The 1816 (superseded) and 1851 Constitutions of the State of Indiana, located in the Indiana Statehouse Rotunda.

The Constitution of Indiana is the highest body of state law in the U.S. state of Indiana. It establishes the structure and function of the state and is based on the principles of federalism and Jacksonian democracy. Indiana's constitution is subordinate only to the U.S. Constitution and federal law. Prior to the enactment of Indiana's first state constitution and achievement of statehood in 1816, the Indiana Territory was governed by territorial law. The state's first constitution was created in 1816, after the U.S. Congress had agreed to grant statehood to the former Indiana Territory. The present-day document, which went into effect on November 1, 1851, is the state's second constitution. It supersedes Indiana's 1816 constitution and has had numerous amendments since its initial adoption.

Indiana's constitution is composed of a preamble, articles, and amendments. Among other provisions, it specifies a republican form of government (pursuant to Article IV, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution) consisting of three branches: executive (including administration), legislative, and judicial. The state constitution also includes a bill of rights, grants suffrage and regulates elections, provides for a state militia, state educational institutions, and sets limits on government indebtedness. The Indiana General Assembly may amend the constitution, subject to ratification by vote of the people, as specified in Article 16 of Indiana's 1851 constitution.

Constitution of 1816


In 1811 the Indiana Territory's House of Representatives adopted a memorial to the U.S. Congress asking permission for its citizens "to form a government and constitution and be admitted to the Union",[1] but the War of 1812 delayed the process until 1815. Some members of the territory's general assembly, as well as Thomas Posey, governor of the Indiana Territory, objected to statehood at that time. They believed that the territory's limited size and scattered population would make a state government too costly to operate. However, after a census authorized in 1814 proved that its population had reached 63,897, exceeding the minimum population requirement of 60,000 as outlined in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, efforts to pass a request to consider statehood for Indiana were renewed.[2][3]

On December 11, 1815, the territory's House of Representatives voted seven to five in favor of the memorial to Congress stating its qualification to become a state. The request was presented in the U.S. House of Representatives on December 28, 1815, and introduced in the U.S. Senate on January 2, 1816. A House committee chaired by Jonathan Jennings, Indiana's territorial representative, reported out a bill for an Enabling Act, which provided for the election of delegates to a convention to consider statehood for Indiana. The bill passed in the U.S. House on March 30, 1816, and in the U.S. Senate on April 13. President James Madison signed the Enabling Act into law on April 19, 1816. If a majority of the delegates to Indiana's constitutional convention agreed, the delegates would proceed to create a state constitution.[4][5]

As outlined in the Enabling Act, election of delegates to Indiana's first constitutional convention took place on May 13, 1816. The convention at Corydon, the territorial capital in Harrison County, began on Monday, June 10, 1816.[6] The convention's elected delegation of forty-three men were apportioned among the thirteen counties that were "in existence prior the 1815 General Assembly" and based on each county's population.[7][8][9]

Political climate/issues

In the early nineteenth century some of the Indiana Territory's citizens opposed statehood. The major concerns were the loss of financial support from the federal government if it became a state and the fear of a tax increase to pay for the new state government. The minority group preferred to wait until later, when the population was even larger and the state's economy and political structure was more firmly established.[2] The majority of the territory's citizens viewed statehood as an opportunity for more self-government and wanted to proceed. The territory's pro-statehood faction preferred to elect their own state officials instead of having the federal government appoint individuals on their behalf, formulate state laws, discontinue the appointed territorial governor's absolute veto power, and allow its citizens to have greater participation in national politics, including voting powers in Congress.[10]

At the time the delegates were gathering at Corydon in June 1816, slavery had become a major and divisive issue in the territory. The indenture law of 1805 had been repealed, but slavery continued to exist within Indiana.[11] Two major factions emerged. An anti-slavery/pro-democracy group was led by Jonathan Jennings and his supporters. Former territorial governor and future U.S. president William Henry Harrison's allies led the pro-slavery/less democratic group. Supporters of Indiana statehood (the pro-Jennings faction) favored democracy, election of state officials, and voting representation in Congress.[12] Harrison's allies supported slavery within the territory and maintaining Indiana's territorial status with a federally-appointed governor.[13] The anti-slavery faction preparing for statehood hoped to institute a constitutional ban on slavery.

Constitutional Convention

See also: List of delegates to the 1816 Indiana constitutional convention

On June 10, 1816, the first day of the convention, forty-two delegates convened at Corydon to discuss statehood for Indiana. The convention's forty-third delegate, Benjamin Parke, did not arrive until June 14.[14][15] Thirty-four of the elected delegates agreed on the issue of statehood. On June 11, the delegation passed a resolution (34 to 8) to proceed with task of writing the state's first constitution and forming a state government.[16][17]

Jonathan Jennings, who presided over the convention and was later elected the first governor of Indiana, appointed the delegates to various committees; William Hendricks, although he was not an elected delegate, served as the convention's secretary and was later elected as the new state's first representative to Congress.[16][18] In addition to Jennings, notable members of the delegation included Franklin County delegates James Noble (who became the first U.S. Senator from Indiana after it achieved statehood) and Robert Hanna (who became Indiana's second U.S. Senator after statehood); Harrison County delegates Dennis Pennington and Davis Floyd; and among others, William Henry Harrison's friends and political allies: Benjamin Parke, John Johnson, John Badollet, and William Polke (delegates from Knox County), David Robb of Gibson County, and James Dill of Dearborn County.[19]

