Constitution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts--1780


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.

The legislative body shall assemble every yeara [on the last Wednesday in May, and at such other times as they shall judge necessary; and shall dissolve and be dissolved on the day next preceding the said last Wednesday in May ;] and shall be styled, THE GENERAL COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS.

II. No bill or resolve of the senate or house of representatives shall become a law, and have force as such, until it shall have been laid before the governor for his revisal; and if he, upon such revision, approve thereof, he shall signify his approbation by signing the same. But if he have any objection to the passing of such bill or resolve, he shall return the same, together with his objections thereto, in writing, to the senate or house of representatives, in whichsoever the same shall have originated; who shall enter the objections sent down by the governor, at large, on their records, and proceed to reconsider the said bill or resolve. But if after such reconsideration, two-thirds of the said senate or house of representatives, shall, notwithstanding the said objections, agree to pass the same, it shall, together with the objections, be sent to the other branch of the legislature, where it shall also be reconsidered, and if approved by two-thirds of the members present, shall have the force of law: but-in all such cases, the votes of both houses shall be determined by yeas and nays; and the names of the persons voting for, or against, the said bill or resolve, shall be entered upon the public records of the commonwealth. And in order to prevent unnecessary delays, if any bill or resolve shall not be returned by the governor within five days after it shall have been presented, the same shall have the force of a law.b

III. The general court shall forever have full power and authority to erect and constitute judicatories and courts of record, or other courts, to be held in the name of the commonwealth, for the hearing, trying, and determining of all manner of crimes, offences, pleas, processes, plaints, actions, matters, causes, and filings, whatsoever, arising or happening within the commonwealth, or between or concerning persons inhabiting, or residing, or brought within the same: whether the same be criminal or civil, or whether the said crimes be capital or not capital, and whether the said pleas be real, personal, or mixed; and for the awarding and making out of execution thereupon. To which courts and judicatories are hereby given and granted full power and authority, from time to time, to administer oaths or affirmations, for the better discovery of truth in any matter in controversy or depending before them.

IV. And further, full power and authority are hereby given and granted to the said general court, from time to time, to make, ordain, and establish, all manner of wholesome, and reasonable orders, laws, statutes, and ordinances, directions and instructions, either with penalties or without; so as the same be not repugnant or contrary to this constitution, as they shall judge to be for the good and welfare of this commonwealth, and for the government and ordering thereof, and of the subjects of the same, and for the necessary support. and defence of the government thereof; and to name and settle annually, or provide by fixed laws for the naming and settling, all civil officers within the said commonwealth, the election and constitution of whom are not hereafter in this form of government otherwise provided for; and to set forth the several duties, powers, and limits, of the several civil and military officers of this commonwealth, and the forms of such oaths or affirmations as shall be respectively administered unto them for the execution of their several offices and places, so as the same be not repugnant or contrary to this constitution; and to impose and levy proportional and reasonable assessments, rates, and taxes, upon all the inhabitants of, and persons resident, and estates lying, within the said commonwealth; and also to impose and levy reasonable duties and excises upon any produce, goods, wares. merchandise, and commodities, whatsoever, brought into, produced, manufactured, or being within the same; to be issued and disposed of by warrant, under the hand of the governor of this commonwealth for the time being, with the advice and consent of the council, for the public service, in the necessary defence and support of the government of the said commonwealth, and the protection and preservation of the subjects thereof, according to such acts as are or shall be in force within the same.

And while the public charges of government, or any part thereof, shall be assessed on polls and estates, in the manner that has hitherto been practised, in order that such assessments may be made with equality, there shall be a valuation of estates within the commonwealth, taken anew once in every ten years at least, and as much oftener as the general court shall order.c

a For change of time, etc., see amendments, Art. X.

b See amendments, Art. I.

c For the authority of the general court to charter cities, see amendments, Art. II.

Article I. a [There shall be annually elected, by the freeholders and other inhabitants of this commonwealth, qualified as in this constitution is provided, forty persons to be councillors and senators for the year ensuing their election; to be chosen by the inhabitants of the districts into which the commonwealth may, from time to time, be divided by the general court for that purpose: and the general court in assigning the numbers to be elected by the respective districts, shall govern themselves by the proportion of the public taxes paid by the said districts; and timely make known to the inhabitants of the commonwealth the limits of each district, and the number of councillorsb and senators to be chosen therein; provided that the number of such districts shall never be less than thirteen; and that no district be so large as to entitle the same to choose more than six senators.

And the several counties in this commonwealth shall, until the general court shall determine it, necessary to alter the said districts, be districts for the choice of councillors and senators, (except that the counties of Dukes Comity and Nantucket shall form one district for that purpose) and shall elect, the following number for councillors and senators, viz.:--Suffolk, six; Essex, six; Middlesex, five; Hampshire, four: Plymouth, three: Barnstable, one; Bristol, three; York, two; Dukes County and Nantucket, one; Worcester, five; Cumberland, one; Lincoln, one: Berkshire, two.]

