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Missouri's struggle for statehood, 1804-1821 online

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the total population of the State was 66,586. C/., U. S. Census, Schedule p. 23.

" See files of the Mo. Intel!., for April and May, 1820. The four delegates
were Green, Reeves, Burckhartt and Findlay; the one was Ray, a native of
Kentucky and a slave-owner.

»2 Lillard and Wallace were slave-owners, the one a native of Virginia, the
other of Kentucky. The third delegate, Clark, was a native of Virginia.

The Mo. Intell., May 13, 1820, states that there were eight candidates in
Cooper county: the Hist, of Cooper Co., p. 75, gives a list of twelve candidates
with the vote recorded for each.

118 Missouri Si niggle for Statelwod.

These were the questions that were discussed with much vigor
in the Missouri Intelligencer preceding the election. These
were the vitally important questions regarding which doubt
was entertained of their final issue in the new constitution to
be framed. Slavery was regarded as a practically settled
question on which there was a unanimity of opinion, but an
easternly situated state capitol or a restricted suffrage was an
actual possibility and the Howard and Cooper county people
wanted delegates they could trust when such questions were
before the convention.

In Lincoln county only four candidates appeared. Two
of these favored restricting the period of slavery immigration
fearing lest Missouri deal in slaves as articles of commerce;
the third stated that he favored slavery; and the fourth, Henry —
who was elected — made no statement that appeared in the
newspapers. ^^ Henry was a large slave-owner and his election
is sufficient proof of the slavery sentiment in Lincoln county.

In Washington county public opinion on slavery is sig-
nificantly revealed in the vote that was cast on election day.
The votes cast were four hundred and fifty-three. If each
voter voted for three delegates — the number allotted Wash-
ington county — there would have been a total of one thousand
three hundred and fifty-nine delegate votes. At Mine a Burton
there were one thousand two hundred and eight delegate votes
cast, and of these only sixty-one were for restrictionists.^^
Further, all three delegates elected were slave-owners.

In Cape Girardeau county thirteen candidates were before
the voters. Only one, George H. Scripps, was an avowed
restrictionist.'"^ The others who stated their position on this
question were all strong pro-slavery men and non-restriction-
ists.*^ The five delegates elected were anti-restrictionists,
pro-slavery men and had all publicly stated their position.
The lowest vote received by any of these fi\e was more than
twice as high as that cast for Scripps, the restrictionist ; and

^* Mo. Gaz., Apr. 12. 19. 2«). 1S2().
"St. L. Enq.. May 10. 1820; Scliarf. 1. FMi.
^^ Jackson (Mo.) lltralU, Apr. 22. 1820.
'• Ibid., April H. ITy, 22. 29, 1820.

Popular Opinio7i in Missouri in 1820. 119

four candidates not elected also received higher votes than
Scripps.^^ This shows the preponderating anti-restriction public
opinion in Cape Girardeau county. The Rev. Timothy Flint,
who resided in Jackson, Missouri, from December, 1819, to
the spring of 1820, said in this connection: "The slave ques-
tion was discussed with a great deal of asperity, and no person
from the northern states, unless his sentiments were unequiv-
ocally expressed, had any hopes of being elected to the con-
vention, that formed the constitution." ^^ Four of the five
delegates elected were natives of slave states; the other, a native
of Ireland.

In Jefferson county the slavery question was the im-
portant one. A small but determined minority organized to
elect a restrictionist delegate. A meeting of restrictionists was
held at the house of John Geiger in Herculaneum on April
22nd and David Bryant presided and Benjamin Lundy was
appointed secretary. ^^ This meeting resolved that slavery was
an evil and should be limited in Missouri; that it was inex-
pedient at that time to urge abolition; that a freehold suffrage
qualification was anti-republican; and that ballot voting was
a security against "the vapouring bullies of aristocracy from
extorting from the timid and the weak, a soul-degrading ac-
quiescence in their tyranical proscriptions." The meeting also
passed a resolution recommending Abner Vansant as a can-
didate to the convention, and another naming a committee of
five to draft an address to the electors. The committee re-
ported an address, which had probably been previously pre-
pared, which was ordered printed on handbills and distributed
among the voters, and which was also ordered printed in the
Missouri Gazette.

The address was a remarkably clear and concise argument
in favor of slavery restriction in Missouri. Contrasts were

^^ Jackson (Mo.) Herald, May 6. 13, 1820. Buckner received the smallest
vote of the five delegates elected. He received two hundred and forty-one
votes; Scripps, one hundred and twelve votes; Bollinger, Ellis, Ranney and
Lewis, all pro-slavery men, received more votes than Scripps, altho they were
not elected delegates.

