December 9, 2005


The (Essex) Results* ...
in celebration (and cerebration) of the 225th anniversary of the Massachusetts Constitution*

Recasting pearls of wisdom ~ first seeded with those early grains from Essex County's shores ~ as (coincidentally) experienced on the 64th anniversary of Pearl Harbor ~ and expressed in the weekly column* ...

By Bill Plante

If anyone had told me on the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, that 64 years to the day later I would be attending a celebration of the 225th anniversary of the Massachusetts Constitution at the Social Law Library of a restored John Adams Court House in Boston I would have thought them out of their minds.

If anyone had told me, back then, that we have what we have as a Constitution partly because of a group of North Shore men, led by Theophilus Parsons of Rowley and Newbury-Port, meeting in Ipswich, would produce a document known as "The Essex Result'', I would have had no appreciation for what that meant.

They came from Gloucester, Lynn, Wenham, Danvers, Ipswich, Newbury-Port (it was called that then) Salisbury, Methuen, Boxford and Topsfield. Parsons, born in Rowley, was a 27 - year - old lawyer practicing in Newbury-Port, who would become this state's first Chief Justice. The Essex Result produced the tap root of this state's constitution written by John Adams, who surely must have had it before him when he did so. Years later, John Adams would send his son, John Quincy Adams, to Newburyport to study law under Parsons.

Sixty four years ago, I had no clue that what John Adams wrote, and what Massachsusetts adopted, would become and remain as the oldest written constitution still governing in the world.

I was fortunate to be among those at the observance of that anniversary on Wednesday of this week, having been invited to attend by Robert J. Brink, of Newburyport, Executive Director of the Social Law Library, for what was an adventure-packed two hours of interaction. He led as distinguished a panel of historians as might be gathered through two hours of lively exploration of the culture, politics, and significance of the times that brought us what we take for granted today. The panel included Akhil Reed Amar, professor of law at Yale, William Fowler, Jr., Director of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Julian T. Houston, Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, Pauline Maier, professor of history at MIT, and Gordon S. Wood, professor of history at Brown University.

This was an extraordinary group of historians made livelier by a format inviting interaction. What emerged from their much too brief two hours of discussison was what it had taken to fashion what we live with as our basic rule of law for 229 years and counting.

Considerable attention was paid to Parsons, a longtime hero of those who have come to know him for what we enjoy, and I am pleased to encourage those who would like to know more to call up what is available on the Internet as ``The Essex Result'.' I can't think of a better history assignment. It's the raw meat of who and what we are, and why.

There was a celebration of that, following the discussion, in the magnificently restored Great Hall of the Adams Court House where Margaret H. Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, brought cheers from those gathered with a ringing toast for the man and his company whose brilliance, daring, and persistence brought us what we continue to honor and the fruits of which we enjoy.

What better way to have joined in celebration? How could our enemies have prevailed against us those 67 years ago? What better path for us to have taken, or for the oppressed of the world to follow?

Bill Plante is former executive editor of Essex County Newspapers. His e-mail address is


(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)

* This headline and leader were ascribed by the "telartificer" until such time the newsprint can be researched on the Newburyport Public Library microfiche. This archived "copy" of the published piece having been provided by Bill Plante himself ~ in that this had been a dropped stitch when "looming wisdom" ~ Our appreciation to the author on all accounts.
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