Senate Chamber, State House, Annapolis, Maryland, May 2017. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
In the decade following its creation, Maryland's bicameral system faced several major challenges. Many were rooted in colonial politics, but some grew out of religious differences and the English Civil War.
Senate Chamber, State House, Annapolis, Maryland. architectural drawing, Historic American Buildings Survey (Maryland State House Project Collection, MSA SC1773, Maryland State Archives).
Elected by freemen of property, the 9th Provincial Convention first worked to frame and then, on November 8, 1776, adopted Maryland's first constitution. The Constitution of 1776 officially established the Senate (formerly the Upper House), and severed all ties between the Senate and the Governor's Council. It called for the election on November 25, 1776 of an electoral college (Const. 1776, sec. 61). Those eligible to vote were freemen above 21 years of age who held real or personal property (a freehold of 50 acres of land or personal property worth at least 30 pounds current money) (Const. 1776, secs. 2, 14). In every county, voters selected two electors, while Baltimore and Annapolis each sent one elector to represent their interests. The electors met in Annapolis on December 9, 1776, and chose Maryland's first senators, fifteen in number, to serve five-year terms (Const. 1776, secs. 14-18). Votes cast by freemen and electors were reported to the Council of Safety which, after the close of the 9th Provincial Convention on November 11, 1776, constituted Maryland's sole government until February 1777.
Although an elector represented a specific county or city, the senators were not required to represent jurisdictions. The only stipulation provided in the Constitution was that nine senators should reside on the Western Shore, and the other six on the Eastern Shore (Const. 1776, sec. 15).
As part of the reconstituted General Assembly, the new senators met for their first legislative session convened by the Council of Safety in Annapolis on February 5, 1777. Among them were three Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence: Charles Carroll of Carrollton, William Paca, and Thomas Stone, each of whom also had served at Philadelphia in the Continental Congress. Maryland's fourth signer, Samuel Chase still served in the Continental Congress which on December 11, 1776, fearing British attack, resolved to reconvene in Annapolis on December 20, 1776.
In February 1777, all new senators along with all new members of the House of Delegates, by joint ballot, elected Thomas Johnson as Maryland's first governor under its newly formed State Government.
In 1802, property qualifications for voting in local and State elections were removed by Constitutional amendment (Chapter 90, Acts of 1801, confirmed by Chapter 20, Acts of 1802). Also in 1802, viva voce voting at elections changed to voting by ballot.
Latrobe Column Capital, before Miller Senate Office Building, 11 Bladen St., Annapolis, Maryland, January 2014. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Twenty-one senators were elected; one from each county and Baltimore City. Senatorial terms expanded to six years, and a rotational election system was established so that only a third of the senators stood for election every two years. Amendments also abolished the Governor's Council (Chapter 197, Acts of 1836, secs. 2, 3, 13). Nonetheless, to this day, the Senate still functions as the Governor's Council when it confirms or rejects appointments made by the governor.
Despite the political contentions of the mid-nineteenth century, in Maryland, the Senate experienced only minor changes. The Constitution of 1851 reduced senators' terms to four years, while the Constitution of 1864 divided Baltimore City into three legislative districts, each with its own senator. The Senate was left untouched by the Constitution of 1867, and would remain so for nearly a century.
20th Century. While Maryland's population grew and shifted in the twentieth century, its legislative apportionment plan remained unchanged. Burgeoning urban and suburban areas were severely under-represented, while the older, rural counties continued to dominate the Senate.
James Senate Office Building, 11 Bladen St., Annapolis, Maryland, January 2001. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Miller Senate Office Building, 11 Bladen St., Annapolis, Maryland, August 2010. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
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