"Flint's Recollections, p. 214. (Kirkpatrick).

'•All information relating to Jefferson county was obtained from the Mo.
Gaz., April 26, 1820.

120 Missouri Struggle for Statehood.

drawn between free and slave states, such noted statesmen as
Clay and Jefferson were quoted with force, and an appeal was
made to the inherent ideas of justice in the breasts of Americans.
A saner, more temperate, and more forceful anti-slavery docu-
ment is not met with in the early history of Missouri. Its
author performed well his duty and it is to be regretted that
his name will probably never be known.

Acting in accordance with the resolutions adopted at this
meeting Abner Vansant made public statement of his sentiments
on the questions considered and agreed to the fundamental
acts of the restrictionist meeting. Despite the clear cut issues
presented the voters in Jefferson county and despite, further,
the appearance of two anti-restrictionist candidates, Samuel
Hammond and John W. Honey, the restrictionists were defeated.
Hammond, a wealthy land-owner and slave-holder, was elected
to represent Jefferson county.

It was in St. Louis county, the second in both slave and
free population in the Territory, that the most bitter and de-
termined fight was waged between restrictionists and anti-
restrictionists.-*^ Not only were the restrictionists many times
stronger in numbers in St. Louis county than in the other dis-
tricts, but they were better organized, more ably led, and were
alone in having the warm support of a local Missouri news-
paper, the Missouri Gazette}^ Adding bitterness to the cam-
paign in St. Louis county were the intense personal enmity
of the two local editors, Thomas H. Benton of the Enquirer
and Joseph Charless of the Gazette, the rivalry of such opposing
lawyers and politicians as Rufus Pettibone and Rufus Easton
on the one hand and David Barton and Edward Bates on the
other, and the blood feud between Thomas H. Benton, ihe
duellist, and his victim's father, John B. C. Lucas. The
struggle here was not only a fight over personalities but also

«» Howard county, the most populous. !ia(l 11.31'.) whites. 2.()S<) slaves, and
18 free colored in 1.S20; .St. Louis. H.OM white. I.HIO slaves, and l'.)C. fiiv colored,
besides 29 others free. U. S. Census, 1830. Schedule, p. 23.

"The Mo. Inlcll., Franklin, Howard county; tlie Missouri Herald. .Jackson
Capo Girardeau county, and the St. Louis Enq., were all pro-slavery and anti-
restriction papers. The Mo. Cm. alone championed restriction principles. Tlie
first issues of the Missourian, St. C'harh!s, that wi're examined by us were dated
after the election had taken placiv

josKPn en.\Ri,i-.ss.

I'"njm Hoiick's Hist. Mo III. 65.

l-n.m Houck's Ilist. Mo. III. 2^s.

From Houck's Hist Mo. III. is.

Ai,h.\A.\UhR .\k.\AlR.
Krom Houck's Hist. .Mo. III. ^5?.

From Houck's Hist. Mo. III. 254.

From Houck's Hist. Mo. III. z^o.


72S34— 120

Popular Opinion in Missouri in IS 20. 121

over principles. Barton, Benton and some of their friends
were not only attacked for being bachelors, for being debauched,
and for forming a lawyer clique, but were also accused of being
anti-restrictionists, and of being advocates of freehold suffrage
and viva voce voting; Lucas was opposed not only because of
his record as one of the board of commissioners of the United
States for adjusting Spanish land claims and because of his
personal enemies, but also because he was a restrictionist.
Although this was not the first political campaign waged in
St. Louis county or in the Territory, it was one of the most
determined and bitter prior to the State election in August,
1820. The secret and the open caucus were in notice and the
popular meeting of those days was also present. The issues
were clearly drawn and the candidates definitely placed: the
stake was the election of eight delegates, three more than any
other Missouri county was apportioned, to Missouri's first
constitutional convention. Such a stake was as fully appre-
ciated at that time as it would be today. These eight delegates
acting together would control with their own votes alone
twenty per cent of the entire convention and would form
thirty-eight and one-half per cent or nearly two-fifths of a
majority. Such was the importance of the St. Louis county
campaign and election.

The anti-restrictionist candidates were divided into one
large group and two'^small ones. All three groups publicly
held this in common/that they opposed placing a constitutional
restriction on the iipportation of slaves into Missouri. United
in being anti-restmctionists they differed however on other
points. The most important group of restrictionists was such
by virtue of numbers, ability, organization and power. It
originally consisted of thirteen candidates although only twelve
publicly declared themselves. - These thirteen were David
Barton, Edward Bates, Thomas H. Benton, Pierre Chouteau,
Jr., G. W. Ferguson, Henry S. Geyer, Wilson P. Hunt, M. P.
Leduc, Mathias McGirk, Alexander McNair, Bernard Pratte,
William Rector, and John C. Sullivan.-^ Benton's name was

i^Mo. Gaz., April 19, 1820, editorial.

^^Mo. Gaz., April 12, 19, 26, May 3, 10, 1820.

122 Missouri Struggle for Statehood.

never listed with the other candidates in the newspapers but
there were several petitions in circulation requesting his can-
didacy. It does not appear, however, that these petitions,
were popular.^^ Since there were only eight delegates to elect,
the thirteen anti-restrictionists of this group decided to select
eight of their number as the running candidates and the other
five were to resign, thus increasing the chances of the ticket.
Each of the thirteen candidates appointed a deputy to repre-
sent him and these thirteen deputies held a private meeting
in St. Louis on April 10th. At this meeting ballots were cast
and the following seven candidates w^ere decided upon: David
Barton, Edward Bates, Wilson P. Hunt, Alexander McNair,
Bernard Pratte, William Rector and John C. Sullivan. There
was a tie between Chouteau and Benton, and, as the other four
candidates were apparently dropped, the contest was between
these two. The decision was finally given in favor of Chou-
teau. The other candidates publicly resigned and the lawyer
slate of the foregoing eight candidates was placed before the
people.-^ Besides this caucus meeting there was a public
meeting of the anti-restrictionists at Florissant. Some at this
meeting opposed the lawyers' ticket but it appears that the
eight candidates were finally endorsed.-^ This ticket was the
regular anti-restriction slate, it had organization and agree-
ment back of it, and it was supported by the anti-restriction
organ, the Enquirer. Further, it represented the radical pro-
slavery sentiment of the county and stood before the voters
principally on that issue. Its campaign slogan might well
have been — Slavery Unrestricted for Missouri.-^"

«« Mo. Gaz., April 2(5, 1820.

"Mo. Gaz.. April 1«). 2(), 1S2(). Tlie charKO was made by tlu' opposition
that Chouteau could not sjx^uk EiiKlish and that only several days ht>fore the
meeting of tlie caucus had Riven in liis testimony in French by means of an in-
terpreter before the district court. Mo. Gaz., April 2(5. 1820. "An Elector."
Cf.. Mo. Gaz., May 10. 1820. editorial.

" A/o. Gaz., April 2(5, 1820. "1."

"Chouteau declared himself only on the <iu(>s(ion of slavery {\fo. Gaz.,
April 10, 1820); H unt foolislily went into details re^ardinK' his anti-restriction
principles and went so far as to practically defeat iiis major premisr, to this may
easily b(^ attributed his defeat at the polls (ibid.. April 10, 1820): McNair was
for unrestricted slav<Ty and also for friu', white male sutfraKe based on a«e. resi-
dence and a slight tax qualidcation {ibid., April 2(), 1820); Hectors principles

Popular Opinion in Missouri in 1820. 123

The second group of anti-restrictionists were composed of
three candidates, John S. Ball, Risdon H. Price, and Thomas
F. Riddick. These men were also for unrestricted slavery in
Missouri, but they were running independently of the caucus
slate. They further favored a free white male suffrage that
was limited only by an age, residence and slight tax qualification.^^
Riddick also favored ballot voting. Of these men the most
prominent was Riddick and his long and honorable public
record in St. Louis was a strong recommendation for him.

The third class of anti-restrictionists embraced only one
candidate, Rufus Easton. His address for election was directed
to the independent voters. He favored leaving the question
open in the hands of the legislature in regard to the migration
of slaves. He opposed disturbing the convention, state and
nation, by placing a binding prohibition in the constitution
which would prevent the legislature from ever regulating or
stopping the importation of slaves in the State. He said:
"that subject should be left free for the state to legislate upon
from time to time, unshackled by any constitutional provision."
Easton was an anti-restrictionist only in this sense, that he
opposed a slavery restriction clause in the constitution. In
regard to suffrage he favored a tax qualification .^^ Such a
stand on the slavery question was undoubtedly unsatisfactory
to both restrictionists and anti-restrictionists. Easton probably
resigned before the election as his name is not listed in the
newspaper election returns.

