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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (i /ˌmæsəˈtʃuːsɪts/) is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. Most of its population of 6.6 million lives in the Boston metropolitan area. The eastern half of the state is made up of urban, suburban, and rural areas, while Western Massachusetts is mostly rural. Massachusetts is the most populous and wealthiest (by GDP per capita) of the six New England states. It ranks third among U.S. states in GDP per capita.
Massachusetts has been significant throughout American history. Plymouth was the second permanent English settlement in North America. Many of Massachusetts's towns were founded by colonists from England in the 1620s and 1630s. During the eighteenth century, Boston became known as the "Cradle of Liberty" for the agitation there that led to the American Revolution and the independence of the United States from Great Britain. It was also a center of the temperance movement and abolitionist activity before the American Civil War. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriage. The state has contributed many prominent politicians to national service, including the Adams family and the Kennedy family.
Originally dependent on fishing, agriculture, and trade with Europe, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the twentieth century, the state's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Today, the state is a leader in higher education, health care, high technology, and financial services.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was named after the indigenous population, the Massachusett, whose name can be segmented as mass-adchu-s-et, where mass- is "large", -adchu- is "hill", -s- is a diminutive suffix meaning "small", and -et is a locative suffix, identifying a place. It has been translated as "near the great hill", "by the blue hills", "at the little big hill", or "at the range of hills", referring to the Blue Hills, or in particular, Great Blue Hill, located on the boundary of Milton and Canton, to the southwest of Boston. (See also the Narragansett name Massachusêuck; Ojibwe misajiwensed, "of the little big hill".) Alternatively, Massachusett has been represented as Moswetuset, from the name of the Moswetuset Hummock (meaning "hill shaped like an arrowhead") in Quincy where Plymouth Colony commander Myles Standish and Squanto, a Native American, met Chief Chickatawbut in 1621.
The official name of the state is the "Commonwealth of Massachusetts". Colloquially, it is often referred to simply as "the Commonwealth", although "state" is used interchangeably. While this designation is part of the state's official name, it has no practical implications. Massachusetts has the same position and powers within the United States as other states and a similar form of internal government.
Massachusetts is bordered on the north by New Hampshire and Vermont; on the west by New York; on the south by Connecticut and Rhode Island; and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the state is uplands of resistant metamorphic rock that were scraped by Pleistocene glaciers that deposited moraines and outwash on a large, sandy, arm-shaped peninsula called Cape Cod and the islands Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket to the south of Cape Cod. Upland elevations increase to the north and west and the highest point in the state is Mount Greylock at 3,491 feet (1,064 m) near the state's northwest corner.
The uplands are interrupted by the downfaulted Pioneer Valley along the Connecticut River and further west by the Housatonic Valley separating the Berkshire Hills from the Taconic Range along the western border with New York.
Boston is located at the innermost point of Massachusetts Bay, at the mouth of the Charles River, the longest river entirely within Massachusetts. Most of the population of the Boston metropolitan area (approximately 4.4 million) does not live in the city proper; eastern Massachusetts on the whole is fairly densely populated and largely suburban as far west as Worcester.
Central Massachusetts encompasses Worcester County, and includes the cities of Worcester, Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner, Southbridge and small upland towns, forests, and small farms. The Quabbin Reservoir borders the western side of the county, and is the main water supply for the eastern part of the state.
The Pioneer Valley along the Connecticut River in Western Massachusetts is urbanized from the Connecticut border (and greater Hartford) north as far as Northampton, and includes Springfield, Chicopee, Agawam, West Springfield, Westfield, and Holyoke. Pioneer Valley economy and population was influenced by agriculturally productive Connecticut River Valley land in the 17th and 18th century, water power for the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and expansion of higher education in the 20th century.
The remainder of the state west of Pioneer Valley is mainly uplands, a range of small mountains known as the Berkshires, and also includes parts of the Taconic and Hoosac Ranges. It is the summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Lenox), Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge), Mount Everett and Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. It largely remained in aboriginal hands until the 18th century when Scotch-Irish settlers arrived and found more productive lowlands along the Connecticut River already settled. Availability of better land in western New York and then the Northwest Territory soon put the upland agricultural population into decline but available water power led to 19th century settlement along upland rivers. Pittsfield and North Adams grew into small cities and there are a number of smaller mill towns along the Westfield River.
