John Adams & the Massachusetts Constitution (2022)

Why Study the Massachusetts Constitution

The 1780 Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, drafted by John Adams, is the world's oldest functioning written constitution. It served as a model for the United States Constitution, which was written in 1787 and became effective in 1789. (The Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution were approved in 1789 and became effective in 1791). In turn, the United States Constitution has, particularly in years since World War II, served as a model for the constitutions of many nations, including Germany, Japan, India and South Africa. The United States Constitution has also influenced international agreements and charters, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 1915, the President of the American Historical Association stated, "If I were called upon to select a single fact or enterprise which more nearly than any other single thing embraced the significance of the American Revolution . . . I should choose the formation of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. . . ."

John Adams and the Rule of Law

John Adams & the Massachusetts Constitution (1)

The Writs of Assistance Case (1761)

Among the most profound influences on the young John Adams was his witnessing attorney James Otis arguing the Writs of Assistance case in 1761.This case would influence Adams years later when, in drafting the Massachusetts Constitution, he included a strong prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. That provision ensures that articulated and established rules are followed before private property may be searched or seized by government officials.

The Writs of Assistance case originated in 1760. Soon after George III ascended to the English throne, customs officials began aggressively to inspect ships, businesses, and homes for evidence of goods smuggled into Massachusetts by merchants seeking to avoid taxes. To conduct a search, customs officials needed only to obtain a "writ of assistance," a general search warrant that allowed them to search within any identified premises. The government was not required to make any showing of cause before obtaining a writ.

In February 1761, Otis represented a group of Massachusetts merchants who challenged the legality of the writs in a case brought before the Superior Court of Judicature. For five hours, Otis argued that the writs violated the inalienable rights of the colonists as British subjects: "A man's house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege."

Chief Justice Hutchinson delayed the Court's decision, likely hoping that public sentiment against the writs would subside. Though the Court did eventually uphold the writs, Adams believed that customs officials never "dared" to execute them. Otis's argument against arbitrary and excessive power influenced many, including 25-year-old John Adams, who later recalled, "Every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there, the child Independence was born."

The Boston Massacre Case

The Boston Massacre case demonstrates John Adams's deep and abiding respect for a legal system based on the rule of law. For in this case, John Adams was requested to - and did - defend British soldiers who had fired into a mob of unruly colonists.

Events began on March 5, 1770, when tensions were high between the colonists and the armed British soldiers stationed in Boston. That evening, a dispute between a British sentry and a colonist led to the gathering of a disorderly crowd of colonists which, eventually, confronted Captain Thomas Preston and eight British soldiers.

When the volatile crowd refused orders to disperse and threw objects at the soldiers, the soldiers shot into the crowd, killing five colonists, including Crispus Attucks. Captain Preston and the soldiers were arrested.

The following day, John Adams was asked to defend Captain Preston and the soldiers from anticipated indictments. Adams agreed. Though committed to freedom from British tyranny, he believed that those accused deserved a proper defense. Adams's decision to defend the accused was particular noteworthy as other patriots, including his cousin Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, who invoked what they now named the "Boston Massacre" to inflame anti-British sentiments.

(Video) What Made the Massachusetts Constitution Different?

Captain Preston's trial was held first, from October 24-30, 1770. Adams's strategy was to challenge the prosecution's claim that Preston had ordered his soldiers to fire. Adams succeeded, and the jury acquitted Preston.

The subsequent trial of the eight soldiers was transcribed and published. After calling over forty witnesses, Adams gave an "electrifying" closing argument in which he argued that the soldiers had acted in self-defense when facing a mob. He further contended that because the evidence was unclear as to which soldiers had fired, it was better for the jury to acquit all eight defendants than mistakenly to convict one innocent man. "The reason is, because it's of more importance to community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished."

The jury acquitted six soldiers and found two guilty of manslaughter; those two had been clearly proved to have fired shots.

For his role in the trials, Adams received serious public criticism and lost a substantial portion of his law practice. Later, he would write:

The part I took in defense of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me anxiety, and obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country. Judgement of death against those soldiers would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the evidence was, the verdict of the jury was exactly right.

As reflected in observations of the Writs of Assistance case and his own role in the Boston Massacre trials, Adams had a passionate commitment to the rule of law and the right of all to fair proceedings. These passions would guide Adams as he developed and articulated his philosophy of a government based on laws not men.