Most convention delegates had ties to the South; all but nine had lived below the Mason-Dixon line before their arrival in the Indiana Territory.[18] The youngest delegate (Joseph Holman of Wayne County) was twenty-eight; the oldest was fifty-eight. Eleven delegates had served in the territorial legislature and more than half of the delegates had previous legal training.[20] Daniel Grass, the sole delegate from Warrick County, was excused on June 19 for the remainder of the convention due to ill health.[14]

The delegation's basic tasks included selection of presiding officers, adoption of a set of convention rules, meetings in committees and as a whole group to discuss proposed articles for the new constitution, and adoption of a final version of the document.[15] Although the members of the delegation did not all agree, a majority group, mostly associated with the anti-territorial governor and anti-slavery faction, emerged in favor of statehood. The opposing consisted mostly of Harrison's friends and supporters of the territorial legislature who opposed statehood.[5][21]

The summer heat often caused the delegation to move outdoors and work beneath the shade of a giant elm tree that would later be memorialized as the Constitution Elm. (A portion of the trunk is still preserved.)[22] The delegates completed their work on the constitution in nineteen days, adjourning on June 29, 1816. The total cost of the convention was $3,076.21, which included compensating the delegates and their assistants for each day they attended the convention, as well as printing costs for the final version of the document and the acquisition of benches, tables, books, and stationery for the delegates.[16][23]


The delegates adopted the constitution with a simply majority vote (33 to 8). The new constitution became effective on June 29, 1816, the last day of the convention, when the delegates signed the document. It was not submitted to Indiana's voters for ratification.[24]

Summary and features

Indiana's 1816 constitution, considered the most important document in the state's history, represented the more democratic views of the pro-statehood/anti-slavery faction. The document emerged from the constitutional convention as a statement of the "values and beliefs" of Indiana's pioneer era.[25]

The state's first constitution is similar to that of the other state constitutions written around the same time.[26] Because Ohio and Kentucky were the newest states closest to Indiana, the delegates to the Indiana constitutional convention referred to the constitutions of these two states, along with others such as Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Tennessee, for ideas and concepts as well as specific text.[27] Content from the other state constitutions was chosen based on the Indiana delegates' preferences for their new state. Occasionally, original text was composed for specific articles or sections when the appropriate wording in other state constitutions was not sufficient. The delegates' selections resulted in Indiana's legislative branch being dominant over the executive and judicial branches of state government.[28][29]

The Indiana delegates organized a republican form of government and created a state constitution that outlined a basic framework for governmental functions. Instead of providing specific details on individual issues, the constitution's broadly-defined principles enabled the state government to function as a loosely bound unit.[22] "The People" were explicitly noted as being the sovereigns of the state.[30]

The preamble outlined Indiana's rights to join the Union "on equal footing with the original states" in accordance with the laws of the U.S. Constitution, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and the Enabling Act.[31] Article I, which contained a bill of rights for Indiana's citizens, conferred many of the same rights as the U.S. Bill of Rights, including civil liberties and such basic freedoms as the freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and freedom of religion, among others. Article II called for the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of state government.[28][29]

Articles III, IV, and V outlined the powers of the state's legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Its bicameral legislature divided powers between two chambers (the state's House of Representatives and its Senate), each one composed of elected members. The state legislature was set to meet annually. Elections would be held annually to elect representatives. State senators would serve three-year terms, with one-third of the senators being elected each year. The governor and lieutenant governor would be elected to serve a term of three years. Indiana's governor was limited to serving two consecutive terms. A simple majority vote in the legislature could override the governor's veto. Article IV also outlined the election of other state officials.[28][29] The judicial branch, as outlined in Article V, included the state's Supreme Court, circuit courts, and other inferior courts. The constitution allowed the state legislature to create and adjust state courts and judicial districts and the governor was given the authority to appoint judges to serve seven-year terms with input and confirmations from the state senate.[32]

Article VI granted voting rights to white males twenty-one years of age and older who were citizens of the United States had lived in Indiana for at least one year. Under Article VII all "able-bodied" white men between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to serve in the militia when called upon to do so. Non-whites (more specifically, blacks, mulattos, and Native Americans) were prohibited from serving in the militia. Conscientious objectors would be fined if they did not serve.[28][33]

The constitution's first mention of slavery appears in Article VIII, Section 1, which expressly prohibited alteration or amendment of the state constitution from ever permitting the introduction of slavery or involuntary servitude into the state.[34] As one of the state constitution's most important provisions, this section allowed constitutional amendments for any reason other than the introduction of slavery or involuntary servitude. The anti-slavery clause in Article VIII stated: "But, as the holding any part of the human Creation in slavery, or involuntary servitude, can only originate in usurpation and tyranny, no alteration of this constitution shall ever take place so as to introduce slavery or involuntary servitude in this State, otherwise than for the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."[35][36] Indiana's 1851 constitution contains similar content, but clarified the legal status of slaves and indentured servants when they came into the state.[37]

Article IX outlined plans for public education. Its central item, which was new to American constitutions, included a clause that established "As soon as circumstances will permit" a "general system of education, ascending in regular gradation, from township schools to a state university, wherein tuition shall be gratis and equally open to all."[38] This was a significant alteration and expansion of the education clauses of the template constitutions used during the convention.[24] Because the opening phrase did not provide a specific timetable for implementation, a state-supported system of public education was delayed until a new state constitution was adopted in 1851. Article IX also provided for a reform-based penal code, funding for libraries, and state institutions to care for the elderly and those in need.[28][38]

