Maryland Constitutions


In 1776, the former British colonies set up to write their first State Constitutions. Each of these documents differs in the degree of democracy it brought to the State’s citizens. While Pennsylvania’s Constitution is considered the most democratic of all, with its elections through secret ballot, no property requirements for voters as well as candidates for offices, Maryland Constitution belongs among the most conservative ones. While the Declaration of Bill of Rights gave the people of the State capability to participate in the policies through petitioning to a government and voting, these privileges were accompanied by age, gender, race, and property restrictions, keeping the new democracy in check and in the hands of the gentry.

However, as time progressed and democracy in the new United States evolved, the Maryland Constitution had changed, reflecting the changes in society and political views. So, for example the Constitution of 1850, while it still allowed only white men to vote, the property requirement was abandoned. The voting requirements remained the same in the Constitution of 1864, however southern sympathizers, unless they voluntarily served in the US Army. The comparison of the Maryland Constitutions offers a comprehensible mirror of the times these documents were created as well as a picture of the evolution of government and democracy in the United States.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades K-4:

Topic 3: History of the United States: Democratic Principles and Values and the People from Many Cultures Who Contributed to Its Cultural, Economic, and Political Heritage 

Standard 4D: The student understands events that celebrate and exemplify fundamental values and principles of American democracy.>

3-4: Describe the history of events, such as the signing of the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration of Independence, and the writing of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation. [Demonstrate and explain the influence of ideas and beliefs] 

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION:  Declaration of Rights and the Constitution of 1776
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: printed by Frederick Green, Annapolis 1776
    NOTE:  voting and office holding eligibility: pages 203 - 204, 206, 209 - 210
    SOURCE: Maryland Archives Online, Constitutional Records, MSA SC M3145
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  2. DESCRIPTION: The Constitution of 1850
     voting eligibility: page 5
    Maryland Archives Online, Constitutional Records, volume 101, volume 1, debates 5
    Maryland State Archives

  3. DESCRIPTION: Constitution of 1864
     voting restrictions: page 727
    Maryland Archives Online, Constitutional Records, volume 102
    Maryland State Archives

  4. DESCRIPTION: The Constitution of 1867
    Maryland Archives Online, Constitutional Records, volume 74, volume 1, debates 537
    Maryland State Archives

  5. DESCRIPTION: Current Constitution of Maryland
    published by the State Archives 1968
    Maryland Archives Online, Constitutional Records
    Maryland State Archives

  6. DESCRIPTION: Comparison of all Constitutions
    Pages 634 and 635 compare the qualification of voters as it varied in the Constitutions from 1776 to the present.
    Maryland Archives Online, volume 138; Constitutional Convention Commission. Constitutional Revision Study Documents of the Constitutional Convention Commission of Maryland. (Baltimore: King Brothers, Inc.,1968).  
    Maryland State Archives

Additional Media Resources

But for the Sake of a Comma   

Additional Instructional Resources

Democratic Ideas of the 1776 Maryland Constitution From UMBC Center for History Education, Teaching American History Lesson Plans.

Freedom for All? The Contradictions of Slavery and Freedom in the Maryland Constitution From UMBC Center for History Education, Teaching American History Lesson Plans.

The Founding Fathers and the Constitutional Struggle Over Centralized Power From UMBC Center for History Education, Teaching American History Lesson Plans.

Runaway Slaves: From the Revolution to the New Republic. From UMBC Center for History Education, Teaching American History Lesson Plans.

NARA Teaching With Documents: Observing Constitution Day

Writing It All Down - Maryland Constitution

Secondary Resources

The Bill of Rights: our foundation of liberty: document anthology & sample lessonplans. Ed. Ridgway, Whitman; prepared by the Citizenship Law-related Education Program for the Schools of Maryland of the Maryland State Bar Association and the Maryland State Department of Education. (s.l.: s.n., 1990). Location: Towson University (342. R5B5 gr.9-12).

Rollo, Vera A. Foster. Maryland's Government (Lanham, Md.: Maryland Historical Press, 1985).

Tolley, Michael Carlton. State Constitutionalism in Maryland (New York: Garland Pub., 1992).

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

The Maryland State House
State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401

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Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Lucie Kyrova.


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