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The Missouri Constitutional Convention (1861-63) was a constitutional convention in the American Civil War that decided that Missouri stay in the Union and also evicted the elected governor to create a provisional government during the war.

The exiled state legislature gathered in Neosho in October 1861 to pass an ordinance of secession. (See Missouri secession.) On the basis of this ordinance the Confederate Congress admitted Missouri as the 12th state of the Confederate States of America.

Contents

Background

Missouri has had four constitutions[1]:

  • 1820 (when the state entered the Union)
  • 1865 (at the conclusion of the Civil War)
  • 1875 (at the end of Reconstruction)
  • 1945 (in the wake of the toppling of the Pendergast Machine).

According to Missouri law, the state constitution can only be totally rewritten via a Constitutional Convention. Since secession would have involved a new constitution, the special convention rather than the Missouri General Assembly was to decide the issue.

Missouri's official policy going into the convention was of neutrality with Missouri staying in the Union but not committing men, money or supplies to either side. The policy was first proposed in 1860 by outgoing governor Robert Marcellus Stewart (who was to eventually favor the Union) and affirmed by incoming governor Claiborne Fox Jackson (who was to eventually favor the Confederates).

Those who favored staying in the Union with the provision that status quo of slavery would continue were called "Conditional Union Men." Those who favored the Union regardless of whether slavery would be abolished were called "Unconditional Union Men."

The Missouri Legislature on January 17 passed a bill calling for the convention which was to have three members from each state senate district who were to be elected in a February 18 election. Charles H. Hardin introduced an amendment that passed 17-15 that required that any vote of secession would also require a majority vote of the state's qualified voters.[2]

First Session

The first session of the Convention decided in a 98-1 vote to stay in the Union.

The convention met on February 28, 1861, in Jefferson City, Missouri and elected ex-governor Sterling Price to chair it. The convention consisted of 99 members -- 82 of whom were born in slave states including 53 from Virginia and Kentucky.[3]

The convention adjourned and reassembled in St. Louis, Missouri on March 4 meeting at the St. Louis Mercantile Library[4].

Hamilton Rowan Gamble was named chairman of the Federal relations committee which recommended:

The position of Missouri in relation to the adjacent States which would continue in the Union, would necessarily expose her, if she became a member of a new confederacy, to utter destruction whenever any rupture might take place between the different republics. In a military aspect, secession and connection with a Southern confederacy is annihilation for Missouri. The true position for her to assume is that of a State whose interests are bound up in the maintenance of the Union, and whose kind feelings and strong sympathies are with the people of the Southern States with whom they are connected by ties of friendship and blood.

On March 21 the convention voted 98-1 against Secession noting:[5]

no adequate cause [existed] to impel Missouri to dissolve her connections with the Federal Union.

Second Session

The concept of Missouri neutrality came into question almost immediately after the firing on Fort Sumter. Eight days after the start of the war, on April 20, a secessionist mob in Liberty, Missouri seized the Liberty Arsenal. When the governor called up the militia and clandestinely obtained artillery for it from the Confederacy, Union troops under United States Captain Nathaniel Lyon encircled the St. Louis militia encampment in what would become known as the Camp Jackson Affair. While escorting the captured state militia to the St. Louis Arsenal a deadly riot erupted between the Union volunteers and an angry crowd. In immediate response the Missouri General Assembly passed Governor Jackson's military bill to create the Missouri State Guard. Jackson selected Sterling Price to lead the guard. Lyon's superior General William S. Harney negotiated a truce with Price, the Price-Harney Truce, that lasted until Lyon superseded Harney.

When negotiations between Lyon and governor Claiborne Fox Jackson broke down, Lyon began a pursuit of Jackson and Price across the state to evict the elected government. On June 15 Lyon captured Jefferson City and a new session of the convention was called on July 22 (although 20 of the original members were now in retreat with Jackson and Price). Robert Wilson (Missouri) who had been vice chairman of the original convention was named chairman of the convention.[6]

The convention then declared the state's top offices vacant and then named new provisional officers including:

The convention then declared all offices of the Missouri General Assembly vacant and an election was to be called in November.[8]

The convention adjourned on July 31.