Indiana's delegates wrote their own content for Article X, which outlined the state's banking provisions. Article XI outlined general provisions that named Corydon the seat of state government until 1825, established salaries for judges and state officials, and set the state's geographical boundaries.[28][39] While Article VIII banned the future importation of slaves and indentured servants into Indiana, Article XI left open to interpretation the issue of whether it was acceptable to allow pre-existing slavery and involuntary servitude arrangements within the state.[32] Article XII outlined the process for the transition from a territorial government to a state government. This included, among other tasks, the election of state officials and representation in the Indiana General Assembly and the U.S. Congress.[39][40]

Transition to statehood

Elections of state officers were held under the laws of the Indiana Territory on August 5, 1816. Jonathan Jennings was elected governor, Christopher Harrison was elected lieutenant governor, and William Hendricks was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The Indiana General Assembly met for the first time under the new constitution and state government on November 4, 1816. Jennings and Harrison were inaugurated on November 7. The state legislature elected James Noble and Waller Taylor to the U.S. Senate on the following day.[40] Hendricks was sworn into office and seated as a member of the U.S. House on December 2, 1816. President James Madison signed the congressional resolution admitting Indiana as the nineteenth state in the Union "on equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever" on December 11, 1816, which is considered the state's birthday. Noble and Taylor were sworn into office seated as members of the U.S. Senate on December 12, 1816.[41] Jennings appointed three judges (Jesse Lynch Holman, John Johnson, and James Scott) to serve seven-year terms on the Indiana Supreme Court, effective December 28, 1816.[42] The final step to achieve statehood for Indiana occurred on March 3, 1817, when a federal act was approved to extend federal laws to Indiana.[40]

Criticisms and call for rewrite

The 1816 constitution was never amended, although some of its provisions were criticized after its adoption.[41][43] Demands for changes to constitution were made as early as 1820, but referendums in 1823, 1828, 1840, and 1846 on holding a constitutional convention were unsuccessful. In addition, fifteen more efforts to convene a state constitutional convention were made between 1820 and 1847, but they also failed.[44][45]

The most notable criticisms of the 1816 constitution were Corydon's identification as the seat of state government for the next nine years, inadequate provisions for amending the constitution, prohibition of salary increases for state government officials until 1819, term limits for judges, and a failure to provide for selection of a state attorney general or prosecuting attorney. Some critics felt that decisions regarding these issues were the responsibility of the elected representatives to the state legislature. Others who opposed statehood at the time viewed the new state constitution as "premature."[46]

In the years following its adoption, rapid social change initiated the need to revise the state's constitution. Major concerns with the state's constitution related to the issue of slavery; limiting governmental powers and jurisdictions within the state; guaranteeing secrecy of ballots; continuing concerns over the amendment process for the constitution; reducing state legislation related to personal and local issues; granting more local power over school funding; suffrage for foreign-born residents; legislative terms and legislative sessions; the impeachment process for state officials; and governmental expenses and inefficiencies, among others.[47][48] In addition, a financial crisis in the 1840s in Indiana due to overspending, a result of the Indiana Mammoth Internal Improvement Act, caused the state government to become insolvent. The state's financial situation and ongoing calls for constitutional changes to prevent another crisis increased interest in a constitutional mandate that prohibited the state from incurring debt. Another popular idea was holding biennial, as opposed to annual, legislative sessions as a cost-cutting measure.[49]

Although there had been previous attempts to initiate another constitutional convention, the state legislature was finally successful in calling for Indiana's second constitutional convention until 1849.[43] Its delegates convened at Indianapolis in 1850.[50] The state constitution of 1816 was replaced with a new state constitution in 1851.[41][43]

Constitution of 1851

On January 15, 1849, the state legislature finally approved a referendum, after several previous unsuccessful attempts, to hold a constitutional convention in 1850, two years before the required twelve-year referendum mandated in the constitution of 1816, provided that a majority of voters favored the idea at the next regular election. In August 1849, a total of 81,500 voters favored and 57,418 opposed a constitutional convention. The clear majority cased the 1849–50 session of the Indiana General Assembly to pass legislation calling for the election in August 1850 of 150 delegates apportioned among the Indiana General Assembly's senatorial and representative districts and based on the number of voters within each district. The Whigs, the minority party in the state at that time, and some state officials, including Governor Paris C. Dunning, urged bipartisan representation at the convention. However, Indiana voters elected convention delegates along party lines. The result (95 Democrats and 55 Whigs) was roughly a two-thirds to one-third split between the two parties.[51][52][53][54] A total of 74 delegates were born in southern states, 13 were native-born Hoosiers, and 57 were born in northern states other than Indiana. About 42 percent of the delegates were farmers and 25 percent were lawyers.[48]

Constitutional Convention

See also: Category: Delegates to the 1851 Indiana constitutional convention

The constitutional convention of 150 delegates convened in the Hall of Representatives at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis on October 7, 1850. Charles H. Test called the meeting to order and George Whitfield Carr, the delegate from Lawrence County, was elected the convention's president. (Carr had been Speaker of the House in the two previous sessions of the Indiana General Assembly.) William Hayden English was elected to serve as the convention secretary, along with three assistant secretaries. Appointed officials included a sergeant-at-arms and a doorkeeper. Judge Isaac Blackford of the Indiana Supreme Court administered the oath of office. Convention delegates were appointed to twenty-two standing committees to review proposed items and considered 333 resolutions.[52][55][56]

