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Constitution Making in Indiana

Published on 16 August 2019 under Books

In 1851 Indiana held a constitutional convention and the delegates wrote a totally new constitution to replace the one adopted in 1816 when Indiana became a state. This drastic step was made necessary because the earlier document prohibited piecemeal revision.

The new document, ratified by voters in 1852, did allow for future amendment. However, only a few changes were made over the next hundred years and by the 1960s, dissatisfaction had begun to build with the 1852 document and some people called for another constitutional convention to bring it into the 20th century. Such dissatisfaction was not unique to Indiana, with several other states with constitutions of the same vintage also considering constitutional conventions.

In Indiana, many called for a coordinated, piecemeal amendment process in lieu of a convention. Ultimately, the piecemeal approach won out and a constitutional revision commission was created in 1969. This began a process that led to voter ratification of a number of changes to our 1852 constitution, including annual legislative sessions, the governor and lieutenant governor running as a team, and a change in the way the governor deals with vetoes. Separately, a judicial study commission recommended a complete revision of the judicial article, moving from elected to appointed appellate judges.

This initial history of the Indiana Constitution, from 1852 until 1960, was recorded in four volumes of Constitution Making in Indiana. Charles Kettleborough edited the first three volumes (volume 1: 1780-1851, volume 2: 1851-1916, volume 3: 1916-1930) and John Bremer edited the fourth (volume 4: 1930-1960). Thankfully, two new volumes will soon release bringing this important history up to date.

Missing History

Until now the “second revolution,” the multiple revisions to the 1852 constitution made in the late 1960s and early 1970s, has received little attention. But the publication this month of Constitution Making in Indiana, Volume 5, 1961-1970, to be followed later this year by Volume 6, 1971-1980, will help address this. The two volumes contain every amendment to the Indiana Constitution proposed during the two decades covered, along with every relevant bill, attorney general opinion, and court opinion. Moreover, the volumes collect the various reports of the judicial study commission, the constitutional revision commission, excerpts from the statute revision commission’s reports and minutes, and quotes from relevant law journal articles. Also included is the ballot language describing the measures for each general election, and the Secretary of State’s election totals on each ballot question.

How to Order

These two new volumes have been compiled and edited by attorney Marcia J. Oddi and published by the Indiana Legislative Council. A third volume, covering the period 1981-2000, is underway.

A limited number of copies of the 530-page Volume 5 are being published and will be available at the end of August. Orders may be submitted to: Legislative Information Center, Indiana State Capitol Building, 200 West Washington Street, Room 232, Indianapolis, IN 46204 (317-234-9302). Include a check for $50.00, plus $8.10 for mailing, unless picked up in person.