History of Northeast Missouri
Part of the American History and Genealogy Project

The Story of the State
By Jonas Viles, Professor of American History, University of Missouri, Columbia

 

Although Missouri has shared with the surrounding states the great advantages of soil and climate common to the great valley and also borne her part in the history of western development, certain influences have given her history a number of distinctive features. She has unusual variety of surface and natural resources, leading to a diversification of industries. Her geographical position in reference to the Ohio, the Missouri and the Mississippi, great natural highways, have made her a sort of crossroads for the commerce of the middle west and brought about within her borders the meeting and mingling of streams of migration from the north, the south, and abroad. And the early introduction of Negro slavery made her like Kentucky and Tennessee, a western slave state, with an allegiance divided between the west and south, a division for years profoundly affecting her history.

Settlements Before 1804

De Soto, the Spaniard, may have reached what is now the state of Missouri; Joliet and Marquette and LaSalle, the French discoverers and explorers of the Mississippi, certainly floated past her shores, but her history began in 1699 and 1700 when French missionaries, peasants and fur traders from Canada began their settlements at Kaskaskia and the neighboring villages. Soon afterward these fur traders explored the lower Missouri, while other adventurers opened up the lead mines on the Meramec and the St. Francois. At the crossing to the lead country grew up about 1735 the first permanent settlement in Missouri, the town of Ste. Genevieve. Thirty years later the Missouri river fur trade led to the founding of the second settlement at St. Louis, by Pierre Laclede Liguest, of the firm of Maxent, Laclede and Company, merchants of New Orleans, who held a license for the fur trade on the Missouri. After a winter at Fort Chartres, west of the Mississippi, Laclede fixed his trading post at St. Louis in February, 1764.

When the great struggle for the control of the Mississippi valley ended in the defeat of France and her surrender of the valley, the eastern part to Great Britain and the western to Spain, and when an English garrison in 1765 took possession of Fort Chartres, hundreds of the French in the thriving villages around Kaskaskia moved over to Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis. With this sudden increase in population they became thriving villages of over five hundred inhabitants, the largest settlements above New Orleans. Population then increased more slowly but gradually new centers were established: St. Charles for the convenience of the Missouri river traders and trappers; Cape Girardeau, originally an Indian trading post; and New Madrid just below the mouth of the Ohio.

After 1796 there came another wave of immigration, this time of Americans from Kentucky and Tennessee, attracted by the free land and low taxes. These Americans avoided the French villages and settled on detached farms, especially in the present county of Cape Girardeau and around Fredericktown, Farmington and Potosi. Among them was Daniel Boone, who, in 1799 moved from Kentucky to the frontier of settlement in the present St. Charles County. When the American flag was raised over Missouri in 1804, at least six thousand of the total population of ten thousand was American. The villages, however, remained distinctively French and as yet dominated the whole province.

Conditions under French and Spanish

After the Spanish took formal possession of the western half of the Mississippi valley, that portion north of the Arkansas River was known as Upper Louisiana and was ruled by a succession of Spanish lieutenant-governors at St. Louis. These governors, however, identified themselves with the province which remained French in all but political allegiance. The Spanish lieutenant-governor was an absolute ruler except for orders from New Orleans and rare appeals to the courts there. He controlled the troops and militia, acted as chief judge under a code which did not recognize trial by jury, and established local laws and regulations quite unrestrained by any popular assembly. The French language was still used in the courts and of course in everyday life. Spanish law and French law differed only in detail. Very few Spanish came up the river. In fact, the transfer of Spain brought no real break in the continuity of the history of the province.

Notwithstanding this primitive and paternal form of government, the people were happy and content. The Americans on their farms were interfered with very little, their religion was connived with if not officially tolerated; in fact they lived very much as their brothers across the Mississippi, in Kentucky and in Tennessee. There was practically no taxation, land was given for nominal fees, and the governors in practice were lenient and tolerant. The forms of trial were simple, judgment cheap and expeditious and justice reasonably certain. The lack of any political life was no doubt an obstacle to future development, but does not seem to have worked any tangible hardship or aroused dissatisfaction. On the contrary, after the transfer to the United States many of the Americans looked back with regret to the simplicity of the Spanish regime.

The French have always been a social people and so in Upper Louisiana seldom settled outside the villages. Here the home lots stretched along one or two streets, each lot with its log house, barns and out-buildings, vegetable garden and orchard. The farms were located all together in one great common field, where each inhabitant owned certain strips or plots. There were few distinctions of rank or wealth. The richer men were the merchants, the wholesale dealers or middlemen, who sent the products of the colony to New Orleans or Montreal and distributed among the people the manufactured goods they received in return. The younger men spent much of their time with the professional trappers on the Missouri or Mississippi, or in the lead districts on the Meramec and St. Francois, in any case keeping their homes in the villages. Here life was simple, happy and uneventful; the village balls and numerous church festivals furnished the recreations; crime was almost unknown and the people led a gentle, kindly and unenterprising life.

The settlements, English and American, were a mere island in the wilderness, hundreds of miles from the outside world. As the Spanish and French alike kept on good terms with the Indians, there was little striking or interesting in the narrative history. Only at rare intervals were these frontier communities touched by the stirring events of the outside world. At frequent intervals a flotilla of picturesque flat-bottomed barges carried down the Mississippi to New Orleans the fur and lead, salt from the numerous saline springs and the surplus wheat, com and beef. In the long and tedious return voyage against the current the boats were laden with the few articles of luxury required by the colonists, such as sugar and spices, and manufactured articles of all descriptions. The artisans were few and incompetent, so that practically all the implements, except the rudest, were imported. Even the spinning wheel was a rarity in the homes of the French, and butter a special luxury. The Kentuckians were a more enterprising and ingenious people, but their influence on their easy-going neighbors was slight. The merchants, however, were energetic and successful. Much to the disgust of the English, they succeeded in diverting from Montreal much of the fur trade of the Mississippi valley.

The Louisiana Purchase

Meanwhile certain changes were going on in the eastern country and in Europe which in their outcome were to end this isolation, swamp the old comfortable French society and substitute the energetic, nervous, western, American type. The result was probably inevitable when just at the beginning of the Revolutionary war, Sevier and Robertson and Boone and their companions crossed the Allegheny barrier and began the settlements in Tennessee and Kentucky, but it was precipitated by the problem of the control of the Mississippi river. The free navigation of this great highway was a matter of life and death to the rapidly increasing American settlements on the western waters, for before the day of pikes and railroads the river formed the only outlet for their bulky agricultural products. Unless their corn and wheat and pork and beef could be floated down the Ohio and the Mississippi to New Orleans and there loaded on the sea-going ships, they could not reach a market at all or hope for more than a bare subsistence. Spain, however, very rightly feared the extension of American settlement, seeing clearly that it would not stop at the Mississippi but eventually over-run and conquer the western half of the valley as well. Accordingly she steadfastly refused to open the Mississippi at New Orleans and intrigued, often with fair prospect of success, to separate the pioneers of Kentucky and Tennessee from their allegiance to the United States and create a western confederation under Spanish protection. During the Revolutionary war and for nearly fifteen years after it, the United States tried in vain to secure some concession from Spain, but in the end fear of an American alliance with Great Britain and a joint attack on Louisiana forced her to yield. In 1795 Spain granted the free navigation of the Mississippi to the Americans. Migration to Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio increased at once, and the Americans soon crossed the Mississippi into Missouri.

