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The Makings
The Indiana Constitution

 Current Constitution     Preamble     Articles     General provisions

Constitution of 1816 

Constitutional Convention     Clauses     Criticisms     Delegates

Constitution of 1851

Constitutional Convention     Adoption     Clauses     Criticisms

The Indiana Constitution is the state constitution of Indiana; it is the state's fundamental governing document and includes sixteen articles.

There have been several versions of the Constitution of Indiana. The first was created in when the Territory of Indiana sent forty-three delegates to a constitutional convention on June 10, 1816 to establish a constitution for the proposed State of Indiana after the United States Congress had agreed to grant statehood, and the constitution was approved 33-8. In preparing Indiana's fundamental law they borrowed heavily from existing state constitutions, especially those of Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. The original constitution was adopted without being submitted to the people. The current constitution is the Constitution of 1851, with numerous amendments.


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

The preamble to the original 1816 constitution was: 

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.

View the Original 1816 constitution here

The preamble to the current constitution is: 

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.

View the 1851 Constitution Of The State of Indiana and it's Amendments


The Constitution consists of a preamble and 16 articles. They are as follows:

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

General provisions

  • The entire article 3 is the shortest provision of the entire constitution, having one section consisting of one sentence: Section 1. The powers of the Government are divided into three separate departments; the Legislative, the Executive including the Administrative, and the Judicial: and no person, charged with official duties under one of these departments, shall exercise any of the functions of another, except as in this Constitution expressly provided.

  • Article 5, Section 1, provides that the governor may not serve more than 8 years in any twelve-year period.

  • Article 5, Section 8, prohibits anyone holding federal office from being governor.

  • Article 7, Section 2, declares the state Supreme Court to have one Chief Justice and not less than four nor more than eight associate justices.

  • Article 7, Section 15, provides that the four-year term limit for elective office set forth in article 15, section 2 does not apply to judges and justices.

  • Article 9 provides for the state to create and fund "education of the deaf, the mute, and the blind; and for the treatment of the insane" and "institutions for the correction and reformation of juvenile offenders" but provides that counties may "provide farms, as an asylum for those persons who, by reason of age, infirmity, or other misfortune, have claims upon the sympathies and aid of society."

  • Article 12, Section 1, declares the militia to be "all persons over the age of seventeen (17) years, except those persons who may be exempted by the laws of the United States or of this state".

  • Article 13 currently only has one section, (sections 2 through 4 having been repealed) limiting indebtedness of municipal corporations to two percent of the property tax base except in the event of a war or certain other defined emergencies, if requested by petition of certain property owners in the area.

  • Article 15, Section 2, provides for creation by law of offices not defined by the constitution, and where someone is appointed, may be for a term "at the pleasure of the appointing authority" but elected offices may not have a term longer than four years.

  • Article 15, Section 7, prohibits making any county less than 400 square miles or reducing the size of any existing county which is smaller than this.

Amending the constitution

The amendment procedures available under the Indiana Constitution are more restrictive than in those of nearly any other state. Only one system is allowed (the legislatively-referred constitutional amendment), and this procedure in Indiana is itself more restrictive than in most states, since any proposed amendment must be approved by two successive sessions of the Indiana General Assembly before it can go to a vote of the people. Article 16 also does not say anything about how a constitutional convention could be held or called; whereas, the constitutions of more than 40 other states do lay out in their constitutions how that process would work in their state.

Details of how the legislatively-referred constitutional amendment process works in Indiana, as defined in Article 16, are:

  • An amendment can be proposed in either chamber of the Indiana General Assembly.

  • An amendment must be agreed to by a simple majority of the members elected to each of the two chambers.

  • If that happens, the same amendment can be proposed in the next session of the legislature that convenes after a general election has taken place.

  • If the amendment is approved by a simple majority vote of both chambers of the general assembly in that second legislative session, the amendment is then to be submitted to a statewide vote of the people at a general election.

  • If a majority of those voting on the question approve it, the proposed amendment then becomes part of the Indiana Constitution.

Constitution of 1816

On May 6, 1816, the United States Congress passed an enabling act granting Indiana permission to form a government and join the Union as a state. Slavery in Indiana was a major issues in the territory in those days and the abolitionists had been preparing for statehood with the hopes on instituting a constitutional ban on slavery.

