Massachusetts Ordinance on the Legislature

November 13, 1644

It is ordered, that the freemen of this jurisdiction shall meete in their severall townes within two months after the date hereof, to consider of whom they would nominate to be put to vote upon the day of election of newe magistrates, to the number of seaven, at which meeting every freeman shall have liberty to put in his vote for whom hee thinketh fit, all which votes shal be sealed up at that meeting, & sent by some one or two (whom they shall choose) to the sheire townes in each sheire, upon the last 5th day of the last month, at which meeting the said selectmen of every towne (by whom the votes being brought) shall not have power to open them, being sealed up, as before, but shall choose one or two from amongst themselves, by whom they shall send the aforesaid votes, being all sealed up in one paper, unto Boston, on the last third day of the first month, at which meeting there shal be two magistrates, before whom the proxies shal be opened & sorted; & those persons nominated for magistrates that have most votes, to the number of seaven, shal be they that shal be put to vote at the day of election; & that such as have most votes to be first nominated & put to election, that the freemen may know for whom to send in their proxies. The select men of every sheire, being at this meeting, shall take care to send to the aforesaid selectmen of every towne whom they be that are to be put to vote, which select men of every towne shall call a meeting of their townes, & aquaint them whom they are, that so the freemen may have time to consider of them, & send in their proxies accordingly; & no other shal be put to vote but such as are agreed upon, as before.

Whereas wee haveing found by experience that the charge of this Generall Court groweth very great & burthensome, in regard of the continuall increase of deputies sent unto the same, & further forseeing that as townes increase the number wil be still augmented, to the unsupportable burthen of this common wealth; as also it being thought a matter worthy the triall, dureing the standing of this order, to have the use of the negative vote forborne, both by magistrates & deputies, the premisses considered, it is declared by the Court, (if the freemen shall accept thereof,) that a tryall shal be made for one yeare ensuing the day of election next, by choyce of twenty deputies out of the severall shires to equall the number of magistrates chosen upon the day of election, the choyce of them to be thus divided: Suffolke chall choose sixe, Middlesex sixe, & Essex & Norfolk, being joined in one, shall chose eight; and further, to the end the ablest gifted men may be made use of in so weighty a worke, it shal be at the liberty of the freemen to choose them, in their own sheires or elsewhere, as they shall see best, the choyce to be after this manner: the freemen of each shire, meeting in their owne severall townes together within two months next following, shall there give in their severall votes for so many deputies as belong unto their sheire to choose, which votes shal be forthwith sealed up, & one or two chosen to carry them sealed to their sheire town the last 5th day of the last month following, where, in the presence of one magistrate, they shal be opened & conferd togeather, & so many as shall have the major vote of the sheire are chosen, not exceeding the number aforesaid; & such as are so chosen shall assemble themselves at the next Court of Election, presented under the hands of those which were sent from the townes to the sheire meetings aforesaid, the names & severall number of vote they there had, from which assembly those onely that had the greatest number of votes, to equall the number of magistrates then chosen, shal be confirmed, & the rest dismissed from the present service, from every sheire a like number, so neare as may be; the magistrates & deputies thus chosen shall sit togeather as a full & sufficient Generall Court, to act in al things by the major vote of the whole Court; and further, it is declared, that every towne shall fourthwith, namely, by the last of the next month, send in under the hands of their late deputies their vote, assenting or dissenting to this proposition, to the house of Mr. Nowell, who, together with one of the late deputies of Charlestowne, one of Cambridge, & one of Boston, shall have power to peruse the said votes, & if they shall find that the greater number of the townes shall agree that this may be propounded to them shall proceed, they shall thereupon fourthwith certify the Governor thereof, who shall thereupon give speedy notice to every towne that they may proceed according to this declaration; & whereas it may fall out that two or more sheires may make choyce of one & the same men, it is therefore provided, that Suffolk shall begin makeing knowne to Middlesex whom they have chosen, who the next 4th day following shall make their choyce, & send word to Essex & Norfolke whom Suffolk & themselves have chosen; then the next 4th day shall Essex and Norfolke make their choyce.

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