Five years later the whole Mississippi question reappeared in a far more serious form. After the confusion and anarchy of the French revolution, Napoleon had restored a strong government in France and made her the strongest power on the continent. Turning then to the restoration of the French colonial empire, which France had never altogether lost sight of since its loss forty years before, in 1800 he forced and cajoled the King of Spain to give back Louisiana to France. This substitution of a powerful and ambitious power for decrepit and bankrupt Spain was a serious menace to the United States and to the west in particular. President Jefferson at once began negotiations for the purchase of New Orleans or at least, a sufficient guarantee of the opening of the Mississippi. When in 1802 the officials at New Orleans closed the Mississippi anew, the west was in a turmoil. Jefferson sent Monroe to France to hasten the negotiations and even contemplated an alliance with Great Britain. But Napoleon had already tired of his colonial schemes, in the face of the Negro revolt in Haiti and approaching war in Europe. He startled the American ministers by proposing to sell them not west Florida or New Orleans, but Louisiana, the western half of the Mississippi valley. After some haggling as to price, the Americans agreed to accept the territory for $15,000,000. Thus at one stroke the area of the United States was doubled, the whole of the great central valley secured and the Mississippi question settled forever. Incidentally the purchase marked the beginning of the really vital part of Missouri history.

Government in the Territorial Period

As far as Upper Louisiana was concerned, the retrocession to France had been without effect. Napoleon had never taken formal possession nor had any French official reached St. Louis. Accordingly when Captain Amos Stoddard, of the United States army, came up the river early in 1804, he held a commission from France, took formal possession in her name and then as representative of the United States raised the American flag. President Jefferson and congress were in complete ignorance as to conditions and proceeded very cautiously in framing a government in the new country. Stoddard simply succeeded to the powers of the Spanish lieutenant-governor and continued the old order of things until October. Congress also refused to confirm all Spanish land grants made since 1800. The first regular form of government was hardly more liberal; all of the purchase north of the thirty-third parallel was created the district of Louisiana and attached to the territory of Indiana. The people were very much dissatisfied, sent a formal protest to Washington and in 1805 congress organized the same district as the separate Territory of Louisiana.

Under this act of 1805 Louisiana was a territory of the lowest class, with a government consisting of a governor and three judges, all appointed by the president. When the census of 1810 showed a population of over twenty thousand, the territory (in 1812) was granted a legislature, the lower house elected by the people, and the upper house or council appointed by the president, and a delegate to congress. At the same time the name was changed to Missouri, to avoid confusion with the recently admitted state of Louisiana. Four years later the council was made elective and shortly afterward the agitation for statehood began. The American law and judicial procedure early supplanted the 'Spanish. In local government the original five Spanish districts of St. Louis, St. Charles, Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, and New Madrid were retained until 1812, when they became the first counties. In the next year the Potosi settlements were organized as Washington County and as population increased, more counties were created until there were twenty-five at the date of admission.

All of the territorial governors were men identified with the west. As a district, Louisiana was under the governor of Indiana territory. William Henry Harrison, later president of the United States. The first governor of the territory of Louisiana was James Wilkinson of Kentucky, afterward so deeply involved in the plans of Aaron Burr. Alone among the territorial governors Wilkinson was thoroughly unpopular. His successor was Meriwether Lewis, joint commander of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, and his, in turn, Benjamin Howard, of Kentucky. The last and best known was William Clark, brother of George Rogers Clark and earlier Lewis' companion to the Pacific. Clark was especially successful in dealing with the Indians, whose confidence he won by his fair dealing. Other men of note of this earlier period were Frederick Bates, secretary of the territory; J. B. C. Lucas, judge and land commissioner, and Hempstead, Easton and Scott, delegates to Congress.

Extension of Settlement, 1804 to 1820

While the transfer to the United States stimulated the movement of population from Kentucky and Tennessee, the great influx of settlers did not come until after the War of 1812. Until 1815, the newcomers for the most part filled up the sections already opened up under the Spanish, with some adventurous pioneers on the Mississippi north of St. Louis and more in the Boon's Lick country on the Missouri, in the present counties of Howard and Cooper. The growth of these frontier settlements was stopped and the pioneers subjected to much hardship by the Indian raids during the War of 1812, but after peace was proclaimed the newer settlements increased with startling rapidity. Of the sixty-six thousand settlers in 1820 nearly one-half were to be found in the Boon's Lick section or along the upper Mississippi above St. Louis; all but a few hundred of these had come since 1815. The control of the territory was rapidly shifting from the older sections to these purely American districts.

In the old French towns of New Madrid, St. Charles and particularly of Ste. Genevieve, the old French society, language and customs still survived. In St. Louis the seat of government and the commercial opportunities brought many Americans, but as late as 1820 French was heard as often as English on the streets and advertisements were commonly printed in both languages. The most prominent merchants were French and Spanish, like the Chouteaus and Manuel Lisa, who were able to adjust themselves to new conditions and take advantage of the rise in land values and the increase in trade. Even here the old, comfortable, unenterprising atmosphere was giving way to western energy and bustle; with its two newspapers, its fire engine, Protestant churches, and steamboats, St. Louis was becoming essentially western. Her merchants were already reaching out for the fur trade of the upper Missouri as far as the Yellowstone and trying, as yet unsuccessfully, to establish an overland commerce with Santa Fe and the far Southwest. The expeditions of Lewis and Clark up the Missouri and down the Columbia to the Pacific and of Pike into the Southwest were great stimulants to this expansion. More important for the general development of the territory as a whole was the coming of the steamboats just before 1820. There-after the Mississippi was a highway into the country as well as out of it.

In spite of the increased importance of the fur trade and of lead mining, agriculture was necessarily the most important industry. In the southeastern part of the territory the pioneer farmers pushed out into the Ozark border with their cabins and cleared land in the creek bottoms and the range pastures for the stock on the ridges. In the Boon's Lick country many of the settlers were men of means who brought with them their slaves and furniture, so that typical pioneer conditions soon disappeared. As in the earlier period few Americans settled in towns. Old Franklin, since washed away, opposite the present city of Boonville, was the center of trade for the Boon s Lick country and a thriving town of over a thousand people, but the other new towns were mere hamlets clustering around the county court houses. While the brawling, bullying type of frontiersman with his brutal fights and feuds was by no means unknown, especially on the rivers, the establishment of several newspapers outside of St. Louis, a growing interest in education and academies and the rapid growth of the Protestant churches, beginning with the Bethel (Baptist) church in Cape Girardeau county in 1806, were much better evidences of the real character of the people.

Missouri Admitted to the Union

When in 1818, the territorial legislature of Missouri petitioned congress for admission to the Union, Missouri in area, in population and in development was abundantly qualified for statehood. The unexpected and long drawn struggle between North and South, the first great sectional contest in our history, over slavery in the new state, cannot be considered here in any detail. This struggle revealed the divergence of the sections from their earlier common condemnation of slavery, a divergence due primarily to the unprofitableness of slavery in the North and the extension of the cotton culture through the invention of the cotton gin, and the subsequent demand for slave labor in the South. The storm broke when Missouri applied for admission because she was the first territory in which the existence of slavery could be an open question, and because the decision in her case involved the whole Louisiana Purchase north of the state of Louisiana. The advantage to the South of admitting Missouri as a slave state was not primarily the opening of the state to immigration from the South, but rather the addition of two slave-state senators to the United States senate. Already the North had so far outstripped her in population that the former elected a majority of the members of the house; if the South was to retain an equal voice in the government it must be through an equality of the states from the two sections and equal voice in the senate. The debates ran through two sessions of congress and aroused a popular excitement dangerous to the Union. The house with its northern majority insisted on a restriction on Missouri's admission providing for gradual emancipation, which the more conservative senate refused to accept. The North argued that slavery was economically and socially a bad thing and ought to be rigidly restricted that it might die out, while the South insisted that the proposed restriction was unconstitutional and that the evils of slavery might be mitigated by spreading it over a wide territory. In the end, the first Missouri Compromise was effected; Missouri was permitted to draw up her state constitution without any limitations as to slavery, but slavery was to be forever prohibited in the Louisiana Purchase north of her southern boundary. At the same time Maine was admitted as a free state. The following year the whole question was reopened when the house refused to approve of Missouri's constitution because it forbade the immigration of free Negroes and mulattoes, who, it was alleged, were citizens in some states and so guaranteed equal rights by the Federal constitution. After another contest which threatened the very existence of the Union, a second compromise was effected by Henry Clay, by which the Missouri legislature pledged itself not to violate the Federal constitution in reference to the rights of citizens, and Missouri became a state in the Union in 1821.