The geographic center of the state is in the town of Rutland, in Worcester county. The National Park Service administers a number of natural and historical sites in Massachusetts.
The fourteen counties, moving roughly from west to east, are Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, Worcester, Middlesex, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket.
The primary biome of inland Massachusetts is temperate deciduous forest. Although much of the state had been cleared for agriculture, leaving only traces of old growth forest in isolated pockets, secondary growth has regenerated in many rural areas as farms have been abandoned. Currently, forests cover around 62% of Massachusetts. The areas most affected by human development include the Greater Boston area in the east, the smaller Springfield metropolitan area in the west, and the largely agricultural Pioneer Valley. Animals that have become locally extinct over the past few centuries include gray wolves, elk, wolverines, and mountain lions.
Wildlife species that are doing well are adapting to a changing setting. Coyote, White-tailed Deer, Raccoon, and Wild Turkey are now found in suburbs of major cities and are increasing in population. Black Bear and moose have made comebacks in western and central Massachusetts, and are slowly expanding their range. Eastern gray squirrels are numerous in all areas. Peregrine Falcon can be found nesting on artificial platforms on many of the state's tallest buildings in larger cities such as Boston, Worcester and Springfield.
The Atlantic Flyway is the primary migration route for North American bird species. Common Loon are a relatively recent addition to the breeding bird list, their nests at the Wachusett Reservoir are considered the most southerly in the world population of this species. A significant portion of the eastern population of Long-tailed Duck winter off Nantucket. Small offshore islands are home to a significant population of breeding Roseate Terns, and some beaches are important breeding areas to the endangered Piping Plover.
Massachusetts has an extensive coastline and has a declining commercial fishery out to the continental shelf. Atlantic cod, haddock and American lobster are species harvested here. Gray Seal have a large nursery near Monomoy Island and other islands in Nantucket Sound. Harbor seals are commonly seen feeding and playing just offshore year round. Finally, a significant number of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whales summer on feeding grounds in Cape Cod Bay, so many that the state has recently unveiled a special license plate depicting a right whale with the slogan, "Preserve The Trust". It is an attempt to raise public awareness that these animals are in fact endangered. Whale watching is a popular summer activity off the coast of Massachusetts. Boats regularly sail to Stellwagen Bank to view species such as Humpback Whale, Fin Whale, Minke Whale and Atlantic White-sided Dolphin.
Massachusetts was originally inhabited by tribes of the Algonquian linguistic family such as the Wampanoag, Nauset, Nipmuc, Pocomtuc, Mahican, and Massachuset. While cultivation of crops like squash and corn supplemented their diets, these tribes were generally dependent on hunting, gathering and fishing for most of their food supply. Villages consisted of lodges called wigwams as well as long houses, and tribes were led by male elders known as sachems. Large numbers of the indigenous people of the northeast of what is now the United States were killed by waves of smallpox, measles and influenza in the early seventeenth century. In 1617–1619, smallpox reportedly killed 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans.
The first English settlers in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims, established their settlement at Plymouth in 1620, and developed friendly relations with the native Wampanoag. This was the second successful permanent English colony in North America, after the Jamestown Colony; both were preceded by temporary camps, the unsuccessful Roanoke Colony, and Spanish settlements in Florida in the 1500s. Most early settlers came from within 60 miles (100 km) of Haverhill, England. The Pilgrims were soon followed by more Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony at present-day Boston in 1630. The Puritans, whose beliefs included exclusive understanding of the literal truth of the Bible, came to Massachusetts for religious freedom. Dissenters such as Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams, and Thomas Hooker left Massachusetts because of the Puritan society's lack of religious tolerance. In 1636, Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island, and Hooker founded Connecticut.
By 1636, the colonists had also begun to settle the inland Pioneer Valley along the Connecticut River, where the state's best agricultural land is concentrated.
