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Massachusetts is a state of the United States of America, part of the New England region. Its U.S. postal abbreviation is MA. It is properly called the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, although there is no legal distinction between states and commonwealths.

A Brief History of Massachusetts

The colony was named after a local Indian tribe whose name means "a large hill place". The Pilgrims established their settlement at Plymouth in 1620, arriving on the Mayflower. They were soon followed by the Puritans, who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Massachusetts was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution.

On February 9, 1775 the British Parliament declared Massachusetts to be in rebellion and sent additional troops to restore order.

An African-American named Crispus Attucks was one of the first Americans killed during the American Revolutionary War, in Boston on March 5, 1770, at an event that has come to be called the Boston Massacre.

On February 6, 1788 Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the United States Constitution.

Massachusetts contains many historic houses (See Historic houses in Massachusetts for more details).

See also: Patriot′s Day, Shays′ Rebellion

Law and Government

The Governing body of Massachusetts is modeled after the 3 branch bicameral example that the US Federal Government provides.   The main differences are in nomenclature in that the state is called a ′Commonwealth′, the legislature is officially referred to as the "General Court", and the "Supreme Judicial Court" is the governing body of the state′s court system. The more widely accepted names for these bodies can also be used.

At the local level, Cities and Towns have their own governing bodies that act through authority granted to them by the Commonwealth (zoning, ordinances, services, etc), either through stature or by the Home Rule amendment.  Most county governments were removed and the land divided amongst the cities and put to their care. Cities and Towns have different types of government and today there are 14 Counties, with 50 cities and 301 towns.  There are 11 communities that have the ′city′ form of government but  the name "town of."  These are Agawam, Amesbury, Barnstable, Easthampton, Franklin, Greenfield, Methuen, Southbridge, Watertown, West Springfield and Weymouth.

The main difference is that a town is governed under the selectmen and Town Meeting or Representative Town Meeting form of government and city has a council or board of aldermen and may or may not include a mayor, city manager or both.

Massachusetts law maintains a distinction between "cities" and "towns"; the largest town in population is Framingham. Politically, the only difference between a town and a city is that a town is governed under the Town Meeting or Representative Town Meeting form of government, whereas a city has a city council (and may or may not have a mayor, a city manager, or both). This distinction dates to the 1820s; prior to that, all municipalities were governed by Town Meeting. There are now a number of municipalities which are legally cities and thus have city councils, but retained the word "town" in their names, including Methuen, Watertown, Weymouth, and Westfield. These cities are legally styled "the city called the Town of X". Massachusetts has a very limited home rule mechanism; in order to exercise jurisdiction outside of these bounds, a municipality must petition the General Court for special legislation giving it that authority.

Massachusetts municipalities are subject to a budgetary law known as "Proposition 2½", by which they may not increase expenditures by more than 2½% per annum without the approval of the voters in a plebiscite.

Massachusetts recognizes three official state songs:

Official Song: “All Hail to Massachusetts” (Arthur J. Marsh);
Official Folk Song: “Massachusetts” (Arlo Guthrie)
Official Patriotic Song: “My Massachusetts, Because of You Our Land is Free” (Bernard Davidson)