Meanwhile, excitement ran high in Missouri, not so much because the people were enthusiastically in favor of slavery as because they bitterly resented this attempt in congress to dictate to them about what they considered their own affairs. Indeed, until the attempted restriction in congress, there was a quite outspoken anti-slavery sentiment in St. Charles and Jefferson and Washington counties, but after the issue was raised in congress all united in opposition to congressional dictation, and the convention which drew up the first state constitution in the summer of 1820 did not contain a single anti-slavery delegate. This constitution, naturally modelled in many ways on those of Virginia and Kentucky, was a conservative and adequate frame of government, serving the state with numerous amendments until 1865.

As soon as the convention had adopted the constitution the first state elections were held, a governor and assembly chosen and a representative to congress. Soon afterward the governor was inaugurated, made his appointments to office, the assembly met and elected two United States senators and the state government was thus fully organized, all before the second Missouri Compromise at Washington and the formal admission of Missouri to the Union. The Missourians had little patience with this second attempt to dictate the action of the state, but passed the resolution required and President Monroe on August 10, 1821, proclaimed Missouri a state in the Union.

Early Politics and Pioneer Politicians

In national politics, this was the so-called era of good feeling. With only one national political party, the old Republican, politics consisted of personal contests between the rival leaders. This was particularly true in a frontier community like Missouri, where a man's personal ability and popularity counted for more than party organization.

In the first election for governor, Alexander McNair, a moderate and popular man, defeated William Clark, the territorial governor; John Scott, the territorial delegate, was chosen Missouri's first representative and David Barton, president of the constitutional convention, was elected by the assembly as United States senator, both with little opposition. After a bitter contest, Thomas Hart Benton received a bare majority for the second senator ship over several candidates, the most prominent of whom was Judge Lucas. Benton was a newcomer to Missouri and had already made many bitter personal enemies, but his championship of western interests and the support of Barton gave him the victory.

Benton was very soon involved in a personal quarrel with Barton, but political parties do not appear at all clearly until about 1830. The beginnings of the later division may be seen in the presidential election of 1824, when Missouri supported Henry Clay in the popular election. When no candidate received a majority and the election was thrown into the national House of Representatives, Scott, with the advice of Barton, cast Missouri's vote for John Quincy Adams, while Benton came out strongly for Jackson. In the next four years the people of the state rallied to Benton and Jackson, who carried every county in 1828. During Jackson's first term Benton was a leader at the attack on the United States bank and one of the leaders in organizing the national Democratic Party. That party's victory in the state and nation in 1832, seated Benton in control of the politics of the state for the next fifteen years. While Jackson's attack on the bank was popular in Missouri, it would seem that Jackson's personification of western ideals and Benton's aggressive personality counted even more toward entrenching the Democratic Party in Missouri. The opposition, or Whig party, developed more slowly late in the thirties, but was badly beaten in every election.

As a more conservative party interested in the material development of the country, its strength was naturally greatest in St. Louis and the prosperous slave holding districts along the Mississippi and the Missouri. But until 1844 the Democrats, united under the rigorous discipline of Benton, carried the state in local and national elections.

The limitations of space forbid even a mention of all the leaders of public opinion in this formative period in Missouri's history. The territorial secretary, Frederick Bates, succeeded McNair, but died in office. John Miller was elected to fill out the term and elected for the full four years in 1828. Then followed in turn Daniel Dunklin, Lilbum W. Boggs, and Thomas Reynolds. Miller and his successors were all Jackson men or Democrats; Miller was born in Virginia, all the others in Kentucky. Barton and Benton were re-elected to the United States senate in 1824 and 1826 respectively, but in 1830 Benton succeeded in bringing about the defeat of Barton, his only formidable rival in Missouri. Alexander Buckner, Barton's successor, died in office, and was followed by Dr. Lewis F. Linn, perhaps the best-loved man, by political friends and foes alike, in all this early period. At least three-quarters of the men elected to important office were natives of Kentucky; indeed Jacksonian democracy and Kentucky origin might almost be given as qualifications for office.

Economic and Social Progress, 1820 to 1845

By far the most important aspect of Missouri history in this period between 1820 and 1845 was the contest with the wilderness, the extension of settlement, development and extension of trade, and the more important social growth. Of the many interesting incidents in the narrative history, only a few can be noted. Through the generosity of congress Missouri's boundaries (in 1837) were extended on the north-west to the Missouri river, to include the so-called Platte Purchase. This technical violation of the Missouri Compromise attracted no attention from the country at large, but the attempt to establish the northern boundary of the new grant led to a long drawn-out dispute with the territory and state of Iowa, settled finally by the Supreme Court of the United States by a line dividing the disputed area. The Mormon settlements in the western part of the state occasioned a more serious disturbance. Settling first at Independence in 1831, they increased so rapidly that the other settlers, alarmed lest they gain control of the county, drove them across the river to Clay County. Here also they soon became unpopular and with their own consent were removed to the unsettled country to the north, where a separate county, Caldwell, was organized for them. When their leader, Joseph Smith, joined them here he began Mormon settlement outside of Caldwell on the Grand River and the Missouri, organized an armed force and declared that his people were to inherit the earth and more particularly western Missouri. The people of the surrounding counties were up in arms, property was destroyed and blood was shed, until finally the Mormons attacked a company of local militia and Governor Boggs ordered out the state troops. The Mormons were surrounded in their Caldwell settlements and after some fighting surrendered their leaders and agreed to leave the state. None of the leaders were punished and few of the rank and file were able to save any of their property. The Missourian throughout showed a characteristic impatience of legal formalities and determination to solve the problem by the most direct and expeditious methods. While the Mormons could secure no protection from the law and in many cases were simply plundered, they were undesirable citizens and their expulsion, apart from the methods employed, was an advantage to the state.

Meanwhile population was increasing at a rate remarkable even in the West. From 1820 to 1830 the increase was more than twofold; from 1830 to 1840, well on toward threefold; the total population grew from a little over 65,000 in 1820 to at least half a million in 1845. In 1810 Missouri ranked twenty-third among the states and territories; in 1840, sixteenth. The streams of settlement were along the Mississippi above the Missouri, along both sides of the Missouri from the center of the state westward, and around the borders of the Ozarks to the south-west. North of the river, by 1845, all of the counties of today except Worth had been organized and the country opened up, although the counties along the Iowa line were as yet thinly populated. The most backward sections were the whole Ozark region and the western border south of Jackson County. The newer counties organized since 1845 are to be found in these areas. The new settlers were still for the most part from the Border States to the eastward, and the population of the state was still on the whole homogeneous. The Negro slaves still comprised about one-sixth of the total population and until 1840 were increasing about as rapidly as the whites. They were not distributed evenly over the state but were to be found in greatest numbers in the older counties along the two great rivers.

