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Massachusetts Constitution

Massachusetts Constitution Revision Collection

1 box 0.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 449

In the early 1960s the Council for Constitutional Reform, a nonpartisan citizen organization seeking to promote economical and efficient state government, called for a constitutional convention to convene in Massachusetts. The group cited the state’s national reputation for corruption and public immorality as reasons for amending the constitution, while others argued that the state’s problems, primarily governmental waste, a cumbersome state tax structure, and inefficient state agencies, could only be resolved by the legislature and governor. Opponents to the convention argued too that the cost of such a convention, in total more than $2 million, would only increase the financial burden of the state.

Correspondence and position statements arguing both sides of the debate offer insight into the politics of the 1960s as well as the public’s response to the political climate in the Commonwealth. Newspaper clippings trace the movement for constitutional reform from early proposals to the approval of four amendments during the November 1964 election.

Background on Massachusetts Constitution Revision

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the oldest functioning written constitution in continuous effect in the world, having come into effect on October 25, 1780. Since then it has been amended 120 times. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a movement to revise it gained steam. Citing the “shameful corruption, the misgovernment, and the low morale and cynicism of our public officials,” the Council for Constitutional Reform called for a constitutional convention to convene in the hopes to transform the state government into one that could more adequately respond to the state’s needs. Support for the convention mostly came from the Junior Chamber of Commerce, colleges, and other academic groups.

The call for a constitutional convention was divisive. Opponents of the convention thought it an “entirely unnecessary… costly waste of public funds” since they saw an alternative method of amending the Constitution that already existed through initiative or legislative petition. However, there was consensus on the need for change of some kind. The movement culminated with the approval of four amendments to the Constitution during the 1964 election, the greatest advance in constitutional reform for nearly half a century.

Contents of Collection

This collection consists of newspaper clippings, documents pertaining to previous constitutional reform movements, legal documents, correspondence, and position statements from both sides of the debate.

Collection inventory

Background Materials From Other States
Box 1: 1
Chapter 98, General Acts, 2916
1958 Jan 1
Box 1: 2
The Constitution of Massachusetts: A Critical Study
Box 1: 3
Constitutional Amendments Committee Public Hearing Transcript
1949 Apr 27
Box 1: 4
Consitutional Conference Agenda
1960 May 20
Box 1: 5
Box 1: 6
Final Report of the Special Commission on Revision of the Constitution
1967 May 8
Box 1: 7
Fliers and Handouts
Box 1: 8
Goldings, Morris M.: Memorandum on the Holding of a Massachusets Constitutional Convention Under a Limited Mandate
Box 1: 9
Initiative Petition Persuant to Article XLVIII of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth
Box 1: 10
League of Women Voters of Massachusetts: The Short Ballot
1962 Sep
Box 1: 11
Loring v. Loring Young et al. and Bates et al. v. Loring et al.: Briefs and Report
Box 1: 12

This folder contains the briefs and report from two court cases related to the Constitution of the Commonwealth from the Supreme Judicial Court for the Commonwealth in 1920 and 1921.

Methods of Codifying a Constitution
Box 1: 13
News Clippings
Box 1: 14
News Clippings
Box 1: 15
News Clippings
Box 1: 16
News Clippings
Box 1: 17
News Clippings
Box 1: 18
News Clippings
Box 1: 19
News Clippings
Box 1: 20
News Clippings
Box 1: 21
News Clippings
Box 1: 22
Order Authorizing Study
Box 1: 23
Petition Signature Collection Instructions
Box 1: 24
Previous Constitutional Convention Attendence
Box 1: 25

Contains a numerical breakdown of the careers of those who attended the state constitutional conventions in 1780, 1820, 1853, and 1917.

Proponents and Opponents for Constitutional Convention
Box 1: 26
Proposal for Legislative Amendment
Box 1: 27
Questionnaires on Constitutional Convention/Commissions
Box 1: 28
Selected Bibliography on Constitutional Revision
Box 1: 29
A Simplified Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Box 1: 30
Special Commission Membership
Box 1: 31
State Bulletin for Taxpayers
Box 1: 32
Statements Against a Constitutional Convention
Box 1: 33
Statements for a Constitutional Convention
Box 1: 34
Support for Constitutional Revision: Drafts
Box 1: 35

Administrative information


The collection is open for research.




Donated by Robert Shanley.

Processing Information

Processed by Joanna Nevins, Mar 2018.

Copyright and Use (More informationConnect to publication information)

Cite as: Massachusetts Constitution Revision Collection (MS 449). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.


Massachusetts--Economic conditions--20th centuryMassachusetts--Politics and government--1951-Massachusetts. Constitution