View the Original 1816 constitution here

Constitutional Convention

A delegation of 43 men representing the population of Indiana's counties met at a convention in Corydon, the territorial capitol, to write a constitution for the state. The delegation included Jonathan Jennings, who presided over the convention, William Hendricks, who served as secretary, Dennis Pennington, Davis Floyd, Ratliff Boon, and Noah Noble among others. Throughout June 1816 the delegates worked on the constitution. The summer heat often cause the delegation to move outdoors and work beneath the shade of a giant elm tree which would later be called the Constitution Elm and made a memorial, the trunk is still preserved.

The delegated had copies of the constitutions of Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania that they used as a template. The final product was very similar to constitution of Kentucky, except for the inclusion of a clause banning slavery, a victory for the abolitionists.


The constitution set the term of the governor to three years, the term of senators at two years, and the term for representatives at one year, requiring elections to be held annually. The term of Supreme Court Justices were set at six years and provided for them to appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate.

The constitution also required the state to fund a public school system, making Indiana the first state in the Union to have state public funded schools.

The constitution also included a clause that required the state to hold a referendum on the constitution every 12 years. If a majority of voters of the state voted against the constitution then a new convention would be held and a new constitution could be adopted. This clause led to the constitution being replaced in 1851.

The clause banning slavery also included a statement that even by amendment, slavery could never be legalized in the state, and the clause enforcing this could not be repealed. This section of the constitution that was copied verbatim into the new constitution.


As early as 1820 propositions were made to replace the constitution. Opponents criticized it because it made most government positions filled by appointment. As political parties developed in the state they took advantage of the flaw to establish themselves in power, once entrenched the majority was difficult to dislodge from power. This became increasingly obvious as time passed and Whig party broke up.

Others who sought to improve public education were unhappy with the current constitution by giving too much authority to the state. With the state's troubled finances over the last decade, school became a low priority on the state's budget. They sought to give the local level more power over the schools while leaving the state in charge of funding which would be required.

Another cause that led to the new constitution was the rapid immigration into the state in the 1840s. The Irish Famine and the European revolutions had led to a large influx of Irish and German immigrants. The 1816 constitution allowed only for US citizens, who had been citizens for five years, to vote or run for office. At that time, citizenship took several years, so Indiana had hundreds of thousands of residents who could not vote because the federal government was slow in granting citizenship which, in the end, added to the five additional years the state imposed.


County of Clark - Thomas Carr, Sr.
County of Clark - John K. Graham
County of Clark - James Lemen
County of Clark - Jonathan Jennings
County of Clark - James Scott

County of Dearborn - James Dill
County of Dearborn - Exra Ferris
County of Dearborn - Solomon Manwaring

County of Franklin - James Brownlee
County of Franklin - William E. Eads
County of Franklin - Robert Hanna
County of Franklin - Enoch McCarty
County of Franklin - James Noble

County of Harrison - Davis Floyd
County of Harrison - Daniel C. Lane
County of Harrison - Jeremiah Cox
County of Harrison - Dennis Pennington
County of Harrison - Patrick Shields

County of Gibson - Alexander Devin
County of Gibson - Fredrick Rapp
County of Gibson - David Robb
County of Gibson - James Smith

County of Jefferons - Natheniel Hunt
County of Jefferson - David H. Maxwell
County of Jefferson - Samuel Smock
County of Jefferson - William Hendricks

County of Knox - John Benefiel
County of Knox - John Johnson
County of Knox - William Polk
County of Knox - Benjamin Parke
County of Knox - John Badollet

County of Perry - Charles Pole

County of Posey - Dann Lynn

County of Switzerland - William Cotton

County of Warrick - Daniel Grass

County of Washington - John Depauw
County of Washington - William Graham
County of Washington - William Lowe
County of Washington - Samuel Milroy
County of Washington - Robert McIntrye

County of Wayne - Patrick Beard
County of Wayne - Jeremiah Cox
County of Wayne - Hugh Cull
County of Wayne - Joseph Holman

Constitution of 1851

In response to the growing criticism a constitutional referendum was held in 1850. Two years early. The vote came out 81,500 for and 57,418 against reforming the constitution. That year the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation to provide for the election of 150 delegates, with representation from each county, to be elected to attend a convention to write a new state constitution.