Racial tensions between Native Americans and European settlers led to King Philip's War of the years 1675–76. Mendon was involved in an early battle in July 1675 and settlers were killed in the Blackstone Valley. There were major campaigns in this war in the Pioneer Valley and Plymouth Colony. In 1690 there was an unsuccessful expedition against French Quebec under William Phips. Massachusetts became a single colony in 1692, the largest in New England, and one where many American institutions and traditions were formed. The colony fought alongside British regulars in a series of French and Indian Wars that were characterized by brutal border raids and successful attacks on British forces in New France (present-day Canada).
Massachusetts was a center of the movement for independence from Great Britain, earning it the nickname, the "Cradle of Liberty". Colonists here had long had uneasy relations with the British monarchy, including open rebellion under the Dominion of New England in the 1680s.
The Boston Tea Party is an example of the protest spirit of the later pre-revolutionary period in the 1770s, and the Boston Massacre is a famous incident which escalated the conflict. Actions by patriots such as Sam Adams and John Hancock followed by counter-actions by the Crown were a main reason for the unity of the Thirteen Colonies and the outbreak of the American Revolution. The Battles of Lexington and Concord initiated the American Revolutionary War and were fought in the Massachusetts towns of Concord and Lexington.
Future President George Washington took over what would become the Continental Army after the battle. His first victory was the 11 month Siege of Boston in early 1776, where his successful fortification of Dorchester Heights forced the British to withdraw from Boston on March 17. This day is celebrated in Massachusetts as Evacuation Day.
The Massachusetts Constitution was ratified in 1780. The passage of the constitution and subsequent rulings in the Mum Bett and Quock Walker cases effectively made Massachusetts the first state to have a constitution that declared universal rights and, as interpreted by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing, abolished slavery.
On February 6th, 1788, Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. After independence and during the formative years of independent American government, Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in the western half of the state from 1786 to 1787. The rebels were mostly small farmers angered by crushing war debt and taxes.
On March 15, 1820, Maine separated from Massachusetts, of which it had been first a contiguous and then a non-contiguous part, and entered the Union as the 23rd state as a result of the ratification of the Missouri Compromise.
During the 19th century, Massachusetts and the New England region became a national and world leader in the Industrial Revolution, with the development of machine tools and textiles. The economy transformed from primarily agricultural to industrial, initially making use of its many rivers, and later the steam engine to power factories for textiles, shoes, furniture, and machinery that drew labor from Yankees on subsistence farms at first, and later drew upon immigrant labor from Canada and Europe.
Horace Mann made the state system of schools the national model. Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson made major contributions to American thought. Members of the Transcendentalism movement, they emphasized the importance of the natural world to humanity.
In the years leading up to the Civil War, Massachusetts was a center of social progressivism, the temperance movement, and abolitionist activity within the United States. Antagonism to these views resulted in anti-abolitionist riots in Massachusetts between 1835 and 1837. The works of abolitionists contributed to subsequent actions of the state during the Civil War. Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to abolish slavery, in a 1783 judicial interpretation of its 1780 constitution, and was the first state to recruit, train, and arm a Black regiment with White officers, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston Common contains a relief depicting the 54th regiment.
Massachusetts would establish itself as a leader in education and innovation during this time. Alexander Graham Bell invented his telephone in Boston in 1876.
The industrial economy began a decline in the early twentieth century with the exodus of many manufacturing companies. By the 1920s competition from the South, followed by the Great Depression, led to the collapse of Massachusetts' two main industries, textiles and shoes, although a few companies would survive into the 1950s. In the years following World War II, Massachusetts was transformed from a factory system to a largely service and high-tech based economy. Some manufacturing does exist in the State today, generally in specialized markets.
Government contracts, private investment, and research facilities led to a new and improved industrial climate, with reduced unemployment and increased per capita income. Suburbanization flourished, and by the 1970s, the Route 128 corridor was dotted with high-technology companies who recruited graduates of the area's many elite institutions of higher education.
In 1987, the state received federal funding for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. Known as the "the Big Dig," it was at the time the biggest federal highway project ever approved. Often controversial, with its estimated $14.6 billion price tag, and claims of mismanagement, the Big Dig has changed the face of Downtown Boston, connecting areas that were once divided by elevated highway, and improving traffic conditions (although traffic problems still exist).
The Kennedy family was prominent in Massachusetts politics in the 20th century, especially with President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. The famous Kennedy Compound is located at Hyannisport on Cape Cod.
