1816 state constitution had 12 Articles
Karen Schwartz, Special to The Corydon Democrat
The 12 Articles of the Indiana Constitution were completed between June 10, 1816, and June 29, 1816, in Corydon. The delegates examined existing constitutions, keeping intact or modifying individual provisions as needed. It wasn’t exactly a case of copy and paste, but utilizing other constitutions provided a template as the delegates selected which provisions they wanted to keep and which should be discarded. Some of the constitutions used included those of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, as well as the Constitution of the United States of America.
The following listing includes an abbreviated summary of the major topic and content of each of the 12 articles the legislators grappled with as they composed the lengthy 1816 Constitution.
Article I: Bill of Rights ‘ This article guaranteed the freedom of the press, speech, worship, peaceable assembly, free elections, right to bear arms, emigration from state to state legal protections and other individual rights as protected in the first 10 amendments of the United States Constitution.
Article II: Branches of Government ‘ Indiana’s state government was divided into three branches just like the federal government. They are the Legislative, Executive and Judicial.
Article III: The Legislative Branch ‘ The legislative branch was known as the General Assembly with members elected by the people. The General Assembly was divided into two houses: the Indiana State Senate and Indiana State House of Representatives.
Article IV: The Executive Branch ‘ The executive branch had a chief executive, the governor, who was elected by the people to a three-year term. The governor’s annual salary was set at $1,000.
Article V: The Judicial Branch ‘ The judicial branch consisted of the Indiana Supreme Court and Circuit Courts. The governor was empowered to appoint three Supreme Court Judges who would serve seven-year terms. The circuit courts were tasked with trying actions in individual Indiana counties.
Article VI: Elections ‘ Article VI laid out the procedure for future elections.
Article VII: State Militia Organization ‘ The State Militia consisted of all free, able-bodied male persons. Conscientious objectors were exempted. Captains and subalterns were elected by the people in their respective company districts; majors were elected by the people within the bounds of their respective battalion districts. Brigadier Generals were elected by the commissioned officers within the bounds of their respective brigades. Calvary units, formed under existing laws, would elect their own officers. Adjutant generals and quarter-master generals and aide de camps were appointed by the governor. Major Generals were appointed their aide de camp and division staff. Brigadier Generals appointed Brigade Majors and staff officers. Colonels appointed Regimental Staff officers. The General Assembly fixed the method of dividing militia of the state into Divisions, Brigades, Regiments, Battalions and Companies.
Article VIII: Change in Constitution ‘ This article specified that necessary revisions or changes to the constitution could only be made at future called conventions and outlined the provision for calling a new convention.
Article IX: Education System ‘ This article offered free education to all residents of Indiana at all levels through college.
Article X: Banks ‘ The banking article gave the state the right to regulate banks within the state and to create a state bank.
Article XI: Slavery ‘ Slavery and indentured servitude within Indiana’s boundaries were prohibited.
Article XII: Continuation of Government ‘ To ensure continuity, Article XII provided that any actions, suits and trials begun under Indiana Territory would be continued under the new state government.
It was also specified that there were two constitutional sections that could be changed without calling a new convention: changing the seat of government and the method of voting.
Section 11 of Article XI of the 1816 Constitution provided: ‘Corydon, in Harrison County, shall be the seat of Government of the State of Indiana, until the year eighteen hundred and twenty-five, and until removed by law.’
Thus, when 1825 rolled around, no convention was required to change the seat of government. The delegates were very upfront about this, so it came as no surprise when the capitol moved from Corydon to Indianapolis. It was inevitably etched into the 1816 Constitution.
Also, the Indiana General Assembly was given authority to replace voting by ballot by the delegates with viva voce ‘ voice voting ‘ at the 1821 General Assembly if the legislators so desired at that time.
Section 2 of Article VI, of the Constitution specified: ‘All elections shall be by ballot: Provided, that the General Assembly may, if they deem it more expedient, at their session in eighteen hundred and twenty-one, change the mode so as to vote viva voce, after which time it shall remain unalterable.’
So, five years after the Constitution went into effect, the General Assembly could decide once and for all how votes should be cast, by ballot or by voice vote. Opinion about the voting issue at all levels ‘ populace, General Assembly and the State at large ‘ was pretty evenly divided. No attempt was made to make any change before the specified 1821 date, although a joint resolution was prepared on Dec. 23, 1820.
Consequently, on Aug. 21, 1821, the question of voting method was put before the people on Aug. 6, 1821. Since only 15 of Indiana’s 39 counties filed certified returns on the referendum with the Secretary of State, the General Assembly took up the question of voting methods again where voting by ballot triumphed.
Karen Schwartz, president of the Historical Society of Harrison County, serves on the legacy group of the Harrison County Committee for the Indiana Bicentennial. As part of Indiana’s bicentennial, she is providing a monthly column ‘ focusing on a person, place or event from Harrison County’s history ‘ that gives insight to our history. She said the columns should serve as an introduction and/or summary of a topic but are not intended to include all known facts and information. To suggest a topic, contact Schwartz at 812-736-2373 or 812-738-2828, by email at [email protected] or by regular mail at 5850 Devil’s Elbow Road NW, Corydon, IN 47112.