Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    First Edition of the Massachusetts Constitutional Debates

    [Massachusetts]. Debates, Resolutions and other Proceedings, of the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Convened at Boston, on the 9th of January, 1788, and continued until the 7th of February following, for the purpose of assenting to and ratifying the Constitution recommended by the Grand Federal Convention. Together with The Yeas and Nays on the decision of the Grand Question. To which The Federal Constitution is prefixed. Boston: Printed and sold by Adams and Nourse, in Court-Street; and Benjamin Russell, and Edmund Freeman, in State-Street, 1788. First edition. Small octavo and twelvemo (7.125 x 4.25 inches; 180 x 108 mm.). 219, [1, blank] pages. Signatures: [A]4 B-2D4 2E² (2E2 verso blank); horizontal chain-lines: [A]4 B-H4; vertical chain-lines: I4-M4; horizontal chain-lines: N-2D4 2E². This copy is lacking the final four leaves Dd3, Dd4, Ee1, and Ee2 (pages 213-219, [1, blank]), containing the list of "Yeas and Nays" on pages 213-216, "Speeches of the Minority" on pages 217-219, and type ornament tail-piece and note at foot of page 219: "The Printers who took the minutes of the preceeding Debates, are conscious that there are some inaccuracies, and many omissions made in them..." It appears that someone erased the statement at the foot of page 212: "Was determined by Yeas and Nays, for which see the next page."

    Contemporary tree sheep covers, with a very worn calf spine. The covers appear to have been removed from a binding that had been rebacked with calf and were once taped across the spine, with tape and tape residue on both covers at the joints. The covers are rubbed, with boards exposed at corners, and are detached, with leaves Dd1 and Dd2 (pages 209-212) attached to the rear board. Tape in upper and lower gutter margin of pages 208 and 209, with tears from the gutter. Some foxing and browning; dampstaining in lower corner. Short tear to lower blank margin of I1 (pages 65/66), just touching first letter of catchword; a few additional short marginal tears or paper flaws. Diagonal ink stains across upper corner of page 132, affecting a couple of letters. Leaves S1 (pages 137/138) and Cc3 (pages 205/206) closely trimmed at outer edge, and due to a printing error (text on pages 138 and 205 printed out of square), affecting a couple of letters. A good copy.

    Armorial bookplate of Asa P. French on front free endpaper, dated "1922" in ink; bookplate of Ned P. Booher on front pastedown, with pencil note: "Purchased in Boston-Sept 1951." Pencil note on recto of rear free endpaper: "Mass. Ratified Feb. 6, 1788 by / vote of 187 to 168;" additional pencil note on rear pastedown: "slaves 63, 64, 66, 182." Newspaper (?) clipping mounted on verso of front free endpaper; another clipping mounted on verso of rear free endpaper.

    More Information:

    Comprising: "The Constitution of the United States of America, As agreed upon by the Convention of Delegates of the United States, held at Philadelphia" (pages 3-21); and "Debates, Resolutions and other Proceedings, of the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts" (pages 23-212).


    "These Debates were recorded by printers representing the Massachusetts Centinel and Independent Chronicle in Boston and were reprinted from them...The ratification process in Massachusetts was viewed with anxiety by supporters of the Constitution throughout the nation. Massachusetts was a key state, and it was thought that actions there might determine the ultimate fate of the Constitution. The struggle was hard, bitter, and characterized by wild rumor and allegations of corrupt behavior. Elections for delegates to the state convention were held between November 19, 1787 and January 7, 1788. The towns and districts were entitled to the same number of delegates as they had representatives in the General Court:364, most of them uninstructed...The convention met from January 9 to February 7, 1788. The Federalist strategy was to ratify the Constitution first and then consider amendments to it. Governor John Hancock, elected president of the convention, was selected to make the proposal, but he was confined to his bed with gout. Nevertheless, he appeared before the convention swaddled in flannels, proposed amendments as if they were his own, and assured the delegates they would be enacted speedily once the Constitution was ratified. Opposition crumbled. On February 6 the Constitution was endorsed by the narrow vote of 187 to 168. Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify...Massachusetts was the first state to propose amendments along with ratification, setting a pattern for the states that followed. All except Maryland and Rhode Island were to ratify and simultaneously propose amendments" (Peckham).


    "This publication is made up from newspaper reports of the Debates in Convention. A second edition was published in 1808, and the text was also used for Elliott's Debates [1827]. The official record of the Convention was not published until 1856, when it was issued by the State of Massachusetts [edited by Bradford K. Peirce and Charles Hale]" (Evans).


    "Reported by Benjamin Russell, printer of The Massachusetts Centinel" (Ford).


    Asa Palmer French (1860-1935) was an American attorney who served as the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 1906 to 1914.


    Cohen, Bibliography of Early American Law, 2859. ESTC W36221; Evans 21242; Ford, Constitution, 97; Sabin 45702. Howard Peckham, Liberty's Legacy: Our Celebration of The Northwest Ordinance and The United States Constitution ([1987]), USC-25.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    Calculate Standard Domestic Shipping

    Sales Tax information  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2016
    6th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 161

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $200,000 (minimum $14), plus 20% of any amount between $200,000 and $2,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,000,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 18 days left to consign to the 2018 October 27 Musical Instruments - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage has gone above and beyond my expectations in handling all of my transactions in a thoroughly professional manner. I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone worldwide for the exemplary auction and valuation services they provide.
    Richard H.,
    Corsicana, TX
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2018 June 10 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    2018 June 10 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $614,788