience. No citizen shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, except by due process of Law; and of life or liberty only by the judgment of his peers. The writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when in case of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it. A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The prevalence of the Christian Religion among the. people, and the basis of Christian principles underlying the laws, entitle this State to be ranked among the Christian nations of the earth, and as those principles are independent of all political organization, no religious test shall ever be required for the tenure of any office, and no religious establishment allowed; and no citizen shall be deprived of any right or privilege by reason of his religious belief. Freedom of thought and opinion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the Press, are inherent elements of political liberty. But while every citizen may freely speak, write, and print, on any subject, he shall be responsible for the abuse of the liberty. The right of the People to appeal to the Courts, to petition Government on all matters of legitimate cognizance, and peaceably to assemble for the consideration of any matter of public concern, can never be impaired. For every right there should be provided a remedy, and every citizen ought to obtain justice without purchase, without denial, and without delay, conformably to the laws of the land. Every person charged with an offence against the laws of the State, shall have 1st, The privilege and benefit of counsel. 2nd, Shall be furnished, on demand, with a copy of the accusation, and a list of the witnesses against him. 3rd, Shall have the compulsory process of the Court to obtain the attendance of his own witnesses. 4th, Shall be confronted with the witnesses testifying against him, and 5th, Shall have a public and speedy trial by an impartial Jury. No person shall be put in jeopardy of life or liberty more than once for the same offence. No conviction shall work corruption of blood, or general forfeiture of estate. Excessive bail shall not be required or excessive fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. The power of the Courts to punish for contempts should always be limited by legislative acts. A faithful, honest, and fearless execution of the laws is essential to good order; and good order in society is essential to true Liberty. Legislative Acts in violation of the fundamental law are void; and the Judiciary shall so declare them. Ex post facto laws, or laws impairing the obligation of contracts, or retroactive legislation affecting the rights of the citizens, are prohibited. Laws should have a general operation, and no general law should be varied in a particular case, by special legislation, except upon notice to all persons to be affected thereby. The right of taxation can be granted only by the People, and should be exercised by their agents in Government only for the legitimate purposes of Government. In cases of necessity, private ways may be granted upon just compensation being first paid; and with this exception private property shall not be taken except for public use; and then only upon just compensation, such compensation, except in cases of pressing necessity, should be first provided and paid. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place or places to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. Extreme necessity only should justify the declaration of Martial Law. Large standing armies in times of Peace are dangerous to Liberty. No soldier shall, in time of Peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of War, but in a manner prescribed by law. Titles of Nobility are inconsistent with Republican Equality, and civil honors should come by merit and not by inheritance. All powers not delegated to the Government, expressly or by necessary implication, are reserved to the People of the State. And in all doubtful cases the denial of the grant is the ground safest for the liberty of the People. The enumeration of rights herein contained shall not be construed to deny to the People any inherent rights which they have hitherto enjoyed.

Read the full journal of Georgia’s secession convention here.