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CONSTITUTION, or Frame of Government, agreed upon by the Delegates of the People of the State of Massachusetts-Bay, in Convention, begun and held at Cambridge, on the First of September, 1779, and continued by Adjournments to the Second of March, 178c. •
THE end of the institution, maintenance and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the bodypolitic, to protect it, and to surnish the individuals who compose it, with thepower of enjoying, in sasety and tranquillity, their natural right, and the bleffings os lise: And whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their sasety, 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 saithsul execution of them; that every man may, at all times, sind his security in them.
We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with gratesul 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 surprize, 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 agre? upon, . ordain, and establish, the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the CommonWealth of Massachusetts.
A DECLARATION of RIGHTS,
if the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Art. I. A LL men are born free and equal, and have certa'n £\. natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and desending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, posseffing, and protecting property; in sine, that of seeking and obtaining their sasety and happiness.
II. 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 worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious proseffion or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship.
III. 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 be generally diffused through a community, but by the institution of the public worship of God, and of public instructions 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 commoawealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorise and require, and the legislature shall, from time to time, authorise and require the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expence, 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 cafes where such provision shall not be made voluntarily.
And the people of this 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, is there beany on 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.
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And all monies paid by the subject to the support of public -worship, and of the public teachers aforesaid, shall, is he require it, be unisormly applied to the support of the public teacher or teachers of his own religious sect or denomination, provided there be any on whose instructions he attends; otherwise it may be paid towards the support of the teacher or teachers of the parish or precinct in which the said monies 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 one sect or denomination to another shall eve; be established by law.
IV. The people of this commonwealth have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent state; and do, and for ever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not, or may not hereafter, be by them expresly delegated to the United States of America, in Congress assembled.
V. 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.
VI. No man., or corporation, or allociation of men, have any fcther 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 transmiffible to children, or descendants, or relations by blood, the idea of a man born a magistrate, lawgiver, or judge, is absurd and unnatural.
VII. Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, sasety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honour, or private interest of any one man, samily, or class of men; Therefore, the people alone have an iicontestible, unalienable, aud indefeasible right to institute g vernment; and to reform, ailter, or totally change tlje same, when their protection, sasety, prosperity, and happiness require it.
.VIII. 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 their 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.
IX. All elections ought to be free, and all the inhabitants of th s 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.
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X. Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it, in the enjoyment of his lise, liberty, and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expence 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 public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people: In sine, the people of ihis commonwealth are not controulable 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 should be appropriated to public uses, he shall receive a reasonable compensation therefor.
XI. Every subject of the commonwealih ought to sind 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; compleatly, and without any denial; promptly, and without delay; conformably to the laws.
XII. No subject shall be held to answer for any crime or ofsence, until the same is sully and plainly, substantially and formally, described to him; or be compelled to accuse, or surnish, evidence against himself. And every subject shall have ario.ht to produce all proofs that may be savourable to him; to meet the witnesses against him sace to sace, and to be sully heard in his defence by himself, or his'coiincil,at his election. And no subject shall bearrested, imprisoned, despoiled, or deprived of his property, immunities, or privileges, put out of the protection of the law, exiled, or deprived of his lise, 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 insamous punishment, excep>ing for the government of the army and navy, without trial by jury.
XIII. In criminal prosecutions, the verification of facts in the vicinity where they happen, is.one of the greatest securities of the lise, liberty, and property of the citizen.
XIV. hvery subject has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures, of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his pofieslims. All warrants, therefore, are contrary to this right, is the cause or foundation of them be not previously supported by oath or affirmation; and is the order in a warrant to a civil officer, to make search in all susprct. d 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 cases and with the formalities prescribed by the laws.
XV. In all controversies concerning property, and in all suits
between between two or more persons, except in cafes in which it has heretofore been otherways used and practised, the parties have a right to a trial by a jury; and this method of procedure shall be held sacred, unless, in causes arising on the high s as, and such as relate to mariners wages, the legislature shall hereafter sind it nect ssiry to alter it.
XVI. The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state; it ought not, therefore, to be restrained in this commonwealth.
XVII. The people have) a right to keep and to bear arms for the common desence. 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.
XVIII. A frequent recurrence to the sundamental principles of the constitution, and a constant adherence to those of piety, justice, mod ration, temperance, industry, and frugality, are abso* Jutely 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 the choice of their officers and representatives: And they'have a right to require of their lawgivers and magistrates, an exact and conltant observance of them, in the formation and execution of all laws necessary for the good administration of the commonwealth.
XIX. The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceablemanner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instructions 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.
XX. The power of suspending the laws, or the execution of the laws, ought never t© be ex;rcised but by the legislature, or by authority derived from it, to be exercised in such particular cases only as the legislature shall expresly provide for.
XXI; The freedom of deliberation, speech, and debate, in either house of the legislature., is so essential to the rights of the people, that it cannot be the foundation of any accusation or prosecution, action, or complaint, in any other court or place whatsoever.
XXII. The legislature ought frequently to assemble for the redress of grievances, for correcting, string, hen ing, and confirming the laws, and for making new laws, as the common good may require.
XXIII. No subsidy, charge, tax, impost, or duties, ought to be established, fixed, laid, or levied, under any pretext wha'sotver, without the consent of the people, or their representatives in the legislature.