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Missouri's struggle for statehood, 1804-1821 online

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Cook, the southeast Missouri candidate, was better supported
in St. Louis and the northern counties than Ashley .^^

The members elected to the house of Representatives of
the general assembly were: from Howard county, Andrew S.
McGirk, Elias Elston, Daniel Monroe, Tyre Harris, James
Alcorn, John Ray, Martin Palmer, Samuel Williams; from Cooper
county, William Lillard, Thomas Rogers, William McFarland,
Thomas Smiley; from Montgomery county, Jesse B. Boone,
Bethel Allen; from Pike county, James Johnson, Daniel Ralls;
from St. Charles county, Joseph Evans, Uriah J. Devore, Wil-
liam Smith; from St. Louis county, Joshua Barton, David
Musick, Henry Walton, John S. Ball, Alexander Stewart, Marie

P. Leduc; from Franklin county, Philip Boulware, ; from

Lincoln county, Morgan Wright; from Jefferson county, William
Bates; from Washington county, George Hudspeth, Robert M.
Stevenson; from Ste. Genevieve county, James Caldwell, Joab
Waters, Daniel [or David] Murphy, James H. Relfe; from Cape
Girardeau county, Joseph McFerron, Edmund Rutter, Thomas
W. Graves, Robert English; from New Madrid county, John
Hall, Richard H. Waters; from Madison county, Samuel D.
Strother, and from Wayne county, Ezekiel Rubottom.^^ Of
these forty-three representatives elected to the first general
assembly of the State of Missouri, one, the unknown repre-
sentative from Franklin county, died before taking his seat in
that body; two, Ray and Ralls, died while the legislature was
in session in 1820; one, Boone, died just after the close of the
session; and two. Barton and McFerron, resigned before the
end of the first session."*^ John G. Heath, a former delegate
to the convention, was elected to fill the term of the unknown
Franklin county representative; Duff Green, another delegate,
was elected to take Ray's seat; no one seems to have been elected

<' Pike county also went for Cook. Mo. Intell., Sept. 16. 1820.

<8 Mo. Intell, Sept. 30, Oct. 14, 1820.

*" Regarding the unknown Franklin county representative see Mo. Senate
Journal, 1820, p. 60. Ray died in St. Louis on Oct. 13, 1820. {Ibid., p. 51.)
Ralls died in St. Louis on or about Oct. 30 or 31, 1820. His funeral was held
on Oct. 31. {Ibid., pp. 82f.) Boone died in St. Louis on Doc. 22, 1820. {Mo.
Intell, Jan. 1, 1821.) Barton resigned on Sept, 21, 1820. {Mo. Intell, Oct.
14, 1820; St. Louis Enquirer, Sept. 30, 1820.) McFerron resigned in Nov. 1820.
{Mo. Intell, Dec. 9, 1820.)

A De Facto State. 269

at this session to fill the place of Ralls; Henry S. Geyer was
elected to Barton's seat; and William (?) Dougherty was prob-
ably the man elected to take McFerron's place. ^^ The resig-
nation of Barton was caused by his seeking the office of secretary
of state; that of McFerron, by his being appointed to a circuit

The fourteen members of the senate elected at this election
were: from Howard and Cooper counties, Benjamin Cooper,
Bennett Clark, Richard W. Cummins, Elias Barcroft; from
Montgomery and Franklin, James Talbott; from St. Charles,
Benjamin Emmons; from St. Louis, Silas Bent, Mathias Mc-
Girk; from Jefferson and Washington, Samuel Perry; from Ste.
Genevieve, Isidore Moore; from Madison and Wayne, David
Logan; from Cape Girardeau and New Madrid, George F.
Bollinger, Abraham Byrd; and from Lincoln and Pike, Samuel
K. Caldwell.^^ McGirk later resigned to accept a Supreme
Court judgeship.^2 Of these fourteen senators three, or twenty-
one per cent., had been delegates to the convention; of the
forty-three representatives only five, including Heath, or eleven
per cent., had been delegates.

The ablest members of the lower house were Joshua Barton
and his successor, Henry S. Geyer; those in the senate were
Benjamin Emmons, Silas Bent, Mathias McGirk and Samuel
Perry. The character of the membership of both chambers
did not begin to equal that of the convention. Many were
men of little or no political experience and never rose to prom-
inence. The leaders and the best minds of Missouri were in
the convention, and the first general assembly was not a pro-
convention body. The people had, with few exceptions, passed
by their politicians and sent untrained men to legislate for
them. The leaders waited and as popular indignation over
high salaries and other measures subsided, they gradually came
back. Thus while only seven delegates were in the beginning
elected to the first general assembly, two more. Heath and
Green, were added to the number by the close of the last session;

'"Mo. Senate Journal, p. 60; Mo. IntelL, Nov. 4, Dec. 9. 1820.
«> Mo. IntelL, Sept. 30, 1820.
^^Mo. Senate Journal, 1820, p. 141.

