Massachusetts Constitution

Massachusetts Constitution Revision Collection

1948-1965
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
1957-1963
Box 1: 1
Chapter 98, General Acts, 2916
1958 Jan 1
Box 1: 2
The Constitution of Massachusetts: A Critical Study
1953
Box 1: 3
Constitutional Amendments Committee Public Hearing Transcript
1949 Apr 27
Box 1: 4
Consitutional Conference Agenda
1960 May 20
Box 1: 5
Correspondence
1960-1967
Box 1: 6
Final Report of the Special Commission on Revision of the Constitution
1967 May 8
Box 1: 7
Fliers and Handouts
ca.1962
Box 1: 8
Goldings, Morris M.: Memorandum on the Holding of a Massachusets Constitutional Convention Under a Limited Mandate
ca.1960
Box 1: 9
Initiative Petition Persuant to Article XLVIII of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth
1962
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
ca.1921
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
ca.1960-1965
Box 1: 13
News Clippings
1948-1952
Box 1: 14
News Clippings
1956-1958
Box 1: 15
News Clippings
1959
Box 1: 16
News Clippings
1959
Box 1: 17
News Clippings
1960
Box 1: 18
News Clippings
1961
Box 1: 19
News Clippings
1962
Box 1: 20
News Clippings
1963
Box 1: 21
News Clippings
1964
Box 1: 22
Order Authorizing Study
1965
Box 1: 23
Petition Signature Collection Instructions
1968
Box 1: 24
Previous Constitutional Convention Attendence
ca.1960-1965
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
1961
Box 1: 26
Proposal for Legislative Amendment
1961
Box 1: 27
Questionnaires on Constitutional Convention/Commissions
ca.1965
Box 1: 28
Selected Bibliography on Constitutional Revision
ca.1962
Box 1: 29
A Simplified Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
ca.1965
Box 1: 30
Special Commission Membership
1962
Box 1: 31
State Bulletin for Taxpayers
1961-1963
Box 1: 32
Statements Against a Constitutional Convention
1959-1961
Box 1: 33
Statements for a Constitutional Convention
1961
Box 1: 34
Support for Constitutional Revision: Drafts
1963-1966
Box 1: 35

Administrative information

Access

The collection is open for research.

Language:

English

Provenance

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.

Subjects

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*