Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Michigan!

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On January 26, 1837, President Andrew Jackson, signed the legislation that officially admitted Michigan as the 26th state in the Union, so we here at call upon our fellow Michigan Expats to raise a glass and toast to our home state wherever you find yourself on her 174th birthday of statehood. 

It is customary to take the opportunity on birthdays to fondly reflect on past memories and experiences together. Of course, this is part of the mission of the website and I encourage you do go through archives and read about some of our stories and memories of our home state. 

I'll also take the opportunity to invite fellow Michigan expats to share your stories with us. Please feel free to send us an email ( if you have something you'd like us to post or explore. You can also call in and be apart of the Michigan Expats podcast. Mr. Sig usually records the podcast on Sunday afternoons or evenings and you can check our Facebook or Twitter feeds for when he begins and email, chat, or skype in and be apart of the program.

OK, enough shameless website self-promotion. Time for some shameless narcissism (recently explored at the Calvin College January Series). What am I doing to celebrate Michigan's birthday?

Beyond enjoying watching the (thunder)snow come down here in Arlington, VA and savoring a glass of Cup a Joe Coffee Creme Stout from Short's Brewing Company, I stumbled upon and decided to read through the original 1835 Michigan Constitution. Michigan has adopted four constitutions in her history: the Constitution of 1835 prior to admission to statehood; the Constitution of 1850; the Constitution of 1908; and the 1963 Constitution in effect today.

I did not read through all of them, but I wanted to share some items that stood out to me from Michigan's first constitution and provide a unique insight into the state and nation from that time period:
  • Only white-males, 21 or older, were eligible to vote (Art. II, sec. 1).
  • Members of the state legislature were to receive compensation, but "such compensation shall never exceed three dollars a day" (Art. IV, sec. 18). How many Michiganders would gladly reinstate this compensation limit on our current legislature?
  • "The Governor shall be commander-in-chief of the militia, and of the army and navy of
    this state" (Art. V, sec. 5). Furthermore, as commander-in-chief, the governor "may direct the legislature to meet at some other place than the seat of government, if that shall become, after its adjournment, dangerous from a common enemy, or a contagious disease" (Art. V, sec. 10). It's hard to picture Jennifer Granholm or Rick Snyder as a "Commander-in-Chief".
  • The Constitution allowed each township to "elect four justices of the peace" (Art. VI, sec. 6). Yes, they were basically judges, but I can't help but have the term conjure imagines of wild west lawmen.
  • Article X is completely dedicated to education and " the promotion of Intellectual, Scientifical and Agricultural improvement" including a perpetual support fund, common schools, libraries, and a university fund.
  • Slavery was prohibited in the state as it had been since the territory was incorporated in the union under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (Art. XI).
  • "Divorces shall not be granted by the legislature; but the legislature may by law authorize the higher courts to grant them under such restrictions as they may deem expedient." (Art. XII, sec. 5)
  • "No lottery shall be authorized by this State nor shall the sale of lottery tickets be allowed." (Art. XII, sec. 6). I could get behind this one as well; Lotteries are basically a regressive tax on the poor. More here.
  • The original seat of government was Detroit (Art. XII, sec. 9).
Indeed, you may not have expected a history lesson on our state's birthday, but I hope you found some of it entertaining at least, but I'd happy if you just read this far.

Happy Birthday, Michigan. I wish I was able to celebrate it within your own borders, but I'll happily make do with a paying job, falling snow, and delicious Michigan beer.


  1. It's cool to see that information from the original constitution. I just came across this blog (we both commented on an article). I'm an expat who recently returned to the mitten.

    (I'm now going to shamelessly plug my own blog)

    You may enjoy a blog I write for: