The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the fundamental governing document of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was written by John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Bowdoin. The constitution was adopted in 1780 and is the oldest functioning written constitution in continuous effect in the world.
The Massachusetts Constitution was the last of the first set of the state constitutions to be written. Consequently, it was more sophisticated than many of the other documents. Among the improvements was the structure of the document itself: instead of just a listing of provisions, it had a structure of chapters, sections, and articles. This structure was replicated by the US Constitution. It also had substantial influence on the subsequent revisions of many of the other state constitutions. The Massachusetts Constitution has four parts: a preamble, a declaration of rights, a description of the framework of government, and articles of amendment.
The preamble of the constitution bears some resemblance to the United States Constitution's in a few phrases near the end. It is as follows: The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquillity their natural rights, and the blessings of life: and whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness.
The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good. It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a constitution of government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation, and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them.
We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other; and of forming a new constitution of civil government, for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, do agree upon, ordain and establish the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Part the First: A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
This part consists of thirty articles, the first of which states:
Article I. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.
This article was later amended to substitute the word "people" for the word "men".
Part the Second: The Frame of Government
This part begins thus:
Article I. The department of legislation shall be formed by two branches, a Senate and House of Representatives: each of which shall have a negative on the other.
Articles of Amendment
As of 2003, there are 120 Articles of Amendment.
- Speaking of John Adams, historian David McCullough, said, "... he also drafted the oldest written Constitution still in use in the world today -- the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, written 10 years before our own Constitution, and had great influence on the national Constitution." White House (Nov. 1, 2000), Remarks by the President and Historian David McCullough at Ceremony of 200th Anniversary of the White House. Press Release
- Wikisource:Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1780)
- Massachusetts Constitution from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia