NOTE: The Council of Censors proposals which were adopted by the 1793 Constitutional Convention are underlined. Portions of the 1786 Constitution which were deleted are set off in brackets. The Preamble was deleted by action of the Constitutional Convention of 1793.
A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the State of Vermont
That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety: therefore, no male person born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person as a servant, slave, or apprentice, after he arrives to the age of twenty one years, nor female in like manner, after she arrives to the age of eighteen years, unless they are bound by their own consent, after they arrive to such age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.
That private property ought to be subservient to public uses when necessity requires it, nevertheless, whenever any [particular man’s] person’s property is taken for the use of the public, the owner ought to receive an equivalent in money.
That all men have a natural and unalienable right, to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own consciences and understandings, as in their opinion shall be regulated by the word of God: and that no man ought to, or of right can be compelled to attend any religious worship, or erect or support any place of worship, or maintain any minister, contrary to the dictates of his conscience, nor can any man be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiments, or peculiar mode of religious worship; and that no authority can, or ought to be vested in, or assumed by, any power whatever, that shall in any case interfere with, or in any manner controul the rights of conscience, in the free exercise of religious worship. Nevertheless, every sect or denomination of christians ought to observe the Sabbath or Lord’s day, and keep up some sort of religious worship, which to them shall seem most agreeable to the revealed will of God.
Every person within this state ought to find a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which he may receive in his person, property or character; he ought to obtain right and justice, freely, and without being obliged to purchase it; compleatly and without any denial; promptly and without delay; conformably to the laws.
That the people of this State by their legal representatives, have the sole, [exclusive and inherent] inherent, and exclusive right of governing and regulating the internal police of the same.
That all power being originally inherent in and consequently derived from the people, therefore, all officers of government, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them.
That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community, and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single man, family, or set of men, who are a part only of that community; and that the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right, to reform or alter government, in such manner as shall be, by that community, judged most conducive to the public weal.
[Article 8th.] – This article deleted and replaced
[That those who are employed in the legislative and executive business of the State, may be restrained from oppression, the people have a right, by their legal Representatives, to enact laws for reducing their public officers to a private station, and for supplying the vacancies in a constitutional manner, by regular elections, at such periods as they may think proper.]
That all elections ought to be free and without corruption, and that all freemen, having a sufficient, evident, common interest with, and attachment to the community, have a right to elect officers, and be elected into office, agreeably to the regulations made in this constitution.
That every member of society hath a right to be protected in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and therefore is bound to contribute his proportion towards the expense of that protection, and yield his personal service, when necessary, or an equivalent thereto, but no part of [a man’s] any person’s property can be justly taken from him or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the Representative Body of the freemen, nor can any man who is conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms, be justly compelled thereto, if he will pay such equivalent; nor are the people bound by any law but such as they have in like manner assented to, for their common good: and previous to any law being made to raise a tax, the purpose for which it is to be raised ought to appear evident to the Legislature to be of more service to community than the money would be if not collected.
That in all prosecutions for criminal offences, [a man] a person hath a right to be heard by himself and his counsel; to demand the cause and nature of his accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses; to call for evidence in his favour, and a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the country; without the unanimous consent of which jury, he cannot be found guilty; nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; nor can [he] any person be justly deprived of his liberty, except by the laws of the land, or the judgment of his peers.
That the people have a right to hold themselves, their houses, papers, and possessions, free from search or seizure; and therefore warrants, without oath[s] or affirmation[s] first made, affording sufficient foundation for them, and whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded or required to search suspected places, or to seize any person or persons, his, her or their property, not particularly described, are contrary to that right, and ought not to be granted.
That when any issue in fact, proper for the cognizance of a jury is joined in a court of law, the parties have a right to trial by jury, which ought to be held sacred.
[Article 13th.] – This article deleted and replaced
[That no warrant or writ to attach the person or estate of any freeholder within this state, shall be issued in civil actions, without the person or persons who may request such warrant or attachment first make oath, or affirm before the authority who may be requested to issue the same, that he or they are in danger of losing his, her, or their debt.]
That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments, concerning the transactions of government, and therefore the freedom of the press ought not to be restrained.
The freedom of deliberation, speech and debate, in the Legislature, is so essential to the rights of the people, that it cannot be the foundation of any accusation or prosecution, action or complaint, in any other court or place whatsoever.
The power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, ought never to be exercised but by the Legislature, or by authority derived from it, to be exercised in such particular cases [only], as this constitution, or the Legislature shall [expressly] provide for.
That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State—and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power.
That no person in this state can in any case be subjected to law martial, or to any penalties or pains by virtue of that law, except those employed in the army, and the militia in actual service.
That frequent recurrence to fundamental principles, and a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality, are absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty, and keep government free; the people ought, therefore, to pay particular attention to these points, in the choice of officers and representatives, and have a right, in a legal way, to exact a due and constant regard to them, from their legislators and magistrates, in [the] making and executing such laws as are necessary for the good government of the State.
That all people have a natural and inherent right to emigrate from one state to another that will receive them [; or to form a new State in vacant countries, or in such countries as they can purchase, whenever they think that thereby they can promote their own happiness].
That the people have a right, to assemble together to consult for their common good—to instruct their Representatives—and to apply to the Legislature for redress of grievances, by address, petition or remonstrance.
That no person shall be liable to be transported out of this state for trial for any offence committed within the same.