270 Missouri Struggle for Statehood.

and in the second general assembly, eleven delegates were
seated. ^^

The first general assembly of the State of Missouri, in
accordance with the constitution, convened in St. Louis on the
third Monday in September, the 18th, 1820. The place of
meeting for this session was the Missouri Hotel, — a fine, three-
story, stone building, erected by Thomas Brady in 1819 and
opened by David Massey in 1820. Walter B. Stevens, the St.
Louis historian, thus describes this structure : "One of the most
notable landmarks of the town of St. Louis disappeared in 1873,
when the old Missouri hotel was razed, to give place to a business
structure. In its day this was the finest hotel in the West.
It was commenced in 1817 and was completed two years later.
When the property passed into the hands of Major Biddle an
addition was built to increase the accommodations. The
Major went east and procured a professional hotel-keeper, who
opened the house with an equipment and appointments which
made it the hotel of the Missouri Valley." ^^

The two chambers met separately and the members present
having produced their credentials, were sworn and proceeded
to organize. The house elected James Caldwell, speaker;
John McArthur, clerk; and George W. Ferguson, door-keeper.^^
All these offices were contested. The election of Caldwell, of
Ste. Genevieve, over Stewart, of St. Louis, showed the strength
of the southeast Missouri forces. Later in the session John
Rice Jones was appointed clerk pro tempore of the house in the
absence of McArthur, and on November 8th, Jones was elected
chief clerk of the house.^^ The senate unanimously elected
Silas Bent president pro tempore; John S. Brickey, clerk pro
tempore] and Jabez Warner, doorkeeper. Brickey after two
viva voce votes was then elected clerk^"^ and later in the session
Thompson Douglass was elected assistant clerk.^^ The election

" Off. Manual of Mo., 1914-15, p. 150.

"Stevens, St. Louis, p. 119; Billon, Annals, 1804-1821. p. 106, a picture of
the hotel is opposite p. 106. The hotel was located on the southwest corner of
Main and Oak Streets, now North Main and North H. Streets.

*<> St. Louis Enquirer, Sept. 23, 1820; Mo. Intell., Sept. 30, 1820.

^^ Senate Journal, 1820, pp. 43f., 81, 101.

»' Ibid.

** Senate Journal, 1820, p. 41.

A De Facto State. 271

of Bent, of St. Louis, showed the strength of the St. Louis and
northern county senators and this strength was never seriously
threatened during the session. At 4 P. M. the senate and house
assembled in the chamber of the latter and agreeable to the
constitution made an official count of the votes for governor
and lieutenant governor. A committee of three from each
house was appointed to inform McNair and Ashley of their
election and to request their presence before the general as-
sembly to be qualified. At 11 A. M., on September 19, Governor
McNair and Lieutenant Governor Ashley appeared before the
joint session of the general assembly and in their presence took
the oaths of office. At 4 o'clock of the same day, Governor
McNair delivered in person his first message.^^ This first mes-
sage of the first governor of the State of Missouri was, unlike the
majority of its successors, brief. It contained only one specific
recommendation regarding legislation — the advisability of mak-
ing provision for the appointing of presidential electors from
Missouri. Nine days after this first message Governor McNair
issued a proclamation declaring the election of John Scott as
representative to Congress from Missouri.^°

The first days of the session were spent in preliminary
work. Committees, standing and special, were appointed, of
which the most important were on claims, grievances, constitu-
tional provisions, permanent and temporary seats of govern-
ment, militia, vice and immorality, census, slaves, roads and
bridges, and the great seal of the State.^^ In spirit with the
governor's message, a resolution was offered on the third day
in the house that stated it was inexpedient at that session to
legislate further than was necessary for organizing the govern-
ment and appointing officers. This resolution was tabled .^■-
From almost the beginning of the session several important
questions were under discussion that involved spirited contests.
The principal ones were the election of the two United States
senators from Missouri, the location of the temporar\^ seat of

»« Ibid.

^'^ Mo. Gaz., Oct. 11, 1820. Scott received five thousand three hundred and
eighty votes. The proclamation was dated Sept. 28, 1820.