Thoughts on Government

John Adams & the Massachusetts Constitution (2)

In a brief essay entitled Thoughts on Government written during the early spring of 1776, John Adams articulated the central points of his philosophy of government. In formulating his vision, Adams relied on his vast reading of enlightenment political theory (e.g., Locke's Two Treatises of Government and Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws) and his study of ancient and modern history (e.g., Ancient Athens and Sparta, Republican and Imperial Rome, English and European history), as well as his firm belief that history had presented him and the other colonists with an unmatched opportunity to form their own governments as free and independent states.

You and I. . . have been sent into life at a time when the greatest lawgivers of antiquity would have wished to live. How few of the human race have ever enjoyed an opportunity of making an election of government, more than of air, soil, or climate, for themselves or their children! When, before the present epoch, had three millions of people full power and a fair opportunity to form and establish the wisest and happiest government that human wisdom can contrive?

Adams believed that a stable and democratic government required the consent of the governed and the separation of powers among the executive, legislature, and judiciary, and a bicameral (two-body) legislature. Of the necessity for an independent judiciary, Adams wrote:

The dignity and stability of government in all its branches, the morals of the people, and every blessing of society depend so much upon an upright and skillful administration of justice, that the judicial power ought to be distinct from both the legislative and executive, and independent upon both, that so it may be a check upon both, as both should be checks upon that. The judges, therefore, should be always men of learning and experience in the laws, of exemplary morals, great patience, calmness, coolness, and attention. Their minds should not be distracted with jarring interests; they should not be dependent upon any man, or body of men. To these ends, they should hold estates for life in their offices; or, in other words, their commissions should be during good behavior, and their salaries ascertained and established by law.

The constitutional framework articulated in Thoughts on Government influenced the constitutions drafted in many of the colonies, including Massachusetts.

Adams's Resolution Authorizes the Colonies to Establish Legitimate and Independent Governments

Also in the spring of 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, responded to John Adams's insistence that if independence were to be declared, the colonies must establish legitimate and independent governments. On May 10, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted Adams's resolution (advanced with Richard Henry Lee of Virginia) recommending that each of the "united colonies" assume the powers of government and "adopt such a government as shall, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and America in general."

(Video) Massachusetts State Constitution

When the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 2, 1776, this task became more urgent.

Massachusetts Invents the Constitutional Convention

In 1777, the Massachusetts legislature announced that the next legislature would draft a new constitution which it would then submit to the voters for approval. (At this time, John Adams was serving as a diplomat to France; Congress had appointed him to solidify this crucial alliance.)

In reaching its decision, the Massachusetts legislature failed to heed Adams's recommendation that constitutions ought to be drafted and ratified by special conventions representing the consent of the people. During the fall of 1775, Adams had recommended that the people must "erect the whole Building with their own hands upon the broadest foundation. That this could be done only by conventions of representatives chosen by the People. . . . "

The legislature's proposed constitution was submitted to, and rejected by, the voters in 1778. Theophilus Parsons, a young lawyer who would later became Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, led the opposition. In a pamphlet entitled The Essex Result , Parsons, in words demonstrating the influence of John Adams, criticized the proposed constitution for not having been drafted by a body separate from the legislature, for lacking a declaration of rights (and for explicitly condoning slavery), and for failing to provide for the separation of powers among the executive, a bicameral legislature, and the judiciary.

In 1779, the Massachusetts legislature issued a call to the towns for every male inhabitant to elect representatives to form a Convention for the sole purpose of framing a new Constitution, which would then require ratification by two-thirds of the same electorate. Massachusetts thereby invented the concept of convening a convention of the people, separate and apart from the legislature, for the sole purpose of creating a constitution. Massachusetts thus created and clarified the distinction between ordinary legislation and the fundamental law contained in a constitution, which may be created and changed only by "the people."

John Adams Drafts the Massachusetts Constitution

In August 1779, one week after he had returned from France to his home in Braintree, that town selected Adams as a delegate to the state constitutional convention, scheduled to meet on September 1.

The 312 delegates selected John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Bowdoin to serve on the drafting committee, and "the other two picked [John] Adams to draw up the state's constitution. He had become, as he later said, a sub-sub committee of one." In drafting the Massachusetts Constitution, Adams drew upon his vast knowledge of history and political philosophy, the colonies' experiences under British colonial rule, and his own ideas as articulated in Thoughts on Government. Adams completed his draft by October 30, 1779. He left Massachusetts in November 1779 to return to Europe as minister plenipotentiary.

