The state ofGeorgia has been historically regulated by a series of ruling documents.
In1732, King George granted Georgia a colonial charter that included severalrules and laws for the colony. The first document addressed leadership,religion, and council within the colony. A few years later, in 1776, Georgia’sProvincial Congress adopted the colonial Rules and Regulations document, whichoperated as Georgia’s temporary constitution during the American Revolution.
Georgia’sfirst official constitution was ratified in 1777, and addressed government authoritywithin a legislature, the separation of powers, and fundamental rights such as theright to a jury trial and freedom of religion. Nearly 12 years after establishingits official constitution, Georgia made its first changes to the document in1789. The United States Constitution had recently been ratified, and Georgia amendedits state constitution to reflect the national constitution. Georgia’s 1789state constitution included civil protections that resembled the U.S. Bill ofRights, a bicameral legislature, and a commander-in-chief position (governor)that resembled the U.S. president.
In 1798, the state constitution was ratifiedagain. The new amendments established provisions on how governors would beelected and also outlawed the importation of enslaved people. The 1798 stateconstitution’s ban of the passage of enslaved people would begin a series offuture constitutional amendments related to slavery. Georgia’s constitution of 1861 wassignificant because it was enacted the same year the Confederate States ofAmerica was established.
Accordingly, Georgia’s constitution closely resembledthe Confederacy’s constitution. An extensive Bill of Rights was included, anddue process and judicial review were also added. Subsequently, Georgia’s 1865constitution was very important in its historical context. After the Civil War,the state constitution abolished slavery; furthermore, the constitution alsoincluded an Ordinance of Secession that was required for potential reacceptanceinto the Union. However, Georgia’s refusal to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment hinderedthe state’s readmission.
In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was finallyratified, and all male citizens were granted the right to vote. Theseamendments were essential, particularly for African-Americans, because theywere granted citizenship and the right to vote for men. Additionally, a provision was added thatimplemented free public education throughout the state. In 1877, Georgia’sconstitution was altered in a post-Reconstruction context. Georgia sought toregain its power after Republicans ruled the state in the years after the CivilWar. The most recent constitutionalchanges in Georgia have occurred in 1945, 1976, and 1983.
In 1945, thelieutenant governor position was added and a state board of corrections wasadded; the latter is a modern-day issue due to discrimination within thejustice system. Additionally, women were allowed to serve on juries and newconstitutional officers were implemented. In 1976, George Busbee requestedchanges to the state’s constitution to make the document more coherent andorganized. Lastly, in 1983, Georgia’s state constitution experienced thebiggest revision since 1877. Many provisions remained the same, but some newamendments were added, including additional regulations related to the courtsand an equal protection clause. Georgia’s constitution has not experienced significantchanges since 1983, but some amendments have been added. A 1992 amendment addedthe lottery, and a 2004 amendment banned same-sex marriage.
Overall, Georgia’sconstitution has experienced many significant changes and affects how the stateoperates today.