Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Leslie E. Decker


The state of Maine has had but one constitution in its one hundred and forty-four year existence. The document itself, however, has been amended nearly one hundred times. Thirty of these amendments came before the close of the nineteenth century; most of the subsequent amendments were either suggested initially before the turn of the present century or owe their existence to an amendment approved prior to 1900. What is proposed in this study is an examination of the amendments with particular emphasis upon the conflicting reasons of proponents and opponents of specific measures. This study will attempt to evaluate the necessity and the efficacy of successful alterations of the constitution. It will also attempt to suggest certain trends in the power accorded the three branches of the state government and in the changing role and responsibilities of the electorate. In strictly numerical terms elections, election procedure, and the franchise far outrank any of the other classes of amendments. Some of these were proposed to meet immediate exigencies; others to clarify, simplify or democratize the system of elections and the franchise; a few to restrict the right to vote. The power balance in the state government forms the second major class of amendments. These alterations illustrate the changing positions among the three branches of the government and the electorate. Other noteworthy constitutional changes involved apportionment, debt limitation, taxation, special legislation, and prohibition. All of the amendments are not of equal importance and the space devoted to each is certainly not an infallible guide to their relative importance. Certain successful amendments were proposed many times; others infrequently; still others just a single time. The reasons for a detailed amendment may be simple and just the opposite. Appendices A through H offer a summary of legislative action on amendments throughout the nineteenth century. The above is tempered with the realization that any attempt at historical explanation must deal with failure as well as success and thus a discussion of unsuccessful proposals is an integral part of this study.