Following approval by town meetings, the Constitution was ratified on June 15, 1780, and became effective on October 25, 1780.

The Massachusetts Constitution

The Massachusetts Constitution contains three parts: a Preamble, Part the First: A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Part the Second: The Frame of Government.

The Preamble:

announces the purposes of government; that is, furnishing the members of the body politic "the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquility, their natural rights and the blessings of life;

describes the "body politic" as a "social compact" whereby all agree to be governed by laws designed for the "common good;"

provides that when government does not fulfill its obligations, "the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity, and happiness."

The Declaration of Rights

The Declaration of Rights, which was in part derived from the Bill of Rights in several other state constitutions, sets forth many individual rights which would later be included in the federal Bill of Rights. John Adams considered individual rights so integral to the formation of government that the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights precedes the Frame of Government. (Contrast this with the United States Constitution which sets forth a frame of government, to which the Bill of Rights was added two years later, after prolonged debate.) The Declaration of Rights includes prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizure, ex post facto laws, and the public taking of private property without just compensation. Protected rights include freedom of the press, the right to petition the government, right to trial by jury, and freedom of worship.

The Declaration of Rights also established an independent judiciary. Adams knew that a free people and a stable government required judges "as free, impartial and independent as the lot of humanity will admit," who serve "as long as they behave themselves well" and whose salaries are "established by standing laws." Article XXIX brings to fruition arguments made by Adams in Thoughts on Government and in a series of argumentative essays written in 1773 between Adams and loyalist General William Brattle. In those essays, Adams contended that colonial judges, who served at the pleasure of the Crown, were "far from independent."

The Declaration of Rights concludes with an inspiring commitment to the creation of a balanced government of separate powers: a government of laws, not men:

In the government of the commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them; the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them; the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them; to the end that it may be a government of laws, and not of men. (Article XXX)

The Frame of Government

The Frame of Government establishes a government of separate powers comprised of three branches: an executive, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary. The structural framework adopted in Massachusetts is identical to that adopted in the United States Constitution.'

(Video) Joerg Knipprath | John Adams of Massachusetts: 2nd President of the U.S. & Declaration Signer

Abigail Adams

John Adams & the Massachusetts Constitution (3)

Throughout their fifty-four year marriage, Abigail Adams was her husband's most trusted advisor on the subjects of family, career, and politics. Because Adams's political life resulted in lengthy absences from his wife, they regularly communicated through letters. This massive collection of letters has made Abigail one of this nation's best known and most beloved women.

In Abigail's most famous letter, dated March 31, 1776, she writes to John of her desire that members of the Continental Congress "remember the ladies" when they create a new code of law:

I long to hear that you have declared an independency - and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.

In addition to championing the cause of women, Abigail also championed freedom for slaves. On September 22, 1774, she wrote:

(Video) John Adams & Constitutional Influences

I wish most sincerely there was not a Slave in the province. It allways appeard a most iniquitious Scheme to me - fight ourselfs for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind upon this Subject.

Years later, Abigail would support the right of an African-American child to attend school with white children. In 1797, Abigail enrolled a young African-American servant boy in a local school. When a neighbor reported objections, Abigail responded as follows, as recounted in her letter to her husband dated February 13, 1797:

[The neighbor, Mr. Faxon] inform me that if James went to School, it would break up the School for the other Lads refused to go. Pray Mr. Faxon has the Boy misbehaved? If he has let the Master turn him out of school. O no, there was no complaint of that kind, but they did not chuse to go to School with a Black Boy. . . This Mr. Faxon is attacking the principle of Liberty and equality upon the only Ground upon which it ought to be supported, an equality of Rights. The Boy is a Freeman as much as any of the young Men,and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? . . . . Tell them Mr. Faxon that I hope we shall all go to Heaven together. Upon which Faxon laugh'd, and thus ended the conversation. I have not heard any more upon the subject.


