Massachusetts Facts

Part Four

Preamble to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, 1780

Written by John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Bowdoin"The end of the institution, maintenance and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body-politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it, with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquility their natural rights, and the blessings of life: And whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness. The Body-Politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: It is a social compact, by which the whole people convenants with each Citizen, and each Citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain Laws for the Common good. It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a Constitution of Government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation, and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them.

We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe, in affording us, in the course of His Providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprize, on entering into an Original, explicit, and Solemn Compact with each other; and of forming a new Constitution of Civil Government, for Ourselves and Posterity, and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, Do agree upon, ordain and establish, the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

Miscellaneous Facts

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Famous Firsts in Massachusetts

For over three hundred years, Massachusetts has led the nation and the world in many ways. Here are just a few of them:

1602 Bartholomew Gosnold established the first trading post in Massachusetts.

1620 Pilgrims first land in Provincetown.

1620 The first religious meeting house was built in Plymouth.

1621 The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Plymouth.

1628 John Endicott established a settlement in Salem.

1629 The first tannery in the U.S. began operations in Lynn.

1634 Boston Common became the first public park in America.

1635 The first American public secondary school, Boston Latin Grammar School, was founded in Boston.

1636 Harvard, the first American university, was founded in Newtowne (now Cambridge).

1638 The first American printing press was set up in Cambridge by Stephen Daye.

1639 The first free American public school, the Mather school, was founded in Dorchester.

1639 The first post office in America was Richard Fairbanks’ tavern in Boston.

1650 The first American ironworks were established in Saugus.

1653 The first American public library was founded in Boston.

1686 Oxford became the first non-Puritan town.

1704 The first regularly issued American newspaper, “The Boston News-Letter”, was published in Boston.

1713 The first schooner was built in Gloucester by Andrew Robinson.

1716 The first American lighthouse was built in Boston Harbor.

1775 The first battle of the Revolution was fought in Lexington and Concord.

1775 The first ship of the U.S. Navy, the schooner “Hannah”, was commissioned in Beverly.

1778 The Town of Franklin was the first community to change its name to honor Benjamin Franklin.

1780 First State Constitution.

1789 The first American novel, William Hill Brown’s “The Power of Sympathy”, was published in Worcester.

1803 The Middlesex Canal, the first canal built for commercial use in the United States, was completed.

1806 The first church built by free blacks in America, the African Meeting House, opened on Joy Street in Boston.

1826 The first American railroad was built in Quincy.

1827 Francis Leiber opened the first swim school in America. Among the first to enroll was John Quincy Adams.

1831 The first abolitionist newspaper, “The Liberator”, was published in Boston by William Lloyd Garrison.

1837 Samuel Morse invented the electric telegraph based on Morse Code, a simple pattern of “dots” and dashes.

1839 Rubber was first vulcanized by Charles Goodyear in Woburn.

1840 The typewriter was invented by Charles Thurber in Worcester.

1845 The first sewing machine was made by Elias Howe in Boston.

1846 The first public demonstration of ether anesthetic was given in Boston at Massachusetts General Hospital.

1848 Esther Howland of Worcester printed the first mass-produced Valentine cards.

1850 The first National Women’s Right Convention convenes in Worcester.

1865 Massachusetts established the first Statewide Police Force in the nation.

1865 Robert Ware of M.I.T. began the first professional training program for architects. Prior to this, architects trained in Europe or learned through apprenticeship.

1866 The first African-American legislators in New England were elected to the General Court.

1874 The first American Christmas card was printed by Louis Prang in Boston.

1876 The first telephone was demonstrated by Alexander Graham Bell in Boston.

1877 Helen Magill White becomes the first woman to earn a Ph.D in the U.S. at Boston University.

1881 The Country Club in Brookline became the first dedicated to “outdoor pursuits”.

1886 The first transformer was demonstrated by William Stanley in Great Barrington.

1888 The first electric trolley in the state runs in Lynn.

1891 The first basketball game was played in Springfield.

1893 The first successful gasoline-powered auto was perfected by Charles and Frank Duryea in Springfield.

1895 The first volleyball game was played in Holyoke.

1896 Landscape architect Charles Eliot developed Revere Beach as the first public beach in America.

1897 April 19,1897 was the first Boston Marathon. The race was run from Boston to Ashland and the starting field was 15 runners. John J. McDermott was the winner.