II. The senate shall be the first branch of the legislature; and the senators shall be chosen in the following manner, viz.: there shall be a meeting on the c [first Monday in April,] annually, forever, of the inhabitants of each town in the several counties of this commonwealth; to be called by the selectmen, and warned in due course of law, at least seven days before the c [first Monday in April,] for the purpose of electing persons to be senators and councillors;d [and at such meetings every male inhabitant of twenty-one years of age and upwards, having a freehold estate within the commonwealth, of the annual income of three pounds, or any estate of the value of sixty pounds, shall have a right to give in his vote for the senators for the district of which he is an inhabitant.] And to remove all doubts concerning the meaning of the word "inhabitant" in this constitution, every person shall be considered as an inhabitant, for the purpose of electing and being elected into any office, or place within this state, in that town, district, or plantation where he dwelleth, or hath his home.e

The selectmen of the several towns shall preside at such meetings impartially; and shall receive the votes of all the inhabitants of such townsf present and qualified to vote for senators, and shall sort and count them in open town meeting, and in presence of the town clerk, who shall make a fair record, in presence of the selectmen, and in open town meeting, of the name of every person voted for, and of the number of votes against his name: and a fair copy of this record shall be attested by the selectmen and the town clerk, and shall be sealed up, directed to the secretary of the commonwealth for the time being, with a superscription, expressing the purport of the contents thereof, and delivered by the town clerk of such towns, to the sheriff of the county in which such town lies, thirty days at least beforeg [the last Wednesday in May] annually; or it shall be delivered into the secretary’s office seventeen days at least before the saidg [last Wednesday in May:] and the sheriff of each county shall deliver all such certificates by him received, into the secretary’s office, seventeen days before the saidg [last Wednesday in May.]

And the inhabitants of plantations unincorporated; qualified as this constitution provides, who are or shall be empowered and required to assess taxes upon themselves toward the support of government, shall have the same privilege of voting for councillors and senators in the plantations where they reside, as town inhabitants have in their respective towns; and the plantation meetings for that purpose shall be held annuallyh [on the same first Monday in April], at such place in the plantations, respectively, as the assessors thereof shall direct; which assessors shall have like authority for notifying the electors, collecting and returning the votes, as the selectmen and town clerks have in their several towns, by this constitution. And all other persons living in places unincorporated (qualified as aforesaid) who shall be assessed to the support of government by the assessors of an adjacent town, shall have the privilege of giving in their votes for councillors and senators in the town where they shall be assessed, and be notified of the place of meeting by the selectmen of the town where they shall be assessed, for that purpose accordingly.

III. And that there may be a due convention of senators on the i [last Wednesday in May] annually, the governor with five of the council, for the time being, shall, as soon as may be, examine the returned copies of such records: and fourteen days before the said day he shall issue his summons to such persons as shall appear to be chosen by j [a majority of] voters, to attend on that day, and take their seats accordingly: provided, nevertheless, that for the first year the said returned copies shall be examined by the president and five of the council of the former constitution of government; and the said president shall, in like manner, issue his summons to the persons so elected, that they may take their seats as aforesaid.

IV. The senate shall be the final judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of their own members, as pointed out in the constitution; and shall, k [on the said last Wednesday in May] annually, determine and declare who are elected by each district to be senators j [by a majority of votes; and in case there shall not appear to be the full number of senators returned elected by a majority of votes for any district, the deficiency shall be supplied in the following manner, viz.: The members of the house of representatives, and such senators as shall be declared elected, shall take the names of such persons as shall be found to have the highest number of votes in such district, and not elected, amounting to twice the number of senators wanting, if there be so many voted for; and out of these shall elect by ballot a number of senators sufficient to fill up the vacancies in such district; and in this manner all such vacancies shall be filled up in every district of the commonwealth; and in like manner all vacancies m the senate, arising by death, removal out of the state, or otherwise, shall be supplied as soon as may be, after such vacancies shall happen.]l

V. Provided, nevertheless, that no person shall be capable of being elected as a senator, m [who is not seised of his own right of a freehold, within this commonwealth, of the value of three hundred pounds at least, or possessed of personal estate to the value of six hundred pounds at least, or both to the amount of the same sum, and] who has not been an inhabitant of this commonwealth for the space of five years immediately preceding his election, and, at the time of his election, he shall be an inhabitant in the district for which he shall be chosen.

VI. The senate shall have power to adjourn themselves, provided such adjournments do not exceed two days at a time.

VII. The senate shall choose its own president, appoint its own officers, and determine its own rules of proceedings.

VIII. The senate shall be a court with full authority to hear and determine all impeachments made by the house of representatives, against any officer or officers of the commonwealth, for misconduct and mal-administration in their offices. But previous to the trial of every impeachment the members of the senate shall respectively be sworn, truly and impartially to try and determine the charge in question, according to evidence: Their judgment, however, shall not extend further than to removal from office and disqualification to hold or enjoy any place of honor, trust, or profit, under this commonwealth; but the party so convicted shall be, nevertheless, liable to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to the laws of the land.

