Original Tennessee Constitutions on Display

Dec 4, 2012

One of three early versions of the Tennessee Constitution that will be on display this weekend at the Supreme Court building in Nashville.
Credit State Archives and Museum

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Three versions of the original handwritten Tennessee Constitution were carefully moved to the Tennessee Supreme Court building Tuesday in preparation for their upcoming public display.

The documents were removed from a vault at the State Library and Archives building and carried by hand in archival boxes to the Supreme Court building. This is the first time that all three documents — handwritten in 1796, 1834 and 1870 — will be on display together.

State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherill says the 1796 version of Tennessee’s constitution was ground-breaking for its time.

“All freemen could vote, including free blacks could vote which was not normal. There were no property requirements for voting. The governor was elected directly by the people, which was only true in four states all together."

The documents were escorted to the Supreme Court building by a detail from the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The public can view the original constitutions from Thursday through Monday.