In recent years tourism has played an ever-important role in the state's economy, with Boston and Cape Cod being the leading destinations. Other popular tourist destinations include Salem, Plymouth and the Berkshires.
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage, and the sixth jurisdiction in the world (after the Netherlands, Belgium, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec) to do so.
On November 4, 2008, citizens of the state voted to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Effective January 2, 2009, a person, 18 years of age or older, caught with an ounce or less of marijuana may be charged with a $100 fine as well as face confiscation of any marijuana on their person. The violation will only be considered a civil violation (rather than criminal). Also on that ballot, the citizens voted to ban greyhound racing in the state.
On January 19, 2010, Massachusetts elected Scott Brown as its first Republican Senator since Edward Brooke left office in 1979.
Massachusetts had an estimated 2009 population of 6,593,587. As of 2007, Massachusetts is estimated to be the third most densely populated U.S. state, with 822.7 per square mile, after New Jersey and Rhode Island, and ahead of Connecticut and Maryland.
Massachusetts has seen both population increases and decreases in recent years. For example, while some Bay Staters are leaving, others including Asian, Hispanic and African immigrants, arrive to replace them. Massachusetts in 2004 included 881,400 foreign-born residents.
Most Bay Staters live within a 60 mile radius of the State House on Beacon Hill, often called Greater Boston: the City of Boston, neighboring cities and towns, the North Shore, South Shore, the northern, western, and southern suburbs, and most of southeastern and central Massachusetts. Eastern Massachusetts is more urban than Western Massachusetts, which is primarily rural, save for the cities of Springfield, Chicopee, and Northampton, which serve as centers of population density in the Pioneer Valley of the Connecticut River. The center of population of Massachusetts is located in Middlesex County, in the town of Natick.
The largest ancestry groups are:
The five largest reported ancestries in Massachusetts are: Irish (23.8%), Italian (14.2%), French/French Canadian (or Franco-American) (12.9%), English (11.8%), & German (6.7%).
Massachusetts is the most Irish state in the country in terms of percentage of total population. Massachusetts also has large communities of people of Finnish and Swedish descent; Armenian, Lebanese descent; and Italian descent. Other influential ethnicities are Greek Americans, Lithuanian Americans and Polish Americans. Massachusetts "Yankees," of colonial English ancestry, still have a strong presence. French Americans are the largest group in parts of western and central Massachusetts. Boston's largest immigrant group is the Haitians. Fall River and New Bedford on the south coast have large populations of Portuguese, Brazilian, and Cape Verdean heritage, all of which are also prevalent in the Brockton area. There is a growing Brazilian population in the Boston area (especially in Framingham) and also an abundant population of Brazilians thrive in Cape Cod especially in Barnstable, Falmouth, and Yarmouth. Lowell, in the northeast of the state, is home to a large Cambodian (Khmer) community, second in the country to the concentration of Cambodians in Long Beach, California. Although many of the Native Americans have intermarried with other ethnic groups (or died in King Philip's War of 1675), the Wampanoag tribe maintains reservations at Aquinnah, at Grafton, on Martha's Vineyard, and at Mashpee on Cape Cod. The Nipmuck maintain two state-recognized reservations in the central part of the state. Many Wampanoags and other native people live outside of reservations.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 6.21% of the population aged five and over speak Spanish at home, while 2.68% speak Portuguese, 1.44% French, and 1.00% Italian.
Massachusetts was founded and settled by Puritans in the 17th century. The descendants of the Puritans belong to many different churches; in the direct line of inheritance are the Congregational/United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist churches. Both of these denominations are noted for their strong support of social justice, civil rights, and moral issues, including strong and early advocacy of abolition of slavery, women's rights, and (after 2000) legal recognition of same-sex marriage. The world headquarters of the Unitarian-Universalist Church is located on Beacon Hill in Boston. Today Protestants make up less than 1/4 of the state's population. Roman Catholics now predominate because of massive immigration from Ireland, Quebec, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. A large Jewish population came to the Boston area 1880–1920. Mary Baker Eddy made the Boston Mother Church of Christian Science the world headquarters. Buddhists, Pagans, Hindus, Seventh-day Adventists, Muslims, and Mormons also can be found. Kripalu and the Insight Meditation Center (Barre) are examples of non-western religious centers in Massachusetts.