1897 The first American subway system was opened in Boston.

1903 Using Gulielmo Marconi’s wireless telegraph President Theodore Roosevelt sent the first trans-Atlantic message from Wellfleet to King Edward VII in London.

1905 The Knox Automobile Company of Springfield is credited with making the first purpose built fire truck.

1906 On December 24 the first wireless broadcast of music and entertainment was sent by Reginald A. Fessenden from Brant Rock in Marshfield.

1925 Clarence Birdseye invented frozen food.

1926 The first successful liquid fuel rocket was launched by Dr. Robert Goddard in Auburn.

1928 The first computer, a non-electronic “differential analyzer”, was developed by Dr. Vannevar Bush of M.I.T. in Cambridge.

1944 Not to be outdone by M.I.T., Howard Aiken of Harvard developed the first automatic digital computer.

1947 Dr. Sidney Farber pioneers chemo-therapy as a treatment for cancer.

1961 The first nuclear-powered surfaceship, USS Long Beach, was launched in Quincy.

1975 First Night, which celebrates New Year’s Eve, orginated in Boston on December 31.

Famous firsts for women in politics

Here are just a few of them:

1923 Susan Fitzgerald (D - Jamica Plain)and Sylvia Donaldson (R - Brockton) are the first women elected to the Massachusetts legislature, specifically to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

1925 Edith Nourse Rogers (R - MA) of Lowell is the first woman elected to serve Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives.

1926 On February 18th, Sylvia Donaldson is given the honor of being Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for a day.

1935 Representative Mary Livermore Norris Barrows (R - Melrose)is the first woman to hold a committee chair (Committee on Pensions and Old Age Assistance) in the legislature.

1937 Sybil H. Holmes (R) is the first woman to be elected to the Massachusetts Senate.

1972 Representative Iris Holland (R -Longmeadow) is the first female legislator from western Massachusetts.

1973 Representative Doris Bunte (D - Roxbury) becomes the first black woman elected to the legislature.

1973 Senator Mary L. Fonseca (D - Fall River) is the first woman to hold a position of leadership in the Massachusetts Senate, specifically as Senate Majority Whip

1979 Representative Iris Holland (R -Longmeadow) is the first woman to hold a position of leadership in the Massachusetts House, specfically as House Minority Whip.

1986 Evelyn Murphy (D) becimes the first woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts and the first female constitutional officer of the Commonwealth.

2007 Therese Murray (D) becomes the first female Senate President in the Massachusetts legislature.

2012 Elizabeth Warren (D - MA) is the first woman elected to serve Massachusetts in the United States Senate.

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Native Sons and Daughters

The following is a list of noteworthy people who were born in Massachusetts. Not included are those who were educated or settled here, which would expand the list considerably. It is not complete, of course, but it gives a fair indication of what the Bay State has contributed to American art, history, and culture.


Henry Adams (Boston)
Horatio Alger (Chelsea)
John Bartlett (Plymouth)
Edward Bellamy (Chicopee Falls)
Robert Benchley (Worcester)
William Cullen Bryant (Cummington)
John Cheever (Quincy)
Robert Cormier (Leominster)
E.E. Cummings (Cambridge)
Richard Henry Dana (Cambridge)
Emily Dickinson (Amherst)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (Boston)
Esther Forbes (Westborough)
Margaret Fuller (Cambridge)
Erle Stanley Gardner (Malden)
Theodore Geisel-“Dr. Suess” (Springfield)
Nathaniel Hawthorne (Salem)
George V. Higgins (Brockton)
Oliver Wendell Holmes (Cambridge)
Jack Kerouac (Lowell)
Stanley Kunitz (Worcester)
Amy Lowell (Brookline)
James Russell Lowell (Cambridge)
Robert Lowell (Boston)
Samuel Eliot Morison (Boston)
Francis Parkman Jr. (Boston)
Sylvia Plath (Boston)
Edgar Allan Poe (Boston)
William Hickling Prescott (Salem)
Anne Sexton (Newton)
Paul Theroux (Medford)
Henry David Thoreau (Concord)
Theodore H. White (Dorchester)
John Greenleaf Whittier (Haverhill)