Constitutional Convention

The 150 delegates were elected in the 1850 election and the convention was convened in Hall of Representatives at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, starting October 7, 1850. The delegation was split with 95 Democrats and 55 Whigs. George Whitfield Carr, who was the Speaker of the House in the last session of the General Assembly, presided over the convention. Other members included Thomas Hendricks, David Wallace, and Alvin P. Hovey. Chief Justice Isaac Blackford swore the members in, Secretary of State Charles Test was charged with keeping the record.

The first week was spent organizing the convention, employing a stenographer, and because the State Printer was a delegate a new printer had to be employed. The Hall of Representatives was too small and the roof leaked, so the convention choose to rent the nearby Masonic Lodge to hold the meeting at a rate of $12 per day. The convention finally relocated to the lodge and the first session was convened there on December 26, 1850. The first two days were spent debating the cost of the lodge which many considered extravagant.

About half of the convention was spent not in debate on the constitution, but rather on politics of the day and other personal matters. Once it focused on the constitution the primary goal was to find ways to reduce the cost of government and increase its efficiency. The session lasted 127 days, ending February 10, 1851. It cost the state $88,280.39.


The new constitution was written in several different sections. When the constitution was submitted to the public to vote for, they could vote on each section, meaning that all, part, or none of the constitution could be approved. Some sections that were approved in the convention were voted down by the public, including a clause allowing universal suffrage regardless of race or sex.

The constitution was submitted to the general public in the election of 1851 and immediately went into effect and has since remained the highest law in Indiana. The present elected government was permitted to retain their seats, but had to swear an oath to uphold the new constitution until a new government could be elected.


Because no divorce clause was included in the original constitution the legislature had had to grant divorces on a case by case basis. This, and other issues were delegated to the courts and clerks. With the anticipated reduction in workload the General Assembly was changed to meet biennially rather than annually. Terms were extended for all elected offices, representatives to two years, senators to four, and governors to four years.

To remedy the state's suffrage problem, voter rights were granted to any naturalized or native white male citizen who had reached the age of 21. This gave the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of voters who previously had been ineligible to vote. Women's rights were also greatly expanded in the new constitution. Married women were granted the right to own private property, and also granted the right to jointly own property with her husband.

The most controversial clause in the new constitution was the ban placed on allowing blacks to immigrate to Indiana. The proponents of the ban pushed it as a punishment to the southern states for their treatment of blacks. It was claimed that because the southern states had put blacks into their present condition, that they should be responsible for their welfare.

The Courts were reorganized and the supreme court was made an elective body. Their terms were extended to seven years. To prevent the legislature from interfering in local affairs, as and become common, the General Assembly was banned from creating legislation that would not be applied to the entire state.

Another clause dealt with the Bank of Indiana. It barred the bank's charter from being extended and put a ban on the creation of another similar bank. One of the most important changes was the abandonment of the short ballot. More public positions were made electable like the Secretary of State, and Attorney General. These changes were pushed through by the Whig minority in a hope to break the Democratic hold on power.

Education was the focus of several sections of the constitution. The clauses dealt primarily with forcing the state government to adequately fund local schools while providing boards of local residents to manage the funds and the schools. It also created a state superintendent and gave state some authority in setting curriculum. The constitution also officially adopted Indiana University as the state's seminary, guaranteeing it state funding.


The early criticism of the constitution was its lax voter regulations. From the time of its adoptions until 1917, Indiana was frequently the victim of voter fraud. A 1917 amendment put voter registration rules in place and also granted suffrage to women.

The clauses banning black immigration immediately came under criticism and was ruled unconstitutional in the Supreme Court case of Smith v. Moody in 1861. The whole of article thirteen, which contained several other restrictions on blacks, was repealed by and amended in 1881. The final barrier, banning blacks from joining the militia, was removed in 1963, the same year the Indiana Civil Rights Act was passed into law.

Another problem was the organization of the courts. The supreme court became overloaded with cases and a 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 and submitted to the governor who then choose one. The Justice could then serve two years before being subjected to a retention election, if he was retained he could continue his term for up to ten years.

During the 1970s it became apparent that the General Assembly was not able to complete all their work in the time allotted by the constitution. And amendment was passed that allowed the General Assembly to meet annually. The long session, which occurred the year after the election was left the same allowing the body to continue meeting for 61 days, but on the following year the assembly was authorized to meet again for a thirty day period.



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This website is an unofficial source of news and information.

This website is the composition of many hours of research. Information contained within this site has come from numerous sources such as websites, newspapers, books, and magazines.

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