April 20

This Day in History

American Revolution

Apr 20, 1777:

New York adopts state constitution

The first New York state constitution is formally adopted by the Convention of Representatives of the State of New York, meeting in the upstate town of Kingston, on this day in 1777.

The constitution began by declaring the possibility of reconciliation between Britain and its former American colonies as remote and uncertain, thereby making the creation of a new New York government necessary for the preservation of internal peace, virtue, and good order.

Three governmental branches were created by the new constitution: an executive branch, a judicial branch and a legislative branch. The constitution called for the election of a governor and 24 senators and identified eligible voters as men who were possessed of freeholds of the value of one hundred pounds, over and above all debts charged thereon. The constitution also called for the election of 70 assemblymen for 14 declared counties who were to be elected by male inhabitant of full age, who shall have personally resided within one of the counties of this State for six months immediately preceding the day of election... New York also guaranteed the right to trial by jury, which had been eroded under British rule.

Despite the New Yorkers' stalwart efforts to erect a new government, they were an occupied people. The British had taken Brooklyn Heights on August 27, 1776; lower Manhattan fell soon after and was burned on September 21. The rest of New York City and Westchester County came under British control in October of that year.

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