IX. n [Not less than sixteen members of the senate shall constitute a quorum for doing business.]

a Superseded by amendments, Art. XIII, which was also superseded by amendments, Art. XXII.

b For provision as to councillors, see amendments, Art. XVI.

c Time of election changed by amendments. Art X, and changed again by amendments, Art. XV. As to cities, see amendments, Art. II.

d These provisions as to the qualifications of voters, superseded by amendments, Arts. III, XX, XXVIII.

e Word "inhabitant" defined. See also amendments, Arts. XXIII., which was annulled by Art. XXVI.

f As to cities, see amendments, Art. II.

g Time changed to first Wednesday of January. See amendments, Art. X.

h Time of election changed by amendments, Art. XV. Assessors to notify, etc.

i Time changed to first Wednesday in January by amendments, Art. X.

j Majority changed to plurality by amendments, Art. XIV.

k Time changed to first Wednesday of January by amendments, Art. X.

l Changed to election by people. See amendments, Art. XXIV.

m Property qualification abolished. See amendments, Art. XIII. For further provision as to residence, see also amendments, Art. XXII.

n See amendments, Arts. XXII. and XXXIII.

ARTICLE I. There shall be, in the legislature of this commonwealth, a representation of the people, annually elected, and founded upon the principle of equality.

II. a [And in order to provide for a representation of the citizens of this commonwealth, founded upon the principle of equality, every corporate town containing one hundred and fifty ratable polls may elect one representative; every corporate town containing three hundred and seventy-five ratable polls may elect two representatives; every corporate town containing six hundred ratable polls may elect three representatives; and proceeding in that manner, making two hundred and twenty-five ratable polls the mean increasing number for every additional representative.

Provided, nevertheless, that each town now incorporated, not having one hundred and fifty ratable polls, may elect one representative; but no place shall hereafter be incorporated with the privilege of electing a representative, unless there are within the same one hundred and fifty ratable polls.]

And the house of representatives shall have power from time to time to impose fines upon such towns as shall neglect to choose and return members to the same, agreeably to this constitution.

The expenses of travelling to the general assembly, and returning home, once in every session, and no more, shall be paid by the government, out of the public treasury, to every member who shall attend as seasonably as he can, in the judgment of the house, and does not depart without leave.

III. Every member of the house of representatives shall be chosen by written votes;b [and, for one year at least next preceding his election, shall have been an inhabitant of, and have been seised in his own right of a freehold of the value of one hundred pounds within the town he shall be chosen to represent, or any ratable estate to the value of two hundred pounds; and he shall cease to represent the said town immediately on his ceasing to be qualified as aforesaid.]

IV. c [Every male person, being twenty-one years of age, and resident in any particular town in this commonwealth for the space of one year next preceding, having a freehold estate within the said town of the annual income of three pounds, or any estate of the value of sixty pounds, shall have a right to vote in the choice of a representative or representatives for the said town.]

V. d [The members of the house of representatives shall be chosen annually in the month of May, ten days at least before the last Wednesday of that month.]

VI. The house of representatives shall be the grand inquest of this commonwealth; and all impeachments made by them shall be heard and tried by the senate.

VII. All money bills shall originate in the house of representatives; but the senate may propose or concur with amendments, as on other bills.

VIII. The house of representatives shall have power to adjourn themselves; provided such adjournment shall not exceed two days at a time.

IX. e [Not less than sixty members of the house of representatives shall constitute a quorum for doing business.]

X. The house of representatives shall be the judge of the returns, elections, and qualifications of its own members, as pointed out in the constitution; shall choose their own speaker; appoint their own officers, and settle the rules and orders of proceeding in their own house. They shall have authority to punish by imprisonment every person, not a member, who shall be guilty of disrespect to the house, by any disorderly or contemptuous behavior in its presence; or who, in the town where the general court is sitting, and during the time of its sitting, shall threaten harm to the body or estate of any of its member, for any thing said or done in the house; or who shall assault any of them therefor; or who shall assault, or arrest, any witness, or other person, or ordered to attend the house, in his way in going or returning; or who shall rescue any person arrested by the order of the house.

And no member of the house of representatives shall be arrested, or held to bail on mean process, during his going unto, returning from, or his attending the general assembly.

XI. The senate shall halve the same powers in the like cases; and the governor and council shall have the same authority to punish in like cases: provided, that no imprisonment on the warrant or order of the governor, council, senate, or house of representatives, for either of the above described offences, be for a term exceeding thirty days.

And the senate and house of representatives may try and determine all cases where their rights and privileges are concerned, and which, by the constitution, they have authority to try and determine, by committees of their own members, or in such other way as they may respectively think best.


a Superseded by amendments, Arts. XII. and XIII., which were also superseded by amendments, Art. XXl.

b New provision as to residence. See amendments, Art. XXI. Property qualifications abolished by amendments, Art. XIII.

c These provisions superseded by amendments, Arts. III., XX. and XXVIII. See also amendments, Art. XXIII., which was annulled by Art. XXVI.

d Time of election changed by Amendments, Art. X., and changed again by amendments, Art. XV.

e Superseded by amendments, Art. XXI.