Podcast – The 1851 Constitution

The 1851 Constitution

From the Book:
The Story of the Indiana Constitution

Greetings, this episode relates the successful attempt to write a new constitution for Indiana.

Now that the voters had approved the referendum authorizing a Constitutional Convention, the legislature had many decisions to make. This included the makeup of the delegates that would attend the convention, the date for this election, and the method for choosing the stenographer that would record the events. Questions arose over the apportionment of the delegates and the electors, their qualifications and method of appointing candidates. The committees of the assembly that decided these questions reached conclusions on all of these points. They decided that the number of delegates would equal the combined number of Senators and Representatives in the legislature, which was 150. The delegates would be apportioned in the same manner as the assembly, with some exceptions. They placed the date of the election as the first Monday in August and that the convention would begin meeting on the first Monday in October. The Senate approved an act that comprised these elements on January 3, 1850, the House on January 11 and signed by the governor on January 18, 1850.

The convention convened on October 7, 1850. The composition of the delegates is interesting in that 42 percent were farmers, 25 percent were lawyers, and 12 percent were physicians. 137 of the delegates were not native born Hoosiers. About 79 of them had previous experience in law making. The Convention deliberated from early October until February 10, 1851. The document that emerged from their labors did not differ substantially from the original Constitution. There were some key revisions and additions. These included:
The adoption of biennial sessions with a 40 day limit on special sessions
The Constitution forbade the legislature from incurring debt. Exceptions included paying interest on the debt accumulated to date, to repel invasion or suppress insurrection. The budgetary disaster that followed the Mammoth Internal Improvements Act of 1836 was the chief driver of this provision.
Encouraged the state to take steps to provide a strong, local school system
Created the new state offices of judges, treasurer, auditor, and secretary of state.
It included Article 13, which stated, “No negro or mulatto shall come into or settle in the State, after the adoption of this Constitution.” Note – This provision was the only one that was separated out for special consideration by the voters. The rest of the document was voted on in its entirety.
It changed the operating procedures for certain state functions
It also made changes to certain judicial functions and also revised the criminal justice system.

The referendum on the Constitution took place on August 4, 1851. The results:
113,230 in favor
27,638 opposed

Article 13 Special Provision
113,828 in favor
21,873 Opposed

Governor Joseph Wright issued a proclamation on September 3, 1851 in which he declared that the new constitution would take effect on November 1, 1851.

The new Indiana Constitution Took Effect on November 1, 1852. The orginal 1851 constitution included 16 articles. Article 13 has been repealed, so the current Constitution includes 15 articles. My book The Story of the Indiana Constitution includes the full text of both the 1816 and 1851, as well as the amended portions of the current constitution. The original language of the document of all articles, including the repealed sections, are included as well as the dates and vote totals of the amendment proposals, if available. This book is ideal for home school parents that want to teach their children about Indiana’s Constitution. A companion book, A History of the United States Constitution, provides the history of the United States Constitution as well as histories of each of the 28 Constitutional amendments. This book is part of a larger series called the Indiana History Series.

This story is part of my new book release, The Story of the Indiana Constitution, which is available on my web site http://www.mossyfeetbooks.com in both softbound and eBook copies. The web page has links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other book retailers. You can reach me at mossyfeetbooks@gmail.com
Thank you for listening

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