May 072013

A set of resolutions was approved by a committee of representatives from 12 towns in northeastern Massachusetts on April 29, 1778. Although the resolutions pertained to the proposed constitution which had been created by the Massachusetts Legislature, the document reflected many of the principles the Founders relied upon while constructing the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The resulting pamphlet created for distribution is known as the Essex Result. 

The Massachusetts legislature had met, proposed a constitution, and asked the electorate to vote on the document. Ultimately, that constitution was rejected because it was not created by a group that was separate from the legislature. It also lacked a declaration of rights, a true separation of powers, and explicitly condoned slavery.

The resolutions, and resulting pamphlet that form the Essex Result, were primarily constructed by Theophilus Parsons, a 27 year old lawyer from Newburyport Massachusetts. Parsons eventually served as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Although you may have never heard of the Essex Result, it includes a succinct discussion of the theoretical underpinnings of the Constitution (e.g., natural rights, social contract, consent of the governed, etc.), as well as an outline for a three branch system of government complete with a system of checks and balances. It is well worth your time to read the pamphlet because of the concise discussion of many of our Founding First Principles. 

What I found particularly interesting was the speculation of what might happen if the three branches of government were became unbalanced or merged together: 

“If the three powers are united, the government will be absolute, whether these powers are in the hands of one or a large number. The same party will be the legislator, accuser, judge and executioner; and what probability will an accused person have of an acquittal, however innocent he may be, when his judge will be also a party….If the legislative and judicial powers are united, the maker of the law will also interpret it; and the law may then speak a language, dictated by the whims, the caprice, or the prejudice of the judge, with impunity to him…. Should the executive and legislative powers be united, mischiefs the most terrible would follow. The executive would enact those laws it pleased to execute, and no others–The judicial power would be set aside as inconvenient and tardy–The security and protection of the subject would be a shadow–The executive power would make itself absolute, and the government end in a tyranny… Should the executive and judicial powers be united, the subject would then have no permanent security of his person and property. The executive power would interpret the laws and bend them to his will; and, as he is the judge, he may leap over them by artful constructions, and gratify, with impunity, the most rapacious passions.”

The Essex Result should remind us of the wisdom of those who founded our great nation. The concerns raised in the Essex Result are almost prophetic. The remedy, of course, is to restore our system to its original state of balance. 

Read the Essex Result at:

Please take a moment to consider the wisdom of our Founders, the First Principle of “the consent of the governed,” and What IS Right With America.


Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.


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