The older sections of the state had now passed out of the pioneer stage of development, the log cabins were disappearing, and the class of substantial farmers with cleared farms, comfortable homes, and considerable means had appeared. With the increase of wealth and freedom from the hardships of the frontier came a growing interest in education and philanthropy. In the thirties the endowed academies, fore-runners of the modern high schools, were organized all through the older portions of the state, and the assembly passed laws, ineffective it is true, for the establishment of a public school system. In 1839 the state made use of the liberal land grants of the national government and organized a State University, located the following year after a spirited contest between the counties at Columbia in Boone County. In this same decade the building of a state penitentiary at Jefferson City on the most approved eastern models, and the beginning of appropriations for the defective and unfortunate showed the intelligent interest in the problems of reform and practical philanthropy.

The development of the state brought to the front new economic problems. As yet it is true Missouri was almost exclusively a community of farmers. St. Louis even as late as 1840 was a town of less than 20,000, while few others exceeded one thousand. Those smaller towns were county seats or more commonly river towns, for the rivers were as yet the only important highways of trade. Many of them sank into decay or even disappeared after the coming of the railroads but others, like Boonville and Lexington, have survived and prospered. After Old Franklin was washed away by the Missouri, Independence and Westport Landing, the beginning of Kansas City, were the most important, towns on the Missouri, and Hannibal on the Mississippi. But if the rivers did furnish an outlet for surplus agricultural products the difficulties of getting the crops to the rivers and to market was the most pressing problem of the Missourians and the westerners. The neighboring states in the boom times of the thirties borrowed enormous sums to build canals and roads; Missouri did not embark on any such ambitious program, but some improvement was secured by the building of many miles of toll roads by private capital. The success of the first eastern railroads attracted much favorable attention and the assembly granted charters for the construction of several in Missouri, but lack of capital and the panic of 1837 postponed actual railroad building until after 1850.

Lack of an adequate and satisfactory currency and of banking facilities for borrowing money was another grievance of the West at this time. The common remedy was the reckless chartering of state banks and the issuance of immense quantities of paper money of less than doubtful value. Here too Missouri showed a healthy conservatism and only after long hesitation chartered one bank in 1837, the state subscribing to half the capital and retaining a strict supervision over it. However, Missouri was necessarily involved in the crash which followed this nation-wide over development, inflation of the currency and fictitious increase in values. The panic of 1837 did not lead to repudiation of the state debts or destruction of the state credit, but it bore very hardly on the people, who did not regain their prosperity for some years.

The most interesting and dramatic expansion of Missouri enterprise was toward the far west and the southwest. In the fur trade up the Missouri the most important figure was William II. Ashley, first lieutenant governor of Missouri, and for years one of her leading men. After a disastrous encounter with Indians on his first venture in 1822, he prospered exceedingly and retired ten years later with a comfortable fortune. His traders and agents explored the whole southern watershed of the upper Missouri, the Great Salt Lake District, opened up the famous South Pass through the Rockies and blazed the way for the later Oregon Trail and Great Salt Lake trail to California. After 1830 the wealthy merchants of St. Louis developed the fur trade on a regular business basis, and made it one of the foundations of the city's prosperity. Before 1845 the settlers were following the traders and Missourians were opening up the Willamette valley in Oregon.

The commerce of the prairies overland to Santa Fe began in 1821 when William Becknell with a few companions made a successful trading expedition from Old Franklin to Sante Fe. In 1825 the United States surveyed the Santa Fe Trail and made treaties with the Indians. Until the coming of the railroads this trade gave employment to hundreds of wagons every year and was an important stimulus to Missouri's prosperity.

Beginning of a New Period in State History

The forties mark a dividing line in the history of the state. The coming of the railroads, the settlement of California and the growth of transcontinental trade, the marvelous growth of St. Louis, tenfold in the twenty years after 1840 until it ranked seventh among the cities of the whole country, all mark a new era in the economic development of the state. The population went on increasing almost as fast as ever, but several new elements were appearing. The Germans came to Hermann as early as 1837, and after 1848, came to St. Louis and the neighboring counties in large numbers; the Irish also after 1850 were an important element in the city of St. Louis. The northern stream of settlement from New England and New York and Ohio finally reached Missouri, so that altogether the old homogeneity of the population disappeared. And between 1850 and 1860 the slave population was increasing only one-third as fast as the white. In politics the growing sectional divergence was casting its shadow over Missouri and the Democratic Party was for a time rent in twain by the desperate struggle to eliminate Benton.

The sectional differences first attained first rate importance after the annexation of Texas and the Mexican war, both of which were heartily approved of by Missourians, with their characteristic western eagerness for expansion and more cheap land and their special interest due to the Santa Fe trade and the emigration of many of their young men to Texas. As soon as the Mexican war began several hundred volunteers went down the Mississippi to New Orleans; a little later a regiment of mounted Missourians under Doniphan started from Fort Leavenworth over the Santa Fe Trail. This expedition, under the command of General Kearney with some three hundred regulars, captured Santa Fe without resistance. Doniphan with less than a thousand men continued to El Paso and Chihuahua in northern Mexico. After resting his troops here for a couple of months he led his little force in safety to Taylor's army at the mouth of the Rio Grande, whence they returned to Missouri by water. Meanwhile a second regiment under Sterling Price was putting down a serious uprising at Santa Fe (reinforced later by a third regiment). All told Missouri furnished at least five thousand troops and conquered New Mexico for the Union.

The Fall of Thomas Hart Benton

The fruits of the Mexican war, California and New Mexico, raised the slavery and sectional issues in national politics in a new and most dangerous form; the same issues were the occasion in Missouri for attack on Benton. This opposition to Benton had been smoldering for ten years and was in part personal and in part political. Benton's own positive and domineering personality made him a difficult man to work with and created an ever growing number of personal enemies. Then he was no politician in. the ordinary sense of the word. Soon after his first election he practically moved to Washington, returning to St. Louis for a visit every summer and making an occasional triumphant progress through the state. He never showed any keen interest in the patronage and absolutely refused to consult or placate the local leaders. As a result the younger men in the Democratic Party came to look upon Benton as a positive obstacle to their political advancement. Benton built his influence on his direct appeals to the people of the state, through his speeches and newspaper articles. As long as Jackson dominated the party and Benton was Jackson's trusted friend and spokesman in the senate, Benton was impregnable; but after 1840 he steadily lost ground. The national Democratic Party came more and more under the influence of the younger southern leaders, whose unionism Benton regarded with suspicion. As he grew older he was less and less willing to submit to party discipline and in the late forties quarreled openly with the administration and Calhoun tried to read him out of the party. Benton also refused to bow to public opinion in Missouri, and offended very many by his insistence on hard money and his opposition to the immediate annexation of Texas. When after the Mexican war he insisted that California be admitted at once as a free state, quite irrespective of the extension of slavery into Utah and New Mexico, his enemies made their attack.

As early as 1844, when Benton was to come up for reelection, there was a paper money, anti-Benton state ticket in the field, but John C. Edwards, the Hard Money, pro-Benton candidate was elected governor. The opposition to Benton does not seem to have figured in the state campaign in 1848, when Austin A. King was chosen governor. But when Benton's fifth term as United States senator drew toward its close, His enemies closed in for a fight to a finish. Their method was very adroit. They succeeded in 1849 in passing through the assembly the famous Jackson resolutions which endorsed the southern contentions as to the power of congress over slavery in the territories, pledged Missouri to stand by the South whatever came, and instructed Missouri's senators to vote accordingly. These resolutions were no more radical than those passed in several other states and indeed were probably regarded by the majority of those voting for them as merely an earnest protest against northern anti-slavery and abolitionist agitation. But Benton, as his enemies hoped, took them as a challenge. He indignantly refused to be bound by the resolutions because, as he insisted, they savored of disunion and did not represent the will of Missouri, and made a dramatic appeal from the legislature to the people.

