This Month in SC History: First Draft of Carolina Fundamental Constitutions Completed | Community
The South Carolina Encyclopedia describes the Carolina Basic Constitutions as “part of the constitution and part of the promotional flyer.”
Although the earliest draft, also known as the “Large Model,” was by the hand of John Locke, many scholars believe it was the combined work of the eight Owner Lords. Since Locke was secretary to Carolina chief owner Anthony Ashley Cooper, he is sometimes credited with drafting much of the constitution. He described a society based on hereditary property and religious tolerance, overseen by landowner lords and creating a nobility of men called landgraves. In the original draft, it was not legal to sell or buy land, and anyone who moved to Carolina had to pledge their support for the constitution and their allegiance to the owners.
This first draft was shipped to Port Royal in the fall of 1669 and another copy was sent to the colony of Albemarle, on the West Ashley River, and arrived in early 1670. Along with the constitution, the Lords Proprietors appointed new deputies to Albemarle and instructed them to implement the “Big Model”. The settlers of Albemarle and Charles Town opposed many of the document’s stipulations.
While the feudal-type society established under the Basic Constitutions was not at all progressive, the document included avant-garde stipulations. The mere fact that the colony had a written constitution was innovative, as was the policy of religious freedom. Over time, it became evident that the land hierarchy required by the Constitution was too complex to implement and required a much larger population than what had materialized. The Basic Constitutions were never officially adopted and were considered by many settlers to be unrealistic.
Four other versions of the Basic Constitutions were written between 1669 and 1698. Gradually, more political power was given to the settlers and the 1670 draft was amended to encourage colonization. He allowed any church to be established by seven people except Catholics, which encouraged the immigration of Huguenots, Baptists, and Congregationalists. The last edition of the document dates from 1698 and was much shorter than the original. He removed most of the emphasis on an established aristocracy. The Colonial House of Assembly of Commons debated the final version for several years. It was deposited in 1706 and has never been examined again.