The restrictionists had at least eight and perhaps eleven
candidates at the beginning of the campaign.^^ Six of these
resigned on April 19th, leaving the following five restriction
candidates in the field: John Bobb, Caleb Bowles, John B. C.

were the same as McNair's except that he also favored ballot voting (ibid., April
19. 1820); Sullivan's position was the same as McNair's (ibid., April 26, 1820).
The individual announcements of the other candidates were not found.

^» Mo. Gaz., April 26, 1820. No declaration of principles by Ball could be

^^ Mo. Gaz., April 12, 1820.

50 It could not be ascertained regarding the platform of Clement B. Penrose,
James Mackay and Alexander Stuart. The latter resigned on April 19th and
probably the other two did this before the election. (Mo. Gaz., April 12. 19,

124 Missouri Struggle for Statehood.

Lucas, Rufus Pettibone, and Robert Simpson. ^^ This elimina-
tion process was probably the result of an agreement similar
to the proceedings of the anti-restrictionists.

The head of the restrictionist ticket was Judge John B. C.
Lucas, a prominent and honored lawyer and public official for
years in the Territory. His principles were in general those of
the other four candidates, except that he took perhaps a more
conservative attitude towards slavery. Lucas stated his views
in a lengthy article announcing his candidacy.^- He dis-
claimed being a part of any ticket or clique, and stated that
the opinions he had would be subject to modification in the
convention if more information was there given. He assured
the voters of his stand on slavery in the following language:
"Were it not for the false statements that have been set afloat
concerning my views, I should think it unnecessary to assure
the public that nothing was or is more foreign to my mind,
than to attempt to shake in the convention, diminish or impair
any existing right, even the right to hold slaves or their off-
spring, to the most remote generations." He stated, however,
that since the larger portion of Missourians were not slave-
owners he was opposed to the further unrestricted importation
of slaves, and favored every effort to prevent the increase or
extension of slavery which effort was consistent with the vested
rights of the people of Missouri. He said further: "I there-
fore am of opinion that it would be beneficial to the majority
of the present population, and still more so to the future genera-
tions, to prohibit by this constitution the importation or the
immigration of slaves from any state or territory into the state

of Missouri from and after time." While not

critical regarding the importation of domestic slaves with their
household masters, Lucas bitterly opposed plantation slave
gangs coming into the State. He opposed the latter in his love
for the free white laborer, small land owner, and tenant. Be-
sides taking a definite stand on slavery Lucas favored ballot

" Tho othor thrtie to resign were Abncr Brck. .lolm Urown, and WlUiain
Long. Those all received votes, however, at the election. (Mo. Ca:., April l'.>.
20. May 10. 1K20.)

'■ Mo. Gaz., April 12. 1K2(). This articli^ also appt'ared in Frencli in this
paper on April 26.

Popular Opinion in Missouri in 1820. 125

voting as "the only means to allay the political paroxysm that
seldom fails to happen at elections, and gives the weak, the
timid, and the dependent, a fair opportunity to give a con-
scientious and independent vote, without exposing themselves
to the violence of political bullies, or the vengeance of over-
bearing, wealthy and ambitious men." He also advocated a
tax qualification for voters and opposed a freehold qualification.
Notwithstanding these mild restrictionist views, Lucas was
defeated. In a letter written by him on October 27, 1820, he
stated that he did not succeed because he had favored a limit
of five years or some short period from the adoption of the
constitution as the limit for the importation of slaves. There-
upon, he added, the pro-slavery men called him an emancipator
"and this is the worst name that can be given in the State of
Missouri." ^^ Lucas in a letter written eighteen months later
stated that as he was known to have opposed the Spanish
land claims, these claimants opposed him and reported that he
opposed slavery in order to defeat him.^^ The evidence is con-
clusive that Lucas' restrictionist views defeated him at the polls,
regardless of the causes that prompted his enemies to dwell
upon these anti-slavery views.

The second restrictionist candidate in importance was
Rufus Pettibone. He favored restricting slavery in Missouri,
"but still for the sake of encouraging emigration" opposed
for a number of years prohibiting "persons wishing to emigrate
here, and settle among us, from bringing their slaves with them."^^
Pettibone opposed a freehold and favored a tax qualification
only for voters and advocated ballot voting. A similar posi-
tion was taken by Robert Simpson. While condemning slavery
as a moral and political evil, Simpson opposed the emancipa-
tion of slaves and of their increase since slaves were property.
He thought, however, that Missouri should prevent slaves
being brought into Missouri as into a market and advocated

""Lucas to Robert :Moore (J. B. C. Lucas, Jr., comp. letters of Hon. J. B.
C. Lucas, from 1815 to 1836. pp. 28f." (Citation taken from Trexler, p. 104.)