The result in the election of 1850 was a legislature divided between the Whigs and the two Democratic factions, no one having a majority. After a long deadlock enough anti-Benton Democrats voted for the Whig candidate Henry S. Geyer to elect him United States Senator, and Benton's long service was over. He, however, refused to admit defeat. He took no part in the campaign electing Sterling Price as governor in 1852, but was himself in that year returned to Washington as representative from the St. Louis district. Two years later the term of senator D. R. Atchison, one of Benton's most determined enemies, expired, and Benton entered the race against him. Again the assembly showed no majority, but this time no compromise was possible and no senator was chosen. In 1856, Benton made his last stand; he ran for governor, but was beaten by the regular Democratic candidate, Trusten Polk, and for senator, also unsuccessfully. Polk and James S. Green, both anti-Benton Democrats, were chosen.

Although Benton was sixty-five years of age when the Jackson resolutions were passed, he fought with all his old-time courage and violence, twice stumping the state from end to end. In spite of his undoubted faults of extreme egotism, violence and demand for absolute power, he is the greatest Missourian. His unflinching courage, his patriotic devotion to the Union and his services to the West make him a national figure of commanding importance. His defeat was due in no small measure to his stanch adherence to his Jacksonian Democracy when his own party had drifted away from it.

The Kansas Troubles

Meanwhile Missouri politics were still further confused and the state thrown into a turmoil by the Kansas troubles. When in 1854 Stephen A. Douglas in his Kansas-Nebraska bill repealed the Missouri Compromise and provided for the organization of Kansas and Nebraska territories where the people themselves should decide as to slavery, he re-opened the whole slavery question in a form of peculiar interest to Missourians. They assumed, as did the whole country that the understanding was that Kansas was to be slave and Nebraska free; moreover, they saw that if Kansas were to be free and Missouri thus surrounded on three sides by free territory, slavery, already a declining institution in Missouri, would be doomed. Accordingly when anti-slavery settlers backed up by anti-slavery societies began to pour into Kansas and soon set up a separate government looking toward the immediate admission of Kansas as a free state, the people of western Missouri were up in arms. They felt that their interests were too closely involved to permit them to sit idly by while the free-soilers, contrary to the intent of the law, as they understood it, were getting control of Kansas. At first the Missourians contented themselves with crossing over at election time, outvoting the Kansas free-soilers and returning home, but after actual civil war broke out in Kansas the Missourians took an active part in the fighting and captured Lawrence, the free-soil headquarters. While this interference in Kansas was quite outside the law and many Missourians were guilty of unnecessary violence, it must be remembered that they felt they were justified by the intent of the law and their own interests, and that these invasions of Kansas had the approval of such men as ex-Senator Atchison and General Doniphan. In the end the steady stream of free-soil immigrants decided the issue in Kansas in their favor, and before the war Missouri was repaid for her interference by raids of adventurers from Kansas along her southwestern border and still more heavily during the war when Kansas volunteer regiments served in Missouri.

The Coming of the Railroads

In spite of this confusion in politics the development of the state was going steadily on. The population from 1850 to 1860 increased over three-fourths to nearly twelve hundred thousand; in rank Missouri rose from the thirteenth to the eighth state in the Union. The river trade was at its height and St. Louis had become the largest city in the Middle West. Independence and St. Joseph were growing rapidly under the stimulus of the rapid growth of California and Oregon and the transcontinental traffic. The proportion of slaves to total population had fallen to less than one-tenth; slavery was holding its own in only about twenty-five of the river counties. Over a seventh of the whites were foreign born, nearly a seventh were natives of northern states, and for the first time a majority were native born Missourians. The state was rapidly becoming a cosmopolitan western community, although the sentimental attachment to the South was still very strong. The absence of any staple crop and therefore of the plantation system was fatal to the development of slave labor.

The most important advance in the decade was the coming of the railroads. The lack of capital was overcome in two ways; by very liberal land grants by the national government and, after long hesitation, by the direct aid of the state. In 1851 the legislature began to issue bonds, which the railroads could sell in return for mortgages to the state. On the fourth of July the first spade full of earth was turned for the Pacific road and late in 1852 the first locomotive west of the Mississippi was placed on the rails at St. Louis. Railroad building proved unexpectedly expensive, work went on very slowly, and even before the war most of the roads were in difficulty. Altogether the state before 1860 issued between twenty-three and twenty-four millions of bonds for the railroads and already several of them were unable to pay their interest. Only one, the Hannibal and St. Joseph (now the Burlington) was in successful operation across the state; the Pacific (now the Missouri Pacific) had reached Sedalia, the North Missouri (the present Wabash), Macon, and the Southwest Branch (now the Frisco), Rolla.

The Civil War Cloud

As the national election of 1860 approached the national parties were hopelessly disorganized; the Whig party had succumbed to the rising sectional hostility, the Democrats, in reality just as hopelessly divided, were to come to an open rupture in the approaching campaign, while in the North a new sectional party, the Republican, was growing very rapidly. In Missouri the new elements in the population and the bitterness from the Benton fight were additional local complications. Even in the special election of 1857 the regular anti-Benton Democratic candidate for governor, Robert M. Stewart, defeated James S. Rollins, an old line conservative Whig, by less than four hundred votes. In the state election of 1860 the Democratic candidate for governor, Claiborne F. Jackson, was forced to come out for Douglas, the northern Democratic candidate for president; the Breckenridge or southern Democrats ran a separate ticket; Frank P. Blair organized the Republican party in and around St. Louis; the Conservative Whig or Constitutional Union men nominated Semple Orr. The contest was between the first and the last, with Jackson the successful candidate. In the presidential campaign much the same lines were drawn, and the more conservative Democrat Douglas defeated the ultra-conservative Bell by a few more than two hundred votes. In all this confusion one fact at least was clear; the great majority of the Missourians opposed the radicals, north and south, and stood for conservatism and compromise on the sectional questions.

North or South?

The secession of South Carolina from the Union in December, 1861, forced an extremely difficult decision on the people of Missouri. Their traditions and sentimental attachment were still for the most part southern; the Benton fight had forced the leaders of the dominant Democratic Party into a support of the southern interests. On the other hand the material interests of the state were predominating western; it seemed illogical to secede to protect slavery, a decaying institution and plainly doomed if Missouri were surrounded on three sides by foreign free territory, and Benton, like Clay in Kentucky, had left an invaluable heritage of devotion to the Union. Missouri's decision was of extreme importance to North and South alike. Having within her boundaries the control of the Missouri and the transcontinental routes, the center of trade of the northwest, and the largest number of white men of fighting age of any slave state, her adherence was indispensable to the South and invaluable to the North.

The theatre of war in this fight for Missouri was threefold; the governor and assembly at Jefferson City, the convention elected to decide on secession, and the United States arsenal at St. Louis. Governor Jackson, although nominally a Douglas Democrat, was a strong southern sympathizer and believed that Missouri should prepare to leave the Union in case all attempts at compromise failed and the Union was dissolved. His plans demanded for their success legislation putting the state on a war footing and the seizure of the United States arsenal to arm state troops. The assembly was hopelessly divided, "with' the Breckenridge or southern Democrats the most numerous, but outnumbered by the combined votes of the more conservative, Douglas and Bell members. The assembly in January by a large majority authorized the election of a convention to pass on secession, with the proviso that any ordinance of secession should be submitted to a popular vote. It then adjourned to await the decision of the people.

