A Rare Commonwealth Of Massachusetts Passport 1814
SIGNED BY CALEB STRONG WHICH HAD A INFLUENTIAL ROLE IN DRAFTING THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
Early 19th century US passports are rare to find for collectors. This masterpiece is significant to US history and any museum would love to have it! Massachusetts has played a significant historical, cultural, and commercial role in American history and became the sixth state to ratify the US Constitution. Caleb Strong was twice Governor of Massachusetts, US Senator and played an influential role in drafting the US constitution. Sadly he left the Constitutional Congress earlier as many others too, so he missed to sign the constitution. Only 38 of 55 participating members signed finally the constitution. However, this document is true US history and one of the earliest US passports I ever had. Extremely hard to find and at the same time in excellent condition for its age of 200 years.
Why is Massachusetts a Commonwealth?
From 1776 to 1780 the words “State of Massachusetts Bay” appeared on the top of all acts and resolves. In 1780, the Massachusetts Constitution went into effect. Part Two of the Constitution, under the heading “Frame of Government” states: “that the people … form themselves into a free, sovereign, and independent body politic, or state by the name of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Virginia (on June 29, 1776) and Pennsylvania (on September 25, 1776) adopted Constitutions which called their respective states commonwealths. Kentucky is also called a commonwealth in its full official state name (and in the Third Kentucky Constitution of 1850). Commonwealths are states, but the reverse is not true. The term “Commonwealth” does not describe or provide for any specific political status or legal relationship when used by a state. Those that do use it are equal to those that do not. Legally, Massachusetts is a commonwealth because the term is contained in the Constitution.
In the era leading to 1780, a popular term for a whole body of people constituting a nation or state (the body politic) was the word “Commonwealth.” This term was the preferred usage of some political writers. There also may have been some anti-monarchical sentiment in using the word commonwealth. John Adams utilized this term when framing the Massachusetts Constitution.
Adams wrote: “There is, however, a peculiar sense in which the words republic, commonwealth, popular state, are used by English and French writers; who mean by them a democracy, or rather a representative democracy; a ‘government in one center, and that center the nation;’ that is to say, that center a single assembly, chosen at stated periods by the people, and invested with the whole sovereignty, the whole legislative, executive, and judicial power, to be exercised in a body, or by committees, as they shall think proper.” (Adams, John, and Charles Francis Adams. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of Author, Notes, and Illustrations. Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850-56, vol. 5, p. 454)
Partially adapted from the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
A Biography of Caleb Strong 1745-1819 Commonwealth of Massachusetts Passport
Strong was born to Caleb and Phebe Strong on January 9, 1745, in Northampton, MA. He received his college education at Harvard, from which he graduated with highest honors in 1764. Like so many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, Strong chose to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1772. He enjoyed a prosperous country practice.
From 1774 through the duration of the Revolution, Strong was a member of Northampton’s committee of safety. In 1776 he was elected to the Massachusetts General Court and also held the post of county attorney for Hampshire County for 24 years. He was offered a position on the state supreme court in 1783 but declined it.
At the Constitutional Convention, Strong counted himself among the delegates who favored a strong central government. He successfully moved that the House of Representatives should originate all money bills and sat on the drafting committee. Though he preferred a system that accorded the same rank and mode of election to both houses of Congress, he voted in favor of equal representation in the Senate and proportional in the House. Strong was called home on account of illness in his family and so missed the opportunity to sign the Constitution. However, during the Massachusetts ratifying convention, he took a leading role among the Federalists and campaigned strongly for ratification.
Massachusetts chose Strong as one of its first U.S. senators in 1789. During the 4 years he served in that house, he sat on numerous committees and participated in framing the Judiciary Act. Caleb Strong wholeheartedly supported the Washington administration. In 1793 he urged the government to send a mission to England and backed the resulting Jay’s Treaty when it met heated opposition.
Caleb Strong, the Federalist candidate, defeated Elbridge Gerry to become Governor of Massachusetts in 1800. Despite the growing strength of the Democratic party in the state, Strong won reelection annually until 1807. In 1812 he regained the governorship, once again over Gerry, and retained his post until he retired in 1816. During the War of 1812 Strong withstood pressure from the Secretary of War to order part of the Massachusetts militia into federal service. Strong opposed the war and approved the report of the Hartford Convention, a gathering of New England Federalists resentful of Jeffersonian policies.
Strong died on November 7, 1819, 2 years after the death of his wife, Sarah. He was buried in the Bridge Street Cemetery in Northampton. Four of his nine children survived him.