John Singleton Copley (Boston)
Frederick Childe Hassam (Boston)
Winslow Homer (Boston)
Fitz Hugh Lane (Gloucester)
Frank Stella (Malden)
James McNeil Whistler (Lowell)


Jane Alexander (Boston)
Fred Allen (Cambridge)
Ed Ames (Malden)
Leroy Anderson (Cambridge)
Leonard Bernstein (Lawrence)
Ray Bolger (Dorchester)
Walter Brennan (Lynn)
Peggy Cass (Boston)
Paula Cole (Rockport)
Chick Corea (Chelsea)
Jane Curtin (Cambridge)
Charlotte Cushman (Boston)
Matt Damon (Cambridge)
Bette Davis (Lowell)
Geena Davis (Wareham)
Cecil B. DeMille (Ashfield)
Olympia Dukakis (Lowell)
Bob Elliot (Winchester)
Ray Goulding (Lowell)
Charles Farrell (Walpole)
Edith Fellows (Boston)
Arthur Fiedler (Boston)
Arlene Francis (Boston)
Georgia Gibbs (Worcester)
Paul Michael Glaser (Cambridge)
Ruth Gordon (Quincy)
Robert Goulet (Lawrence)
Tammy Grimes (Lynn)
Jasmine Guy (Boston)
George Irving (Springfield)
Ann Jillian (Cambridge)
Madeleine Kahn (Boston)
Nancy Kelly (Lowell)
Arthur Kennedy (Worcester)
Denis Leary (Worcester)
Jack Lemmon (Newton)
Dorothy Loudon (Boston)
Jeffrey Lynn (Auburn)
Bill Macy (Revere)
Agnes Moorehead (Clinton)
Robert Morse (Newton)
Leonard Nimoy (Boston)
Conan O’Brien (Brookline)
Estelle Parsons (Lynn)
Lee Remick (Quincy)
Kurt Russell (Springfield)
Donna Summer (Boston)
James Taylor (Boston)
Sam Waterston (Cambridge)
Mark Wahlberg (Boston)


Robert Goddard (Worcester)
Elias Howe (Spencer)
Samuel Morse (Charlestown)
Eli Whitney (Westborough)


John Adams (Quincy)
Samuel Adams (Boston)
Crispus Attucks (Framingham)
Benjamin Franklin (Boston)
John Hancock (Braintree)
Henry Knox (Boston)
James Otis (Barnstable)
Robert Treat Paine (Boston)
Samuel Prescott (Concord)
William Prescott (Groton)
Israel Putnam (Danvers)
Paul Revere (Boston)
Peter Salem (Framingham)
Artemas Ward (Shrewsbury)
Joseph Warren (Roxbury)


John Adams (Braintree)
John Quincy Adams (Braintree)
John F. Kennedy (Brookline)
George H. W. Bush (Milton)
(All from Norfolk County)


Abigail Adams (Weymouth)
Susan B. Anthony (Adams)
Clara Barton (Oxford)
Charles Bulfinch (Boston)
Fannie Farmer (Boston)
Marshall Field (Conway)
Marvin Hagler (Brockton)
Horace Mann (Franklin)
Rocky Marciano (Brockton)
Cotton Mather (Boston)
Lucretia Mott (Nantucket)
Robert Gould Shaw (Boston)
Lucy Stone (West Brookfield)
Elihu Yale (Boston)


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Questions and Answers on the State Flag

1. Please describe the flag, its component parts, and what each stands for.
The present law states that "the flag of the Commonwealth shall consist of a white rectangular field, bearing on either side a representation of the arms of the Commonwealth, except that the star shall be white".

