Resolved, that the Commonwealth be divided into eight districts


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MASSACHUSETTS. Resolved, that the Commonwealth be, and hereby is divided into eight districts. Boston: Thomas Adams, (1790). Broadside sheet of laid paper printed on recto only, measuring 13-1/2 by 16-1/2 inches. $3000.

Massachusetts congressional broadside announcing the division of the state into eight districts, “for the purpose of electing eight persons to represent the people thereof in Congress of the United States.” Docketed on the verso by the “Selectmen of Waltham.”

Since the earliest days of the republic, drawing the boundaries of congressional districts after the decennial census has been primarily the responsibility of the state legislatures. Each state has its own constitution and laws, and the constitutional requirements for redistricting vary considerably from state to state. As governor, John Hancock presided over passage of this Commonwealth of Massachusetts resolution establishing the state’s electoral procedures and dividing the state into eight electoral districts for representation in the First Congress of the United States. Town officials within each district (in this case the town of Waltham) were instructed to call town meetings on the first Monday of October, in order for inhabitants “to give their votes for their respective representatives.” These officials would then “in open town-meeting, sort and count the votes, and shall form a list of the names of the persons voted for, with the number of votes for each person set against his name”— the district’s representatives being chosen by majority vote. Those first representatives included several former delegates to the Continental Congress, among them Elbridge Gerry, who like Hancock had been one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Gerry became the country’s fifth Vice-President but is perhaps best known as the namesake of gerrymandering, that practice of redrawing electoral districts in order to aid the dominant political party. After issuance of this resolution, the 1790 census increased the state’s representatives from eight to 14 and Massachusetts altered its districting to four, electing representatives on a general ticket. After 1795, however, Massachusetts returned to the plan of single-representative districts as described here. Signed in print by David Cobb, Samuel Phillips, John Avery and John Hancock. Bristol B7410. Shipton & Mooney 45904.

Light fold lines, small hole at top-most fold affecting the word “Sheriff,” tissue reinforcements to versos of folds. Near-fine condition.

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