Prior to the convention, the state's political parties (Democrats and Whigs) adopted a set of proposals that they want to incorporate into the constitution. Whigs wanted offices in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches at all levels of government to be publicly elected offices; Article II expanded suffrage to all males over the age twenty-one, excluding blacks and foreign-born men; biannual sessions of the state legislature (as opposed to annual sessions); a ban on the state government from incurring public debt; minimum funding requirements for public schools; requiring the state legislature to only enact laws that had a statewide effect, ending private acts; and a reduction in the number of public officials, among other proposals. The Democrats adopted their own list of items after the Whigs, which included many of the same suggestions, and accused the Whigs of stealing their ideas.[52][57][58]

Among the goals of the convention was to find ways to reduce the cost of state government and increase its efficiency.[48] Topics of discussion included elections and appointment of local officials, sheriffs, commissioners, board members, judges, coroners, auditors, clerks, etc.; expansion of suffrage; biennial legislative sessions (as opposed to annual sessions); banning the state legislature from making local and special legislation; the impeachment process for local officials; property rights of married women; and public school reform, among other concerns.[59] Notable Indiana statesmen who were members of the delegation and spoke at the convention included Thomas Hendricks, David Wallace, Schuyler Colfax, Horace P. Biddle, Robert Dale Owen, and Alvin P. Hovey, among others.[60][61]

Delegates spent the first week of sessions organizing the convention. Because the House chamber in the statehouse was too small for the gathering, the state government rented the nearby Masonic Temple. The opening session in the Mason Temple convened on December 26, 1850. The convention, which cost $88,280.37 (~$2.48 million in 2022), included 127 days of sessions before adjourning on February 10, 1851.[62] Prior to adjournment, the delegates mandated that the new constitution, if adopted by a majority of voters in the state, would go into effect on November 1, 1851.[63] The revised state constitution included components of the 1816 state constitution and adopted proposals from the convention delegates, as well as ideas drawn from the constitutions of other states such as Illinois and Wisconsin, which were used as references.[56] The final version of the constitution was based on Jacksonian democracy, which significantly expanded the democratic principles of individual rights, private enterprise, and legislative restrictions.[49][64]


The constitution was submitted to the state's voters for their approval in the August 4, 1851, general election. Convention delegates mandated that voters consider Article 13 separately from the other sections of the constitution. Article 13 prohibited further immigration of African Americans into Indiana and encouraged their colonization outside the state. Voters could either approve or reject the remaining provisions of the new constitution as a whole. In the final tally, voters approved Article 13 with 113,828 votes in favor and 21,873 opposed, an 83.88 percent favorable approval rate. Only in Elkhart, LaGrange, Steuben, and Randolph counties did a majority of voters oppose the adoption of the article. Voters also approved the remaining sections of the constitution as a whole with 113,230 votes in favor and 27,638 opposed, an 80.38 percent favorable approval among voters. Ohio County was the only one where the majority of voters rejected the new constitution (315 voted in favor and 438 opposed).[65][66]

On September 3, 1851, Governor Joseph A. Wright issued a proclamation certifying the favorable results for the new constitution, which went into effect on November 1, 1851. Elected officials in the state government were permitted to retain their seats until elections were held in October 1852, but had to take an oath to uphold the new constitution.[67][68] Since its ratification, the state constitution of 1851 has been amended several times, but it remains the highest state law in Indiana.[69]

Notable features and changes

The new constitution did not radically change the state's existing government. Although it expanded the bill of rights included in the 1816 document, the new constitution retained other features such as the basic frame of a limited self-government for the state.[70] The 1851 version, which was longer and more detailed than the 1816 constitution, combined "Jacksonian Democracy with a vigorous emphasis on economic laissez faire," reflecting the state's financial crisis in the late 1830s and early 1840s.[71] The new constitution also continued to support strong local control of government, confirming Indiana voters' general distrust of state government.[48]

The constitution of 1851 placed several limitations on the Indiana General Assembly's activities. Biennial legislative sessions were limited to 61 consecutive days (40 consecutive days for special sessions). To prevent the state legislature from interfering in local affairs, the General Assembly was restricted to general legislation applicable to the entire state and limited local and special interest legislation. In addition, the state government was prohibited from going into debt.[48][72] The new constitution gave the state legislature discretion on enacting banking laws in the state,[73] but prohibited the state government "from becoming a stockholder in any bank or corporation, or loaning its credit to any individual or corporation."[74] Because many Indiana voters objected to state-sponsored banks, the new constitution barred the charter of the Bank of Indiana from being extended with the state government as a stockholder and banned the creation of other state-funded banks.[75][76]

Among the other important changes was the abandonment of the short ballot, where voters cast their ballots for a party's entire state of candidates instead of voting for individual offices. The Whig minority supported adoption of these changes, hoping to break the Democratic hold on power.[77] Several other changes to the constitution related to election concerns. Terms for elected office included a two-year term for representatives and four-year terms for the governor and state senators. The constitution of 1851 also called for the popular election of more state government positions such as the secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, prosecuting attorney, and judges, as well as other county and local officials such as clerk, auditor, treasurer, sheriff, and coroner. In most cases, these officeholders were limited to two consecutive terms.[74][78] In addition, the Supreme Court of Indiana was made an elective body. The number of Indiana Supreme Court judges was increased from three to five and their terms were extended to six years. The state's lower courts system was reorganized as well. For example, circuit court judges and local justices were made elective offices.[48]

