When Indiana joined the Union in 1816, it was the second state to be carved out of the area designated by Congress as the Northwest Territory. While the land itself was still largely a wilderness, the framers of Indiana’s 1816 constitution did not have to begin their work from scratch.
When Indiana began to write its first constitution, it looked to those of earlier established states for guidance. While this was not unusual, it is striking how overwhelmingly and almost exclusively Indiana drew on the constitutions of its neighbors Ohio and Kentucky—the states with which it had the most in common. The 1816 constitution, crafted in Corydon by Indiana’s early setters, served Indiana well from 1816-1851.
At mid-century, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio all called new constitutional conventions. While Indiana’s constitution of 1851 featured significant changes on issues such as restricting public debt, electing more public officials, funding common school education, and the organization of the judicial branch, the 1816 constitution remains an important part of Indiana’s legal history.
The Indiana Supreme Court is re-printing this document, in its original form, as a part of its Legal History Series with the hope of increasing Hoosiers’ knowledge and interest in their past. If you would like additional copies, they are available at no charge.
Randall T. Shepard, Chief Justice of Indiana