Beginning on January 1, 2019, Massachusetts Law Updates has been presenting a daily series of blog posts showcasing the 30 Articles in the Declaration of Rights in the Massachusetts Constitution.
Each post will follow the same format. The post will begin with an
identification of the subject of the Article, assigned for the purpose
of this series, followed by the article itself. If the Article has been
amended or replaced entirely, the new text follows with the date of the
amendment or change. Finally, “Precedents, Following Law, and
Quotations” relevant to each particular Article complete the post.
All of the Articles in the Declaration of Rights, with the notable
exception of Article 3, which deals with responsibilities regarding the
“public worship of God”, were drafted by John Adams. Precedents
were chosen keeping in mind what may have been in John Adams’ head as
he drafted the Articles. The writings of Enlightenment thinkers, men
like John Locke, Algernon Sidney, and Montesquieu, influenced men like
John Adams, George Mason (author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights),
and James Madison (author of the Bill of Rights in the U.S.
Constitution). These men had the opportunity to create governments where
there had only been colonies before. The Magna Carta, the English Bill
of Rights, and Nathaniel Ward’s Body of Liberties had precedential value
to eighteenth century men schooled in law, philosophy and political
theory. In some cases, John Adams copied text directly from other state
constitutions, which had been drafted only a few years earlier. There is
an abundance of secondary source literature which gives us clues, and
points to these possible sources.
To put the Articles in the Declaration of Rights into context, Following Law and Quotations
point to documents and commentary since 1780 that might give us a
chance to better understand what the words in the Articles mean. The
Bill of Rights amending the U.S. Constitution in 1791 includes cognate
provisions which echo articles or sections in states’ constitutions.
Presidents, judges, scholars and passionate advocates have pointed to
the need to expand the provision of rights to disenfranchised groups,
and given us a chance to more fully understand the implications of what
John Adams wrote so long ago.
Italics indicate where text has been added to clarify why particular quotations may have been chosen.
On January 31, there will be an index providing hot links to the blog
posts about the 30 Articles. A post with acknowledgments on February 1,
2019 and a list of selected secondary sources on February 2, 2019 will
conclude the series.
For more information people should contact Barbara Schneider, Head Law Librarian, Berkshire Law Library (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Manager of Law Libraries
Massachusetts Trial Court
Office of Court Management
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