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Scotland’s Vote to Separate Looks a Lot Like Maine’s Split from Massachusetts

Maine was known as the Province of Maine when it was part of Massachusetts, as this map from the middle of the 17th century shows. via Flickr

Scotland took to the polls on Thursday to vote on independence from the United Kingdom. If they vote ‘Yes’ to secede, the Scottish could use Maine’s split from Massachusetts 195 years ago as a blueprint for separation.

Indeed, Maine’s split from Massachusetts and Scotland’s potential split from the UK are remarkably similar; both involve a smaller population intent on becoming independent, and both include a government intent on respecting the people’s vote.

The UK has said it will respect the decision of the Scottish populace, but public figures like former Prime Minister Gordon Brown have opposed the separation and urged a ‘No’ vote.


Massachusetts took a similar position with respect to Maine in 1819 by disapproving of Maine independence but willing to accept the voters’ decision, according to the 1928 book “Maine, Resources, Attractions, and Its People: A History’’ by Harrie B. Coe:

“It was universally recognized that the decision rested entirely with the people of Maine, and there was no attempt at or suggestion of bullying them. But they were appealed to strongly to remember the glories of the State which had been won by them in common with the citizens of Massachusetts proper.’’

That quote is remarkably similar to Brown’s “Better Together’’ speech from Wednesday. “Let us tell the undecided. The waverers. Those not sure how to vote. Let us tell them what we have achieved together,’’ he said, reminding Scottish voters of all the good times the UK had together.

Even if Scotland votes on Thursday not to become independent, that may not be the end of the independence movement. Maine, for example, held votes for independence in 1792, 1797, and 1807 that were all rejected by its voters, Coe writes. But proponents of an independent Maine didn’t give up so easily.

For Maine, it took the War of 1812 to truly solidify the need for independence. During the Battle of Hampden in 1814, British troops attacked Bangor, Maine, and Massachusetts failed to send any troops to defend them, according to the Maine Historical Society. That energized independence advocates and emphasized the need for a Maine capable of fighting for itself.

On July 19, 1819, about 24,000 Maine residents took to the polls to resolve the issue, and an overwhelming 71 percent voted to secede from Massachusetts and form a new state. Less than a year later, Maine became the 23rd state. A peaceful separation from a larger, more powerful government was complete.



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