The North Carolina Biennal Act 1715


The colonial assemblies not only attempted to control the number of representatives and the extent of each constituency (see Part IV), but they also favored triennial and biennial acts whereby they might insure a meeting of the colonial assembly every three or two years regardless of whether or not the governor summoned one. The reason behind such acts was a desire to continue unbroken colonial self-government. The colonials referred to English precedent, particularly the Triennial Act 01 1694, adopted by Parliament to guard against the possibility of arbitrary government by a king who might try to rule without reference to or consultation with Parliament.

The North Carolina assembly, while still under proprietary rule, passed the Biennial Act of 1715. The act states forthrightly the expectations of assembly rule and the assembly's role in the colonial government. Note that no reference is made to being summoned by the governor, and in many respects, the governor and his powers are ignored. But the act incorporates the colonial arguments for legislative action as a fundamental ingredient in the operation of the political system of the colonies and the empire.

  1. Whereas His Excellency the Palatine and the rest of the true and Absolute Lord's Proprietors of Carolina, having duely considered the priviledges and immunities wherewith the Kingdom of Great Brittain is endued and being desirous that this their province may have such as may thereby enlarge the Settlement and 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 and Lords Pro prietors by and with the advice and consent of this present Grand Assembly now met at Little River for the North East part of the said province:

  2. And it is Hereby Enacted that for the due election and Constituting of Members of the Biennial and other Assemblys it shall be lawfull for the Freemen of the re spective precincts of the County of Albemarle to meet the first Tuesday in September every two years in the places hereafter mentioned....

  3. And Be It Further Enacted that it is and may be lawfull for the inhabitants and 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 convenienient by the Marshall of such county, unless he be otherwise ordered by the special commands of the Governor or Com mander in Chief to choose two freeholders out of every precinct in the county aforesaid to sit and vote in the said Assembly.

  4. 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 fol lowing, every two years, at the same place the Assembly last satt except the Pallatines Court shall by their procla mation published Twenty days before the said meeting ap point some other place and there with the consent and con currence of the Pallatine Court shall make and ordain such Laws as shall be thought most necessary for the Good of this Government. Provided allways and neverthe less that the Powers granted to the Lord's Proprietors from the Crown of Calling, proroguing and dissolving Assemblys are not hereby meant or intended to be invaded, limited or restrained.

  5. 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 and not made free; no Negroes, Mulattoes, Mustees or Indians shall be capable of voting for Members of Assembly; and that no other person shall be allowed or admitted to vote for Members of Assembly in this Government un less he be of the Age of one and twenty years and has been one full year in the Government and has paid one year's levy preceding the Election.

  6. And Be It Further Enacted that all persons offer ing 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 and shall subscribe his 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 and meaning of this Act, then the Marshall Deputy Marshall, or other Officer that shall be appointed to take and receive such votes and listshall have power to administer an oath or attestation to every such suspected person of his qualification and ability to choose Members of Assembly and whether he has not before given in his list at that Election.

  7. And Be It Further Enacted that Every Officer or Marshall which shall admit of or take the vote of any per son not truly qualified according to the purport and mean ing 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 and for such Return Twenty pounds to be employed for and 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 and 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 Pro tection shall be allowed or admitted.

  8. And Be It Further Enacted that every Marshall or Officer whose business and duty it is to make returns of Elections of Members of Assembly, shall attend the Assem bly the first Three days of their sitting (unless he have leave of Assembly to depart) to inform the Assembly of all matters and disputes as shall arise about Elections and shall show to the Assembly the List of the Votes for every person returned and have made complaints of false returns to the Assembly; every Marshall or other Officer as aforesaid which shall deny or refuse to attend as aforesaid shall forfeit the sum of Twenty pounds to be recovered and disposed of in such manner and form as the Forfeitures before by this Act appointed.

  9. And Be It Further Enacted that whatsoever Member or Representative so elected as aforesaid shall faile in making his personal appearance and 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 and to be applied to such uses as the Lower House of Assembly shall think fitt

  10. 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 in the House of Burgesses before he shall willingly take the Oath of Allegiance and Supremacy the Adjuration Oath and all such other Oathes as shall be ordered and directed to be taken by the Members of Parliament in Great Britain.

  11. And Be It Further Enacted that the quorum of the House of Burgesses for voting and passing of Bills shall not be less than one full half of the House and that no Bills shall be signed and 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.