The constitution of 1851 extended voting rights to foreign-born men who had immigrated to Indiana. To vote in Indiana under the previous constitution, foreign-born men had to become naturalized U.S. citizens, which required a five-year residency requirement. Under the new constitution, aliens were granted suffrage if foreign-born men had reached the age of 21, stated their intention to become a naturalized citizen, and had lived in the United States for a year and in Indiana for at least six months.[48][79]

The new constitution made a strong commitment to public school education, especially elementary schools (common schools),[48][73] by mandating a "uniform system of common schools, equally open to all and free of tuition."[80] The constitution also required the state government to adequately fund local elementary schools, while providing for boards of local residents to manage the funds and the schools. Constitutional changes also created a new elected office, the state superintendent of public instruction, and gave the state some authority in setting curriculum.[81] During the convention, delegates also considered abolishing the "State University" and county seminaries. Although efforts to abolish the university were unsuccessful, Article 8, Section 2, of the new constitution authorized the sale of county seminaries with the proceeds to be used to help fund Indiana's public elementary schools. Article 8 did not specifically identify Indiana University or guarantee its financial support; however, the state legislature continued to provide funding to IU, despite some funding controversies in the early 1850s.[81][82][83]

Because no divorce clause was included in the state constitution of 1816, the legislature assumed the authority to grant divorces, and continued to do so even after laws passed in 1818 granted the authority to circuit courts. Under the new constitution, the Indiana General Assembly was prohibited from making local and special laws. As a result, divorce proceedings, among other issues, were delegated to the courts and clerks.[84][85]

Despite the positive changes in state constitution, some articles continued racial and gender inequality by limiting full rights of state citizenship to white males.[86] Fearing a negative impact on the state from a rising population of free people of color and emancipated slaves who had been expelled from slave states, convention delegates adopted Article 13, section 1, to ban further immigration of blacks and mulattos into Indiana.[87][88] Revisions to the constitution also discouraged African Americans from settling permanently in the state. Some convention delegates openly advocated for the colonization of free people of color in Indiana to Liberia, which led to the adoption of Article 13, section 3. This particular section outlined a source of funding for those who chose to emigrate.[89] Although the Indiana Supreme Court's ruling in Smith v. Moody (1866), struck down Article 13, making it invalid,[90][91] it was removed by amendment in 1881.[92][93]

Women's equal rights were also excluded from constitutional provisions. Convention delegate Robert Dale Owen introduced a proposal to include a clause in the new constitution granting married women the right to own private property and to jointly-own property with her husband, but the effort failed.[86][94] However, in the July 1853 legislative session, Owen secured passage of laws granting property rights to married women. The Indiana General Assembly passed additional legislation in 1879 and in 1881 to further protect widowed and married women's property rights.[95]


Article 2 (voting rights)

The early criticism of the constitution of 1851 was Indiana's lax election laws, which frequently led to election-day irregularities and accusations of voter fraud.[96] Article 2, Section 2, outlined who was eligible to vote,[97] but the constitution did not have specific provisions for voter regulations or include details to assure bipartisan election boards.[96]

Among the constitutional amendments passed in 1881 was one that extended the state residency requirements from six months to one year and removed the word "white" from Section 2, which was already unenforceable due to the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment granting suffrage to African American men.[98] The state legislator enacted a voters' rights law in 1917, but it was struck down by the Indiana Supreme Court in October of that year.[99] Other amendments to Article 2, Section 2, occurred in 1921, 1976, and 1984.[100][101] In September 1921, following the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Indiana voters ratified a state constitution amendment to grant suffrage to women. The 1921 amendment also limited voting rights to U.S. citizens.[102]

Article 10 (finances)

Indiana voters passed an amendment to institute a state income tax in 1932, resulting in the addition of Article 10, Section 8, to the state constitution.[103][104]

Article 12 (military service)

Article 12, Section 1, allowed only white men to serve in the militia until voters passed an amendment in 1936 to remove this restriction. Article 12 was further amended in 1974 to revise sections 1 through 4 and repeal sections 5 and 6. Changes from the initial constitution included removal of term limits for militia officers and the requirement for conscientious objectors to pay a fee for their exemption from military service.[105][106]

Article 13 revisions

Article 13 openly banned African Americans settlement in Indiana and imposed fines on anyone employing or helping them to settle in the state.[107] The Indiana Supreme Court ruling in Smith v. Moody (1866) invalidated Article 13, which contained several restrictions against Black Americans, including prohibiting their immigration to the state after the adoption of the state constitution in 1851. State laws to enforce Article 13 were repealed in 1867. The exclusionary and colonization provisions in Article 13 were repealed by amendment and removed from Section 13 of the state constitution in 1881.[92][93]

Reorganization state court system

Another problem was the organization of the courts. The Supreme Court became overloaded with cases and an appellate court was created at the turn of the century. During the 1970s a series of amendments were enacted to make the court constitutional and to reform the method of electing Supreme Court Justices. Justices were again made appointed positions, a list of candidates was created by the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission, narrowed to three finalists and thus submitted to the governor who then chooses one. The Justice could then serve two years before being subjected to a retention election, if retained then the Justice could continue their term for up to ten years. All five of the justices must face a retention vote once every ten years on the ballot of that general election.

