North Carolina’s first election law – 1715

The first modern General Assembly in 1715 began legislating for the colony and by Chapter 10 of that year enacted our first election law:

CHAPTER X.  Act Relating to the Biennial & Other Assemblys & Regulating Elections &
I. Whereas His Excellency the Palatine & the rest of the true & Absolute
Lord’s Proprietors of Carolina, having duely considered the priviledges
& immunities wherewith the Kingdom of Great Brittain is endued & being
desirous that this their province may have such as may thereby enlarge
the Settlement & that the frequent sitting of Assembly is a principal, safeguard
of their People’s priviledges, have thought fit to enact. And Be It
Therefore Enacted by the said Pallatine & Lords Proprietors by & with the
advice & consent of this present Grand Assembly now met at Little River
for the North East part of the said province:
II. And it is Hereby Enacted that for the due election & Constituting
of Members of the Biennial & other Assemblys it shall be lawfull for the
Freemen of the respective precincts of the County of Albemarle to meet the
first Tuesday in September every two years in the places hereafter mentioned —
That, is to say the inhabitants of Chowan at the land laid out, for
a Town on the fork of Queen Ann’s Creek, The Inhabitants of Perquimans
at the upper side of the mouth of Sutton’s Creek; the Inhabitants of Pasquo-
tanck at the plantation now in the possession of Mr. Joseph Glaister on New
Begun Creek; The inhabitants of Corratuck at the plantation of Mr. Thomas
Vandermulin; The inhabitants of Beaufort in Bath Town; The inhabitants
of Hyde precinct at the plantation of Mr. Webster’s on the West side of
Matchapunga River; the inhabitants of Craven at Swift’s Plantation at the
mouth of Hancock’s Creek; The inhabitants of New Bern at the Town so
i ailed ; And then & there to choose such members as are to sit in the Assembly
which shall be Five freeholders out of every precinct in Albemarle
County aforesaid.
III. And Be It Further Enacted that it is & may be lawfull for the inhabitants
& freemen in each Precinct in every other County or Counties that
now is or shall be hereafter erected in this Government aforesaid to meet
as aforesaid at such place as shall be judged most convenient by the Marshall
of such county, unless he be otherwise ordered by the special commands
of the Governor or Commander in Chief to choose two freeholders
out of every precinct in the county aforesaid to sit & vote in the said
IV. And Be It-Further Enacted that the Burgesses so chosen in each precinct
for the Biennial Assembly shall meet and sitt the first Monday in
November then next following, every two years, at the same place the
Assembly last satt except the Pallatines Court shall by their proclamation
published Twenty days before the said meeting appoint some other place and
there with the consent & concurrence of the Pallatine Court shall make &
ordain such Laws as shall be thought most necessary for the Good of this
Government. Provided allways & nevertheless that the Powers granted to
the Lord’s Proprietors from the Crown of Calling, proroguing & dissolving
Assemblys are not hereby meant or intended to be invaded, limited or restrained.

V. And it is hereby further enacted by the Authority aforesaid that no person whatsoever inhabitant of this Government born out of the allegiance of His Majesty; not made free; no Negroes, Mulattoes, Mustees, or Indians shall be capable of voting for Members of Assembly: & that no
other person shall be allowed or admitted to vote for Members of Assembly
in this Government unless he be of the Age of one & twenty years and has
been one full year in the Government & has paid one year’s levy preceding
the Election.
VI. And Be It Further Enacted that all persons offering to vote for
Members of Assembly shall bring a list to the Marshall or Deputy taking
the Pole containing the names of the persons he votes for & shall subscribe
bis own name or cause the same to be done: And if any such person or
persons shall be suspected either by the Marshall or any of the candidates
not to be qualified according to the true intent & meaning of this Act, then
the Marshall, Deputy Marshall, or other Officer that shall be appointed to
take & receive such votes; list — shall have power to administer an oath
or attestation to every such suspected person of his qualification & ability
to choose Members of Assembly &; whether he has not before given in his
list at that Election.
VII. And Be It Further Enacted that Every Officer or Marshall which
shall admit of or take the vote of any person not truly qualified according to
the purport; meaning of this Act (provided the objection be made by any
candidate or Inspector) or shall make undue return of any person for Member
of Assembly shall forfeit for such vote taken, so admitted & for such
Return Twenty pounds to be employed for ; towards the building of any
Court House; Church or Chapel as the Governor for the time being shall
think fitt: but if no such building require it then to the Lord’s Proprietors
and Twenty Pounds to each person which of right & majority of votes ought
to have been returned: to be recovered by Action of Debt, Bill, Plaint or
Information in any Court of Record in this Government wherein no Essoign
Wager of Law or Protection shall be allowed or admitted.
VII. And be it Further Enacted that every Marshall or Officer whose
business & duty it is to make returns of Elections of Members of Assembly, !-
hall attend the Assembly the first Three days of their sitting (unless he
have leave of Assembly to depart) to inform the Assembly of all matters &
disputes as shall arise about Elections & shall show to the Assembly the
List of the Votes for every person returned & have made complaints of false
returns to the Assembly: every Marshall or other Officer as afores’d which
shall deny or refuse to attend as afores’d shall forfeit the sum of Twenty
pounds to be recovered & disposed of in such manner & form as the Forfeitures
before by this Act appointed.
IX. And Be It Further Enacted that whatsoever Member or Representative
so elected as afores’d shall faile in making his personal appearance
& giving his attendance at the Assembly precisely on the day limited by
the Writt (or on the day appointed for the meeting of the Biennial Assembly,
when the election is for the Biennial Assembly) shall be fined for every
day’s absence during the sitting of the Assembly (unless by disability or
other impediment to be allowed by the Assembly) Twenty Shillings to be
levied by a Warrant from the Speaker & to be applied to such uses as the
Lower House of Assembly shall think fitt.
X. And be it further enacted that every member of Assembly that shall be elected

as aforesaid after the Ratifying of this Act shall not be qualified to sitt as a member

of the House of Burgesses before he shall willingly take the Oath of Allegiance &

Supremacy the Adjuration Oath & all such other Oathes as shall be ordered &

directed to be taken by the members of Parliament in Great Britain.

XI. And Be It Further Enacted that the quorum of the House of Burgesses
for voting & passing of Bills shall not be less than one full half of the House
&- that no Bills shall be signed & Ratified except there be present Eight of the
Members whereof the Speaker to be one. And in case that eight Members
shall meet at any Assembly those eight shall have full power to adjourn from
day to day till a sufficient number can assemble to transact the Business
of the Government.
Speaker. N. CHEVIN,


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