MassMoments reminds us that today’s state of Maine began as a separate colony in the 1620s but from the 1650s until 1820, it was part of Massachusetts. The selling of public land in Maine for debt relief in the 1790s saw the landscape and demographics change. As thousands of families from Massachusetts flocked to northern and interior Maine, the center of life was no longer focused just on the southern coastal tip – and like Massachusetts on shipping and trade. Discontent fanned talks of separatiom and independence. Finally, in the summer of 1819, the people of Maine voted so overwhelmingly for statehood that Massachusetts could no longer ignore the issue. However, the question was not just in the hands of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts – the agreement for statehood required approval of the President and the U. S. Congress. The issue of slavery reared its ugly head.
…in 1820, Massachusetts lost over 30,000 square miles of land as its former province of Maine gained statehood. Mainers had begun campaigning for statehood in the years following the Revolution. The Massachusetts legislature finally consented in 1819. What no one in either Massachusetts or Maine foresaw, however, was that Maine’s quest for statehood would become entangled in the most divisive issue in American history — slavery. Most Mainers supported abolition. They were dismayed that their admission to the Union was linked to the admission of Missouri as a slave state. This controversial “Missouri Compromise” preserved — for a few more decades — the delicate balance between pro- and anti-slavery forces in the U.S. Congress.
Read the full article here at Massmoments.org.