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Massachusetts Constitution of 1780

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Date: 1780
About this artifact

Following the declaration of independence in 1776, each of the 13 states began framing new constitutions. Massachusetts citizens roundly rejected in 1778 a proposed constitution created by the Massachusetts General Court, or state legislature. A second attempt was more successful. Largely credited to John Adams, the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 was ratified using a new form of political assembly: the constitutional convention. By the mid-1780s, however, many Massachusetts citizens were demanding that the new constitution be either revised or amended. Among other grievances, opponents criticized property qualifications for office holders and the existence of a Senate, a body they condemned as aristocratic and inappropriate in a representative republic. The 1780 constitution remains the oldest continuously operating democratic constitution in the world. The constitutional convention pioneered by Massachusetts became a crucial component of the ratification process through which the United States Constitution was accepted by the states, including Massachusetts, in the 1780s.

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Courtesy Massachusetts State Archives, Boston, MA