- This article was last edited in 2012. Some of its information may be outdated.
|Nickname||The Pine Tree State|
|Governor||Paul LePage, R|
|Senator||Angus King, I |
|Senator||Susan Collins, R |
|Ratification of Constitution/or statehood||March 15, 1820 (23rd)|
|Motto: "Dirigo" (I lead)|
Maine was the twenty-third state to enter into the union. Its capital is Augusta. It is one of the liberal bastions in the Northeast, along with much of New England, and is generally has a high concentration of gay activist legislators. This is somewhat out of balance with the general trend of U.S. voters, a majority of whom consistently vote Republican and identify as conservative.
The rocks of Maine are one of the oldest parts of the US, dating from the Devonian period. The last glaciers of the ice age shaped the coastline into the many peninsulas we see today and formed Maine's 2,000 islands.
- 1 The earliest Mainers
- 2 Vikings in Maine
- 3 Colonization
- 4 Disputes over ownership
- 5 Maine during the Revolutionary War
- 6 Becoming a State
- 7 Maine and the Abolitionist movement
- 8 Maine and Prohibition
- 9 Maine and the Civil War
- 10 Maine Politics
- 11 Elected Officials
- 12 Notable people from Maine
- 13 References
The earliest Mainers
Descendants of Ice Age hunters, the earliest Mainers were nicknamed Red Paint People, because they lined the graves of their dead with red clay. These graves are thought to date back five thousand years. There are also large heaps of oyster shells on the coast that are thought to date back to the Red Paint People.
The two earliest Native American tribes of Maine were the Micmacs in eastern Maine and the Abanakis, who are also sometimes called Wabanakis. The former were warlike, but the latter were mainly peaceful farmers and fishers. The only remaining Native Americans today, of the many tribes who once inhabited Maine, are 1500 Passamaquoddies, who live on two reservations, and 1200 Penobscots, who live on Indian Island in the Penobscot River.
Vikings in Maine
Five hundred years earlier than Columbus, the Viking raider Leif Ericson with a crew of 30 sailors are thought to have explored the Maine coast and possibly tried to establish a settlement here. The only piece of real evidence for this is the finding of an 11th-century Norse coin in Brooklin, Maine along with other artifacts when a former Native American trading center was excavated. This is not conclusive though, as the coin may have been used in trade from Newfoundland or may have been brought very much later by the English or Portuguese.
In 1498 John Cabot, who was employed by King Henry VII of England, may have explored the Maine coast, although there is no concrete evidence of his visit. A hundred years later, some European ships came ashore to repair the ships and gather fresh supplies.
The Plymouth Company established the first settlement at Popham in 1607, the same year that the Jamestown, VA, settlement was established. However, the severe Maine winter defeated the Popham colony so Jamestown is considered the first permanent settlement in America. The rigors of climate, difficulties of agriculture and attacks by Indians also wiped out many later English settlements that were established in the 1620s.
By 1700 there were only six surviving settlements. Massachusetts had acquired most of the land claims in Maine by that time, and this arrangement continued until Maine acquired its own statehood in 1820.
Disputes over ownership
England and France disputed the ownership of Maine during the early eighteenth century. The French actively supported Indian raids on white settlements, thinking this would drive English settlers out.
William Pepperell of Kittery led Maine forces in the capture of the French fort at Louisburg, NS, in 1745. In 1763 the French surrendered all claims to the territory in the 1763 Treaty of Paris.
Massachusetts offered free 100-acre lots to prospective settlers once the Indian threat subsided and the French had withdrawn, and the population of Maine doubled to 24,000 by 1763, and to over 150,000 by 1800.
Maine during the Revolutionary War
Mainers resisted the oppressive British taxes ten years before the Revolutionary War, seizing tax stamps at what was then called Falmouth but is now Portland. Customs agents were frequently attacked. A version of the Boston Tea Party happened in York, Maine in 1774 when a tea shipment was burned in York.
Hundreds of Mainers joined the struggle for independence. About 1,000 men died, sea trade was almost destroyed, and the British bombarded Falmouth (Portland). Maine's share of the Revolutionary War debt was higher than that later incurred by Maine's debt from the Civil War.
In 1775 the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War occurred off the coast of Machias and Benedict Arnold marched a band of revolutionaries through Maine in a valiant but doomed attempt at capturing Québec City and Montreal.
Becoming a State
After the Revolutionary War, settlers on what was then a frontier area resented being ruled from 'away' in Boston and campaigned for separation from Massachusetts.
Maine eventually became the 23rd State under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Maine's position as a free state balanced Missouri's entry as a slave state the following year. The state constitution was rooted in political independence, religious freedom and popular control of government.
William King, who served as president of the Constitutional Convention, was a shipbuilder and merchant from Bath. He subsequently became Maine's first governor.
