Constitution of Maine

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The Constitution of the State of Maine established the "State of Maine" in 1820 and is the fundamental governing document of the state. It consists of a Preamble and ten Articles (divisions), the first of which is a "Declaration of Rights".

Why it was written[edit]

In particular, the Maine constitution was written:

-to ensure religious freedom

-to establish justice for the state of Maine

The preamble of Maine's Constitution spells it out: "Objects of government. We the people of Maine, in order to establish justice, insure tranquility, provide for our mutual defense, promote our common welfare, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty, acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity, so favorable to the design; and, imploring God's aid and direction in its accomplishment, do agree to form ourselves into a free and independent State, by the style and title of the State of Maine and do ordain and establish the following Constitution for the government of the same."

History[edit]

The Maine Constitution was approved by Congress on March 4, 1820 as part of the Missouri Compromise, since the Maine Constitution did not recognize slavery. The State of Maine was previously the District of Maine in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. William King may have authored the largest part of the Maine Constitution – he was the president of the Constitutional Convention and later elected Maine's first Governor. Other authors of the constitution were Thomas Jefferson, John Chandler, Albion K. Parris, William Pitt Preble, and John Holmes. Thomas Jefferson authored the section of Article VIII on education. The Maine Constitution was approved by all 210 delegates to the Maine Constitutional Convention, which was held during October, 1819, in Portland, Maine.

The Maine Constitution is the fourth-oldest operating state constitution in the country.

Preamble[edit]

The Preamble defines the following reasons for establishing the State of Maine, which would also have served as an expression of dissatisfaction with being the District of Maine:

  1. "establish justice",
  2. "insure tranquility",
  3. "provide for our mutual defense",
  4. "promote our common welfare",
  5. "secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty".

The Preamble states that the people of Maine "do agree to form ourselves into a free and independent State, by the style and title of the State of Maine and do ordain and establish the following Constitution for the government of the same."

CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF MAINE
(as amended on the year of 1820)
PREAMBLE
We the people of Maine, in order to establish justice, insure tranquility, provide for our mutual defense, promote our common welfare, and secure to our selves and our posterity the blessings of liberty, acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity, so favorable to the design; and, imploring His aid and direct ion in its accomplishment, do agree to form ourselves into a free and independent State, by the style and title of the STATE OF MAINE, and do ordain and establish the following Constitution for the government of the same.

Article I. "Declaration of Rights"[edit]

This Article contains 24 sections, of which the longest is on religious freedom. The first section starts "All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights." The beginning is similar to the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 which used the phrase "born free and equal", the basis for which slavery was abolished in that state in 1820.

The section on religious freedom starts with "all individuals have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences". This is notably different from the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 which referred to the "duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons to worship the Supreme being.

Article II. "Electors" (Voters)[edit]

This article describes who may vote for Governor and members of the Maine Legislature. It states that every citizen of the United States of age 18 or older who has established residence in Maine shall be eligible to vote in state elections. There are certain exceptions such as "persons under guardianship for reasons of mental illness" and "persons in the military, naval or marine service of the United States."

Article III. "Distribution of Powers"[edit]

This article says that "the powers of this government shall be divided into 3 distinct departments, the legislative, executive and judicial." No person may assume a position in two of the branches at once.

Article IV: "House of Representatives, Senate, and Legislative Power"[edit]

Establishes the Maine House of Representatives and the Maine Senate which shall comprise the Maine Legislature. The number of members of each body are set, and their duties are described. This article also describes the establishment of districts, how members are elected by Electors in each district, the qualifications for office, a residency requirement, etc.

However this article also reserves to the people certain important powers. "The people reserve to themselves power to propose laws and to enact or reject the same at the polls independent of the Legislature." Also the people reserve the "power at their own option to approve or reject at the polls any Act, bill, resolve or resolution passed by the joint action of both branches of the Legislature, and the style of their laws and Acts shall be, 'Be it enacted by the people of the State of Maine.'"

"Legislative Powers" describes when the Legislature shall meet and allows the Governor 10 days to approve legislation. The Governor is also granted the "line-item veto of dollar amounts appearing in appropriation or allocation sections of legislative documents."

Also duties of the Legislature are described, however "all bills for raising a revenue shall originate in the House of Representative." This means if the Senate passes legislation which raises revenue it is constitutionally invalid if the House of Representatives has not previously acted on it.

Article V: "Executive Power, Secretary, Treasurer"[edit]

This article describes the powers, election, and duties of the Governor, Secretary of State and State Treasurer. The article gives to the Governor "the supreme executive power of this State". Also the Governor is given the title of the "commander in chief of the army and navy of the State, and of the militia, except when the same are called into the actual service of the United States."

The article also describes the compensation of the Governor and their power to appoint members of the judiciary who not directly elected, as well as civil and military officers.

Article VI: "Judicial Power"[edit]

This article establishes and describes the powers of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and such other courts as the Legislature shall from time to time establish." Also the length of office is set – 7 years, etc. Also judges and registers of probate are to be elected by voters in their respective counties.

This article also says that the Justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court "shall be obliged to give their opinion upon important questions of law, and upon solemn occasions, when required by the Governor, Senate or House of Representatives." Such an opinion is called an Advisory opinion.

Article VII: "Military"[edit]

This article describes the state militia, now known as the Maine National Guard, and says that "all commissioned officers of the Maine National Guard shall be appointed and commissioned by the Governor". This section also describes the Adjutant General of the Maine National Guard who is appointed by the Governor, and describes the organization, armament and discipline of the Maine National Guard.

This section also says that certain classes of people are exempted, such as the Quakers and Shakers, but otherwise "able-bodied" persons between the ages of 18 and 45 are not exempted from service in the militia.

Article VIII: "Education and Municipal Home Rule"[edit]

This section says the Legislature shall require towns to support public schools since "a general diffusion of the advantages of education being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people." Also authority is granted to "pledge the credit of the State and to issue bonds for loans to Maine students in higher education and their parents." Municipalities are granted the power to amend their charters and to issue bonds for industrial purposes.

Article IX: "General Provisions"[edit]

This section sets the oath of office, the date of elections, and allows for impeachment. It also states that all "taxes upon real and personal estate, assessed by authority of this State, shall be apportioned and assessed equally according to the just value thereof." However the Legislature is allowed to set special assessments for the following types of property, including: certain farms and agricultural lands, timberlands and woodlands, open space lands, and waterfront land that supports commercial fishing.

Article X: Additional Provisions[edit]

Describes Amendments to the Constitution and says all laws must be "not repugnant to this Constitution".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]