According to the Association of Religion Data Archives the largest single denominations are the Roman Catholic Church with 3,092,296; the United Church of Christ with 121,826; and the Episcopal Church with 98,963 adherents. Jewish congregations had about 275,000 members.
The religious affiliations of the people of Massachusetts, according to a 2001 survey, are shown in the table below:
The latest (2009) estimated Census population figures show that Massachusetts has grown by over 3 percent, to 6,593,587 since 2000. This slow growth is likely attributable to the fact that Massachusetts continues to attract top scholars and researchers from across the United States as well as large numbers of immigrants, combined with steady emigration away from the state towards New Hampshire and southern and western regions of the U.S. because of high housing costs, weather, and traffic.
Recent census data shows that the number of immigrants living in Massachusetts has increased over 15% from 2000–2005. The biggest influxes are Latin Americans. According to the census, the population of Central Americans rose by 67.7 percent between 2000 and 2005, and the number of South Americans rose by 107.5 percent. And among South Americans, the largest group to increase appeared to be Brazilians, whose numbers rose by 131.4 percent, to 84,836. This surge of immigrants tends to offset emigration, and, of course, given the 350,000 increase in population in the Commonwealth between 1990 and 2000, many immigrants to Massachusetts come from elsewhere in the USA.
Following the shift to a high-tech economy and the numerous factory closures, few jobs remain for low skilled male workers, who are dropping out of the workforce in large numbers. The percentage of men in the labor force fell from 77.7% in 1989 to 72.8% in 2005. This national trend is most pronounced in Massachusetts. In the case of men without high school diplomas, 10% have left the labor force between 1990 and 2000.
The United States Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Massachusetts's gross state product in 2007 was US $351 billion. The per capita personal income in 2006 was US$47,702, making it the fourth highest in the nation. Gross state product increased 2.6% from 2004 to 2005, below the national average of 3.5%.
Sectors vital to the Massachusetts economy include higher education, biotechnology, finance, health care, and tourism. Route 128 was a main center for the development of minicomputers. Massachusetts was the home of many of the largest computer companies such as Digital Equipment Corporation, Data General, and Wang Laboratories situated around Route 128 and Route 495 (another beltway approximately 25 miles (40 km) farther away from Boston). Most of the larger companies fell into decline after the rise of the personal computer, which was based in large part on software such as Visicalc and Lotus 1-2-3 and hardware technology such as memory and operating systems developed by many of these companies. High technology remains an important sector, though few of the largest technology companies are based there.
As of January 2010, the states unemployment rate is 9.5%.
Its agricultural outputs are seafood, nursery stock, dairy products, cranberries, tobacco and vegetables. Its industrial outputs are machinery, electrical and electronic equipment, scientific instruments, printing, and publishing. Thanks largely to the Ocean Spray cooperative, Massachusetts is the second largest cranberry producing state in the union (after Wisconsin).
As of 2005, there were 6,100 farms in Massachusetts encompassing a total of 520,000 acres (2,100 km2), averaging 85 acres apiece. Almost 2,300 of Massachusetts' 6,100 farms grossed under $2,500 in 2007. This very low mode income shows that most farms in Massachusetts are not the primary sources of income for their owners. Particular agricultural products of note include tobacco; animals and animal products; and fruits, tree nuts, and berries, for which the state is nationally ranked 11th, 17th, and 16th, respectively.
Massachusetts has a flat-rate personal income tax of 5.3%, with an exemption for income below a threshold that varies from year to year. The state imposes a 6.25% sales tax on retail sales of tangible personal property—except for groceries, clothing, and periodicals—in Massachusetts by any vendor. The sales tax rate has been changed as of August 1, 2009 from 5%. The sales tax is charged on clothing that costs more than $175.00. Only the amount over $175.00 is taxed. All real and tangible personal property located within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is taxable unless specifically exempted by statute. The administration of the assessment and collection of all real and tangible personal property taxes in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is handled by the city and town assessor and collected in the jurisdiction where the property is located. Massachusetts imposes a tax on any gains from the sale or exchange of capital assets held for more than one year. The state also collects a 12% tax on the sale or exchange of capital assets held for one year or less (short-term capital gains). Interest from non-Massachusetts banks is no longer taxed at 12%, but the first $100 of interest from Massachusetts banks is tax exempt from even the 5.3% tax. There is no inheritance tax and limited Massachusetts estate tax related to federal estate tax collection.
