back to home
(story icon)1949

Wisconsin and Its Resources

by James S. Ritchie   1857




We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, form a more perfect government, insure domestic tranquility, and promote the general welfare, do establish this Constitution.


SECTION 1. All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights: among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

2. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in this State, otherwise than for the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.

3. Every person may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right, and no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press. In all criminal prosecutions or indictments for libel, the truth may be given in evidence; and if it shall appear to the jury that the matter charged as libellous be true, and was published with good motives, and for justifiable ends, the party shall be acquitted; and the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the fact.

4. The right of the people peaceably to assemble to consult for the common good, and to petition the government or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.

5. The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate; and shall extend to all cases at law, without regard to the amount in controversy; but a jury trial may be waived by the parties in all cases, in the manner prescribed by law.

6. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor shall excessive fines be imposed, nor shall cruel and unusual punishments be inflicted.

7. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel; to demand the nature and cause of the accusation against him; to meet the witnesses face to face; to have compulsory process to compel the attendance of witnesses in his behalf: and in prosecutions by indictment or information, to a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the county or district wherein the offence shall have been committed, which county or district shall have been previously ascertained by law.

8. No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense, unless on the presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases of impeachment, or in cases cognizable by justices of the peace, or arising in the army or navy, or in the militia when in actual service in time of war or public danger; and no person, for the same offence, shall be put twice in jeopardy of punishment, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. All persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offences, when the proof is evident, or the presumption great; and the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when, in case of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require.

9. Every person is entitled to a certain remedy in the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which he may require in his person, property, or character; he ought to obtain justice freely, and without being obliged to purchase it; completely and without denial; promptly and without delay, conformably to the laws.

10. Treason against the State shall consist only in levying war against the same, or in adhering to its enemies giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt set, or on confession in open court.

11. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

12. No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, nor any law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall ever be passed; and no conviction shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate.

13. The property of no person shall be taken for public use without just compensation therefor.

14. All lands within the State are declared to be allodial, and feudal tenures are prohibited. Leases and grants of agricultural land, for a longer term than fifteen years, in which rent or service of any kind shall he reserved, and all fines and like restraints upon alienation, reserved in any grant of land, hereafter made, are declared to be void.

15. No distinction shall ever be made by law between resident aliens and citizens, in reference to the possession, enjoyment or descent of property.

16. No person shall be imprisoned for debt arising out of or founded on a contract, expressed or implied.

17. The privilege of the debtor to enjoy the necessary comforts of life shall be recognized by wholesome laws, exempting a reasonable amount of property from seizure or sale, for the payment of any debt or liability hereafter contracted.

18. The right of every man to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of his own conscience, shall never be infringed; nor shall any man he compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent. Nor shall any control of, or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishments, or modes of worship. Nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religions societies, or religious or theological seminaries.

19. No religious tests shall ever be required as a qualification for any office of public trust; under the State; and no person shall be rendered incompetent to give evidence in any court of law or equity, in consequence of his opinions on the subject of religion.

20. The military shall be in strict subordination to the civil power.

21. Writs of error shall never be prohibited by law.

22. The blessings of a free government can only be maintained by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

Ritchie, James S. Wisconsin and Its Resources; with Lake Superior, Its Commerce and Navigation.
Philadelphia: Charles Desilver, 1857. Chicago: Keen & Lee, 1857.
From a copy owned by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Archives: Rare Books F 581 R59