772. The Reply of the Massachusetts General Court to the Speech of Governor John Hancock, 27 February–11 March 1788

772-A. Senate Proceedings, Wednesday, 27 February 1788 (excerpt)1

… /Rd/ The Committee appointed to wait upon his Excellency the Governor, reported that his Excellency would attend the two Houses this Afternoon—

/Rd/ Dr Holten came up & informed the Senate, that the House proposed meeting his Excellency in the Representatives Chamber, & if agreable to the Senate, that the usual seats would be assign’d for them—

/Rd/ The Senate then went into the Representatives Chamber, when his Excellency came in & made a Speech to both Houses,—his Excellency having withdrawn, the Senate return’d to their own room—

/Rd/ The Secretary came in, and laid the papers refer’d to in his Excellency’s Speech upon the Table. …

772-B. House Proceedings, Wednesday, 27 February 1788 (excerpt)1

… The Committee appointed to wait upon His Excellency the Governour reported that His Excellency would wait upon the two Houses in the Representatives Chamber if agreeable to them.

Dr. Holten was charged with a message to inform the Hon. Senate that the House proposed to meet His Excellency in the Place aforementioned if agreeable to them, and that the usual seats would be assigned for their members.

The Two Houses then assembled together in the Representatives Chamber, where His Excelly the Governour came in and delivered the following Speech viz:

[See Mfm:Mass. 771, for the text of the speech.]

772-C. Senate Proceedings, Thursday, 28 February 1788 (excerpt)1

… /Rd/ Governors Speech, with the papers accompanying, read and committed to Aaron Wood & Charles Turner Esqrs. with such as the Honble. House may join, to consider & report

sent down for concurrence

came up concurred & Dr Jarvis, Dr Holten & Dr. Manning are joined. …

772-D. House Proceedings, Thursday, 28 February 1788 (excerpt)1

… The Hon. S. Metcalf Esqr. brought down the Governour’s Speech of yesterday and the papers accompanying In Senate Febry. 28. 1788. Read and committed to Aaron Wood and Charles Turner Esquires with such as the House might join

Sent down for concurrence

Read & concurred and Dr. Jarvis, Dr. Holten & Dr. Manning were joined. …

772-E. Joint Committee Report on Governor John Hancock’s Speech, 4 March 17881

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Committee of both Houses appointed to take into consideration His Exelencys Speach at the beginning of the present Sessions: with the papers accompanying the Same: ask leave to report the anexed Address: Aand further give it as their Opinion, that a Small Tax is Necessary to Supply the present exigencies of the Government:B and they ask leave also to report that a Committee of both Houses be appointed to consider What Measures are proper to be taken with respect to the Eastern Lands: belonging to this commonwealth: and also another Committee to devise a Sutable plan for disposing of the Western Territory the property whereof has been lately ceded to this State by the Government of New York

Aaron Wood per order   

In Senate March 4th 1788—Read and Accepted, except from A to B. which is read & sent down—

sent down for concurrence

S Adams Presidt   

772-F. Senate Proceedings, Tuesday, 4 March 1788 (excerpts)1

… Report of Committee of both Houses on the Governors Speech—Read and excepted except from A to B—which is read & sent down—

sent down for concurrence …


Met according to adjournment

Answer to the Governors Speech at the opening of the Session, as reported by a Committee of both Houses—read and accepted with amendments at A & B. & thereupon—Ordered that William Phillips & Charles Turner Esqrs with such as the Honble. House may join, be a Committee to wait upon the Governor with the said Answer—

sent down for concurrence …

772-G. House Proceedings, Tuesday, 4 March 1788 (excerpt)1

… The Hon. A. Singletary Esqr. brought down a report of the Committee upon His Excellency’s speech. consisting of an address to His Excelly. &c. In Senate March 4. 1788. Read and accepted, excepting so much as respects a tax, which is read and sent down

Sent down for concurrence

Also the address aforementioned with an order of Senate of this day, accepting the same with amendments; & appointing William Phillips, and Charles Turner Esqrs. with such as the Hon. House might join, a Committee to wait upon the Governour with the said address

Sent down for concurrence

Read & To morrow at 11 oClk AM assigned for considering the same …

772-H. House Proceedings, Wednesday, 5 March 1788 (excerpt)1

… The House entered upon the consideration of the answer to the Governour’s Speech, & after debate thereon

Adjourned to 3 oClk PM.

[For the afternoon proceedings, see RCS:Mass., 1671–72]

772-I. Phanuel Bishop’s Amendment to the Draft Reply to
Governor John Hancock’s Speech, 5 March 17881

Your Exellencey is pleased to inform us that the convention which was appointed to deliberate upon the constitution and frame of Goverment for the United States of America agreed upon by the late general convention have concluded their sessions after having adopted and ratified the proposed plan, we have long been sensible of the imbecility of the Confederation of the United States, and of the Consequences of that Imbecility, and therefore appointed delegates to the late general Convention for the Sole and express purpose of revising the articles of Confederation.A If they had observed and acted agreeably to their Commission no Difficulty perhaps would have arisen from the numbers of a people spread over a vast Extent of territory containing such a great variety of Soils and under such extreems of climate and with such different views and habits while they were so well united in that one object, we are fully persuaded that our national existance might in that way have been preserved with unanimity tranquility and peace—we do not wish to be known to the world under any other Appellation than that of the United States—

