Original Draft Of Massachusetts Constitution Quotes

John Adams

"A Government Of Laws, And Not Of Men"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: John Adams, second President of the United States, became a recognized leader during the popular resentment over the Stamp Act in 1765. In 1771 he was elected a member of the Massachusetts General Court, and in 1774 he became a delegate to the Continental Congress. Elected a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention at Cambridge in 1778, he played the primary role in drafting the State constitution. In the preamble Adams writes that the people have entered into "an original, explicit and solemn compact with each other, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprise." Page Smith comments, in his biography of Adams, "Soon constitution-making would become almost as common as drawing legal briefs. Everybody would seem to be taking a hand in it; but for the moment America was the stage or the laboratory on which were fixed the eyes of all men anywhere in the world who were concerned with building a better new world out of the lumber of the old." The opening clause of the constitution firmly declares the intention of preventing any one man or any one group from obtaining excessive power or influence. It reads:

In the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the legislative, executive and judicial power shall be placed in separate departments, to the end that it might be a government of laws, and not of men.