Extending legislative sessions

A constitution amendment passed in 1974 authorized the return to annual sessions of Indiana General Assembly; however, the governor was empowered to call special sessions of the state legislature if necessary.[108] The long session, which occurred the year after an election, was left the same (61 days); however, the shorter legislative session in the following year was authorized to meet for a 30-day period.[citation needed] (The initial constitution of 1851 authorized biannual sessions of the General Assembly to meet for 61 consecutive days; special sessions were limited to 40 days.)[48][72]

Supreme Court constitutional decisions

See also: Supreme Court of Indiana § Landmark cases

Prohibition of slavery and indentured servitude

The unanimous Indiana Supreme Court decision in Lasselle v. State (1820) upheld Article 8 of the Indiana constitution of 1816, which prohibited slavery in the state, by ruling in favor of an enslaved woman who became known as Polly Strong and granting her freedom.[109][110] In re Clark (1821), the state supreme court once again upheld Article 8 of the state's 1816 constitution, which also prohibited indentured servitude.[109][111]

The Indiana Supreme Court rulings related to Article 13 (exclusion and colonization laws) of the constitution of 1851 were not as consistently in favor of this article as they were on Article 8 of the previous state constitution. In Barkshire v. State (1856), the state supreme court ruled in favor of Article 13, which banned further black immigration to Indiana. In this case, Arthur Barkshire was found guilty under Article 13 for bringing a black woman from Ohio into Indiana, where he married her.[112] In Freeman v. Robinson (1855), another famous case from the 1850s, the state supreme court ruled in favor of Freeman, a free black man, by recognizing his "right to sue a federal marshal in a state court for assault and battery that occurred after his arrest, as well as extortion."[113][114] In the Indiana Supreme Court case of Smith v. Moody (1866), Moody's defense argued that Smith was an African American who had immigrated to Indiana after 1851, a violation of Article 13 of the state constitution, and that the promissory note that Moody had given Smith was invalid under the Article 13. Ruling in Smith's favor, the state supreme court recognized Smith as a U.S. citizen and voided Article 13 of the state constitution on the grounds that it denied Smith his U.S. citizenship rights.[91][115]

Current Constitution

As of 2018, the Constitution of Indiana consists of a preamble and sixteen articles.[116]


The changes and the concerns in society can be noted by the comparison of the preambles in the original 1816 constitution, and the current constitution.

The preamble to the original 1816 constitution read:

"We the Representatives of the people of the Territory of Indiana, in Convention met, at Corydon, on monday the tenth day of June in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States, the fortieth, having the right of admission into the General Government, as a member of the union, consistent with the constitution of the United States, the ordinance of Congress of one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven, and the law of Congress, entitle "An act to enable the people of the Indiana Territory to form a Constitution and State Government, and for the admission of such state into the union, on an equal footing with the original States" in order to establish Justice, promote the welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity; do ordain and establish the following constitution or form of Government, and do mutually agree with each other to form ourselves into a free and Independent state, by the name of the State of Indiana."[117]

The preamble of the current constitution reads:

"TO the END, that justice be established, public order maintained, and liberty perpetuated; WE, the PEOPLE of the STATE of INDIANA, grateful to ALMIGHTY GOD for the free exercise of the right to choose our own form of government, do ordain this CONSTITUTION."[118]


Articles of the Constitution cover specific topics, as follows:

  1. Article 1: Bill of Rights
  2. Article 2: Suffrage and Election
  3. Article 3: Distribution of Powers
  4. Article 4: Legislative
  5. Article 5: Executive
  6. Article 6: Administrative
  7. Article 7: Judicial
  8. Article 8: Education
  9. Article 9: State Institutions
  10. Article 10: Finance
  11. Article 11: Corporations
  12. Article 12: Militia
  13. Article 13: Indebtedness
  14. Article 14: Boundaries
  15. Article 15: Miscellaneous
  16. Article 16: Amendments