In Conf[ed]eration and Union with our Sister States, we have [happily?] bafled the intrigues and defeated the forces of great Brittain, have supported the rights of mankind and secured the freedom and Independence of America—while we wish to preserve the union entire and are fully sensible of the Ill consequences of any interuption of it—we are sorry to differ from your Exellencey in the mode of effecting the first and avoiding the last—Every good Goverment should have for its Objects—Defence against external enemies and the pres[erva]tion of Internal tranquility and happiness—while we suspend our opinion of the purity of Intention and of the great zeal for the Safety and wellfare with which [about eight words unreadable in fold] to our constituents constrained to say that the result of their deliberations does not seem well calculated for those valuable purposes

we shall under this head only add, that the rights & liberties of a great contry should stand on firmer grounds then that of meer provability

If the amendments proposed with the ratification of the late convention, had been made a condition of ratification they woud have gone some way tho not fully to a conciliation of our minds to the System—but your exellencey will permitt us to say that as they now stand they neither comport with the dignity or safty of this Commonwealth

[The following material is superimposed over a portion of the first paragraph and might be a substitute for the entire amendment]

Dele[te] the following and Insert

We have Obsarvid the Communications which your Excellency has thought Proper to make Respecting the federal System of Government and have Postponed any Considerations on that Important Subject

[The following is to be inserted at A]

And reporting to Congress & the several Legis[la]tures such alterations and provitions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmd by the States render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Goverment and the preservation of the Union

772-J. House Proceedings, Thursday, 6 March 1788 (excerpts)1

… The House again proceeded to consider the answer to the Governour’s speech and the proposed amendment therein. It was moved and seconded that the words “while we suspend our opinion” previous to the words “of the purity of intention” in the proposed amendment be expunged and the words “while we do not doubt” inserted in the room thereof. A motion was then made and seconded that the consideration of that motion should subside. It was then moved and seconded that the consideration of the whole subject should subside, after debate

Adjourned to 3 o.Clk PM.


Met according to adjournment …

The House proceeded in the consideration of the answer to the Governour’s address, and after debate, it was moved and seconded that the further consideration of the amendments proposed to the address to His Excellency subside, and that the said address as reported by the committee of both Houses,—with the vote of Senate thereon be committed to Mr. Bishop, Dr. Taylor, Mr. Gorham, Mr. Lyman of Northampton and Mr. Cooley who are hereby instructed to report to this house such amendments thereto, as that the said address when passed may not contain any opinion of the legislature upon the merits of the constitution for the United States of America, and the question being put passed in the affirmative. Mr Bishop, Dr. Taylor, Mr. Gorham, Mr Lyman of Northampton and Mr. Cooley, were then appointed on the said committee …

772-K. Committee Report on Revised Response to Governor John Hancock’s Speech, 11 March 17881

May it please Your Excellency

The Letters which you have received in the Recess having been already communicated to the Legislature by the Secretary agreeably to your direction will meet the Attention that is due to them in the progress of the Session

The Obvious Utility of Your Excellency’s having postponed the meeting of the General Court to the time specified in your late proclamation for the reasons you have assigned cannot fail of affording Universal Satisfaction

The Legislature are deeply impressed with a Sense of the Necessity they are under of giving the earliest attention to the Lands of this Government They recollect with pleasure the noble ardour of its Citizens which has been so gloriously displayed in defence of their Liberty and Independence and are sensible of the heavy debt which has thereby accumulated As the Interest arising therefrom amounts to so considerable a sum as nearly Ninety thousand pounds annually they are fully satisfied of the propriety and Advantage of their making every exertion to diminish the principal consistent with the ability of their Constituents—

It is with pleasure therefore that they contemplate the Resources of this State in the extensive Tracts of unappropriated Land it is possessed of and they flatter themselves that their measures on this Subject will be conducted with such Unanimity and discernment as will contribute to the essential benefit of the People—

As Your Excellency has been impelled by a Sense of Duty to the Government to mention the pressing necessity of a Small Tax we take leave to inform you that an early time will be assigned for the Consideration of this important object—A

We have observed the Communications which your Excellency has thought proper to make respecting the Federal System of Government and have postponed any Considerations on that important Subject

May it please your Excellency

We are deeply and sincerely impressed with the strongest emotions of gratitude to the Almighty parent of the Universe for his infinite bounty to the people of these States in giving them a rich and extensive Country and in securing to them the inestimable blessings of Peace Liberty and Independence and We hope that our humble Acknowledgments will be expressed by the greatest exertions of Patriotism by forming and maintaining such institutions as have a tendency to extend the inestimable benefits of Education & Learning and to Cultivate and improve those Arts and Sciences in particular which are an honor to the World and the Strongest Security of our freedom—

We flatter Ourselves that the Legislature will not be unmindful of its duty in forming such occasional Laws as have for their Objects the Support of Piety Religion and morality as well as the punishment of Vice in order that we may exhibit on the great Theatre of the World those public and private virtues which give more dignity to a free people than Crowns or Diadems to Sovereign Princes—

Whatever your Excellency may think proper to communicate by message in the course of the Session will receive all due Attention and we are happy in thinking that we have the warmest disposition to concur with your Excellency in every measure for the public Welfare—

[Amendment A] When We turn our View to the late unhappy Commotions We have no Doubt that the Wisdom of the Legislature will be exerted in devising such future expedients respecting them as will operate to the honor of Government and the lasting Peace and Security of the Citizens—

772-L. House Proceedings, Tuesday, 11 March 1788 (excerpt)1

… The Committee on the answer to the Governours Speech made report, Whereupon after debate, it was Ordered that the consideration of the said Answer subside. …