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such varied questions, although the questions demanding yes or no answers in certain periods appear at first sight not to warrant such a statement. For instance, 14 proposed amendments were voted upon on April 9, 1821.

The people of Massachusetts, having secured a constitution to their liking, were content to leave it unchanged for forty years. Since 1820, one article in the Bill of Rights and 30 articles in the Constitution have been altered through the ratification of 37 amendments. In altering the constitution the people have acted with much discrimination and have shown their dislike of wholesale or headlong changes.

But two conventions to revise the constitution have been held. The first, held in 1821, proposed 14 distinct amendments of which only nine were ratified, although several of the rejected amendments were subsequently accepted.

The second constitutional convention, that of 1853, submitted eight "propositions " to be answered by Yes or No. That num

bered one ” was a blanket referendum, covConstitutional

ering what was in effect a revised constitution Convention of 1853

embodying many radical changes; the other

seven were categorical propositions. However, all of the eight were rejected.

The impolicy of asking the voters to say yes or no to a complicated proposition involving several unrelated questions, as in the case of “Proposition One of 1853," seems to have been recognized by the Massachusetts Legislature. At any rate since 1853 it has refrained from submitting blanket or alternative referenda to the voters of the State. But its course has been less consistent in submitting special acts to individual cities for their approval or disapproval, numerous revised charters having been submitted en bloc.

In 1851, however, an act providing (1) for the election of one alderman from each ward instead of twelve aldermen at large, and (2) for the election of two assistant assessors from each ward was submitted to the voters of Boston. The act was rejected by a vote of 6,966 nays to 4,519 yeas.

In 1852, an act embodying four distinct questions to be voted on separately was submitted to the voters of Boston. Questions I and 2 were identically the same as those submitted in the acts of 1851 and were again rejected; the vote on Question 1" being 5,070 nays to 4,903 yeas, and that on “ Question 2" being 5,102 nays to 4,866 yeas. But “Question 3 " was approved by a vote of 9,784 yeas to 155 nays, and “ Question 4" by a vote of 9,706 yeas to 147 nays. If the voters in 1852 had been restricted to voting yea or nay on the act as a whole, it seems altogether probable, judging from their action in 1851, that they would have rejected the act of 1852 in toto.

As the best available means of indicating the degree of interest shown by the voters of Massachusetts and of Boston in the referenda submitted since the election of the first governor of the state, I have prepared Tables I-III, which are omitted here for

lack of space.

Table I shows: (1) the character of the 59 referenda submitted to the voters of Massachusetts in the period 1780-1907; (2) the number of votes cast for and against each referendum, and (3) the total vote cast for governor in each year when a referendum was submitted.

Table II sets forth the same kinds of facts for Boston as are set forth in Table I for the State. Table III shows: A. the per cent. of the vote on each referendum to the vote for governor, in each year covered by the table: (1) in the State, (2) in Boston, and (3) in the State outside of Boston; and B. the per cent. of the major vote on each referendum to the total vote cast on each referendum: (1) in the State, (2) in Boston, and (3) in the State outside of Boston.

At first sight the most obvious fact that is disclosed by inspection of the tables is the wide, not to say violent, fluctuations in the votes cast on the various referenda, and in the corresponding degrees of interest expressed by the per cents. A and B respectively, in Table III. But on closer inspection, if due consideration be given to the character of the individual referenda, it become fairly clear that the voters manifested both sagacity and discrimination in voting with most emphasis on the most important of the questions to be considered.

The per cent. of vote on referendum to vote for governor affords a measure of the interest in referenda as compared with that in the contest for governor.

A few of the occasions when a relatively large vote was evoked in the State by referenda are noted below.

In 1780, on approval or disapproval of Article I of the Bill of Rights, the per cent. was 105.9 of the vote for governor.

In 1853, when all of the eight “propositions" recommended by the convention of that year were rejected, the per cents. ranged between 101.8 on accepting the revised bill of rights and constitution to 100.8 on enlarging the powers of juries in criminal causes. In 1851, on the question of holding a constitutional convention (which was negatived), the per cent. was 92.4 and in 1852, when it was voted to hold one, the per cent. was 90.7, as compared with 34.4 in 1820 and 92.2 in 1795, when the same questions were up.

In 1895, on the expediency of granting municipal suffrage to women (which was negatived), the per cent. was 83.5.

In 1885, on the question of forbidding the manufacture of intoxicating drinks (settled in the negative), the per cent. was 82.2.

The lowest per cents. in this class are found in 1860 on the question of establishing methods for filling vacancies (1) in the Senate and (2) in the Council, the per cent. being 3.3 in each case. The extremely light interest in these referenda may be accounted for largely by the fact that there was a presidential election in 1860, and that the vote for governor, which resulted in the first election of John A. Andrew, was phenomenally large.

In a number of cases the major vote exceeded the minor vote by a narrow margin, as is shown by the per cents. given in B. I, Table III. Thus, the vote of 1821 to authorize the Legislature to grant city charters was only 50.1 of the total vote. In 1853, the corresponding per cent. (against abolishing imprisonment for debt) was 50.9; and that against forbidding the expenditures of public moneys for the support of sectarian schools was 50.3. It may be noted that in 1855 the last mentioned proposal was approved, when the per cent. of the major vote to the total vote on the question amounted to 87.3, in a year when the total vote on the referendum amounted to only 14.7 of the vote for governor.

The following are instances in which the major vote greatly exceeded the minor vote: In 1780, in was 92.3 per cent. in favor of Article I of the Bill of Rights.

In 1833, the per cent. was 90.8 on changing Article III of the Bill of Rights so as to relieve the towns of paying for the support of ministers of piety, religion and morality. In 1821, the same proposition was rejected when the per cent of the major vote was 63.9 of the whole vote.

In 1857, on the question of changing the method of appointing senators (which was accepted), the per cent. was 88.4.

The per cent. of votes cast in a contest, or on a referendum, to the votes that might have been cast had all the registered

voters voted, i. e., the per cent. of the actual to Per Cent. of Interest

to the possible vote may be termed, for conveni

ence, the per cent. of interest. When the per cent. of interest can be determined it appears to me to constitute the most satisfactory criterion whereby to estimate the relative interest of voters in respect to referenda and electoral contests. But as has been stated already, the per cent of interest shown by the voters of Massachusetts before 1890 cannot be determined without enormous labor.

The following summary statement may be of interest in this connection, as it sets forth the per cent of interest shown by the voters of Massachusetts and of Boston in the principal kinds of electoral contests and referenda respectively in the period 1890-1909 inclusive.

The data summarized in this statement, though interesting and instructive, cannot be given here in detail for lack of space.


REFERENDA, 1890-1909.


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Inspection of the foregoing statement shows that electoral contests evoked more interest than did referenda in the period 18901909.

On November 2d of the present year at the State Election the voters of Boston were called upon to vote for “ Plan 1" or“ Plan 2" as set forth in the Revised Charter prescribed by the Legislature in chapter.486 of the acts of 1909.

“Plan 1" provided: (1) for a two years' term for the mayor; (2) for a city council of 36 members, of whom 27, to be elected by wards, should be nominated in primaries, and should be elected at large; (3) for the nomination of school committee, mayor and councilmen at large by conventions of delegates elected in primaries or by nomination papers.

“Plan 2” provided: (1) that the mayor should be elected for four years subject to recall after two years; (2) for a city council of nine members to be elected at large for three year terms; and (3) that all nominations for a municipal election should

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