WGBH Openvault

Camera On The Commonwealth; Joseph Welch


License Clip

More material is available from this program at the WGBH Archive. If you are a researcher interested in accessing the collection at WGBH, please email archive_requests@wgbh.org.

Undigitized item: Request Digitization

Untranscribed item: Request Transcription

Camera On The Commonwealth
Joseph Welch
Program Number


Series Description

Hosted by George D. Blackwood, Boston University, this twelve-part series, distributed by Massachusetts Department of Education, explored the structure and operations of the Massachusetts State Government. Series release date: 1958

Program Description

Series description: Hosted by George D. Blackwood, Boston University, this twelve-part series, distributed by Massachusetts Department of Education, explored the structure and operations of the Massachusetts State Government, C. 1958.

Because of the sheer number of elected and appointed officials within State government the series was selective in who they talked to but they hoped, in doing so, to be able to focus on some of the basic problems of the government and how they were met in the Commonwealth at that time.

Produced at WGBH-TV, 84 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge 39, Massachusetts under a grant from the Moses Kimball Fund and the Mary Curtis Trust.

Program description: While this is the only program remaining, this episode was the last in the series Camera on the Commonwealth. This program served as a summary of the entire series, as well as offering a commentary on the State Government by the distinguished Boston attorney, Joseph Welch who spoke from the standpoint of a citizen interested in State government, rather than that of the office holder.

The series opened with an interview with the present Governor, Foster Furcolo (Democrat, January 3, 1957 – January 5, 1961), focusing on the vast responsibilities of his office. Questions included the relationship between the Governor and his legislature, the veto power, formations of budgets, and the control of various agencies of State government. Joseph Welch replied to the suggestion the term of the Governor should be extended to 4 years, rather than the 2 that was allowed at that time. Welch was in favor of a 4-year term so more time could be devoted to the Governor running the State, rather than continually politically campaigning for re-election because of the short term of office.

The second program centered on an interview with the Lieutenant Governor, Robert F. Murphy (1957-1960) who was asked about the executive council (Massachusetts Governor’s Council), the inner circle of State government. The film contains a rare clip of the council in session. Joseph Welch was asked whether the Council should be abolished. While he had his doubts about the power of the Council, he saw their use in diffusing the responsibilities of the Governor in key areas.

With the first deputy, Secretary of State, Francis X. Ahearn and the chief archivist of the Commonwealth, the third program centered on the problem of State records and State archives. Joseph Welch was asked how we could interest the younger generation in the historic tradition of Massachusetts? Welch commented on the lamentable state of Archives at that time due chiefly to lack of money.

Subsequent programs talked to the State treasurer, John Frances Kennedy (1955-1961), Attorney General, George F. Fingold (1953 – August, 1958), and key members of the judicial offices including Raymond Sanger Wilkins, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Paul C. Reardon, Chief Justice of the Superior Court. When asked whether offices such as the Treasurer and the judiciary should be elected, or appointed by the Governor, Welch generally agreed with the process of electing the Treasurer, but he had grave concerns about States where judges are elected, and was thankful Massachusetts did not carry out this practice.

When asked about juvenile delinquency and the suggestion of censoring reading material made available to youths, Welch believed good literature would eventually triumph in our society through education, not legislation. He went on to comment on the length of the legislative sessions and the right of individuals to petition bills.

Blackwood commented on the executive offices responsible for corrections, public health, public safely, public works, and civil defense, etc. As State government was becoming increasingly complex and powerful, did this pose a threat to freedom? Welch saw the growth of government as essential to the overall growth of the Nation. As industry and infrastructure become more complex, so must government grow to reflect these this.

Finally Blackwood commented on the penultimate program that dealt with the education system, posing the question how could we educate people so they would become intelligent voters? Welch advocated education through television and the press.

Names: Welch, Joseph N., 1890-1960 Blackwood, George D. Boston University

Keywords: Massachusetts politics and government Municipal government Public administration Massachusetts Governor’s Office Massachusetts Governor’s Council

Subject heading: Historical television programs



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “Camera On The Commonwealth; Joseph Welch,” 06/03/1958, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 24, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D5D7E5E48453418DB30D928D69AE618A.
MLA: “Camera On The Commonwealth; Joseph Welch.” 06/03/1958. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 24, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D5D7E5E48453418DB30D928D69AE618A>.
APA: Camera On The Commonwealth; Joseph Welch. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D5D7E5E48453418DB30D928D69AE618A
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.