They decided against immediate secession by a majority of over eighty thousand, with not a single delegate elected in favor of immediate withdrawal from the Union. The factions in the convention reflect very accurately the opinion of the people. Less than a third of the delegates might fairly be classed as southern sympathizers, i. e., they believed if attempts at compromise failed Missouri ought to declare herself for the South. Another much smaller group declared that Missouri must remain in the Union under all circumstances. The majority of the convention were the conditional Union men, who admitted that the contingency might arise under which Missouri ought to secede, but for the most part refused to discuss or define that contingency and bent all their effort in support of some or any compromise that would preserve the Union. Sterling Price, president of the convention, Hamilton B. Gamble, drafter of its resolutions, and John B. Henderson, leader on the floor, were all conditional Union men. The repeated attempts of the southerners to pledge Missouri to secession in case of the failure of compromise or of civil war were all voted down and the convention contented itself with a declaration that there was no immediate reason for Missouri's secession, that she besought both North and South to reunite, and that she would support any compromise that would preserve the Union, The convention then adjourned to await the outcome of the national crisis.

The decision of the convention paralyzed the activities of the governor until the firing on Port Sumter and the opening of the Civil war. He then indignantly refused to obey the call of Lincoln for troops to ''coerce" the South and thus regained much of his lost ground. But although thousands of conditional Union men now rallied to an unconditional support of the South, the majority in Missouri as in Kentucky leaned toward a policy of neutrality. The Border States were to stand by the old Union, take no part in this unholy contest and to present a barrier to actual fighting. Impossible as this policy was in the long run it appealed strongly to the people and the assembly still refused to pass the laws the governor desired.

Federal Government Participates in State Affairs

Missouri, however, unlike Kentucky, was not allowed to make her decision without interference. Prank P. Blair and the radical Union men secured Lincoln's reluctant consent that the Federal government take a part in the fight for Missouri. Blair realized as well as Governor Jackson the importance of the St. Louis arsenal. The United States army officers there were men of southern sympathies, long resident in St. Louis and Blair feared they would offer no effective resistance to an attack by the state troops. He accordingly organized an effective fighting force on the basis of the marching clubs of the presidential campaign. These clubs, composed mainly but not exclusively of Germans, met regularly for military drill and needed only arms to be a formidable force. During these same months of late winter and early spring, Blair was persistently urging the authorities at Washington to place a more trustworthy officer in command of the arsenal. Lincoln finally appointed Captain Nathaniel Lyon, a more aggressive Union man than even Blair himself. When Governor Jackson refused to furnish Missouri's quota of troops after Fort Sumter, Blair offered his military clubs as a substitute. They were mustered into the United States service and armed from the arsenal. In this contest also the governor was defeated. He did not give up his plans, however. In May he ordered the militia to assemble for a week of drill. One detachment went into camp just outside of St. Louis. While this encampment was strictly according to state law, there seems little doubt that the militia were to be used as a rallying point for armed resistance to Lyon and Blair, inasmuch as guns and munitions of war obtained from the Confederate authorities at New Orleans were smuggled into the camp. At any rate Blair and Lyon regarded the force as threatening an attack on the United States and promptly surrounded the camp with their troops and compelled the militia to surrender. On the return march to the city the United States troops were hooted at and stoned, and fired on the crowd, killing or injuring some twenty-five, including women and children.

For a few days it seemed as if Blair and Lyon had accomplished all that Governor Jackson had been trying in vain to bring about. This open attack on the militia of the state and most exaggerated reports of the atrocities of the German volunteers sent a flame of indignation through the state. The assembly at a single session passed the laws putting the state on a war footing and giving the governor dictatorial powers. Thousands rushed to enlist in the new state militia, as much perhaps to defend the autonomy of the state as from any desire for secession. After a few days when the truth about the unfortunate incidents at St. Louis were better known, excitement decreased and the old desire for neutrality reasserted itself. Jackson and Sterling Price, now commander of the state forces, either to gain time or from a sincere desire to avoid bloodshed, made the so called Price-Harney agreement with General Harney, commanding at St. Louis, by which Harney agreed that the state government should not be interfered with in local affairs. But at Washington this was regarded as tantamount to a recognition of neutrality, Harney was removed and Lyon at last put in supreme command and given a free hand. He absolutely refused to agree to any limitations on the power of his government to recruit troops or carry on war in Missouri, Jackson and Price were as unyielding in their demands for such neutrality, Lyon moved his troops on Jefferson City and war began.

Evidently it is very difficult to describe with any certainty the real wishes of the Missourians, for they were not permitted to make a free choice. It may very well be that with opinions so evenly balanced if Governor Jackson and the state government, supported by constantly growing armed forces at Camp Jackson and throughout the state, had finally come out for secession that the majority of the people would have acquiesced and Missouri would have seceded. If this be true, Lyon's attack on Camp Jackson was not only justifiable, from the Union point of view, but necessary. On the other hand, it is more probable that the people would have resented this attempt to force the state out of the Union in defiance of the still existing convention, and as in Kentucky, where Lincoln refused to interfere, have changed their sentiment of neutrality to a moderate Unionism. Out of the confusion of evidence perhaps only one safe opinion emerges, that whichever way the constituted authorities decided, a very large element would have refused to submit and so a local civil war was inevitable.

Civil War in Missouri

The state guards were undrilled and very poorly armed and except for a skirmish at Boonville were unable to oppose Lyon. Jackson and Price retreated into the extreme southwestern comer of the state gathering recruits on their way. Hither Lyon followed them, after occupying the river towns on the Missouri and thus cutting off the northern part of the state. Price induced McCulloch with a well-armed Confederate force to come to his aid from Arkansas and together they defeated Lyon at the battle of Wilson's creek near Springfield, one of the most sanguinary battles of the war, in which Lyon lost his life. Price then marched northward to the Missouri, captured Lexington but was soon forced to retreat. Early in 1862 he was driven from the state and the Confederate army in Arkansas defeated and scattered at the battle in the Boston Mountains in Arkansas. In 1864 Price returned to Missouri, entering the state from the southeast, threatening St, Louis and marching rapidly westward before the fast gathering Federal forces. The people did not rise in his support as he hoped and expected, he was forced to retreat rapidly to Arkansas and his raid accomplished nothing beyond the destruction of railroads and. public property. Except for the opening campaign of Wilson's creek, the fighting in Missouri had little influence on the war in general.

Meanwhile, especially in the first two years of the war, the state was convulsed with an internal civil war, where neighbor fought against neighbor and brother against brother. Armed bands in various parts of the state destroyed railroads and public property, cut off detachments of Federal troops and destroyed the property of Union sympathizers. Some of these bands were men who were trying to fight their way south, others, while irregular, were bona fide southern sympathizers but too many of them were simply outlaws fighting under the southern flag for plunder or to satisfy private grudges. The western border suffered severely from Kansas marauders of much the same type though nominally Unionist, and indeed the officers and men of the Kansas and Iowa regiments were too willing to regard Missouri as a disloyal and conquered state. To put down this guerrilla warfare the Federal commanders put much of the state under martial law, and dealt with special outbreaks with extreme severity, such as the Palmyra massacre and Order Number Eleven. In 1861 and 1862, it almost seemed as if the Federal authorities were deliberately making it difficult for any moderate Missourian to support the Union.

Governor Gamble and the Provisional Government

The flight of Governor Jackson and the assembly from Jefferson City before Lyon's advance left the state without any organized government. While Lyon was driving Price down to Arkansas the convention reassembled, declared the seats of the governor and assembly vacant and appointed Hamilton R. Gamble provisional governor. The Union men of the state now had a regular government to recognize and support. The situation was still further simplified when late in 1861 a fragment of the old assembly assembled at Neosho and passed an ordinance of secession. Price now accepted a Confederate commission, his men either entered the Confederate army or returned home, and Missouri sent representatives to the Confederate congress. With an empty treasury, disorganized local government, a large part of the population in active resistance, and the northern half of the state garrisoned by a distrustful Federal government, Gamble faced a task of extreme difficulty. The convention authorized a loan, and imposed an oath of loyalty on all officeholders. Gamble won Lincoln's confidence and succeeded in substituting loyal Missouri militia supported from Washington for the Federal garrisons, and gradually restored confidence and order over most of the state. Missouri's debt to this patient and conservative governor is hard to overestimate.

