The University of Georgia Charter, 1785
A Transcription by E. Merton Coulter and John O. Eidson
Although challenged by 166 years of fading, historian E. Merton Coulter and The Georgia Review editor John O. Eidson produced the following printed transcript of the 1785 Charter for the Spring, 1951, issue of The Georgia Review.
Their text is reprinted here with the kind permission of The Georgia Review . Both the history of the Charter and the history of Coulter and Eidson's transcription appears on the Charter History Page.
By the REPRESENTATIVES of the FREEMEN of the STATE of GEORGIA in General Assembly and by the AUTHORITY of the SAME.An Act for the more full and complete Establishment of a public seat of Learning in this State
As it is the distinguishing happiness of free governments that civil Order should be the Result of choice and not necessity, and the common wishes of the People become the Laws of the Land, their public prosperity and even existence very much depends upon suitably forming the minds and morals of their Citizens. When the Minds of people in general are viciously disposed and unprincipled and their Conduct disorderly, a free government will be attended with greater Confusions and with Evils more horrid than the wild, uncultivated State of Nature. It can only be happy where the public principles and Opinions are properly directed and their Manners regulated. This is an influence beyond the Stretch of Laws and punishments and can be claimed only by Religion and Education. It should therefore be among the first objects of those who wish well to the national prosperity to encourage and support the principles of Religion and morality, and early to place the youth under the forming hand of Society that by instruction they may be moulded to the love of Virtue and good Order. Sending them abroad to other countries for their education will not answer these purposes, - is too humiliating an acknowledgment of the Ignorance or Inferiority of our own, and will always be the Cause of so great foreign attachments that upon principles of policy it is not admissible. This Country in the times of our common danger and distress found such Security in the principles and abilities which wise regulations had before established in the minds of our countrymen, that our present happiness joined to pleasing prospects should conspire to make us feel ourselves under the strongest obligation to form the youth, the rising hope of our Land to render the like glorious & essential Services to our country. And whereas for the great purpose of internal education, divers allotments of land have, at different times, been made, particularly by the Legislature at their Session in July One thousand seven hundred and eighty three, and February One thousand seven hundred and eighty four, all of which my be comprehended and made the basis of one general and complete establishment.
THEREFORE the Representatives of the Freemen of the State of Georgia in general Assembly met this twenty seventh day of January in the Year of our Lord One thousand seven hundred & eighty five enact, ordain & declare, and by these presents, it is ENACTED ORDAINED and DECLARED.
1st THE general superintendance and regulation of the Literature of this State and in particular of the public seat of learning, shall be committed and entrusted to the Governor & Council, the Speaker of the house of Assembly, and the Chief Justice of the State for the time being, who shall, ex officio, compose one board, denominated THE BOARD OF VISITORS hereby vested with all the powers of visitation to see that the intent of this institution is carried into effect, and John Houston, James Habersham, William Few, Joseph Clay, Abraham Baldwin, William Houston, Nathan Brownson, John Habersham, Abiel Holmes, Jenkin Davis, Hugh Lawson, William Glascock, and Benjamin Talliaferro esquires who shall compose another board, denominated THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES. These two boards united, or a majority of each of them shall compose the SENATUS ACADEMICUS of the University of Georgia.
2nd All Statutes, laws and Ordinances for the Government of the University shall be made, and enacted by the two boards united or a majority of each of them, subject always to be laid before the General Assembly, as often as required, and to be repealed, or disallowed, as the General Assembly shall think proper.
3rd PROPERTY vested in the University shall never be sold, without the joint concurrence of the two boards, and by act of the Legislature; but the Leasing farming & managing of the property of the University for its constant support shall be the business of the board of Trustees. FOR this purpose they are hereby constituted a body corporate, and politic, by the name of TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA; by which they shall have perpetual succession, and shall and may be a person in Law, capable to plead, and be impleaded, defend, and be defended, answer, and be answered unto, also to have, take, possess, acquire, purchase or otherwise receive Lands, tenements, hereditaments, goods, Chattels, or other estates, and the same to lease, use, manage, or improve for the good, and benefit of said University, and all property given, or granted to or by the Government of this State for the advancement of learning in general, is hereby vested in such Trustees in TRUST as herein described.
4th As the appointment of a person to be the President and head of the University is one of the first and most important concerns, on which its respect, and usefulness greatly depend, the board of Trustees shall first examine, and nominate, but the Appointment of the President shall be by the two boards jointly, who shall also have the power of removing him from Office, for misdemeanor unfaithfulness or incapacity.
