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Massachusetts

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Massachusetts

A specially elected convention submitted a constitution, drafted mainly by John Adams, to the towns for ratification on March 2, 1780; it was approved and went into effect on October 25, 1780. The first article of its declaration of rights proclaimed that “All men are born free and equal” and have “natural” and “unalienable” rights regarding life, liberty, and property (in several cases tried in 1781 and 1783, Massachusetts judges and juries found slavery incompatible with this article; in 1790 the census reported that there were no longer any slaves in Massachusetts). Article II protected religious “profession or beliefs” against persecution, while Article III allowed the legislature to mandate public support for Protestant denominations, effectively continuing the establishment of the Congregational church. Other articles required that reasonable compensation be given for property taken for public use, protected individuals against being compelled to accuse or furnish evidence against themselves, prohibited unreasonable searches and seizures, bills of attainder, cruel and unusual punishments, ex post facto laws, and excessive fines and bail, guaranteed criminal defendants the right to confront witnesses and to trial by jury, and established the right of the people to assemble, instruct their representatives, and petition the legislature. The “Frame of Government” established a senate and a house of representatives, both elected annually by males over 21 who earned £3 a year from freehold property or had £60 in total property. Senators were required to have £300 freehold or £600 total property, representatives £100 freehold or £200 property. The senate was apportioned among districts according to assessed value of taxable property, while the house of representatives was apportioned according to population. All money bills originated in the house, but could be altered in the senate. The governor, elected annually by the voters, was required to have £1000 freehold, and, like the senators and representatives, had to be a declared Christian. Legislation could be vetoed by the governor, but a two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers could override his veto. The governor appointed all judicial officials and sheriffs, with the advice and consent of nine counselors jointly elected by the legislature from among those chosen to be senators. Judges served for good behavior. A new constitutional convention would be called in 1795 if two-thirds of the electors voted in favor of amendment in a referendum.