Friday marks the 200th anniversary of the vote to separate the District of Maine from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Statehood didn’t come until nearly seven months later on March 15, 1820. At a time when the nation was embroiled in controversy over slavery, Maine’s admission to the union was a feat of political compromise so great that it helped earn one of the deal’s proponents, Kentucky Congressman Henry Clay, the nickname “The Great Pacificator.”
Half the country’s 22 states were slave states and half were free. Adding another state would upset the balance of power in Congress. The solution was the Missouri Compromise. Missouri, which had petitioned for statehood in 1818, would enter the union as a slave state and Maine would enter as a free state. The deal also prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Territory north of the 36 30′ latitude line. Maine became the 23rd state in the union in 1820, and Missouri followed in 1821.
To commemorate 200 years of history, Maine’s bicentennial celebration officially kicks off Wednesday, July 30. Governor Janet Mills will join the Maine Bicentennial Commission and other state and local government representatives for launch festivities in Presque Isle, Bangor, Portland and Augusta. They will raise the bicentennial flag, dedicate commemorative pine groves and announce further programs and events for the celebration that will continue through 2020. We look forward to learning how the state, its communities, organizations and businesses will honor this milestone.
Maine has much to celebrate, from its breathtaking natural beauty to its warm-hearted people. The economy is performing well and unemployment rates are low — a challenge for employers looking to hire, but good news for job seekers. Tourism, meanwhile, is booming judging by the masses that flocked to this area to ring in the Fourth of July. Crime is low compared to other parts of the country and neighbors tend to look out for neighbors. Perhaps most telling about the quality of life here is the number of people who settle here for retirement.
Even if these were harder times, it would be important to take this opportunity to reflect on our state’s past. It’s a time to party and to ponder. Moreover, it’s a time to come together as Mainers. All 1.34 million of us have this place in common and we share common goals: to preserve our independent spirit, safeguard our families and live well.
So happy birthday, Maine. We’re proud to call you home.