A recent review by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found 13 states, including several of the nation's largest, face budget shortfalls for FY2009. Massachusetts faces a deficit that could be as large as $1.2 billion.
The major airport in the state is Logan International Airport. The airport serves as a focus city for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, US Airways, and JetBlue Airways.
Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, TF Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, New Hampshire also serve as airports to the state as all three are located near the border.
Massachusetts has approximately 42 public-use airfields, and over 200 private landing spots. Some airports receive funding from the Aeronautics Division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration; FAA is also the primary regulator. Logan, Hanscom Field, and Worcester Regional Airport (as of 2009-10) are operated by Massport, an independent state transportation agency.
Interstate highways crossing the state include: I-91, I-291, I-391, I-84, I-93, I-95, I-495, I-195, I-395, I-90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike), I-290, and I-190. Other major thoroughfares are U.S. 1, Route 2, Route 3, U.S. Route 3, U.S. Route 6, U.S. Route 20, Route 24, and Route 128. A massive undertaking to depress I-93 in the Boston downtown area, called the Big Dig, has brought the city's highway system under public scrutiny over the last decade.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates public transportation in the form of subway, bus and ferry systems in the Metro Boston area. It also operates longer distance commuter rail services throughout the larger Greater Boston area, including service to Worcester and Providence, Rhode Island. Amtrak operates inter-city rail, including the high-speed Acela service to cities such as Providence, New Haven, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Two heritage railways are in operation: the Cape Cod Central Railroad and the Berkshire Scenic Railway.
Sixteen other regional transit authorities provide public transportation in the form of bus services in their local communities. The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority regulates ferry service to the islands and operates some of those lines.
As of 2009, 13 common carrier railways still haul freight in Massachusetts. A much larger number are defunct.
Massachusetts has 10 regional metropolitan planning organizations and 3 non-metropolitan planning organizations covering the remainder of the state; statewide planning is handled by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
The Massachusetts Constitution was ratified in 1780 while the Revolutionary War was in progress, four years after the Articles of Confederation was drafted, and eight years before the present United States Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788. Drafted by John Adams, the Commonwealth's constitution is the oldest functioning written constitution in continuous effect in the world.
Following a November 2003 decision of the state's Supreme Court, Massachusetts became the first state to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Massachusetts was also the first state to mandate health insurance for all its citizens. In 2008, Massachusetts voters passed an initiative decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The governor of Massachusetts is head of the executive branch and serves as chief administrative officer of the state and as commander-in-chief of the Massachusetts National Guard. The current governor is Deval Patrick, a Democrat. All governors of Massachusetts are given the official style His/Her Excellency, a carry-over from the Commonwealth's British past, despite such styles being uncommon in American political traditions. The title is actually used only on the most formal occasions, such as when the governor addresses the two houses of the General Court sitting in joint convention. Responsibilities of the governor include preparation of the annual budget, nomination of all judicial officers, the granting of pardons (with the approval of the Governor's Council), appointments of the heads of most major state departments, and the acceptance or veto of each bill passed by the Legislature. Several executive offices have also been established, each headed by a secretary appointed by the governor, much like the President's cabinet.
The Governor's Council, also called the Executive Council, is a vestige of British colonial government. It is composed of the Lieutenant Governor and eight councilors elected from councilor districts for a two-year term. It has the constitutional power to approve judicial appointments and pardons, to authorize expenditures from the Treasury, to approve the appointment of constitutional officers if a vacancy occurs when the legislature is not in session, and to compile and certify the results of statewide elections. It also approves the appointments of notaries public and justices of the peace.
