Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

monwealth. Also, the action of the Legislature upon this report, -the Resolve passed for publishing the amendments-and the Governor's Proclamation promulgating them.

Appended to these will be found the whole of the Constitution in its official shape, as originally established, with the amendments since adopted, not only at the recommendation of the Convention of 1820, but subsequently in the manner provided by that body.*

The copious Index of the original edition of this volume, has been carefully revised, and made to conform with the present edition. It is believed to be correct.

BOSTON, April 25, 1853.

N. H.
C. H.

* In 1844, Hon. Luther S. Cushing prepared a draft of the Constitution of Massachusetts by striking out the annulled or obsolete portions of the instrument and inserting the amendments in their proper places. This draft has been usually printed since that time as the Constitution. It fully answered the purpose for which it was designed, viz., " for the convenient use of those who desire to ascertain what the existing provisions of the Constitution are, without the trouble and labor of tracing them historically from the original instrument through all the various amendments." Its use, however, is likely to cause confusion, when a particular article or chapter is referred to, if the reader does not distinctly bear in mind its character.

NOTE.

Origin and History of the Constitution of Massachusetts.

THE royal charter under which the Colony of Massachusetts had been governed, continued in force, to some degree, even after the beginning of the revolutionary contest. Its authority, however, was almost entirely overthrown by the adoption, by the Continental Congress, May 15, 1776, of the resolution declaring "that the exercise of every kind of authority under the crown should be suppressed," and that "all the powers of government" should be "exerted under the authority of the people of the colonies." July 4, 1776, Independence was declared. In September, 1776, the Massachusetts Assembly voted to take steps towards the framing of a form of government. May 5, 1777, they recommended to the people to choose their representatives to the next General Court, “with full powers, in one body with the Council, to form such a Constitution of Government as they shall judge best calculated to promote the happiness of this State," to be subject to the approval of a vote of two-thirds of the people. At the session of June, 1777, a Committee of twelve was charged with this subject. In January, 1778, this Committee reported a draft of a Constitution, which was adopted by the General Court, February 28, 1778, and submitted to the people, March 4, 1778. It was, however, thought to be defective and unsatisfactory in many respects; objections were made to the anomalous nature of the body by which it had been framed; and it was rejected by a large majority-five to one of the votes returned. Many of the towns made no returns.

The failure of this first effort to establish a permanent form of government, showed the necessity of proceeding with more care and deliberation. According ly, the General Court, by a resolve, passed February 20, 1779, directed the selectmen of towns to cause the inhabitants to consider of and determine upon two questions: "Whether they choose at this time, to have a new Constitution or Form of Government made," and, "Whether they will empower their representatives for the next year, to vote for the calling a State Convention for the sole purpose of forming a new Constitution," in case the first question were answered affirmatively. The people assented to both of these propositions, by large majorities. Accordingly, the General Court, by a resolve passed June 17, 1779, provided for the election of delegates to a Convention to meet on the first of September in that year. The delegates accordingly assembled September 1, 1779, and having settled the principles upon which the government should be based, appointed a Committee of thirty to prepare a Declaration of Rights and frame of a Constitution, adjourned over to October 28, authorizing the towns not represented to choose delegates meanwhile. The Committee of thirty met immediately, and after discussion, delegated the preparation of the Declaration of Rights to John Adams; and the preparation of a draught of a Constitution, to a sub-committee of three, viz., James Bowdoin, Samuel Adams, and John Adams, who committed this task also to John Adams. He was thus the original author of the whole instrument; and with a few alterations his draughts appear to have been preserved. In the fourth volume of his Works, now publishing under the editorial supervision of Charles Francis Adams, the original draughts are printed in such a way as to exhibit the nature and extent of the changes made. That volume also contains much inter

esting information upon the subject. The Journal of the Convention of 1779-80, was printed in 1832, by Messrs. Dutton & Wentworth, by order of the Legislature, on the recommendation of the Joint Committee of the Library, of which Alexander H. Everett was chairman.