The convention did not dissolve itself until 1863. In 1862 law and order had so far been restored that a new assembly was elected, but no election for governor was held until 1864. The convention imposed a new qualification for voting in this 1862 election, an oath of allegiance and that the voter had not been in arms against the Union. At this same session the convention laid on the table Lincoln's favorite plan of emancipation with compensation. By this time the convention was lagging behind public opinion, but consented at its last meeting in 1863 to a plan of very gradual emancipation.

Emancipation and the Drake Constitution

Meanwhile slavery was dead in all but name; it was impossible to recover runaway slaves. In the election of 1862 the emancipationists were in a large majority but not agreed as to the method. Two new parties soon appeared, the conservatives supporting Governor Gamble in his moderate policy believing in gradual emancipation, and the radicals, who denounced Gamble as at least lukewarm in his Unionism, demanded stringent test oaths and immediate and unconditional emancipation. Although Lincoln steadily refused to interfere in their favor, the radicals were the better organized and more aggressive, with a more definite platform, the increasing bitterness as the war dragged on aided them, so that in 1864 they secured control of the assembly and elected their candidate, Thomas C. Fletcher, governor. At the same election a new and radical convention was elected which in January, 1865, passed an ordinance of immediate emancipation. Slavery, already dead to all intents and purposes, was thus legally destroyed by state action shortly before the thirteenth amendment to the national constitution destroyed it in the whole nation.

This convention of 1865, commonly called the 'Drake Convention' from its leading spirit, Charles D, Drake, drew up a new constitution. The most important changes were the immediate abolition of slavery and the drastic qualifications for voting. In place of the oath of loyalty and of abstention from open armed resistance to the Union, imposed by the previous convention, a voter was now forced to take the "Iron-clad oath," that he had not shown sympathy with the South by word or deed in any of a carefully defined list of ways. The obvious intent, and actual result, in most counties, of this requirement, enforced by registrars of voters with plenary power to reject oaths even when tendered, was to throw the control of the state into the hands of the aggressive Union men and disfranchise thousands of moderates who had refused to take part in the war. The extension of this oath to ministers, teachers and lawyers, seems absolutely indefensible, could not be enforced in practice and was soon declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. Apart from the provisions reflecting the recent conflict, the constitution was an able and progressive frame of government, particularly in its very liberal provisions for education. Although the iron-clad oath was imposed on all voters ou the ratification of the constitution, it was adopted by a very small majority and would have failed, but for the soldier vote.

Period of Reorganization (1865-1875)

The period from 1865 to 1872, is a time of reorganization and transition in political parties when party names were confusing and hard to define. Immediately after the war, Frank P. Blair, John S. Phelps and other former Democrats and aggressive Union men revived the Democratic Party on the platform of loyalty to the Union, opposition to the iron-clad oath in Missouri and the radical reconstruction policy of congress in the South.


Governor Charles H. Hardin

Blair was candidate for vice-president on the National Democratic ticket in 1868, but the oath rendered the party helpless in Missouri. Meanwhile the radicals or Republicans as they must be called at least by 1867, were far from united. The liberal faction, led by Carl Schurz and B. Gratz Brown, were eager for a general amnesty and the repeal of the oath in return for Negro suffrage, while the more radical wing accepted Negro suffrage but insisted that it was unsafe and unwise to repeal the oath. The common support of Negro suffrage held these two discordant elements together and secured the election of Governor Joseph W. McClurg in 1868, but when the fifteenth amendment to the national constitution gave the right to vote to the Negro, the two factions split on the retention of the iron-clad oath. In 1870 they nominated separate state tickets, the liberals nominating B. Gratz Brown, the radicals Governor McClurg. Public opinion had been steadily becoming more liberal, the characteristic conservatism of the people was reasserting itself, the carpet bag government and Negro domination in the South was very unpopular in the state and serious charges had been brought against the honesty of the radical legislature in Missouri. The Democrats made no separate nomination and supported Brown, who was elected. At the same time an overwhelming majority of the people voted to remove the ironclad oath from the constitution.

The same general influences that defeated the radicals in Missouri were weakening the national Republican Party throughout the North. To organize this opposition, the liberal Republicans in Missouri proposed in 1872 a national convention at Cincinnati and the nomination of a national ticket. The invitation met a hearty response and the national liberal Republican Party was organized. The platform called for home rule in the South, reform all along the line and especially in the civil service and the tariff. But the convention very unwisely nominated Horace Greeley, a disgruntled Republican, not at all representative of the party principles. Greeley carried Missouri, but was hopelessly beaten in the country, despite the reluctant support of the Democrats. In the state election the local liberal Republicans and Democrats made a formal alliance, dividing the state ticket between them. The Democrats received the governorship and after a long struggle between the discordant elements nominated Silas Woodson, a conservative moderate Union man, who had taken little part in the war. He was elected and the conservatives gained full control of the state government.

After 1872 the liberal Republicans disappeared as a separate party, the majority of them joining the Democrats, thus making the party still more complex. The repeal of the test oaths in 1870 brought back the ex-confederates into politics, so that radical Unionists like Blair, men who had risen high in the Confederate army like Cockerell, conservative Whigs like Rollins and liberal Republican advocates of Negro suffrage were all fighting under the same banner. The result was that for some years old antagonisms kept the more positive leaders in the background. In 1874 the Democrats nominated for governor and elected another conservative who had not taken an active part in the war, Charles H. Hardin. After long discussions the people at this election by a slight majority decided in favor of a new constitutional convention, which in 1875 drew the present frame of government of the state. It is chiefly remarkable for its ultraconservatism and stringent limitations on the powers of the government state and local. In spite of frequent amendments, it is today quite inadequate for the new conditions.

The United States senators during this period show clearly the kaleidoscopic changes in politics. Waldo P. Johnson, supposedly a moderate, succeeded Green in 1861, but both Polk and Johnson were expelled from the United States senate for disloyalty. To succeed them the assembly elected B. Gratz Brown, a former Republican, and John B. Henderson a former Democrat, but both at that time uncompromising Unionists. Brown was succeeded in 1867 by Charles D. Drake, author of the ironclad oath and Radical Republican, while two years later Henderson was supplanted by Carl Schurz. On the resignation of Drake, Prank P. Blair, in 1871, was chosen to complete the term, but in 1873 the Democrats found it impossible to agree on any positive candidate and finally selected a relatively obscure conservative, Louis V. Bogy. When Schurz's term expired in 1875, however, the Democrats had to a great degree forgotten their former differences and elected Francis M. Cockrell, ex-brigadier-general in the Confederate army. Cockrell served continuously until the Republicans secured control of the assembly in 1904.

While these changes and realignments were going on in politics the state was recovering from the losses incurred during the war. In spite of the abolition of slavery, the depredations of the guerrillas and the damage to the railroads the destruction of wealth was not very great. But local government broke down, taxes could not be collected, schools were closed and business almost at a standstill during the first year of the war. After Price was driven from the state, and Governor Gamble restored order and secured the withdrawal of most of the Federal troops, conditions north of the river became fairly normal except for the guerrillas. Even after the war was over these were a disturbing factor, now attacking banks and railroad trains instead of Union sympathizers and private enemies. Perhaps the most serious loss to the state during the war was in population. With the actual loss of life and the very large emigration of ex-Confederates to Colorado, Oregon and Montana, the population was probably no larger in 1865 than in 1860. In the next seven years, however, there was a large immigration, particularly to the cities and from the old northwest into the cheap land in the southwestern part of the state.