«' Afo. Intell., Oct. 14, 1820; St. Louis Enquirer, Sept. 30, 1820.
" St. Louis Enquirer, Sept. 30, 1820.

272 Missouri Struggle for Statehood.

government, and the proposing of constitutional amendments.
The first was settled within two weeks, the second towards the
end of the session, and the last was defeated.

The election of the two United States senators from Mis-
souri had been before the public from the meeting of the con-
vention. It had done much to bring about the St. Louis caucus
and had been instrumental in defeating Clark. The August
election had not settled the question, it had merely drawn the
conflicting forces farther apart, cementing the elements in each.
The convening of the legislature brought the subject up for
final settlement. The house on the day following its organiza-
tion had before it a resolution providing for the senatorial
election being held on September 25th. This resolution was
received on September 20th on motion of Ball of St. Louis. ^^
An election on the 25th would probably have meant Benton's
defeat, owing to the lack of time his forces would have had in
securing sufficient votes.

The first law passed by the general assembly of the State
of Missouri was on this question of electing United States
senators. It was signed by the governor on September 28th .^"^
The law provided for a joint session of both houses and for a
simple majority vote of the votes cast. By a joint resolution
passed on September 29th, the first election for this purpose
was set at 3 o'clock P. M., on Monday, October 2nd.^^ Ac-
cording to the provisions of this resolution and the law governing
senatorial elections, the senate and house convened in the
chamber of the latter. The votes were cast viva voce: an attempt
had been made in the Senate to obtain a vote by ballot but this
was lost by a large majority.^® The results of the election were
as follows: Barton received thirty-four votes; Benton, twei.ty-
seven; John B. C. Lucas, sixteen; Henry Elliott, ten; John Rice
Jones, nine; Nathaniel Cook, eight. There were fifty-two
members of the general assembly voting, and as twenty-seven

" St. Louis Enquirer, Sept. 30, 1820.
«« Laws of Mo., 1820, pp. 3f.
" Senate Journal, p. 28.

*' Senate Journal, pp. 32, 34; Mo. IntelL, Oct. 14. 1820; St. Louis Enquirer,
Oct. 7, 1820.

A De Facto State. 273

votes was a majority, Barton and Benton had been elected
Missouri's first United States Senators.

The election was dramatic. According to rumour, which
has never been disproved and which fits admirably into place
with undisputed and authentic historical facts, the votes of
two men, — one, Daniel Ralls, who from his death-bed of twelve
hours later cast his vote for Benton, and the other, Marie P.
Leduc, who, hating Benton, was persuaded by his French
friends to vote for him instead of Lucas, — finally determined
the elevation of Thomas Hart Benton to the United States
Senate.^^ The work and the credit, however, of securing the
larger number of the other twenty-five votes for Benton be-
longed to one, who within four years was treated as an enemy
by Benton and who within a decade was defeated for reelection
by him, — David Barton. The history of Missouri nowhere
reveals so unnatural a deed, so perfidious an act, as the turning
of Benton against Barton. The faults of Barton were many
but his ability and honesty were never questioned and his
nature was the most lovable. The public character and mind
of Benton were perfect, but his domineering, brutal, conceited
disposition was apparent in most of his work. One of the
foulest blots in the life of the Great Statesman was this defeating
the friend who had raised him to the heights of a conqueror.
Barton wagered even his popularity in overcoming the un-
popularity of Benton. The latter could never have won victory
in 1820 without the unselfish support of his friend. The pop-
ular condemnation of Benton's brutal murder of the talented
son of Judge Lucas had not subsided and he was frequently
referred to as the man of blood, the assassin.^^ For Barton to
have thus jeopardized his position for Benton and for Benton
to have so perfidiously betrayed Barton, is one of the tragedies
in the political history of the State.

The votes cast for the senatorial candidates were sectional.
These votes showed that St. Louis and the north Missouri
counties, including Cooper, were in control of the legislature.
All except five of the votes for Barton came from these quarters

«' Darby, Recollections, pp. 29ff.

«' Mo. Gaz., spring and summer of 1820.

