Sept. 2, 1816: In a second referendum on Maine’s proposed separation from Massachusetts to become a new state, the pro-separation side wins again, with 54 percent of the vote.

While the margin of victory is smaller than the 62 percent win on May 20, the rate of voter participation is much greater, giving the result more credibility.

The referendum fails, however, because a five-ninths majority is required for passage. That creates a firestorm of controversy and leads to a series of unsuccessful efforts to alter the outcome by redefining how the votes should be tallied.

Historian Ronald Banks, in his book chronicling the plodding progress of the separation movement over 35 years, quotes the pro-separation Portland Gazette’s reaction: “It is greatly to be feared that we shall be under the necessity of continuing our old vassalage to Massachusetts.”

Maine’s quest for statehood finally bears fruit in 1820.


Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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