When the Convention reassembled, October 28, 1779, the Committee of Thirty reported the Bill of Rights and Frame of Government agreed upon. Some progress was made in discussing it, until the 11th of November, when the Convention adjourned to the fifth of the next January, hoping to secure a more full and constant attendance. January 5, 1780, the Convention again met, but the roads being in a bad condition for travelling, the attendance was small. The members met and adjourned from time to time, until January 27, when a sufficient number being collected they proceeded to business. Having finally agreed upon the Form of the Constitution, March 2, 1780, they adjourned to the first Wednesday of June, making provision for obtaining the opinion of the people upon it in the meanwhile. They also adopted an address to the people.

June 7, 1780, the members again assembled, and it appearing that the whole form was approved by more than a two-thirds vote, the Convention, June 16, 1780, declared "the said form to be the Constitution of Government established by and for the inhabitants of the State of Massachusetts Bay," and resolved that it go into effect, except for the purpose of making elections, on the last Wednesday of October in that year.

The Constitution provided for ascertaining the sense of the people in 1795, on the necessity or expediency of revising the instrument, with a view to making amendments. No such necessity or expediency was then found to exist; and the Constitution remained unaltered for forty years. During the latter part of this period, the expediency and necessity of some amendments began to be seriously discussed, particularly in relation to the third article of the Bill of Rights-the excessive number of representatives in the popular branch of the Legislature-the apportionment of senators—and especially the important change in the condition of the Commonwealth, produced by the establishment of the District of Maine as a separate State. Finally it was determined by the Legislature of 1820, that a revision of the Constitution had become necessary, and accordingly the act of 1820, relating to the calling of a Convention, with which this Journal begins, was passed. August 21, the people voted, 11,756 yeas to 6,593 nays, in favor of having a Convention, as announced by Proclamation of the Governor, September 12. The election of delegates took place October 16, and the Convention assembled November 15. Its doings are recorded in the present volume. They resulted in proposing fourteen amendments to the Constitution, of which nine were approved by the people and became a part of the Constitution. Subsequently four more amendments have been added, in the manner provided for by the ninth article of amendment. They will be found at the end of the present volume, with the dates of their adoption.

Finally the Legislature of 1851 passed an act providing for a new Convention to revise the Constitution, but the proposition was rejected by the people, by a vote of 60,972 in the affirmative and 65,846 in the negative. A similar act was passed by the Legislature of 1852, which was assented to by the people, by 66,416 in the affirmative and 59,111 in the negative, and in accordance with its provisions, delegates were chosen on the 7th of March last, to meet in Convention at the State House in Boston, May 4, 1853.

ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION.

THIS Report of the Proceedings and Debates in the Convention was made for the Boston Daily Advertiser by the Editor of that paper, who was a member of the Convention, assisted by a gentleman of the bar, [Octavius Pickering, Esq., afterwards, for many years, Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Judicial Court,] to whom a seat was assigned by the President. The principal design was to furnish the public, from day to day, with an account of the proceedings, through that paper; and to this design the report was necessarily made to conform. For a great part of the session, the proceedings of each day were published in the morning paper of the following day; the reporters were in consequence obliged to prepare their reports in the greatest haste; and in cases in which the sittings continued to a great length of time, and especially when two sittings were held on the same day and protracted to a late hour in the evening, it became necessary, as well on account of the short interval for transcribing, as from regard to the capacity of the paper, to abridge the debate to a greater degree than they would otherwise have done. Many of the reported speeches are to be considered rather as abridgments, than as full reports of those which were delivered. It was, in general, the object of the reporters, to give the whole argument in substance, without being scrupulously careful to adhere to the language of the several speakers. In this design, however, they may occasionally have failed; sometimes, from not hearing distinctly-sometimes, perhaps, from not fully understanding the scope of the argument, and sometimes from not being able, through fatigue, to give proper attention. For these reasons, it will not be supposed that complete justice is done to the different speakers, in point of elegance and propriety of expression,

« AnteriorContinuar »