Financial Reorganization

The finances of the state were one of the hardest of the problems of the period. Except for the Hannibal and St. Joseph, the railroads were quite unable to pay interest on the state bonds loaned to them, which, principal and accumulated interest, amounted to nearly thirty-two million dollars in 1865. Extraordinary war expenses brought the total debt up to about thirty-six million. The railroads had suffered severely during the war, were in deplorable physical condition, and quite unable to borrow money or pay the thirty-two million they owed the state. The state foreclosed its mortgages and was forced either to run them itself or to sell them. The latter alternative was chosen but the state realized only about six millions on the sales. Ugly stories of corruption, probably founded on fact, figured prominently in Missouri politics for years afterward. As the sales contained provisions for the completion and extension of the railroads the state really received more than the purchase price.

In spite of this unfortunate experience the people eagerly welcomed new projects and aided them very liberally through city and county bond issues. Some of these projects were legitimate and resulted in new lines of great value, particularly the lines connecting Kansas City and St. Joseph with Chicago, but the larger number were fraudulent. The promoters, with or without the connivance of dishonest officials, secured the bonds, sold them to innocent third parties and never built the roads. To this day some of the poorer counties have been unable to redeem these railroad bonds.

By heavy taxation, selling the railroads, holding back the school fund and using the large Federal grants made to reimburse the state for war expenditures, the radicals were able by 1869 to reduce the debt about one-third. When the conservative elements secured control in 1870 and 1872 they cut down expenditures and steadily reduced the remainder. This was a period of expansion and inflation in business the country over, new settlers were coming to Missouri by the thousand and the state on the whole had more than regained the losses of the war when the national panic of 1873 brought widespread distress. The debts state and local, became a serious burden, taxes were hard to pay and prosperity did not revive much before 1880.

In spite of the confusion in politics and the feverish speculation and consequent collapse in business, the state was steadily advancing in the decade before 1875. Both the new constitutions provided for liberal appropriations for the schools, and the conservatives restored the school fund. The state made its first appropriation for the State University, and improved it by the addition of professional schools of agriculture, law, medicine and engineering. To supply the demand for trained teachers, a normal department was added to the University and three separate normal schools were established. Population was docking to the cities; Hannibal and St. Joseph doubled in population, Kansas City grew from a little town of five thousand in 1860 to a bustling western city of over thirty thousand ten years later and was becoming the headquarters for trade to the west and southwest. St. Louis in 1870 was the largest city in the West and the third in the Union. The completion of the Eads Bridge across the Mississippi in 1874 gave St. Louis for the first time un-interrupted rail communication with the East. But the confusion of the war and the rapid building of the railroads was ruining the river traffic, and Chicago with her better railroads and lake trade was already disputing St. Louis' supremacy.

Missouri Since 1875

Missouri politics for thirty years after 1875 seem monotonous and uneventful. Year after year the Democrats carried the state in national and state elections. The nominal issues were those of the reconstruction times; the Democrats insisted on economy and conservatism and denounced the carpet bag regime in the South, the ironclad oath, the sale of the railroads and the heavy debt in Missouri. As the party became better united, the more positive leaders came to the front. Governor John S. Phelps had served in congress from 1844 to 1862, had commanded a regiment in the Union army and had aided Blair in the reorganization of the Democratic Party. He was succeeded by another Union Democrat, T. T. Critenden and he in turn by a Confederate brigadier-general, John S. Marmaduke. With Marmaduke the older line ends and" the later governors are younger men who took no part in the great sectional struggle.

After the panic of 1873, the reconstruction issues although nominally dominant in politics, were really subordinate in the minds of the people to the newer economic and social problems. Times were hard and the westerners believed, rightly or wrongly, that their troubles were due to the excessive rates and discriminations of the railroads and to a currency which enabled the East to exploit the West. In Missouri the demand that the government remedy these evils did not lead to any considerable third party movement, but the assembly made some attempt to regulate the railroads through a railroad commission. The demand for the free coinage of silver was generally endorsed and found one of its earliest and ablest champions at Washington in Richard P. Bland. In the eighties the revival of prosperity temporarily obscured this economic and social unrest and the Democrats maintained their unity. Governors D. R. Francis, a successful business man and efficient mayor of St. Louis, and W. J. Stone, a former member of congress received substantial majorities. Francis was later a member of Cleveland's cabinet and Stone has represented Missouri in the United States senate since 1903; both are today among the most prominent men in the state. Until 1903 the Democrats reelected to the United States senate Cockerell and Vest, first chosen in 1879, two senators who worthily continued the traditions of Benton, Henderson and Schurz.

When the panic of 1893 brought the economic issues to the front once more, the old party cries lost their magic. The Missourians joined the new People's or Populist Party by the thousand and in the off year of 1894 in coalition with the Republicans elected a Republican superintendent of schools. Before the next national election, however, the radical or Populist wing had captured the national Democratic Party. Its candidate W. J. Bryan swept Missouri by tremendous majorities in both 1896 and 1900, carrying with him the Democratic candidates for governor, L. V. Stephens and A. M. Dockery.

Then came the first substantial Republican victory since 1868. The national Democratic candidate for president, Parker, was an easterner and a conservative, unacceptable to the radical element in the West, while the Republican candidate Theodore Roosevelt, apart from the currency issue, which renewed prosperity was driving into the background, represented many of the reforms which the radicals desired. At the same time there was a revolt in the Democratic Party against the older leaders under J. W. Folk, who secured the nomination on the issue of reform. The election resulted in the success of Roosevelt and Folk and the Republican candidates for the other state offices. The Republicans secured also a majority in the assembly and sent William Warner to the United States senate to succeed Cockrell. Four years later the split in the Democratic party still continued, Taft carried the state by a small majority over Bryan, H. S. Hadley, the Republican candidate, was selected governor, but the Democrats captured the other state offices and a small majority in the assembly, which they held in 1912. The truth is that the older allegiance to party name and party machinery has broken down, the people more and more are voting intelligently on men and issues, and Missouri today is a doubtful state.

After 1872 Missouri entered a new stage in her economic development. The good government land was all taken up and immigrants from the East went farther west in their search for cheap land. From 1870 to 1890 the increase in population in the ten year period was about one-fourth, from 1890 to 1900 it fell to one-sixth and in the next decade was very small. After 1880 the increase was to be found chiefly in the cities. As far as an agricultural population was concerned, the state had reached the limit of rapid growth. The future development of the state must be along the lines of manufacturing and varied industries, although scientific farming is already checking the decline of agriculture. The manufacturing interests have grown steadily since the war. St. Louis ranks high in the boot and shoe and tobacco industries, while Kansas City and St. Joseph are among the most important meat packing centers in the country. The rapid development of the southwest is today of great advantage to these cities, which as in the days of the old Santa Fe Trail control the trade routes. In the extreme southwestern part of the state the zinc and lead mines, all developed since the war, have produced a group of prosperous and growing cities unknown in 1870; Springfield also has shared in their prosperity. While the great majority of Missourians are still farmers, the state has passed definitely out of the exclusively agricultural stage in her history.


Proclamation Admitting Missouri to the Union
Facsimile from the Original

  Northeast Missouri| AHGP Missouri | Books on AHGP

Source: History of Northeast Missouri, edited by Walter Williams, Volume I, Lewis Publishing Company, 1913

 

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