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This ancient Commonwealth was first permanently settled by Europeans, who landed at Plymouth, Dec. 22, 1620. The history of this State is full of interest. Its name was probably derived from two Indian word: Mos and Wetmset—the former signifying an Indian's arrow-head, and the latter a hill.
The territory of Massachusetts, for many years, comprised two separate colonies—the Plymouth colony and the colony of Massachusetts Bay. In 1692, these colonies were united under one charter, and received the name of Massachusetts. The American Revolution was begun in this State, and here the first American blood was spilled in achieving its noble conquests. Massachusetts furnished more men and more money than any other of the colonies, in carrying forward the war of the Revolution. It is the most thickly settled State in the union, having about 100 inhabitants to the square mile. The Constitution was framed in 1780. It has been several times amended. Her House of Representatives is one of the largest legislative bodies in the world.—Area, 7,800 sq. m. Population, in 1810, 737,699.
Boston, the capital, is the largest city in New England, with a population, in 1845, of 120,000, and is the second commercial city in the union. John Hancock, President of the first American Congress, and first to set his bold hand to the Declaration ot Independence, was a citizen of Boston. It was, also, the birth place of Benjamin Franklin, one of the five appointed to frame that interesting document,
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.
A Declaration «f Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Art. 1. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and inalienable 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.
2. It is the right, as well as the duty, of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the .Great Creator and Preserver of the Universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshiping God in the manner and seasons most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or .obstruct others in their religious worship.
3. As the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality; and as these cannot he generally diffused throughout the community, but by the institution of a public worship of God. and of public institutions in piety, religion, and morality; therefore, to promote their happiness, and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this commonwealth have a right to invest their Legislature with power to authorize and require, and the Legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily.
All the people of the commonwealth have also a right to, and do, invest their Legislature with authority to enjoin upon all the subjects an attendance upon the instructions of the public teachers, as • aforesaid, at stated times and seasons, if there be any one whose instructions they can conscientiously and conveniently attend :—
Provided, notwithstanding, that the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, shall, at all times, have the exclusive right of electing their public teachers, and of contracting with them for their support and maintenance.
All moneys paid by the subject to the support of public worship, and of the public teachers aforesaid, shall, if he require it, be uniformly applied to the support of the public teacher or teachers of his own religious sect or denomination, provided there be any on whose instruction he attends; otherwise it may be paid towards the support of the teacher or teachers of the parish or precinct in which the said moneys are raised.
And every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.
4. The people of this commonwealth have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves, as a free, sovereign, and independent State: and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not, or may not hereafter be by them expressly delegated to the United States of America, in Congress assembled.
5. All power residing originally in the people, and being derived from them, the several magistrates and officers of government vested with authority, whether legislative, executive, or judicial, are their substitutes and agents, and are at all times accountable to them.
. 6. No man, or corporation, or association of men, have any other title to obtain advantages, or particular and exclusive privileges, distinct from those of the community, than what arises from the consideration of services rendered to the public. And this title being, in nature, neither hereditary nor transmissible to children or descendants, or relations of blood, the idea of a man born a magistrate, lawgiver, or judge, is absurd and unnatural.
7. Government is instituted for the common good: for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or any one class of men. Therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government, and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.
8. In order to prevent those who are vested with authority from becoming oppressors, the people have a right, at such periods and in such manner as they shall establish by the frame of government, to cause their public officers to return to private life, and to fill up vacant places by certain and regular elections and appointments.
9. All elections ought to be free: and all the inhabitants of this commonwealth, having such qualifications as they shall establish by their frame of government, have an equal right to elect officers, and to be elected for public employments.
10. Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it, in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to the standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expense of this protection; to give his personal service, or an equivalent, when necessary. But no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to the public use. without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. In fine, the people of this commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent. And whenever the public exigencies require that the property of any individual shall be appropriated to public uses, he shall receive a reasonable compensation therefor.
11. Every subject of the Commonwealth ought to find a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which he may receive, in his person, property, or character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely, and without being obliged to purchase it—completely, and without any denial—promptly, and without delay—conformably^) the laws.
12. No person shall be hell to answer for any crime or offence, until the same is fully and plainly, substantially and formally, described to him; or be compelled to accuse or furnish evidence against himself. And every person shall have a right to produce all proofs that may be favorable to him; to meet the witnesses against him, face to face, and be fully heard in his defense, by himself, or his counsel, at his election. And no person shall be arrested, imprisoned, or despoiled or deprived of his property, immunities, or privileges, put out of the protection of the law, exiled or deprived of his life, liberty, or estate, but by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land.
And the Legislature shall not make any law that shall subject any person to a capital or infamous punishment (excepting for the government of the army and navy) without trial by jury.
13. In criminal prosecutions the verification of facts, in the vicinity where they happen, is one of the greatest securities of the life, liberty, and property of the citizen.
14. Every person has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures of his person, his house, his papers, and all his possessions. All warrants, therefore, are contrary to this right, if the cause or foundation of them be not previously supported by oath or affirmation; and if the order, in a warrant to a civil officer, to make search in all suspected places, or to arrest one or more suspected persons, or to seize their property, be not accompanied with a special designation of the persons or objects of search, arrest, or seizure. And no warrant ought to be issued but in such cases, and with the formalities prescribed by the laws.
15. In all controversies concerning property, and in all suits between two or more persons, (except in cases in which it has heretofore been otherwise used and practised,) the parties have a right to a trial by jury; and this method of procedure shall be held sacred —unless, in cases arising on the high seas, and such as relate to mariners' wages, the Legislature shall hereafter find it necessary to alter it.
16. The liberty of the press is essential to security of freedom in a State; it ought not, therefore, to be restrained in this Commonwealth.
17. The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defense. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained, without the consent of the Legislature: and the military power shall always be held in exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it.
'18. A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of the Constitution, and a constant adherence to those of piety, justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality, are absolutely necessary to preserve the advantages of liberty, and to maintain a free government. The people ought, consequently, to have a particular attention to all those principles, in th£ choice of their officers and representatives, and they have a righmo require of their lawgivers and magistrates an exact and constant observance of them, in the formation and execution of all laws necessary for the good administration of the commonwealth.
, 19. The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instruction to their representatives; and to request of the legislative body, by the way of addresses, petitions, or remonstrances, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.