The Indiana Constitutional Convention of 1850-1851

The Indiana Constitutional Convention of 1850-1851

This volume contains a complete reprint of the 1931 master’s thesis of Dr. Donald F. Carmony, one of Indiana’s best known and most respected state historians. Carmony’s thesis explores and explains Indiana’s second constitutional convention, held in 1850-1851, with references to a significant number of primary source materials.

When Indiana ratified its second constitution in 1851 we had plenty of company, including neighboring Ohio and Kentucky, who were re-writing the constitutions crafted by the first generation of settlers. Hoosiers and other mid-nineteenth century Americans saw a need to change their constitutions to better reflect the growing democratization in American society and politics.

Indiana’s new constitution addressed issues such as the creation of more elected offices, revisions to the judiciary, reform of the criminal justice process, dispensing with private bills in the legislature, and changing the operating procedures for parts of state government.

While the passage of time has resolved certain high profile issues debated at the convention (like the state banking system, the rights of freemen, and the property rights of women), readers might be surprised at how many of the questions debated in 1851 are still a part of our political discussion. The passion with which delegates debated issues such as taxation, public education, and the role of state and local government will likely hold the interest of many Hoosiers.

Carmony’s important work has never been easily accessible to the average researcher, teacher, or student. The Court wishes to express its appreciation to Duane Carmony and Lowell Carmony, Carmony’s two sons, for making their father’s work available to the Court in connection with this publication. I had the good fortune to know Dr. Carmony, so making his work available is a matter of special satisfaction.

This edition is part of a series of publications sponsored by the Indiana Supreme Court through its “Courts in the Classroom” project. We hope this project will help educate Hoosiers about Indiana’s legal past by making more materials about the history of the courts and the law readily available to them. You can find information about this and other publications, as well as educational programs and special events, from the Court’s website (