M S— 18

274 Missouri Struggle for Statehood.

and similarly all except six for Benton. Lucas received his
support, except three votes, from south of the river, and was
unable to obtain a single vote from St. Louis county. The
opposition of independent men to Lucas was based on his strict
construction of the laws governing the old Spanish land claims.
This was played upon by the Benton forces and is said to have
induced Leduc to cast his vote for Benton. Elliott received
his support from south of the river but none from St. Louis
county. Jones received one vote each from St. Louis and St.
Charles counties and his other votes from south of the river.
Cook received his support from the counties north of the river
and from Cooper and St. Louis counties.^^ The concentration
of the anti-Benton men on one candidate would easily have
defeated Benton. That there were any Benton votes cast for
the other candidates is improbable considering the thorough
campaign waged by Benton and Barton to secure support.

Out-rivaling the interest and controversy created by the
senatorial election, was the struggle over the location of the
temporary seat of government. Although not as important
as the present day question of prohibition, the location of the
temporary seat of government was none the less the great ob-
structive measure before the first State general assembly. This
question held the attention of the legislators from September
20th to November 25th, a period of sixty-six days out of an
eighty-six day session. The ties of political leadership were
broken and the interests of sections became supreme. Judging
from the time spent and the number of votes taken, the location
of the temporary seat of government was seemingly regarded
as the most weighty problem that confronted the new State.

The subject was brought before the house in a resolut-on
introduced by Devore, of St. Charles. This resolution, which
was tabled, stated that it was then expedient to adjourn the

present session from St. Louis to .^° The house then

passed a bill locating the temporary seat of government at
Potosi.''^ The senate struck out Potosi and inserted Cote Sans

** St. Louis Enquirer, Oct, 7, 1820; Senate Journal, p. 28,

■"> St. Louis Enquirer, Sept. 30, 1820. Introduced Sept. 20, 1820.

■>' Mo. Gaz., Oct. 25, 1820; Mo. Inlell., Nov. 4, 1820.

A De Facto State. 275

Dessein.'^'- The house struck out Cote Sans Dessein by a vote
of twenty-four to eleven. A motion was made to insert St.
Louis, this lost by a vote of six to twenty-nine; St. Charles was
then proposed and voted down; Franklin lost by twelve to
twenty-three; Florissant, by seven to twenty-eight; St. Charles
again lost, by fifteen to twenty; Boonville, by thirteen to twenty-
two. By a vote of eighteen to seventeen — all eighteen votes
being from St. Louis, Cooper, and the north Missouri counties —
the house decided to leave untouched, but did not adopt, the
senate's amendment.'^ The question was not brought up
again in the house for ten days, which time was probably em-
ployed by the representatives in lobbying for votes. On re-
consideration of the question, Franklin was proposed and lost;
St. Charles, Boonville, St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve and Her-
culaneum, were each in turn voted down; finally by the close vote
of twenty to nineteen Franklin was inserted, and the amended
bill returned to the senate. '^^ The senate refused to concur in
the amendment of the house and a joint conference committee
of three members from each body was appointed.'^^ After
considering the subject for a week, this committee being unable
to agree was discharged. '^^ McGirk, of St. Louis, then had a
resolution adopted by the senate requesting the house for a
simple conference. Before the house had replied, McGirk in-
troduced in the Senate a resolution locating the temporary
seat of government at St. Louis. Emmons, of St. Charles, had
this last resolution amended by striking out St. Louis, the vote
being seven to three.'' St. Charles was then voted down by
four to six; Franklin, by two to eight; Potosi, by five to five.
Moore, of Ste. Genevieve, tried to have the question postponed
until March 1, 1821, but was defeated one to eleven.'^ St.
Louis w^as then decided on by a vote of six to six and the presi-
dent of the senate voting affirmatively. This vote was recon-
sidered by a vote of six to six and the president voting affirma-

" Ibid.

" Ibid.

'< Ibid.

" Senate Journal, p. 98.

''^Senate Journal, pp. 117, 119.

" Ibid.

'« Ibid., p. 122.

276 Missouri Struggle for Statehood.

tively. St. Louis than lost by five to seven; Potosi, by four to
eight; St. Charles by six to six, the president voting in the
negative; and Newport, in FrankHn county, by two to ten.'^^
The simple conference requested of the house was then dis-
charged by the senate and on motion of McGirk, of St. Louis,
the senate by a vote of seven to five decided to adhere to its
original amendment, i. e.. Cote Sans Dessein.^^ The house
adhered to its amendment in favor of Franklin, and the original
bill with the various amendments was lost. The house then
appointed a committee which brought in a new bill. It is
probable, but not certain, that St. Charles was decided upon
in this bill.^^ The Senate took up the new house bill, rushed
it through and adopted it with an amendment in one day by
a vote of seven to five. The house concurred in the amendment
on November 25th, the bill received the governor's signature
on the same day.^^ By this law the seat of government was
located at the town of St. Charles until October 1, 1826. On
motion of McGirk, of St. Louis, the following propositions of
the citizens of St. Charles were entered on the journal of the
senate :

The undersigned, for and in behalf of the citizens of St. Charles, pledge
themselves, should the temporary seat of government be established at that place,
to furnish free of expense to the state, rooms suitable for the accommodation of
both branches of the General Assembly, and also committee rooms."
8th November, 1820.

