[HANCOCK, John]. Massachusetts-Bay. In the House of Representatives June 15, 1779. Whereas by the returns made into the Secretary's office from more than two thirds of the towns belonging to this State...it appears that a large majority of the inhabitants of such Towns...think it proper to have a new Constitution or Form of Government...Resolved, that the several Inhabitants of the several Towns in this State to form a Convention for the sole purpose of framing a new Constitution. [Boston: Printed by Thomas and John Fleet, 1779].
Broadside, 4to, untrimmed, original deckle edges preserved. A very fine copy. NATHANIEL GORHAM'S COPY, signed ("Gorham") and endorsed on verso.
NATHANIEL GORHAM'S COPY OF AN IMPORTANT BROADSIDE AUTHORIZING A NEW STATE CONSTITUTION. By this resolution, "read and concurred" 21 June 1779 and signed in type by Speaker John Hancock, Massachusetts formally authorized the drafting and adoption of a new Constitution. The act directs that delegates are to be chosen in each jurisdiction to attend a constitutional convention which will draft the new consitution. In electing delegates, "every Freeman...twenty one years of ago, shall have a right to vote." The act also provides for the ratification of the constitution, once drafted, again specifying that "the Male inhabitants...being free and twenty-one years of age," shall vote to approve or disapprove the proposed plan of government.
Immediately upon his return from France, John Adams was chosen a delegate to the Convention and that fall was assigned the task of drafting the new Constitution. The Constitution's Preamble states that "The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good." Its Declaration of Rights emphatically states that "All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness..." The new state constitution, founded on the principle of the separation and balance of powers, was adopted, with minor alterations, and remains "one of the great, enduring documents of the American Revolution," as well as "the oldest functioning written constitution in the world (D. McCullough, John Adams, 225).
Nathaniel Gorham (1738-1796), whose bold signature is affixed to the verso of this broadside, was active in Massachusetts affairs before the Revolution, and in 1779 was elected a delegate to the state constitutional convention. From 1784 he served in the Continental Congress. In 1789 he was a delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention, signed the final draft, and was then active in securing ratification in his home state.