Special Collections: Maryland's Constitution of 1867

1867 Constitution 

The Constitution of 1867 is still the basis of government in Maryland today; though the current document has been amended over 100 times. On your next visit to the Library consider leafing through the 150 year old original document. 

The following excerpts provide some context for the 1867 Constitution:

"Maryland has had four constitutions since declaring her independence in 1776. They bear the dates of 1776, 1851, 1864, and 1867. Out of the four, three were written within an eighteen-year period.

The Constitution of 1776 provided for Maryland what came later to be recognized as a most undemocratic form of government. Its property qualifications for voting and for holding office were high enough to remove control from the masses of the people. With the rising spirit of democracy, as well as with social and economic changes, the plan of government was in serious conflict. Maryland adopted a constitution which secured the rights which were a primary objective of the Revolution and erected barriers against arbitrary government, but this constitution also protected the economic interests and political privileges of the aristocracy by excluding large numbers of the common people from participating in political processes and by denying authority to majorities.

[The Constitution of 1851] seems to have please no one. The conservatives were aggrieved by the many liberal principles which were accepted, while the reformers felt that the compromises which they had been forced to make weakened the implementation of those principles. But dissatisfaction may have been inevitable. The age was one of great social unrest, and was a difficult period in which to debate political theory and design the structures of government."

Judge Dan Friedman summarizes the current constitution thusly:

"Today's Maryland Constitution retains many of the hallmarks of its history - the Declaration of Rights bears a strong resemblance to that of 1776, the structure and organization remains much as it was in 1851, and much of the substance was written in 1867. At the same time, the Maryland Constitution is a living document, frequently modified by its authors, the people of Maryland, and continually subject to interpretation by its expositors, the courts."


State of Maryland. (1967). Report of the Constitutional Convention Commission. Annapolis, Maryland. 

Friedman, D., & Karwacki, R. L. (2011). In The Maryland State Constitution (p. 17), Oxford University Press.