  1. The Honorable Margaret Marshall,Foreword, Boston Bar Journal (January/February 2000) (quoting Andrew McLaughlin,American History and American Democracy, 20 Proceedings of the American Historical Society 225 (1915)).
  2. See generally, Chief Justice Edward F. Hennessey, "Who was James Otis, Jr.?" 77 Mass. Law Review 31-33 (1992); Adams's quotations in this section are found in hisLife and Works, 10:248.
  3. Life and Works, 10:248
  4. Much of the material in this section is drawn from the Boston Public Library's exhibit, "Riot and the Rule of Law: The Boston Massacre, John Adams and the Trial of 1770," on display from January 14-March 6, 2005. See also The Honorable Hiller Zobel,The Boston Massacre(1996); McCullough,John Adams65-68 (2001). See also an extensive online collection of materials and accounts of this trial, including John Adams's closing argument in the soldiers' trial.
  5. Attorney Josiah Quincy assisted Adams in his role as defense counsel.
  6. Patriot-created propaganda included Revere's famous engraved print depicting British soldiers shooting into a crowd of unarmed colonists. See
  7. McCullough at 68.
  8. The two convicted soldiers invoked "the benefit of clergy," a plea that reduced their punishment to the branding of their thumbs.
  9. Adams, Legal Papers III (ed. Zobel and Wirth 1966) at 33.
  10. Thoughts on Government is available online
  11. InThoughts on Government, Adams was in part responding to Thomas Paine's pamphletCommon Sense, published in January 1776. Though agreeing with Paine's call for American independence, Adams was disturbed by Paine's "feeble" understanding of constitutional government and his view that a unicameral legislature would provide an adequate foundation for government. David McCullough,John Adams96-97 (2001).
  12. Gordon Wood,The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1878 306-343 (ed. 1998).
  13. See McCullough, supra note 3 at 108-110; Richard Bernstein,The Revolution and State Constitution-Making and Legal Reform(available at
  14. Adams was the first American advocate of constitutional conventions. See C. Bradley Thompson,John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty40-41 (1998).
  15. The Essex Result is no longer available online at
  16. Wood, supra note 4 at 342 (describing a constitutional convention as an "extraordinary invention," perhaps "the most distinctive institutional contribution the American Revolutionaries made to Western politics").
  17. McCullough, supra note 3 at p. 220.
  18. These essays are no longer available online at
  19. Additionally, within the fifteen years following adoption of the Massachusetts Constitution, nearly every state adopted Massachusetts' overall structure of government. In contrast, some earlier state constitutions, such as Pennsylvania's, had a one-house legislature and an executive and judiciary fully created and controlled by the legislature. See Bernstein, supra note 3.
  20. For an extensive electronic collection of these letters, see

John Adams: Biographical summary

John Adams & the Massachusetts Constitution (4)

October 30, 1735, in Braintree, Massachusetts.

July 4, 1826, in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Harvard College (graduated in 1755).

Married to Abigail Smith Adams in 1764.

  • Abigail (Nabby) Amelia Adams Smith (1765-1813)
  • John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) (Sixth President of the United States, 1825-1829)
  • Susanna Adams (1768-1770)
  • Charles Adams (1770-1800)
  • Thomas Boylston Adams (1772-1832)

Legal Career

  • Admitted to Massachusetts Bar (1758)
  • Appointed to defend British captain and soldiers indicted for murder following the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770
  • Founder and First Secretary, Suffolk County Bar Association (1770)
  • Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature, the predecessor to the Supreme Judicial Court (1775-1778), but obligations in Philadelphia prevented his ever presiding over the Court.

Political Career

  • Elected to Massachusetts Assembly (1770)
  • Selected as delegate to First and Second Continental Congresses (1774-1776)
  • Proposed George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental armies (1775)
  • Member of Committee assigned to draft the Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • Signed Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • Commissioner to France (1777-1779)
  • Delegate to Massachusetts Constitutional Convention and principal author of the Massachusetts Constitution (1779)
  • Minister plenipotentiary to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain (1780)
  • Diplomat to Holland and France (1781-1784)
  • United States Ambassador to Great Britain (1785-1788)
  • Elected first Vice President of the United States (1789-1797)
  • Elected second President of the United States (1797-1801). Presidential Acts included nomination of John Marshall to be Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1801)
  • Delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1820

Political Philosopher and Author
Adams was a prolific author. In addition to his famous diaries and letters, major works include:

  • A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (1765)
  • Novanglus Letters (1774-1775)
  • Thoughts on Government (1776)
  • A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States (1786-1787)
  • Discourses on Davila (1791)


  • Charter member and founder of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1780)


What did John Adams say about the Constitution? ›

John Adams Quotes

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Did John Adams agree with the Constitution? ›

His political writings, including Thoughts on Government (1776) and A Defense of the Constitutions of the United States of America (1778), developed the principles of constitutional government that James Madison and other delegates applied at the 1787 convention. Adams strongly supported the new constitution.