""Lucas to William Lowndes, Nov. 26, 1821 (ibid., p. 158); Lucas to Rufus
King, Nov. 16, 1821 (ibid., p. 148)." (Trexler, p. 104.)

Mo. Gaz., May 17, 1820.

» Afo. Gaz., April 12, 1820. Letter dated April 10, 1820.

126 Missouri Struggle for Statehood.

some restriction on slave immigration. Although a restriction-
ist, Simpson thought it expedient to "allow a reasonable time
for those owing slaves and who may become interested in our
soil, to emigrate to the state." "But," he added, "this
question of slavery seems to have absorbed every other con-
sideration." Simpson regarded the suffrage a greater one and
was strongly opposed to a restricted or freehold qualification.^®
Caleb Bowles, another restrictionist, stated that if elected he
would "use every endeavour to stop the further introduction
of slaves at as early period as possible." He was explicit,
however, in his opposition "to interfere with the slaves already
in the territory." ^^

In short the position taken by the restrictionist candidates
was perfectly clear. While in some instances opposed to
slavery, all opposed tampering with or emancipating the slaves
already in the territory or their increase. Existing property
rights were always to be respected. While favoring restriction
on the immigration of slaves into the territory, only one went
so far as to advocate such restriction "at as early a period as
possible. "^^ The voters were given to understand that the
restrictionists were not emancipators but only restrictionists.

In order to arouse public opinion and to organize, about
one hundred restrictionists held a meeting in St. Louis on April
lOth.^^ Joseph Charless was chairman and the resolutions
adopted stated that the meeting was "decidedly opposed to
any interference with the slaves" then in the territory ,'*'^ that
the further introduction of slaves should be stopped as early
as possible," and that the St. Louis county delegates should
try to effect this result in the convention; that the meeting
opposed a freehold suffrage qualification and viva voce voting;

"Mo. Gaz., April 5, 1<), 1820.

" Mo. Gaz., April 5. 1S2().

>« Caleb Bowlt's. Mo. Gaz., April 5, 1820,

'•Mo. Gaz., April 12, 1820.

«». Joseph Charles.s in uii.swit to "A Farmer" stattil publicly as follows on
thi.s point: "I am apprised of the sentiments of all tlioso candidates who are
favorable to the future restriction of slavery, and have conviMsed with most of
them on the subject, and 1 can assure them [the friends of \ Farmer'], that not
one of them (the nistrictionists] liolds the opinion he depricates. They are de-
cidedly oppo.sed to any interference with tlie slaves in the territory." (Mo.
Gaz., April 12. 1820.)

Popular Opinion in Missouri in 1820. 127

that candidates declare their positions on slavery, suffrage and
voting principles; and that the two St. Louis papers insert the
resolutions. There were some present at this meeting who
belonged to the anti side and these parties attempted to divert
if not disperse the gathering. Their attempts failed but the
Enquirer very unjustly branded all restrictionists thereafter
as "disorganizers, or emissaries of King and Clinton, or the
busy spirits of anarchy." ^^

From the data at hand it does not seem that a hearty
reception was accorded the restrictionists. Even the restric-
tionists themselves became less assertive and less definite in
regard to restriction as the days of election approached. Even
the real leader of the restrictionists, Joseph Charless, hedged
to the extent of emphasizing that Lucas stood for existing
slavery rights and that as far as Lucas entertained restrictionist
views these "private sentiments" would "yi^^d to the public
will, whenever it will be clearly and distinctly made known." ^^

The pro-slavery party, on the other hand, became more
confident and dogmatic in regard to their positiion on slavery
as the final test drew near. They stood firm on the single issue
of slavery-restriction or unlimited immigration of slaves, and
they W'Cnt before the voters with seemingly little fear of defeat.
They were glad to drop all other issues such as suffrage and
voting, and stumped the county only against slavery restriction.
Accusations and counter-accusations were in evidence but the
pro-slavery men had the advantage.^^ The latter held the
trump card, knew it, and would play no other. Side issues —
as important intrinsically as slavery — were brushed aside by
them and the flag of unlimited, unrestricted slavery was held

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