Massachusetts Constitution

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Massachusetts Constitution
Seal of Massachusetts.png
Preamble
Part the First:
Articles I - XXX
Part the Second:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Articles of Amendment
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state constitution and the fundamental governing document of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was written by John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Bowdoin. The constitution went into effect on October 25, 1780. The Massachusetts Constitution is often said to be the oldest state constitution in continuous effect. As a result of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1917-1919 it was re-codified through the incorporation of 66 previously approved amendments.[1]

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 in six chapters, and articles of amendment.

Preamble

See also: Preambles to state constitutions

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:

Text of Preamble:

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.

Summary

The Massachusetts Constitution is divided into two parts, Declaration of Rights and Frame of Government, and further subdivided into chapters from there, rather than into articles like most state constitutions

Declaration of the Rights

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".

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.

This part encompasses the rest of the chapters of the constitution.

Articles of Amendment

As of 2009, there are 120 Articles of Amendment.

External links

References

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