History of Maine (5)

STATEHOOD. Following the Revolution, frontier settlers who resented being ruled from Boston pressed for separation from Massachusetts.

Coastal merchants, who held the balance of political power at the time, resisted the separation movement until the War of 1812 showed that Massachusetts was unable or unwilling to provide adequate protection for the people of the district against British raids.

With popular sentiment unified behind statehood, the separation movement went forward. Congress established Maine as the 23rd state under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This arrangement allowed Maine to join the Union as a free state, with Missouri entering a year later as a slave state, thereby preserving the numerical balance between free and slave states in the nation.

By this time the population of Maine had reached nearly 300,000. The new state had nine counties and 236 towns.

Delegates met for three weeks in October of 1819 in Portland to hammer out a state constitution, a document strongly rooted in political independence, religious freedom and popular control of government.

The president of the convention was William King, a prominent Bath merchant and shipbuilder who subsequently became Maine's first governor.

Portland was selected as the state capital, but this was only temporary. In 1832 the capital was moved to Augusta, a more centrally located site.