Page images
PDF
EPUB

pact, by which the whole people covenants with cach 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 faithful execution of them, that every man may, at all times, find his fecurity in them.

We, therefore, the people of Maffachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Great Legiflator of the Universe, in affording us, in the courfe of his providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence, or furprize, of entering into an original, explicit, and folemn compact with each other; and of forming a new Conftitution of Civil Government for ourselves and pofterity; and devoutly imploring his direction in fo interesting a defign, DO agree upon, ordain, and establish, the following DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, AND FRAME OF GOVERNMENT, as the CoNSTITUTION OF THE COMMONWEALTH

MASSACHUSETTS.

D 3

OF

PART

PART I.

A

DECLARATION OF RIGHTS

OF THE

INHABITANTS OF THE COMMONWEALTH
OF MASSACHUSETTS.

I. ALL men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, effential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, poffeffing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their fafety and happiness.

II. It is the right as well as the duty of all men in fociety, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the Univerfe. And no fubject fhall be hurt, molested, or restrained in his person, liberty, or eftate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own confcience; or for his religious profeffion or fentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obftruct others in their religious worship.

III. As the happiness of a people, and the good

[ocr errors]

good order and prefervation of civil government, effentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality; and as these cannot be generally diffused through a community, but by the inftitution of the public worship of God, and of public inftructions in piety, religion and morality; therefore, to promote their happinefs, and to fecure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this Commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorise and require, and the legislature fhall, from time to time, authorise and require the feveral towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious focieties, to make fuitable provifion, at their own expence, for the inftitution of the public worship of God, and for the fupport and maintenance of public Proteftant teachers of piety, religion, and morality, in all cafes where fuch provifion fhall not be made voluntarily,

And the people of this Commonwealth have also a right to, and do, inveft their legislature with authority to enjoin upon all the subjects, an attendance upon the inftructions of the public teachers as aforefaid, at ftated times and feafons, if there be any on whofe inftructions D 4

they

they can conscientiously and conveniently attend.

Provided notwithstanding, that the feveral towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodiespolitic, or religious focieties, fhall, at all times, have the exclufive right of electing their public teachers, and of contracting with them for their fupport and maintenance.

And all monies paid by the fubject to the fupport of public worship, and of the public teachers aforefaid, fhall, if he require it, be

uniformly applied to the fupport of the pub

lic teacher or teachers of his own religious fect or denomination, provided there be any on whofe inftructions he attends; otherwife it may be paid towards the support of the teacher or teachers of the parish or precinct in which the faid monies are raised.

[ocr errors]

And every denomination of Chriftians demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good fubjects of the Commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no fubordination of any one fect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.

IV. The people of this Commonwealth have the fole and exclufive right of governing them

'felves

selves as a Free, Sovereign, and Independent State; and do, and for ever hereafter fhall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not, or may not hereafter, be by them exprefly delegated to the United States of America, in Congrefs affembled.

V. All power refiding originally in the people, and being derived from them, the feveral magiftrates and officers of government, vefted with authority, whether legislative, executive, or judicial, are their fubftitutes and agents, and are at all times accountable to them.

VI. No man, or corporation, or affociation of men, have any other title to obtain advantages, or particular and exclufive privileges, diftinct from thofe of the community, than what arifes from the confideration of fervices rendered to the public; and this title being in nature neither hereditary nor tranfmiffible to children, or descendants, or relations by blood, the idea of a man born a magistrate, lawgiver, or judge, is abfurd and unnatural.

VII. Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, fafety, profperity, and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honour, or private interest

of

« PreviousContinue »