Third Session

The secessionist Missouri State Guard was to enjoy success defeating the pursuing Union army on August 10 in the Battle of Wilson's Creek. Price began an offensive to retake Missouri with its northernmost victory in the siege of Lexington on September 20. Governor Jackson called upon the exiled members of the Missouri legislature to consider secession. They met on October 21 in Neosho, Missouri called the Neosho Convention and on October 30 voted to secede.

Meanwhile, on October 10, the constitutional convention met for the third time in St. Louis. They abolished more state offices, cut the salaries of state employees by 20 percent, extended the date of the next election to August 1862, created provisions for a state militia, and created loyalty oath requirement for state officials.

Fourth Session

After the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 7-8, 1862 effectively eliminated immediate Confederate designs on the state, the convention held its fourth convention--this time in Jefferson City in June 1862. The Convention then extended its loyalty oath to voters, teachers, attorneys, bank officers and preachers ensuring strong Union votes in the elections. (Abraham Lincoln who received 10 percent of the Missouri vote in the 1860 United States presidential election was to receive 70 percent of the vote in the 1864 United States presidential election.)

Following the Fremont Emancipation which had been rescinded, the convention unsuccessfully attempted to abolish slavery in the state.

Fifth Session

After Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in revolting states but not slave states still in the Union, final session of the convention met in June 1863 with a goal of eliminating slavery in the state. The problem was the constitution had a provision that freeing of slaves required compensation and permission of the owners. The state did not have the money for this. The convention passed an ordinance for the gradual release of slaves through July 4, 1870.

Missouri Constitutional Convention of 1865

The plan to gradually release slaves infuriated Radical Republicans who were to take their grievances to Lincoln. Gamble offered to resign but the Convention refused. He died in office on January 31, 1864.

The Radicals were to oppose Lincoln in the presidential election for not acting decisively against Missouri. In 1864 the Radical Republicans elected Thomas Clement Fletcher governor of Missouri and an entirely new constitutional convention was convened in the auditorium of the St. Louis Mercantile Library on January 6, 1865 consisting of two thirds Radical Republicans. On January 11, 1865 the new convention in a 60 to 4 vote abolished slavery in the state with no compensation for owners. The convention was to go on and write a new constitution for the state. A month later the convention approved the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which freed the slaves.

References

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The Missouri Constitutional Convention (1861-63) was a constitutional convention in the American Civil War that decided that Missouri stay in the Union and also evicted the elected governor to create a provisional government during the war.

The exiled state legislature gathered in Neosho in October 1861 to pass an ordinance of secession. (See Missouri secession.) On the basis of this ordinance the Confederate Congress admitted Missouri as the 12th state of the Confederate States of America.

Contents

Background

Missouri has had four constitutions[1]:

  • 1820 (when the state entered the Union)
  • 1865 (at the conclusion of the Civil War)
  • 1875 (at the end of Reconstruction)
  • 1945 (in the wake of the toppling of the Pendergast Machine).

According to Missouri law, the state constitution can only be totally rewritten via a Constitutional Convention. Since secession would have involved a new constitution, the special convention rather than the Missouri General Assembly was to decide the issue.

Missouri's official policy going into the convention was of neutrality with Missouri staying in the Union but not committing men, money or supplies to either side. The policy was first proposed in 1860 by outgoing governor Robert Marcellus Stewart (who was to eventually favor the Union) and affirmed by incoming governor Claiborne Fox Jackson (who was to eventually favor the Confederates).

Those who favored staying in the Union with the provision that status quo of slavery would continue were called "Conditional Union Men." Those who favored the Union regardless of whether slavery would be abolished were called "Unconditional Union Men."

The Missouri Legislature on January 17 passed a bill calling for the convention which was to have three members from each state senate district who were to be elected in a February 18 election. Charles H. Hardin introduced an amendment that passed 17-15 that required that any vote of secession would also require a majority vote of the state's qualified voters.[2]

First Session

The first session of the Convention decided in a 98-1 vote to stay in the Union.

The convention met on February 28, 1861, in Jefferson City, Missouri and elected ex-governor Sterling Price to chair it. The convention consisted of 99 members -- 82 of whom were born in slave states including 53 from Virginia and Kentucky.[3]

The convention adjourned and reassembled in St. Louis, Missouri on March 4 meeting at the St. Louis Mercantile Library[4].

