15 March 1820: Maine Became the 23rd US State

The State of Maine

The State of Maine

Prior to the American War of Independence the territory that comprises the present day state of Maine, USA, formed part of the county of Sunbury in the Province of Nova Scotia. Following the Peace of Paris at end of the war in 1783, Maine was confirmed as being part of the state of Massachusetts.

This settlement did not suit everybody, however, especially the frontier settlers. But the merchants in the coastal towns held enough influence to resist the calls for separation. This balance continued until the start of the Anglo-American war in 1812 when Massachusetts was unable to protect Maine from British raids.

After the war the population of Maine grew rapidly, reaching 300,000 by the end of the decade, and calls for separation from Massachusetts increased. When Alabama joined the Union as the 22nd US State in 1819 the balance between free states and slave states became equal.

With Missouri, another slave state, waiting to join the Union an opportunity arose for Maine. Under the Missouri Compromise of 1820 Maine was accepted into the Union as a separate free state to balance the slave state of Missouri. Maine formally became the 23rd US state on 15 March 1820. Missouri joined the following year.

The boundaries of the new state were not finalised until 1842. Under the Peace of Paris part of the northeastern border with New Brunswick had been described as running north from the source of the St Croix river to highlands running northwest to the head of the Connecticut river. The description left the location of the actual border open to interpretation.

Arguments over the border continued for many years and a new war was only narrowly avoided. Forces from the United States and Britain took up positions around the border at Madawaska before a compromise was reached in 1839. Three years later the Webster-Ashburton Treaty agreed the location of the border, dividing the disputed territory roughly in half.

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