The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Elliot’s Debates)
Seven states ratifying the Constitution proposed no amendments. Four of the six states proposing amendments requested provisions dealing with religion. Virginia and North Carolina endorsed the same principle set forth below. North Carolina’s proposal differs from Virginia’s in the inclusion of a semicolon following “of conscience,” and deletion of commas preceding and following “by law.” New York and New Hampshire also proposed amendments.
Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie Religious Institutions Group
DEBATES IN THE CONVENTION OF THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, ON THE ADOPTION OF THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION.
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After a warm discussion on this point by several gentlemen on both sides of the house, it was at length intimated to Mr. Iredell, by Mr. Spaight, across the house, that Mr. Lenoir, mid some other gentlemen of the majority, wished he would withdraw his motion for the present, on purpose that the resolution of the committee might be first entered on the Journal, which had not been done; and afterwards his motion might be renewed. Mr. Iredell declared he would readily agree to this, if the gentleman who had seconded him would, desiring the house to remember that he only withdrew his motion for that reason, and hoped he should have leave to introduce it afterwards; which seemed to be understood. He accordingly, with the consent of Mr. Skinner, withdrew his motion; and the resolution of the committee of the whole house as then read, and ordered to be entered on the Journal. The resolution was accordingly read and entered, as follows, viz.:–
“Resolved, That a declaration of rights, asserting and securing from encroachment the great principles of civil and religious liberty, and the unalienable rights of the people, together with amendments to the most ambiguous and exceptionable parts of the said Constitution of government, ought to be laid before Congress, and the convention of the states that shall or may be called for the purpose of amending the said Constitution, for their consideration, previous to the ratification of the Constitution aforesaid on the part of the state of North Carolina.”
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“DECLARATION OF RIGHTS.
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“15. That the people have a right peaceably to assemble together, to consult for the common good, or to instruct their representatives; and that every freeman has a right to petition or apply to the legislature for redress of grievances.
“16. That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments that freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and ought not to be violated.
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“19. That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be exempted, upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his stead. “20. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence: and therefore all men have an equal, natural, and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular religious sect or society ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.”
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