The Massachusetts state legislature is formally styled the "General Court" (see Massachusetts General Court). Elected every two years, the General Court is made up of a Senate of 40 members and a House of Representatives of 160 members. The Massachusetts Senate is said to be the second oldest democratic deliberative body in the world. Each branch elects its own leader from its membership. The Senate elects its president; the House its speaker. These officers exercise power through their appointments of majority floor leaders and whips (the minority party elects its leaders in a party caucus), their selection of chairs and all members of joint committees, and in their rulings as presiding officers. Joint committees of the General Court are made up of 6 senators and 15 representatives, with a Senate and House chair for each committee. These committees must hold hearings on all bills filed. Their report usually determines whether or not a bill will pass. Each chamber has its own Rules Committee and Ways and Means Committee and these are among the most important committee assignments.
Judicial appointments are held to the age of seventy. The Supreme Judicial Court, consisting of a chief justice and six associate justices, is the highest court in the Commonwealth; it is empowered to give advisory opinions to the governor and the legislature on questions of law. All trials are held in departments and divisions of a unified Trial Court, headed by a Chief Justice for Administrative and Management, assisted by an administrator of courts. It hears civil and criminal cases. Cases may be appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court or the Appeals Court for review of law, but findings of fact made by the Trial Court are final. The Superior Court, consisting of a chief justice and 66 associate justices, is the highest department of the Trial Court. Other departments are the Boston Municipal, District, Housing, Juvenile, Land, and Probate Courts.
Massachusetts's Congressional delegation is nearly entirely Democratic. Currently, the U.S. senators are John Kerry and Scott Brown. The ten members of the state's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives are John Olver, Richard Neal, Jim McGovern, Barney Frank, Niki Tsongas, John F. Tierney, Ed Markey, Mike Capuano, Stephen Lynch, and Bill Delahunt. Federal court cases are heard in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and appeals are heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
During the first half of the 1900s, Boston was socially conservative and strongly under the influence of Methodist minister J. Frank Chase and his New England Watch and Ward Society, founded in 1878. In modern times, few such puritanical social mores persist. Massachusetts has since gained a reputation as being a politically liberal state and is often used as an archetype of modern liberalism, hence the usage of the phrase "Massachusetts liberal".
Massachusetts is the home of the Kennedy family, and routinely votes for the Democratic Party in federal elections: it was the most populous state to have an all-Democratic Congressional delegation (ten representatives and two senators). Democrats hold all of the state's other state-wide elected offices as well, making Massachusetts the only state where all congressional seats and all statewide-elected offices are held by a single party. As of the 2006 election, the Republican party holds less than 13% of the seats in both legislative houses of the General Court: in the House, the balance is 141 Democratic to 19 Republican, and in the Senate, 35–5.
Although Republicans held the governor's office continuously from 1991 to 2007, they have mostly been among the most liberal Republican leaders in the nation, especially William Weld (the first of four recent Republican governors). In presidential elections, Massachusetts supported Republicans through 1924, and was considered a swing state until the 1980s. More recently, it has gradually shifted to the Democratic Party since 1988. In the 2004 election, Massachusetts gave native son John Kerry 61.9% of the vote and his largest margin of victory in any state. In 2008, President Barack Obama carried the state with 61.8% of the vote. The most recent statewide election, a special election in 2010 for the U.S. Senate, saw Republican Scott Brown defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in an upset, by a 52% to 47% margin.
There are 50 cities and 301 towns in Massachusetts, grouped into 14 counties. Eleven communities which call themselves "towns" are, by law, cities since they have traded the town meeting form of government for a mayor-council or manager-council form. Boston is the state capital Plymouth however is the largest city (Landwise). The population of the city proper is 609,023, and Greater Boston, with a population of 4,522,858, is the 10th largest metropolitan area in the nation. Other cities with a population over 100,000 include Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, and Cambridge.
Massachusetts, along with the five other New England states, features the local governmental structure known as the New England town. In this structure, incorporated towns—as opposed to townships or counties—hold many of the responsibilities and powers of local government. Some of the county governments were abolished by the commonwealth in 1997, and elect only a sheriff and registrar of deed who are part of the state government. Others have been reorganized, and a few still retain county councils.
