Constitution of 1885

Delegates convened in June 1885 to revise Florida’s state constitution. The existing constitution had been in effect since 1868, when it was adopted as part of Florida’s reentry into the United States following the Civil War. The 1885 constitution legitimized poll taxes as a prerequisite for voting, which ultimately disproportionately disenfranchised African Americans and many poor whites.

Constitution of 1885


Section 13. Every person may fully speak and write 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 and civil actions for libel the truth may be given in evidence to the jury, and if it shall appear that the matter charged as libelous is true, and was published for good motives, the party shall be acquitted or exonerated.

Section 14. No person shall be compelled to pay costs except after conviction, on a final trial.

Section 15. The people shall have the right to assemble together to consult for the common good, to instruct their representatives, and to petition the Legislature for redress of grievances.

Section 16. No person shall be imprisoned for debts except in cases of fraud.

Section 17. No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, nor any law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall ever be passed.

Section 18. Foreigners shall have the same rights as to the ownership, inheritance and disposition of property in this State as citizens of the State.

Section 19. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party has been duly convicted, shall ever be allowed in this State.

Section 20. The right of the people to bear arms in defense of themselves and the lawful authority of the State, shall not be infringed, but the Legislature may prescribe the manner in which they may be borne.

Section 21. The military shall in all cases and at all times be in strict subordination to the civil power.

Section 22. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable seizures and searches, shall not be violated, and no warrants issued but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place or places to be searched, and the person or persons, and thing or things to be seized.