Chapter 2, Section 1 of the Massachusetts General Laws describes "The Coat of Arms of the Commonwealth" as follows: "The coat of arms of the Commonwealth shall consist of a blue shield with an Indian thereon, dressed in a shirt, leggings, and moccasins, holding in his right hand a bow, and in his left hand an arrow, point downward, all of gold; and in the upper right-hand corner of the field a silver star of five points. The crest shall be, on a wreath of gold and blue, a right arm, bent at the elbow, clothed and ruffled, and grasping a broad-sword, all of gold. The motto 'Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem' (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty) shall appear in gold on a blue ribbon."

2. When was the current Massachusetts flag adopted?
The current flag law was approved on June 3, 1971, and took effect on November 1, 1971.

Before 1971 the flag had the coat of arms on the front side, but the obverse side had a drawing of a pine tree, to indicate the importance of the lumbering industry in the early life of the state (in further tribute, the top of the State House dome is adorned with a pine cone). Although all flags made after 1971 had to have the coat of arms on both sides, the "old" flags were still valid.

3. Was it the flag used in Colonial times?
No. Massachusetts did not become a state until 1780. During the Colonial period, research indicates that the colonists flew a marine flag on their ships, but it was not an "official" flag and could not properly be described as a state flag.

4. Why were the particular colors incorporated in the flag?
Unfortunately, there is no present way of determining why certain colors were selected. It is almost impossible to divine the intent of legislation filed hundreds of years ago.

5. What does the state motto mean?
"Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem" (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty) is the second of two lines written about 1659 by Algernon Sidney, English soldier and politician, in The Book of Mottoes in the King's Library at Copenhagen, Denmark. It was adopted in 1775 by the Provincial Congress.

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Sergeant William H. Carney, Civil War Hero

(From "It Wasn't in Her Lifetime, But it was Handed Down: Four Black Oral Histories of Massachusetts", Dr. Eleanor Wachs, ed., 1988; published by the Commonwealth Museum at Columbia Point, Office of the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth)

In view of the current interest in the Civil War, reflected in motion pictures, television, books, and other media, we offer the story of a soldier whose gallantry earned him the first Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to an African-American. Please see the section on "The New State House Grounds" for a description of the commemorative statue of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. The short biography of Sgt. Carney is included in the state's booklet on African-American oral histories.

A Brief Biography of Sgt. Carney
Sergeant William H. Carney, born on February 29, 1840 in Norfolk, Virginia, was the son of slaves. His father, William, escaped from slavery by the underground railroad. He arrived in New Bedford in the 1850s. Soon after, he purchased his family out of slavery.

In his fourteenth year, Carney attended a school secretly kept by a minister in Norfolk, Virginia. In his fifteenth year, he embraced the gospel. Like his father, who was engaged in the coastal trade, Carney worked for a short time at sea.

Upon his arrival in New Bedford, Carney became a jobber for stores. At this time, he also joined the Salem Baptist Church, a Black church, where he soon became a trustee.

In 1863, Carney heard the call for Blacks to join the Union Army. On February 17, 1863, he enlisted as a private in the Massachusetts 54th Regiment as did the son of Frederick Douglass, Lewis Douglass. Carney was one of 46 volunteers from New Bedford who comprised Company C.

Sergeant Carney's mark on history can be traced to the assault at Fort Wagner, South Carolina on July 18, 1863. For his braverybeyond the call of duty, Carney was promoted to the rank of sergeant and was given the Gilmore Medal of Honor for gallant and meritorious conduct. He would later receive this nation's highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor, thus becoming the first Black American to receive this medal.

Carney was discharged on June 30, 1864. In 1866, he was appointed superintendent of street lights for the City of New Bedford. After a few years at this job, Carney moved to California. In 1869, he returned to New Bedford where he took a job at the postal service, the first Black to do so. He worked at this position for 32 years. In 1901, he was asked by Massachusetts Secretary of State William H. Olin to take the job of messenger at the State House, a position he held until his death. He was the second Black to hold the position. The first was abolitionist Lewis Hayden of Boston.