How is the Massachusetts Constitution different from the U.S. Constitution? ›

According to many historians, the Massachusetts Constitution is the more expansive and democratic document - providing greater protections and liberties than the federal Constitution. It stated a commitment to education for all through public schools and it protected the free exercise of religion.

What are the four parts of the Massachusetts Constitution? ›

Features. The Massachusetts Constitution is often referred to as the oldest state constitution in continuous effect. The Massachusetts Constitution contains four parts: a preamble, a declaration of rights, a description of the framework of government in six chapters and articles of amendment.

What did John Adams believe? ›

Adams believed that the danger to American society in 1800 came not from excessive authority but from conflict and anarchy. Adams's elite republicanism stood in stark contrast to the more egalitarian Jeffersonian democracy that was poised to assume power in the new century.

Who actually wrote the Constitution? ›

James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution because of his pivotal role in the document's drafting as well as its ratification. Madison also drafted the first 10 amendments -- the Bill of Rights.

What was unique about the Massachusetts Constitution? ›

"It's really the first state constitution to clearly delineate a separation of powers: legislative, executive and judicial," Thompson said. Later in the decade, both the process of a constitutional convention and the three-branch system would be critical in the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

What is John Adams best known for? ›

He was America's second president. Adams was well known for his extreme political independence, brilliant mind and passionate patriotism. He was a leader in the Continental Congress and an important diplomatic figure, before becoming America's first vice president.

What did the Massachusetts Constitution do? ›

The first three articles in Chapter I, Section I,of the Massachusetts Constitution establishes the three primary branches of government; an executive, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary.

What rights are protected in the MA state constitution? ›

The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by the way of addresses, petitions, or remonstrances, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.

Who wrote the first constitution in the world? ›

First country to make the constitution: USA

The US constitution is made of seven articles, a preamble, and a closing endorsement. In addition, the constitution has a Bill of Rights and several amendments.

What are the 10 constitutional rights? ›

Bill of Rights - The Really Brief Version
1Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
7Right of trial by jury in civil cases.
8Freedom from excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishments.
9Other rights of the people.
10Powers reserved to the states.
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Which is the oldest constitution in the world? ›

The Constitution of San Marino might be the world's oldest active written constitution, since some of its core documents have been in operation since 1600, while the Constitution of the United States is the oldest active codified constitution.

What are the 4 unalienable rights? ›

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent ...

What did John Adams say about Jesus? ›

Adams concluded that anyone practicing Christian morality should be called a Christian, even though that person may not believe in Christ's deity or the Trinity. In a letter to Jefferson in 1813, he puts it very simply: "Yet I believe all the honest men among you are Christians, in my sense of the word."

Why did John Adams want independence? ›

John Adams and The American Revolution

During the 1760s, Adams began challenging Great Britain's authority in colonial America. He came to view the British imposition of high taxes and tariffs as a tool of oppression, and he no longer believed that the government in England had the colonists' best interests in mind.

What were John Adams last words? ›

May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.” Adams retired to his farm in Quincy. Here he penned his elaborate letters to Thomas Jefferson. Here on July 4, 1826, he whispered his last words: “Thomas Jefferson survives.” But Jefferson had died at Monticello a few hours earlier.

Who said our Constitution was made only for a moral and? ›

One of the foremost constitutional theorists of the founding generation, John Adams, observed, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”1 He wasn't the only Founding Father to hold this view.

What was the best thing John Adams did as president? ›

The Fight For Independence

While John Adams would go on to serve as the second President of the United States in 1797, his greatest contribution came in the form of his ability to rally Americans around the cause of independence.

Who are the 7 Founding Fathers? ›

Fact #1: These seven men are the principle Founding Fathers: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison. While there were many others who contributed to the founding of the United States, these seven are considered by most as the Founding Fathers.

What three men wrote the Constitution? ›

James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton composed what became known as the Federalist Papers. The Federalist Papers were a radical series of thoughts and demands that boldly called for the revision of the Articles of Confederation.

Who is known as the Father of the Constitution? ›

James Madison, America's fourth President (1809-1817), made a major contribution to the ratification of the Constitution by writing The Federalist Papers, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. In later years, he was referred to as the “Father of the Constitution.”

How many amendments are in the Massachusetts Constitution? ›

The current (and first) Massachusetts Constitution was adopted on October 25, 1780. The current constitution has been amended 119 times.