Massachusetts has historically had a strong commitment to education. It was the first state to require municipalities to appoint a teacher or establish a grammar school (albeit paid by the parents of the pupils) with the passage of the Massachusetts Education Law of 1647; this mandate was later made a part of the state constitution in 1789. The town of Franklin has been noted to be the birthplace of public education in North America, due to the fact that education pioneer Horace Mann was born in the town, and The Public Library is the first public library in America. Massachusetts is home to the country's oldest high school, Boston Latin School (founded 1635), America's first publicly funded high school, Dedham, (founded 1643), oldest college, now called Harvard University (founded 1636), oldest incorporated preparatory school, Phillips Academy (founded 1778), first racially integrated high school Lowell, and oldest municipally supported free library, Boston Public Library (founded 1848). In 1852, Massachusetts became the first state to pass compulsory school attendance laws. The per-student public expenditure for elementary and secondary schools (kindergarten through grade 12) was fifth in the nation in 2004, at $11,681. Massachusetts has scored highest of all the states in math on the National Assessments of Educational Progress.
Massachusetts is home to many well-known preparatory schools, colleges, and universities. There are more than 40 colleges located in the greater Boston area alone. Ten colleges and universities are located in the greater Worcester area. The University of Massachusetts (nicknamed UMass) is the five-campus public university system of the Commonwealth. The population of metropolitan Boston and Worcester, and of the Five Colleges area in Western Massachusetts, in particular, surges during the school year. Massachusetts is also home to several other state funded 2 and 4 year colleges.
There are two major television media markets located in Massachusetts. The Boston/Worcester market is the 7th largest in the United States. All major networks are represented. The other market surrounds the Springfield area. Some communities in Berkshire county are serviced by the Albany, New York market, and some southeastern Massachusetts communities are serviced by the Providence, Rhode Island market. The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Worcester Telegram & Gazette and the Springfield Republican are the Commonwealth's largest daily newspapers. In addition, there are many community dailies and weeklies. There are a number of major radio stations (AM stations with up to 50,000 watts of effective radiated power, FM stations with more than 20,000 watts) which serve Massachusetts, along with many more regional and community-based stations. Some colleges and universities also operate campus television and radio stations, and print their own newspapers.
Massachusetts has a long history with amateur athletics and professional teams. Most of the major professional teams have won multiple championships in their respective leagues. Massachusetts teams have won five Stanley Cups (Boston Bruins), seventeen NBA Championships (Boston Celtics), three Super Bowls (New England Patriots), and eight World Series (seven for the Boston Red Sox, one for the Boston Braves). The state is also the home to the Basketball Hall of Fame (Springfield) and the Volleyball Hall of Fame (Holyoke); those sports were invented in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts is also the home of the Cape Cod Baseball League and prestigious sporting events such as the Boston Marathon, the Eastern Sprints (rowing) on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, and the Head of the Charles Regatta (also a rowing event). The Falmouth Road Race (running) and the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic (bicycle racing) are also very popular events with long and distinguished histories.
A number of major golf events have taken place in Massachusetts, including nine U.S. Opens and two Ryder Cups, among others. The New England Revolution is the Major League Soccer team in Massachusetts, and the Boston Cannons are the Major League Lacrosse team.
Many colleges and universities in Massachusetts are active in college athletics. There are a number of NCAA Division I teams in the state involved in multiple sports: Harvard University, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University, College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Sailing and yachting are popular along the Massachusetts coast and the offshore islands. Hiking and cross-country skiing are also popular activities in many of the state's undeveloped lands. The Appalachian Trail, the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, the Midstate Trail, and the Bay Circuit Trail are all long-distance hiking trails. The Tully Trail, a 22-mile (35 km) loop near the northern end of the huge Quabbin reservoir (through the towns of Athol, Orange, Warwick, and Royalston) incorporates waterfalls and stunning vistas. A handful of downhill skiing operators still maintain slopes in Massachusetts, although many skiers prefer to drive to major resorts in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Sport fishing has a strong following. Spincasting during the warmer months and ice fishing during the winter on inland lakes and ponds, fly fishing inland rivers for trout, surf casting for striped bass and bluefish, and deep-sea fishing for cod and haddock also remain popular. Hunting, primarily for whitetail deer and waterfowl, continues to attract a number of residents. Horseback riding is also very popular in Massachusetts.