On October 11, 1865, Sergeant Carney married Sussannah Williams of New Bedford. They had one child named Clara Heronia who would later become a well known music teacher in the New Bedford area.

Sergeant Carney died on December 8, 1908 as the result of an elevator accident in the State House. Carney's funeral was well attended by state officials. As a final tribute, all flags in the Commonwealth were ordered at half mast, marking the first time it was done for a Black man and an "ordinary" citizen.

The Battle of Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863 in Sergeant Carney's Own Words

(From History of New Bedford and Vicinity, 1602-1892, by Leonard B. Ellis, 1892: Syracuse, NY, D. Mason & Co. Publishers, pp. 348-349)

"Having arrived at Hilton Head, we were ordered up the river to Beaufort, S.C. We were here only a few days, however, before we were ordered to St. Simon's Island. Upon arriving there, we found it deserted by all but one man, and we took charge of him. From here we made a successful raid to Darien, capturing a lot of supplies -- vessels -- loaded with cotton and cattle -- and the city itself. Thence we proceeded to James Island, SC, staying only four days, during which time we were engaged with the rebels [and] successfully repulsed them. Thence the attack and charge on Fort Wagner. On the 18th of July, 1863, about noon, we commenced to draw near this great fort, under a tremendous cannonading from the fleet, directed upon the fort. When we were within probably a thousand yards of the fort, we halted and lay flat upon the ground, waiting for the order to charge. The brave Colonel Shaw [Commander Robert Gould Shaw] and his adjutant, in the company with General Strong, came forward and addressed the rolonel Shaw [Commander Robert Gould Shaw] and his adjutant, in the company with General Strong, came forward and addressed the regiment with encouraging words. General Strong said to the regiment: "Men of Massachusetts, are you ready to take the fort tonight?" And the regiment spontaneously answered in the affirmative. Then followed three cheers for Colonel Shaw; three cheers for Governor Andrews of Massachusetts, and three cheers for General Strong.

"We were all ready for the charge, and the regiment started to its feet, the charge being fairly commenced. We had got but a short distance when we were opened upon with musketry, shell, grape and canister, which mowed down our men right and left. As the color-bearer became disabled, I threw away my gun and seized the colors, making my way to the head of the column; but before I reached there the line had descended the embankment into the ditch and was making its way upon Wagner itself. While going down the embankment one column was staunch and full. As we ascended the breastworks, the volleys of grapeshot which came from right and left, and of musketry in front, mowed the men down as a scythe would do. In less than twenty minutes I found myself alone, struggling upon the ramparts, while all around me were the dead and wounded, lying upon one another. Here I said, "I cannot go into the fort alone," and so I halted and knelt down, holding the flag in my hand. While there, the musket balls and grapeshot were flying all around me, and as they struck, the sand would fly in my face. I knew my position was a critical one, and I began to watch to see if I would be left alone. Discovering that the forces had renewed their attack farther to the right, and the enemy's attention being drawn thither, I turned [and] discovered a battalion of men coming towards me on the ramparts of Wagner. They proceeded until they were in front of me, and I raised my flag and started to join them, when, from the light of the cannon discharged on the fort, I saw they were [the] enemie. I wound the colors round the staff and made my way down the parapet into the ditch, which was without water when I crossed it before, but was now filled with water that came up to my waist. Out of the number that came up with me there was now no man moving erect, save myself, although they were not all dead, but wounded. In rising to see if I could determine my course to the rear, the bullet I now carry in my body came whizzing like a mosquito, and I was shot. Not being prostrated by the shot, I continued my course, yet had not gone far before I was struck by a second shot. Soon after I saw a man coming towards me, and when within hailing distance I asked him who he was. He replied, "I belong to the 100th New York," and then inquired if I were wounded. Upon my replying in the affirmative, he came to my assistance and helped me to the rear. "Now then," he said, "let me take the colors and carry them for you." My reply was that I would not give them to any man unless he belonged to the 54th Regiment. So we pressed on, but did not go far before I was wounded in the head. We came at length within hailing distance of the rear guard, who caused us to halt, and upon asking us who we were, and finding I was wounded, took us to the rear through the guard. An officer came, and after taking my name and regiment, put us in the charge of the hospital corps, telling them to find my regiment. When we finally reached the latter the men cheered me and the flag. My reply was "Boys, I only did my duty. The old flag never touched the ground."