Hamilton Rowan Gamble was named chairman of the Federal relations committee which recommended:

The position of Missouri in relation to the adjacent States which would continue in the Union, would necessarily expose her, if she became a member of a new confederacy, to utter destruction whenever any rupture might take place between the different republics. In a military aspect, secession and connection with a Southern confederacy is annihilation for Missouri. The true position for her to assume is that of a State whose interests are bound up in the maintenance of the Union, and whose kind feelings and strong sympathies are with the people of the Southern States with whom they are connected by ties of friendship and blood.

On March 21 the convention voted 98-1 against Secession noting:[5]

no adequate cause [existed] to impel Missouri to dissolve her connections with the Federal Union.

Second Session

The concept of Missouri neutrality came into question almost immediately after the firing on Fort Sumter. Eight days after the start of the war, on April 20, a secessionist mob in Liberty, Missouri seized the Liberty Arsenal. When the governor called up the militia and clandestinely obtained artillery for it from the Confederacy, Union troops under United States Captain Nathaniel Lyon encircled the St. Louis militia encampment in what would become known as the Camp Jackson Affair. While escorting the captured state militia to the St. Louis Arsenal a deadly riot erupted between the Union volunteers and an angry crowd. In immediate response the Missouri General Assembly passed Governor Jackson's military bill to create the Missouri State Guard. Jackson selected Sterling Price to lead the guard. Lyon's superior General William S. Harney negotiated a truce with Price, the Price-Harney Truce, that lasted until Lyon superseded Harney.

When negotiations between Lyon and governor Claiborne Fox Jackson broke down, Lyon began a pursuit of Jackson and Price across the state to evict the elected government. On June 15 Lyon captured Jefferson City and a new session of the convention was called on July 22 (although 20 of the original members were now in retreat with Jackson and Price). Robert Wilson (Missouri) who had been vice chairman of the original convention was named chairman of the convention.[6]

The convention then declared the state's top offices vacant and then named new provisional officers including:

The convention then declared all offices of the Missouri General Assembly vacant and an election was to be called in November.[8]

The convention adjourned on July 31.

Third Session

The secessionist Missouri State Guard was to enjoy success defeating the pursuing Union army on August 10 in the Battle of Wilson's Creek. Price began an offensive to retake Missouri with its northernmost victory in the siege of Lexington on September 20. Governor Jackson called upon the exiled members of the Missouri legislature to consider secession. They met on October 21 in Neosho, Missouri called the Neosho Convention and on October 30 voted to secede.

Meanwhile, on October 10, the constitutional convention met for the third time in St. Louis. They abolished more state offices, cut the salaries of state employees by 20 percent, extended the date of the next election to August 1862, created provisions for a state militia, and created loyalty oath requirement for state officials.

Fourth Session

After the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 7-8, 1862 effectively eliminated immediate Confederate designs on the state, the convention held its fourth convention--this time in Jefferson City in June 1862. The Convention then extended its loyalty oath to voters, teachers, attorneys, bank officers and preachers ensuring strong Union votes in the elections. (Abraham Lincoln who received 10 percent of the Missouri vote in the 1860 United States presidential election was to receive 70 percent of the vote in the 1864 United States presidential election.)

Following the Fremont Emancipation which had been rescinded, the convention unsuccessfully attempted to abolish slavery in the state.

Fifth Session

After Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in revolting states but not slave states still in the Union, final session of the convention met in June 1863 with a goal of eliminating slavery in the state. The problem was the constitution had a provision that freeing of slaves required compensation and permission of the owners. The state did not have the money for this. The convention passed an ordinance for the gradual release of slaves through July 4, 1870.

Missouri Constitutional Convention of 1865

The plan to gradually release slaves infuriated Radical Republicans who were to take their grievances to Lincoln. Gamble offered to resign but the Convention refused. He died in office on January 31, 1864.

The Radicals were to oppose Lincoln in the presidential election for not acting decisively against Missouri. In 1864 the Radical Republicans elected Thomas Clement Fletcher governor of Missouri and an entirely new constitutional convention was convened in the auditorium of the St. Louis Mercantile Library on January 6, 1865 consisting of two thirds Radical Republicans. On January 11, 1865 the new convention in a 60 to 4 vote abolished slavery in the state with no compensation for owners. The convention was to go on and write a new constitution for the state. A month later the convention approved the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which freed the slaves.

References


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