Summary of provisions


  1. ^ John D. Barnhart and Dorothy L. Riker, ed. (1971). Indiana to 1816: The Colonial Period. The History of Indiana. Vol. I. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau and the Indiana Historical Society. p. 413.
  2. ^ a b James H. Madison (2014). Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press and the Indiana Historical Society Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-253-01308-8.
  3. ^ Barnhart and Riker, pp. 413–14.
  4. ^ "Beginning the Road to Statehood" in Pamela J. Bennett, ed. (September 1999). "Indiana Statehood". The Indiana Historian: 4.
  5. ^ a b Madison, p. 50.
  6. ^ "The Setting for the Convention," The Indiana Historian, p. 6.
  7. ^ Barnhart and Riker, pp. 441–42.
  8. ^ The thirteen counties that elected delegates to the constitutional convention of 1816 were Clark (five delegates), Dearborn (three delegates), Franklin (five delegates), Gibson (four delegates), Harrison (five delegates), Jefferson (three delegates), Knox (five delegates), Perry (one delegate), Posey (one delegate), Switzerland (one delegate), Warrick (one delegate), Washington (five delegates), and Wayne (four delegates). See Barnhart and Riker, pp. 442–43.
  9. ^ Orange and Jackson counties did not elect delegates to the convention. See Frederick P. Griffin (1974). The Story of Indiana's Constitution Elm, Corydon, Indiana, June 1816. Corydon, IN: General Print Company. p. 5. OCLC 3901490.
  10. ^ Barnhart and Riker, p. 439.
  11. ^ Madison, Hoosiers, p. 48.
  12. ^ Madison, pp. 49–50.
  13. ^ "Why Statehood?" The Indiana Historian, p. 3.
  14. ^ a b "The Convention Does Its Work" and "Members of Indiana's 1816 Constitutional Convention," The Indiana Historian, pp. 9, 14.
  15. ^ a b Barnhart and Riker, p. 448.
  16. ^ a b c "The Convention Does Its Work," The Indiana Historian, pp. 8–9.
  17. ^ The eight delegates who opposed the resolution were John Johnson and William Polke of Knox County; David Robb and Frederick Rapp of Gibson County; John Boone of Harrison County; and Nathaniel Hunt, David H. Maxwell, and Samuel Smock, who constituted the entire delegation from Jefferson County. See Barnhart and Riker, pp. 442–43, 448.
  18. ^ a b Barnhart and Riker, p. 443.
  19. ^ Barnhart and Riker, pp. 442–47, 451, 461.
  20. ^ Barnhart and Riker, pp. 443, 447.
  21. ^ Barnhart and Riker, p. 445.
  22. ^ a b William P. McLauchlan (1996). The Indiana State Constitution: A Reference Guide. Reference Guides to the State Constitutions of the United States. Vol. 26. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-313-29208-8.
  23. ^ Barnhart and Riker, p. 460.
  24. ^ a b McLauchlan, p. 4.
  25. ^ Madison, Hoosiers, p. 51.
  26. ^ It has been estimated that the original content the Indiana delegates drafted for the constitution accounts for less than ten percent of the total document. The majority was modeled after the constitutions of older states, especially those of Kentucky and Ohio. See McLachlan, p. 3.
  27. ^ Article IX was partially based on the New Hampshire constitution. See Barnhart and Riker, pp. 450–56.
  28. ^ a b c d e f "An Outline of the Content and Sources of the 1816 Constitution," The Indiana Historian, p. 13.
  29. ^ a b c Barnhart and Riker, pp. 450–52.
  30. ^ McLauchlan, pp. 3, 4.
  31. ^ Barnhart and Riker, p. 450.
  32. ^ a b McLauchlan, p. 3.
  33. ^ Barnhart and Riker, pp. 453–55.
  34. ^ Barnhart and Riker, p. 457.
  35. ^ "Constitution of 1816: Article VIII". Indiana Historical Bureau. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  36. ^ Barnhart and Riker, p. 458.
  37. ^ Constitution of 1851, Article I, Section 37: "No indenture of any Negro or Mulatto, made and executed out of the bounds of the State, shall be valid with the State." See Charles Kettleborough (1930). Constitution Making in Indiana: A Source Book of Constitutional Documents, with Historical Introduction and Critical Notes. Indiana Historical Collections. Vol. 1. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Commission. p. 304. OCLC 3654268.
  38. ^ a b Barnhart and Riker, p. 456.
  39. ^ a b Barnhart and Riker, pp. 457–61.
  40. ^ a b c "The Final Steps to Statehood," The Indiana Historian, pp. 10–11.
  41. ^ a b c Barnhart and Riker, pp. 461–62.
  42. ^ Linda C. Gugin; James E. St. Clair, eds. (2010). Justices of the Indiana Supreme Court. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. pp. 1–11. ISBN 9780871952882.
  43. ^ a b c "The Constitution of 1816, " The Indiana Historian, p. 12.
  44. ^ Dunn, v. 1, pp. 435–36.
  45. ^ Donald F. Carmony (1998). Indiana, 1816–1850: The Pioneer Era. The History of Indiana. Vol. I. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau and the Indiana Historical Society. pp. 403, 405–6.
  46. ^ Barnhart and Riker, p. 462–63.
  47. ^ Dunn, v. 1, pp. 436–39.
  48. ^ a b c d e f g h i Madison, Hoosiers, p. 133–34.
  49. ^ a b Carmony, p. 405.
  50. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, p. lxxxix.
  51. ^ Carmony, pp. 406–7.
  52. ^ a b c McLauchlan, pp. 9–10.
  53. ^ Of the 50 delegates elected from the senatorial districts, 33 were Democrats and 17 were Whigs. Of the 100 delegates chosen from the representative districts, 62 were Democrats and 38 were Whigs. See: Dunn, v. 1, p. 440.
  54. ^ Only Hamilton County voters elected the senatorial delegate for the senatorial district that included Hamilton, Boone, and Tipton Counties; voters in Daviess and Martin counties elected their delegates separately. See Kettleborough, vol. 1, p. lxxxviii.
  55. ^ Carmony, pp. 408–9.
  56. ^ a b Kettleborough, v. I, p. 221.
  57. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, p. lxxx.
  58. ^ Esarey, p. 455.
  59. ^ Dunn, v. 1, pp. 444-45, 447, and 465–74.
  60. ^ Dunn, v. 1, pp. 445–46 and 454.
  61. ^ Logan Esarey (1970). A History of Indiana from Its Exploration to 1850. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hoosier Heritage Press. p. 456.
  62. ^ Dunn, v. 1, pp. 442–43
  63. ^ Carmony, p. 449.
  64. ^ McLauchlan, p. 11.
  65. ^ Carmony, pp. 447 and 450.
  66. ^ Dunn, v. 1, pp. 471 and 496.
  67. ^ Dunn, v. 1, p. 497.
  68. ^ Esarey, p. 460.
  69. ^ Madison, Hoosiers, p. 137–38.
  70. ^ Madison, Hoosiers, pp. 134 and 137.
  71. ^ Carmony, pp. 451.
  72. ^ a b Carmony, pp. 410, 416–18, and 450.