State Song

"All Hail to Massachusetts"
by Arthur J. Marsh, Official Song of the Commonwealth

Click here to download the words and music to "All Hail to Massachusetts".

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State Ode

"Ode to Massachusetts"
by Joseph Falzone, Official Ode of the Commonwealth

Click here to download the words and music to "Ode to Massachusetts".

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State Polka

"Say Hello to Someone in Massachusetts"

So they say you booked a flight and you’ll be leaving. Is it business, is it pleasure, is it both. And they say that you’ll be landing in New England, What a perfect time of year you chose to go, The weather’s fine out there, this time of year is lovely. With all the color and the mountainside to view, And the people there are friendlier than ever, So to fit right in here’s what you’ve got to do.

Say hello to someone in Massachusetts, Tip your hat to every lady that you meet, Shake a hand, you’ll make a friend in Massachusetts, That New England old-time custom can’t be beat.

So they say you’ve never been to Massachusetts, Are you ready to be pleasantly surprised, Between the scenery and the folks in Massachusetts, All the beauty you just won’t believe your eyes, Home of the University of Massachusetts, The Boston Red Sox, Patriots, B-Ball Hall of Fame, Just talk the talk and walk the walk in Massachusetts, Soon they all will know and call you by your name.

Say hello to someone in Massachusetts, Tip your hat to every lady that you meet, Shake a hand, you’ll make a friend in Massachusetts, That New England old-time custom can't be beat.

State Poem

"Blue Hills of Massachusetts"
by Katherine E. Mullen of Barre, Official Poem of the Commonwealth

Massachusetts! Massachusetts!
Lovely Bay State by the sea,
Chosen by the Pilgrim Fathers
In their search for liberty.

Massachusetts! Massachusetts!
How we love your Indian name!
Meaning "Great Blue Hill" in Boston,
Named before the white men came.

High locations in the distance,
Are serene, majestic blue,
Like Mount Greylock or Wachusett,
They are fascinating, too.

But from Boston to the Berkshires,
Lesser heights are bathed in blue,
In early dawn or distance,
Like the "Great Hill" Indians knew.

Close to Nature lived the Red Man,
Keen to every form and hue,
Knew the paths, and streams, and wildlife,
And the hills around him, too.

On the wide base of "Great Blue Hill",
Lived the Massachuset tribe,
Kept their Great Chief's Pilgrim Treaty
While the good man was alive.

Made in faith with Governor Carter,
Sixteen hundred twenty-one,
Kept for forty years, sincerely,
Till his death in sixty-one!

Massachusetts Seal and State Flag
Show the Chief in deerskin brown,
Proudly holding firm his strong-bow,
And one arrow, pointing down.

"Coat of Arms" of Massachusetts,
With our State Star just above,
Tribute to a noble Indian,
Loyal history that we love!

Gentle hillsides and green valleys,
Make our lives so pleasant here,
While the ever-changing seasons
Bring glad contrasts through the year.

Autumn foliage is so brilliant
It is known throughout the world!
Crimson, gold, and blazing orange
In exultant praise unfurled.

But by Christmas time in winter,
There's a wonderland of snow!
Everywhere, a lovely picture
Anywhere that we might go.

And the vigor of the climate
With the challenges we meet,
Make our lives in Massachusetts,
A delightful bitter-sweet!

Massachusetts! Massachusetts!
What a splendid history!
Like our great and glorious Nation,
In its strength for Liberty!

Massachusetts! Massachusetts!
Keep the faith true pride instills!
May our trust in you be steadfast,
As the everlasting hills!

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