Maine and the Abolitionist movement
However, the famous abolitionist speaker and writer William Lloyd Garrison made a speaking tour of Maine in 1832 arousing discussion and dispute. By 1834 there were branches of the American Antislavery Society in Maine and state and local organizations were taking part in antislavery activities and the dissemination of information.
Some Mainers, especially those who depended on southern trade, felt that the issue was best left alone, as a dispute might endanger the union, and felt that the South would abolish slavery in its own time if the North left it alone.
In 1836 the mayor of Portland refused permission for the Antislavery Society to meet in City Hall, but the meeting was held at the Quaker meetinghouse instead, despite being the target anti-abolition mobs. Similar disputes broke out in other towns, but public opinion began to be swayed by the information put out by antislavery societies.
In the spring of 1837, Maine and Georgia nearly came to blows over abolitionism after a group of Maine seamen took a runaway slave named Atticus home with them. Atticus was eventually betrayed back to his owner, but many Mainers played a subsequent part as stops on the Underground Railway that saw many slaves safely away from captivity.
Hannibal Hamlin was a Democratic Senator. However, he left the party in 1854 over the slavery issue and was a leading force in the formation of the Republican Party in Maine. He served as the state's first Republican governor and became the nation's first Republican vice president after the election of Abraham Lincoln.
Maine and Prohibition
The world's first Total Abstinence Society was founded in Portland in 1815 and other temperance societies over the next two decades. Eventually, a state law prohibiting the sale of alcohol except for "medicinal and mechanical purposes" was passed. By 1851 a law banning the manufacture and sale of liquor was passed in 1851 and not repealed until 1934, along with the repeal of Prohibition in the rest of the United States.
Maine and the Civil War
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin" at Brunswick, where her husband was a professor at Bowdoin College. The popular book aroused anti-slavery feelings throughout the northern states in the 1850s.
Around 73,000 Mainers served with the Union army, and about one in ten died during the Civil War.
Two great generals, Oliver Otis Howard and Joshua L Chamberlain. Howard distinguished himself at Gettysburg and Bull Run, and Chamberlain is remembered for his heroism at Little Round Top and for commanding the Union troops to whom Lee surrendered at Appomattox. After the war, Chamberlain became governor of Maine.
Howard was one of the main founders of Howard University and was its first president. Chamberlain later became president of Bowdoin College.
Maine politics was dominated by the Republican Party from 1854 until the Democrat Edmund S. Muskie became governor in 1954. He and others broadened the Democratic base.
Muskie became one of Maine's Senators in 1958. He was prominent in the environmental movement and also considered expert in urban legislation and budget control. He was Hubert Humphrey's Vice Presidential nominee in 1968, and in 1972 was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. President Jimmy Carter appointed Senator Muskie Secretary of State in 1979.
Senator George Mitchell of Waterville succeeded Senator Muskie, and became Senate majority leader from 1988 until he retired in 1994. After his retirement, he was much respected for his attempts to work with both sides of the dispute to bring peace to Northern Ireland.
Margaret Chase Smith of Skowhegan was the first American woman elected to both houses of Congress. She was in the House of Representatives for nearly ten years, and then a Senator. She was a liberal Republican, and was notably honest, independent and courageous.
Maine is a hotbed of independent voters, who outnumber both enrolled Democrats and Republicans and determine the outcome of most elections today. Two political independents have been governors of Maine: James B Longley of Lewiston in 1974, and Angus S King of Brunswick in 1994.
- Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R)
- Sen. Susan Collins (R)
- Rep. Chellie Pingree [D, ME-01]
- Rep. Mike Michaud [D, ME-02]
- Governor Paul LePage (R)
- Attorney General Janet Mills (D)
- Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D)
- State Auditor Neria Douglass (D)
- State Treasurer David Lemoine (D)
Notable people from Maine
Joshua Chamberlain, a Union officer during the Civil War who quite possibly saved the Union in the Battle of Gettysburg with his "swinging gate maneuver", was born in Brewer and served as Maine's governor.
James G. Blaine dominated state and national Republican politics from the mid-1860s to the end of the century. He was speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Maine's senator, and served three Republican presidents as secretary of state. He was the presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 1884, but lost by a narrow margin to Grover Cleveland.
Thomas B. Reed was Speaker of the House for three terms. He campaigned for reforms in House rules and wrote Reed's Rules of Order, which are still used in the Maine Legislature.
Margaret Chase Smith of Skowhegan was the first American woman elected to both houses of Congress.
George Mitchell, a well-respected former senator. Instrumental in the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.
Stephen King, a wildly popular horror novelist, is a lifelong resident of Maine and sets many of his novels in the state.
E.B. White, a writer best known for his children's books Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web, lived in North Brooklin.