Benjamin Emmons,
William Smith,
Uriah J. Devore,
Joseph Evans,
Nathaniel Simonds,
R. & J. Heath."

The consideration of the location of the temporary seat of
government had brought forward the claims of nine counties
for this honor, and had wasted the energies of the general
assembly for over two-thirds of the session.

Surpassing in importance, both in worth and in public
opinion, the location of the temporary seat of government,

" Ibid., p. 123.

•0 Ibid., p. 124.

•' Ibid., pp. 126, 136.

"Ibid., p. 139; Mo. Laws. 1820. p. 37.

*' Senate Journal, p. 139. Cf.. Enquirer, Oct. 1821, editorials.

A De Facto State. 277

were the amendments proposed to the constitution. Although
the legislators settled, or rather defeated, the latter in little
time and although the struggle over these amendments could
not compare with that waged over the temporary capital, to
the people of the State the constitutional amendments were
the greatest pieces of legislation before the general assembly.
Even before the constitution had been adopted, several serious
criticisms were current regarding some of its provisions. During
the campaign in July and August, 1820, these criticisms became
stronger. To the people the constitution had several defects
and it was the wish of the voters that the first general assembly
begin the correcting of these defects. The high minimum
salaries provided for the governor and the judges, the creation
of the new ofhce of chancellor, and to some degree the life term
of judges and their appointive tenure by the governor and sen-
ate, were unpopular. The high salary clauses and the chan-
cellor clause were especially subjected to popular condemna-
tion. If there was any single purpose that guided the voters
on August 28th, it was to elect legislators and a governor that
would strike these sections off the constitution. The people,
however, were to temporarily experience the defeat of their
wishes in this first session of their lawmakers. Only one thing
was and is today certain in this respect, that eventually the
wishes of the people prevail. The special session of the first
State general assembly did in 1821 what the first session failed
to do in 1820, and the second State general assembly endorsed
the work of the special session.

Petitions from the inhabitants of Madison and Cape Girar-
deau counties on amendments to the constitution were pre-
sented to the house in October. ^'^ Similar ones were circulated
in nearly one-half of the counties, and these were presented
to the legislature, but the lack of a complete journal of both
houses and the gaps in the newspapers, prevent the securing
of accurate information as to the names of these counties. ^^
Governor McNair sent a special message to both branches
of the legislature recommending an alteration in the constitu-

8^ Mo. Intell., Nov. 4. 1820.

" (Jackson) Independent Patriot, Dec. 30, 1820.

278 Missouri Struggle for Statehood.

tion in regard to lowering the salaries of the judges.^^^. The
consideration of the subject and of other proposed amendments
was not seriously begun, however, until the latter part of No-
vember. The following amendments were then brought up
for a vote in the house:

Proposed amendments to the Constitution.

Be it proposed by the General Assembly of the State of iSIissouri, That
amendments be made to the Constitution of this state, in the following articles
and sections, thereof as follows:

Article 3d

Sec. 34. — The General Assembly may establish new counties and fix county
line in such manner as they may deem expedient. Provided., That no county
now established or hereafter to be established, shall thereby be reduced to a less
superficial extent than four hundred square miles.

Article 4th

Sec. 13. — The salary of the Governor may be either less or more than two
thousand dollars annually to be fixed by law from time to time.

Sec. 23. — The General Assembly shall not provide that sheriffs, and coroners
be otherwise appointed than by election of the qualified electors.

Article 5th

Sec. 1. — The oflace of Chancellor shall be and the same is hereby abolished.

Sec. 5. — The General Assembly shall not direct that the supreme court be
held at one place only.

Sec. 9, 10, & 11. — The court of chancery and the circuit courts shall always
have original jurisdiction in all matters of equity and a general control over
executors, administrators, guardians and minors, subject to appeal in all cases
to the supreme court, under such limitations as the general assembly may by
law provide.

Sec. 13. — The compensation to each of the Judges of the supreme and circuit
courts and chancellor may be less than two thousand dollars annually to be fixed

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