Many 19th century citizens of Massachusetts, particularly the Brahmins of Beacon Hill, looked back at the United States Constitution with dismay. In particular, the quiet manner that the United States Constitution buried the issue of slavery was paramount. William Lloyd Garrison was one of the earliest abolitionist to suggest that the United States Constitution was a “covenant with death.” He referred to slavery as the death of the person enslaved. He nearly lost his life to a hangman’s noose and a Boston mob.
Another issue compromised in the United States Constitution signed 9/17/1787[i], is today’s most pressing controversy; The Second Amendment. The United States Constitution is considered the first constitution of its kind adopted by the peoples’ representatives. In Massachusetts we beg to contrast this with a Massachusetts Constitution written and approved in 1780 by the people and recognized as the oldest living constitution. Our Constitution has been amended 120 times. Skeptics might suggest it was not written well requiring so many changes but others would suggest the changes reflect the will of the people.
Here is one direct comparison between the two constitutions. It would have prevented so many problems today if the United States Constitution’s Second Amendment had been as clear as the Massachusetts Art. XVII, pasted below.
A few other articles are included below to emphasize the Massachusetts Constitution as the foundation for the United States Constitution. We are happy to give John Adams credit for the overall outline if not many of the principles embodied in the Massachusetts Constitution.
Art. VI. No man nor 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 rises from the consideration of servicces rendered to the public, and this title being in nature neither hereditary nor transmissible to children or descendants or relations by blood; the idea of a man born a magistrate, lawgiver, or judge is absurd and unnatural.
Art. XII. No subject shall be held to answer for any crimes or no offence until the same if fully and plainly, substantially and formally, described to him; or be compelled to accuse, or furnish evidence against himself; and every subject shall have a right to produce all proofs that may be favorable to him; to meet the witnesses against him face to face, and to be fully heard in his defence by himself, or his counsel at his election. And no subject shall be arrested, imprisoned, 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.
Art. 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.
Art. XVII. The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence. 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 an exact subordination to the civil authority and be governed by it.
Art. XXIV. Laws made to punish for actions done before the existence of such laws, and which have not been declared crimes by preceding laws, are unjust, oppressive, and inconsistent with the fundamental principles of a free government.
Art. VII. The privilege and benefit of the writ of habeas corpus shall be enjoyed in this commonwealth, in the most free, easy, cheap, expeditious, and ample manner, and shall not be suspended by the legislature, except upon the most urgent and pressing occasions, and for a limited time, not exceeding twelve months.
[i] Ratification by 9 of 13 states concluded 6/21/1788.