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Following up on yesterday’s blog post, “Word(s) of the Month – codification, we can take a look at historical codifications of Massachusetts law.

“The earliest codification of laws in Massachusetts was the 1649 codification, the Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes, which incorporated the Colonial Ordinance of 1641-47. In addition to having historical interest, this codification is still used as an interpretive aid in certain cases. See Opinion of the Justices, 365 Mass. 681, 684-685 (1974).

Since the adoption of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, the Massachusetts legislature has officially codified the General Statutes five times, the last occurring in 1921. These five codifications were prepared by special commissions appointed by the legislature, and each took a number of years to complete. Although the commissioners could consolidate some laws and make stylistic changes in the statutes, they were specifically instructed not to change the substance of the laws they were codifying. . . Each codification has a different title:

the Revised Statutes (1836),

the General Statutes (1860),

the Public Statutes (1882),

the Revised Laws (1902),

and the General Laws (1921).

From Chapter 2, “Statutes and Session Laws” by Hon. Margot Botsford (Ret.) and Karen Dean-Smith, Esq. in Handbook of Legal Research in Massachusetts, 4th Edition, edited by Mary Ann Neary, MCLE, Inc. 2017.

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