Massachusetts Constitution, Preamble
March 2, 1780
[The Preamble summarizes the origin and purpose of government, and is explicit on the social compact basis of American government. TGW]
The end of the institution, maintenance and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body-politic; to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it, with the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquillity, their natural rights, and the blessings of life: And whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness.
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. It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a Constitution of Government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation, and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them.
We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other; and of forming a new Constitution of Civil Government, for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, DO agree upon, ordain and establish, the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the CONSTITUTION of the COMMONWEALTH of MASSACHUSETTS.
[From Kurland and Lerner, The Foundersí Constitution, 1:11. The Popular Sources of Political Authority: Documents on the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, Handlin, Oscar, and Handlin, Mary, eds. (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1966).]