Who signed the Constitution from Massachusetts? ›

Some expressed reservations but signed the Constitution, anticipating vigorous debates within their states. Three delegates, Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, George Mason of Virginia, and Randolph, did not sign it at all.
GORHAM, NathanielMA
GILMAN, NicholasNH
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What is constitution based on? ›

Based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the English Bill of Rights, the writings of the Enlightenment, and the rights defined in the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights contains rights that many today consider to be fundamental to America.

What are 3 things John Adams did as President? ›

John Adams - Key Events
  • March 4, 1797. Inauguration. ...
  • May 15, 1797. Special session. ...
  • May 19, 1797. Negotiating with France. ...
  • June 24, 1797. Making a militia. ...
  • October 18, 1797. XYZ Affair. ...
  • January 8, 1798. The Eleventh Amendment. ...
  • April 3, 1798. XYZ Affair exposed. ...
  • April 7, 1798. Mississippi Territory.

What contributions did John Adams make? ›

He was a leading proponent of independence from Great Britain , and served on the five-man committee (which included Thomas Jefferson) assigned to draft the Declaration of Independence. In 1778, the Continental Congress appointed Adams a commissioner to France to conclude a vital treaty of alliance.

What did John Adams do to help the American Revolution? ›

During the Revolution, Adams went to France and Holland as a diplomat and helped to negotiate the Treaty of Paris in 1783 to formally end the War for Independence. From 1785 to 1788 Adams was United States envoy to Great Britain and afterward served as Washington's Vice President (1789-1797).

Why was the Constitution written? ›

The United States Constitution was written to protect citizens and also the states. It ensures rights, prevents the federal government from infringing on these rights, and creates laws. The fundamental rights and civil liberties for individuals are set out in the constitution.

Does the Massachusetts Constitution have checks and balances? ›

The Massachusetts Constitution, with its provision for a strong, independent executive, instituted a true check-and-balance system. The other early state constitutions concentrated power in the hands of legislatures, which in most instances elected their chief executives.

Who were the three men that drafted the Massachusetts Constitution? ›

The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 was the first state constitution written by a constitutional convention. The final document also had to be ratified by two-thirds of the citizenry. The three principal drafters were John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Bowdoin.

What is the oldest state constitution still in effect? ›

The oldest state constitution still in effect is that of Massachusetts, which took effect in 1780. The newest is the Rhode Island Constitution, which was ratified by voters in 1986 after a constitutional convention was held which proposed deleting superseded language and reorganizing the state's 1843 Constitution.

What is one thing that all state constitutions have? ›

As noted above, state constitutions enumerate basic rights, and as you may guess, these commonly include provisions that relate to freedom of speech, religion and press, the right to bear arms and due process. But some unique provisions have been placed into Bill of Rights or Declaration of Rights sections as well.

Who said state is the source of all rights? ›

Q.According to............., State is the source of all rights.
Answer» a. t h green
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Which country doesn't have constitution? ›

The UK along with New Zealand and Israel are the only three countries in the world to have an uncodified or 'unwritten' constitution.

Who said there can be no state without constitution? ›

Notes: It was Jellinek who stated, " that a state without a constitution would not be a state but a regime of anarchy" because whether in ancient, medieval or modern times, constitution existed in some form or the another irrespective of the fact that the rulers acted in the most autocratic manner.

Who has the oldest constitution and how old is it? ›

The Republic of San Marino (8 October 1600)

The Republic of San Marino is considered to hold the world's oldest constitution, which came into force on October 8, 1600. The Constitution is a set of six Latin texts known as “The Statutes of 1600.” It is thought to be the world's oldest surviving national constitution.

What are my rights as a citizen? ›

Right to vote in elections for public officials. Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship. Right to run for elected office. Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

How many times has the 2nd amendment been changed? ›

More than 1,400 Second Amendment challenges have been decided since District of Columbia v. Heller, the landmark 2008 case in which the Supreme Court established an individual right to keep a handgun at home (but also emphasized that the right is subject to various forms of regulation).

Is there a 13th Amendment? ›

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Is a constitution just? ›

Constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. ... To be a just Constitution it means to be morally right and fair. A Constitution needs to be fair for its laws to be fair.

How many constitutions are there in the world? ›

164 Constitutions around the World: A View from Latin America.

When was the first constitution written? ›

September 17, 1787

Can inalienable rights be taken away? ›

It says that that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." These rights cannot be bartered away, or given away, or taken away except in punishment of crime.

