The Massachusetts House of Representatives, in September 1776, asked local town meetings to consent to its writing and adopting a new constitution. Some towns, including Concord and the Worcester County towns, refused to consent.

Citizens of these towns believed that the legislature was not a suitable body to create a new government. They asserted that a special convention consisting of delegates elected by the people must draft a constitution and submit it to the voters for approval. Why? Because these Massachusetts citizens believed that only "the people" could create a legitimate government.

The House of Representatives ignored the calls for a special constitutional convention and wrote a constitution. The House did agree, however, to submit its proposed Constitution of 1778 to the voters for acceptance or rejection. Following consideration in town meetings across the state, the Constitution of 1778 was soundly rejected by a nearly five to one margin.

Voters rejected the Constitution of 1778 for many reasons. Some objected to its having been written by the legislature rather than a constitutional convention. Some disliked a provision denying suffrage (the right to vote) to all non-Whites. 

Many were persuaded by a pamphlet called The Essex Result. Written by Theophilus Parsons, a Newburyport lawyer*, and endorsed by Essex County towns, The Essex Result sharply criticized the proposed constitution for lacking a Bill of Rights and not clearly separating the powers lodged in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches.

John Adams was unable to participate in these debates, as he was in France helping to secure a critical strategic alliance. Fortunately, he would return to Massachusetts in time to serve as a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1779 - 1780.


* Theophilus Parsons served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court from 1806 - 1813.  In 1804, he became the first President of the newly-founded Social Law Library, the oldest law library in the United States .