The Popular Sources of Political Authority: Documents on the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780

Overview

Rarely is it possible to hear the voice of the people in a revolution except as it filters through the writings of articulate individuals who may not really be representative. But on several occasions during the effort to draft a constitution for Massachusetts after 1776, the citizens of the Commonwealth were asked to convene in their 300 town meetings to debate and convey to the legislators their political theories, needs, and aspirations. This book presents the transcribed debates and the replies returned to ...

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Overview

Rarely is it possible to hear the voice of the people in a revolution except as it filters through the writings of articulate individuals who may not really be representative. But on several occasions during the effort to draft a constitution for Massachusetts after 1776, the citizens of the Commonwealth were asked to convene in their 300 town meetings to debate and convey to the legislators their political theories, needs, and aspirations. This book presents the transcribed debates and the replies returned to Boston which constitute a unique body of material documenting the political thought of the ordinary citizen.

In an important, extended introduction, the editors, interpreting the American Revolution and its sustaining political framework in light of this material, analyze the forces that were singular and those that were universal in the shaping of American democracy. Comparisons are made with popular uprisings in other parts of the world and at other times, and the whole is integrated into a general discussion of the nature of revolution and its relationship to constitutional authority.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Oscar Handlin, a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, was Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He was the editor of This Was America.

Mary Handlin is Research Editor, Center for the Study of the History of Liberty in America, Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

PART 1:THE PROBLEM EXPLORED, August 1775-November 1776

1. An Act to Confirm the Records of the Provincial Congresses, August 23, 1775

2. An Act on Representation, August 23, 1775

3. Pittsfield Memorial, December 26, 1775

4. Proclamation of the General Court, January 23, 1776

5. Report of a Lecture by Thomas Allen on February 18, 1776

6. Essex County Convention, Ipswich, April 25, 26, 1776

7. An Act for More Equal Representation, May 4, 1776

8. O.P.Q., "To the Electors," May 18, 1776

9. Pittsfield Petitions, May 29, 1776

10. Boston's Instructions to Its Representatives, May 30, 1776

11. Topsfield's Instructions to Its Representatives, June 14, 1776

12. Resolution of the House of Representatives, September 17, 1776

13. Returns of the Towns on the House of Representatives Resolution of September 17, 1776

14. Resolution of Worcester County Towns, November 26, 1776

PART 2: THE CONSTITITION OF 1778 January 1777-November 1778

15. Sutton Requests a County Convention, January 1777

16. Resolution Authorizing the General Assembly to Frame a Constitution, April
4, 1777

17. Resolve of May 5, 1777

18. Boston Objects, May 26, 1777

19. Journal of the Convention, June 17, 1777—March 6, 1778

20. The Rejected Constitution of 1778

21. Returns of the Towns on the Constitution of 1778

22. The Essex Result, 1778

23. Berkshire County Remonstrance, August 26, 1778

24. Response of the Worcester Committee of Correspondence, October 8, 1778

25. Statement of Berkshire County Representatives, November 17, 1778

PART 3: FORMATION OF THE CONSTITUION OF 1780 February 1779-March 1780

26. Resolve on the Question of a Constitution, February 20, 1779

27. Opinions of Hampshire County Towns, March 30, 1779

28. Berkshire County Address, May 3, 1779

29. Returns of the Towns on Resolves of February 20, 1779, May 1779

30. The Call for a Convention, June 1779

31. Votes of Towns in Choosing Delegates, July-October 1779

32. Proceedings of the Convention, March 2, 1780

33. Address of the Convention, March 1780

34. The Constitution of 1780

PART 4: RATIFICATION, May 1780-June 1780

35.Returns of the Towns on the Constitution of 1780

i. Berkshire County

ii. Bristol County

iii. Hampshire County

iv. Lincoln County

v. Middlesex County

vi. Plymouth County

vii. Barnstable County

viii. York County

ix. Suffolk County

x. Worcester County

xi. Essex County

xii. Cumberland County

Appendix: The Massachusetts Towns of 1780

Index

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