If I'm not mistaken, governors in the thirteen colonies, appointed by the king, had veto power over acts of colonial legislatures. In 1996, I was living in North Carolina. At that time NC was the only one among the 50 states in which the governor had no veto power. In November of that year, NC voters approved a state constitutional amendment giving the governor veto power. Newspapers mentioned that the last time a governor had veto power in NC was just before the Declaration of Independence. But I've come across some evidence that in the earliest days of American independence, governors did not have veto power.

What is the history of governors' veto power?

  • I would suggest reading each state's constitution for that. It would very much vary state-by-state. Apr 3, 2016 at 12:05
  • @SMSvonderTann : You'd have to look not only at their current constitutions (all of them have veto power now, if I'm not mistaken) but the history of constitutional amendments in each state. Apr 3, 2016 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


In the State of Massachusetts, the original state constitution in Part The Second, Chapter I, Section I, Article II says that:

Article II. No bill or resolve of the senate or house of representatives shall become a law, and have force as such, until it shall have been laid before the governor for his revisal; and if he, upon such revision, approve thereof, he shall signify his approbation by signing the same. But if he have any objection to the passing of such bill or resolve, he shall return the same, together with his objections thereto, in writing, to the senate or house of representatives, in whichsoever the same shall have originated; who shall enter the objections sent down by the governor, at large, on their records, and proceed to reconsider the said bill or resolve.

And from the New Hampshire constitution:

SEC. XLIV. Every bill which shall have passed both houses of the general court shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the governor; if he approve, he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections, to that house in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it.

The Massachusetts state constitution was ratified in 1780 and the New Hampshire one did so in 1796, so it can be reasonably expanded that at least several states (Apparently not North Carolina) at that time did have executive veto power.

  • 1796 is after veto power at the federal level was introduced. I wonder if veto power at the federal level encouraged some states to adopt it at the state level? If one looks at the beginning of the year 1787 to see how many states had gubernatorial veto power, that would not be affected by the later adoption of federal veto power. Apr 3, 2016 at 19:15
  • @MichaelHardy The US Constitution came in 1789 (Saying that for a reference point). From what I can see of the states that adopted a constitution before then, it is somewhat mixed of saying specifically that a governor has the veto power, or they say nothing about it (Delaware). Apr 3, 2016 at 20:44
  • Were there some states that didn't adopt a constitution before then? Apr 3, 2016 at 20:46
  • BTW, the Constitution was written in 1787, and in force in nine states as of June 1788. So they scheduled the first presidential and congressional elections for that year. What first happened in 1789 is that the president and members of Congress were sworn in and the federal government began to function. Apr 3, 2016 at 20:48
  • "Were there some states that didn't adopt a constitution before then?" I.e. among the original thirteen. Apr 3, 2016 at 20:58

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