What are the 5 self evident truths? ›

Here are the truths Jefferson listed: (1) all men are created equal, (2) men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, (3) among the rights that men have are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, (4) governments are created to secure these unalienable rights, (5) governments get ...

Are all men created equal? ›

The second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence starts as follows: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

What did John Adams think about the Bill of Rights? ›

The author of the Massachusetts Constitution and Declaration of Rights of 1780, Adams was also a champion of individual liberty. He favored the addition of the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution.

What did John Adams say about the Declaration of Independence? ›

To sum up: people have an inherent right to liberty, and if the government doesn't fulfill its duty to protect that right, then it should be replaced. Adams basically published the core idea of the most famous paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, a decade before that document was written.

Who said the Constitution was written for a moral people? ›

One of the foremost constitutional theorists of the founding generation, John Adams, observed, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”1 He wasn't the only Founding Father to hold this view.

Why did John Adams want independence? ›

John Adams and The American Revolution

During the 1760s, Adams began challenging Great Britain's authority in colonial America. He came to view the British imposition of high taxes and tariffs as a tool of oppression, and he no longer believed that the government in England had the colonists' best interests in mind.

Is John Adams on the $2 Bill? ›

The PRESIDENT JOHN ADAMS uncirculated $2 Bill is Genuine Authentic Legal Tender of the United States, which has been enhanced with a beautiful colorized image of the President and the Seal of the State of his birthplace on the obverse of the bill.

Does the Massachusetts Constitution have a Bill of Rights? ›

Bill of Rights: Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, PT. 1. Part the First. A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Who wrote the first Constitution in the world? ›

First country to make the constitution: USA

The US constitution is made of seven articles, a preamble, and a closing endorsement. In addition, the constitution has a Bill of Rights and several amendments.

Was John Adams a signer of the Constitution? ›

A number of these individuals did not accept or could not attend, including Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock.

Did John Adams signed the Declaration of Independence? ›

Adams retired from the Congress in 1781 and returned to Massachusetts to become a leading member of that state's convention to form a constitution. In 1789 he was appointed lieutenant governor of the state.
Samuel Adams.
Born:September 27, 1722
Birthplace:Boston, Mass.
Education:Master of Arts, Harvard. (Politician)
2 more rows

How did Adams work for fairness for slaves? ›

How did Adams work for fairness for slaves? He defended the enslaved Africans in the Amistad case successfully. What was Jackson's policy about native tribes?

What did the Founding Fathers say about Christianity? ›

the founders who remained practicing Christians. They retained a supernaturalist world view, a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and an adherence to the teachings of their denomination. These founders included Patrick Henry, John Jay, and Samuel Adams.

Which of the Founding Fathers were deists? ›

Many of the founding fathers—Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and Monroe—practiced a faith called Deism. Deism is a philosophical belief in human reason as a reliable means of solving social and political problems.

Who were deists and what did they believe? ›

Deism or “the religion of nature” was a form of rational theology that emerged among “freethinking” Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries. Deists insisted that religious truth should be subject to the authority of human reason rather than divine revelation.

What is John Adams best known for? ›

He was America's second president. Adams was well known for his extreme political independence, brilliant mind and passionate patriotism. He was a leader in the Continental Congress and an important diplomatic figure, before becoming America's first vice president.

What are 3 things John Adams did as President? ›

John Adams - Key Events
  • March 4, 1797. Inauguration. ...
  • May 15, 1797. Special session. ...
  • May 19, 1797. Negotiating with France. ...
  • June 24, 1797. Making a militia. ...
  • October 18, 1797. XYZ Affair. ...
  • January 8, 1798. The Eleventh Amendment. ...
  • April 3, 1798. XYZ Affair exposed. ...
  • April 7, 1798. Mississippi Territory.


1. Savage Level: John Adams Delivering the Constitution to Lord Carmarthen
(Joe Ross)
2. The Life and Biography of John Adams
(The Knowledge Video Channel)
3. The Constitution in American Life - U2 Q1: John Adams, Divided Sovereignty and Federalism
(The Constitution in American Life)
4. The Massachusetts Circular Letter: Samuel Adams & James Otis vs. a “Living, Breathing” Constitution
(Tenth Amendment Center)
5. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780
(Juarez Lee-Shelton M.A.)
6. "The Constitutionalism of John Adams" - Darren Staloff, Constitution Day 2017
(Pepperdine School of Public Policy)

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