5th THERE shall be a stated annual meeting of the SENATUS ACADEMICUS at the University, or at any other place, or time to be appointed by themselves, at which the Governor of the State, or in his absence the President of Council shall preside, their records to be kept by the Secretary of the University.
6th As the affairs, and business of the University may make more frequent Meetings of the Trustees necessary, The President and two of the members are impowered to appoint a meeting of the board, notice always to be given to the rest, or letters left at the usual places of their abode, at least fourteen days before said meeting, seven of the Trustees thus convened shall be a legal Meeting, in case of the Death absence or incapacity of the President, the senior Trustee shall preside, the Majority of the Members present shall be considered a Vote of the whole, and where the Members are divided, the President shall have a casting Vote;
PROVIDED always that nothing done, at these special meetings, shall have any force, or efficacy after the rising of the then next annual Meeting of the Trustees.
7th THE TRUSTEES shall have the power, of filling up all Vacancies of their own board, and appointing Professors, Tutors, Secretary, Treasurers, Steward, or any other Officers which they may think necessary, and the same to discontinue, or remove as they may think fit, but not without seven of their Number, at least, concurring in such Act.
8th THE TRUSTEES shall prescribe the Course of public Studies, appoint the Salaries of the different Officers, form and use a public Seal, adjust, and determine the expenses, and adopt such regulations, not otherwise provided for, which the good of the University may render necessary.
9th ALL OFFICERS appointed to the instruction, and government of the University, shall be of the Christian Religion, and within three months after they enter upon the execution of their Trust, shall publicly take the Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity, and the Oaths of office prescribed in the Statutes of the University the President, before the Governor or President of Council, and all other Officers, before the President of the University.
10th THE PRESIDENT, Professors, Tutors, students and all Officers and Servants of the University whose Office requires their constant attendance shall be and they are hereby excused from Military Duty and from all other such like Duties and services; And all Lands and other property of the University is hereby exempted from taxation.
11th THE TRUSTEES shall not exclude any person of any religious denomination, whatsoever, from free, and equal liberty, and advantages of education, or from any of the Liberties Priviledges and Immunities of the University in his education, on account of his or their speculative sentiments in Religion or being of different Religious Profession.
12th THE PRESIDENT of the University, with consent of the Trustees, shall have power to give, and confer all such honors, degrees & licenses as are usually conferred in Colleges, or Universities, and shall always preside at the Meeting of the Trustees & at all the public exercises of the University.
13th THE SENATUS ACADEMICUS at their stated annual meetings shall consult, & advise, not only upon the Affairs of the University, but also to remedy the Defects, and advance the Interests of Literature through the State in general. FOR this purpose it shall be the business of the Members, previous to their Meeting, to obtain an acquaintance with the State, and regulations of the Schools, and places of education in their respective Counties, that they may thus be possessed of the whole, and have it lie before them for mutual Assistance, and deliberation. Upon this Information they shall recommend what kind of Schools, and Academies shall be instituted, agreably to the Constitution, in the several parts of the State, and prescribe what branches of Instruction shall be taught, and inculcated in each. They shall also examine, and recommend the Instructors to be imployed in them, or appoint persons for that purpose. The President of the University, as often as the duties of his station will permit, and some of the Members, at least once in a year, shall visit them, and examine into their Order and performances.
ALL public schools - instituted or to be supported by funds or public monies in this State shall be considered as parts or members of the University and shall be under the foregoing directions and regulations.
WHATSOEVER public measures are necessary to be adopted, for accomplishing these great and important designs, the Trustees shall from time to time, represent, and lay before the General Assembly.
ALL laws and ordinances heretofore passed in any-wise contrary to the true intent, and meaning of the premises, are hereby repealed, and declared to be null and void.
IN FULL TESTIMONY, and confirmation of this Charter, ordinance and Constitution and all the articles therein contained, the Representatives of the freemen of the State of Georgia in general Assembly hereby Order, that this Act shall be signed by the Honble Joseph Habersham Esquire Speaker of the House of Assembly, and Sealed with the public Seal of this State, and the same, or the enrollment thereof in the Records of the State, shall be good and effectual in Law.
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the powers, privileges, and immunities, and all and singular, the premises herein given, or which are meant, mentioned, or intended to be hereby given to the said boards of VISITORS, and TRUSTEES, and to their successors in Office for-ever.
JOSEPH HABERSHAM, Speaker