  73. ^ a b Carmony, p. 439.
  74. ^ a b Carmony, p. 450.
  75. ^ Dunn, v., pp. 446–68.
  76. ^ Emma Lou Thornbrough (1995). Indiana in the Civil War Era 1850–1880. The History of Indiana. Vol. III. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. pp. 425–26. ISBN 0871950502.
  77. ^ Dunn, v. 1, p. 447.
  78. ^ Esarey, p. 457.
  79. ^ Dunn, v. 1, pp. 451-52.
  80. ^ Carmony, p. 451.
  81. ^ a b Dunn, v.1, pp. 474–76.
  82. ^ Thornbrough, Indiana in the Civil War, pp. 506–07.
  83. ^ Kettleborough, pp. 281 and 346–49.
  84. ^ Dunn, v. 1, p. 436.
  85. ^ Esarey, p. 458.
  86. ^ a b Madison, Hoosiers, p. 135.
  87. ^ The delegates adopted Article 13, section 1, by a vote of 91 to 40. See: Carmony, p. 442.
  88. ^ Madison, Hoosiers, pp. 137 and 144.
  89. ^ Carmony, pp. 442 and 447.
  90. ^ Emma Lou Thornbrough (1993). The Negro in Indiana Before 1900: A Study of a Minority. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 233 and 235. ISBN 0253359899.
  91. ^ a b Randall T. Shepard (Summer 2003). "For Human Rights: Slave Cases And The Indiana Supreme Court". Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. 15 (3): 40–41. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  92. ^ a b Thornbrough, Indiana in the Civil War, pp. 250 and 267-68.
  93. ^ a b c "Article 13" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. p. 65.
  94. ^ Dunn, v. 1, pp. 456–57.
  95. ^ Dunn, v. 1, pp. 463–64.
  96. ^ a b Thornbrough, Indiana in the Civil War Era, pp. 39–40.
  97. ^ Article 2, Section 2, initially limited suffrage to white male citizens of the United States who were at least 21 years of age and had resided in Indiana for at least six months preceding the election, as well as foreign-born white males at least 21 years of age who had resided in Indiana for at least six months prior to the election and had stated their intention to become U.S. citizens. See Kettleborough, v. 1, p. 304.
  98. ^ Thornbrough, Indiana in the Civil War Era, pp. 267–68.
  99. ^ "Indiana and the 19th Amendment (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved February 18, 2022.
  100. ^ a b "Article 2" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. p. 38.
  101. ^ "Introduction". 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Primary Documents in American History. Library of Congress. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  102. ^ James H. Madison (1982). Indiana Through Tradition and Change: A History of the Hoosier State and Its People 1920–1945. The History of Indiana. Vol. IV. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. p. 36.
  103. ^ Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change, p. 87.
  104. ^ "Article 10" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. p. 62.
  105. ^ Thornbrough, Indiana in the Civil War, note 34, p. 250.
  106. ^ "Article 12" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. pp. 64–65.
  107. ^ Patricia Reid-Merritt, ed. (2019). A state-by-state history of race and racism in the United States. Santa Barbara, California. ISBN 978-1-4408-5601-3. OCLC 1035805500.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  108. ^ "Article 4" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. p. 41.
  109. ^ a b Shephard, p. 36.
  110. ^ "Polly Strong Slavery Case". Indiana Historical Bureau. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  111. ^ "Mary Clark". Indiana Historical Bureau. Archived from the original on September 30, 2019. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  112. ^ Shephard, p. 39.
  113. ^ Shepard, p. 40.
  114. ^ "John Freeman". Indiana Historical Bureau. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  115. ^ Dunn, v. 1, p. 472.
  116. ^ "Current Indiana Constitution as amended 2018". Indiana General Assembly. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  117. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, p. 84.
  118. ^ a b Kettleborough, v. 1, p. 295.
  119. ^ "Article 1" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. pp. 1–5 and 33–37.
  120. ^ a b Kettleborough, v. 1, p. 304.
  121. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, pp. 310–23.
  122. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, pp. 323–34.
  123. ^ "Article 5" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. p. 45.
  124. ^ When the constitution of 1851 was initially approved by voters, the governor was not eligible to serve more than four years in an eight-year period. See Kettleborough, v. 1, p. 323.
  125. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, p. 325.
  126. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, pp. 334–38.
  127. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, pp. 339–46.
  128. ^ When the constitution of 1851 was initially approved by voters, the Supreme Court could have a minimum of three and not more five judges, each one eligible for a six-year term. See Kettleborough, v. 1, p. 339.
  129. ^ "Article 7" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. p. 57.
  130. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, pp. 346–49.
  131. ^ "Article 9" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. p. 60.
  132. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, p. 350.
  133. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, pp. 350–54.
  134. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, p. 352.
  135. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, pp. 350–58.
  136. ^ Kettleborough, v. 1, pp. 358–60.
  137. ^ "Article 12" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. p. 64.
  138. ^ The constitution adopted in 1851 restricted militia service to white males between the ages of 18 and 45 years, except those exempted under federal or Indiana law. See Kettleborough, v. 1, p. 358.
  139. ^ As of 2019, Article 13 has only one section. Sections and wording related were repealed and removed from the constitution in 1881. See Kettleborough, pp. 360–63.
  140. ^ Kettleborough, p. 363.
  141. ^ Kettleborough, pp. 365–67.
  142. ^ a b c "Article 15" in the Indiana Constitution in The Declaration of Independence; The United States Constitution; The Indiana Constitution. Indianapolis: Office of Indiana Attorney General. 2001. pp. 66–67.
  143. ^ Kettleborough, p. 367.
  144. ^ Kettleborough, pp. 367–68.


See also