History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

History of Missouri

Chapter 6: Admission Into the Union

Application of Missouri to be admitted into the Union—Agitation of the Slavery Question—"Missouri Compromise" —Constitutional Convention of 1820—Constitution presented to Congress—Further Resistance to Admission— Mr. Clay and his Committee make Report—Second Compromise—Missouri Admitted.

With the application of the Territorial Legislature of Missouri for her admission into the Union, commenced the real agitation of the slavery question in the United States.

Not only was our National Legislature the theater of angry discussions, but everywhere throughout the length and breadth of the Republic the "Missouri Question " was the all-absorbing theme. The political skies threatened,

"In forked flashes, a commanding tempest,"

wich was liable to burst upon the nation at any moment. Through such a crisis our country seemed destined to pass. The question as to the admission of Missouri was to be the beginning of this crisis, which distracted the public counsels of the nation for more than forty years afterward.

Missouri asked to be admitted into the great family of States. "Lower Louisiana," her twin sister Territory, had knocked at the door of the Union eight years previously, and was admitted as stipulated by Napoleon, to all the rights, privileges and immunities of a State, and in accordance with the stipulations of the same treaty, Missouri now sought to be clothed with the same rights, privileges and immunities.

As what is known in the history of the United States as the "Missouri Compromise," of 1820, takes rank among the most prominent measures that had up to that day engaged the attention of our National Legislature, we shall enter somewhat into its details, being connected as they are with the annals of the State. [31]

February 15th, 1819.—After the House had resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole on the bill to authorize the admission of Missouri into the Union, and after the question of her admission had been discussed for some time, Mr. Tallmadge, of New York, moved to amend the bill, by adding to it the following proviso:

"And Provided, That the further introduction of slavery or involuntary servitude be prohibited, except for the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, and that all children born within the said State, after the admission thereof into the Union, shall be free at the age of twenty-five years."

As might have been expected, this proviso precipitated the angry discussions which lasted nearly three years, finally culminating in the Missouri Compromise. All phases of the slavery question were presented, not in its moral and social aspects, but as a great constitutional question, affecting Missouri and the admission of future States. The proviso, when submitted to a vote, was adopted—79 to 67, and so reported to the House.

Hon. John Scott, who was at that time a delegate from the Territory of Missouri, was not permitted to vote, but as such delegate he had the privilege of participating in the debates which followed. On the 16th day of February the proviso was taken up and discussed. After several speeches had been made, among them one by Mr. Scott and one by the author of the proviso, Mr. Tallmadge, the amendment, or proviso, was divided into two parts, and voted upon. The first part of it, which included all to the word "convicted," was adopted—87 to 76. The remaining part was then voted upon, and also adopted, by 82 to 78. By a vote of 97 to 56 the bill was ordered to be engrossed for a third reading.

The Senate Committee, to whom the bill was referred, reported the same to the Senate on the 19th of February, when that body voted first upon a motion to strike out the proviso all after the word "convicted," which was carried by a vote of 32 to 7. It then voted to strike out the first entire clause, which prevailed—22 to 16, thereby defeating the proviso.

The House declined to concur in the action of the Senate, and the bill was again returned to that body, which in turn refused to recede from its position. The bill was lost and Congress adjourned. This was most unfortunate for the country. The people having already been wrought up to fever heat over the agitation of the question in the National Councils, now became intensely excited. The press added fuel to the flame, and the progress of events seemed rapidly tending to the downfall of our nationality.

A long interval of nine months was to ensue before the meeting of Congress. The body indicated by its vote upon the "Missouri Question," that the two great sections of the country were politically divided upon the subject of slavery. The restrictive clause, which it was sought to impose upon Missouri as a condition of her admission, would in all probability, be one of the conditions of the admission of the Territory of Arkansas. The public mind was in a state of great doubt and uncertainty up to the meeting of Congress, which took place on the 6th of December, 1819. The memorial of the Legislative Council and House of Representatives of the Missouri Territory, praying for admission into the Union, was presented to the Senate by Mr. Smith, of South Carolina. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Some three weeks having passed without any action thereon by the Senate, the bill was taken up and discussed by the House until the 19th of February, when the bill from the Senate for the admission of Maine was considered. The bill for the admission of Maine included the "Missouri Question," by an amendment which read as follows:

"And be it further enacted, That in all that territory ceded by France to the United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes, north latitude (excepting such part thereof as is) included within the limits of the State, contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been convicted, shall be and is hereby forever prohibited; Provided, always, That any person escaping into the same from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed, in any State or Territory of the United States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or services as aforesaid."

The Senate adopted this amendment, which formed the basis of the "Missouri Compromise," modified afterward by striking out the words, "excepting only such part thereof. " [33]

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 24 to 20. On the 2d day of March the House took up the bill and amendments for consideration, and by a vote of 134 to 42 concurred in the Senate amendment, and the bill being passed by the two Houses, constituted section 8, of "'An Act to authorize the people of the Missouri Territory to form a Constitution and State Government, and for the admission of such State into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, and to prohibit slavery in certain territory."

This act was approved March 6, 1820. Missouri then contained fifteen organized counties. By act of Congress the people of said State were authorized to hold an election on the first Monday, and two succeeding days thereafter in May, 1820, to select representatives to a State convention. This convention met in St. Louis on the 12th of June, following the election in May, and concluded its labors on the 19th of July, 1820. David Barton was its President, and Wm. G. Pettis, Secretary. There were forty-one members of this convention, men of ability and statesmanship, as the admirable constitution which they framed amply testifies. Their names and the counties represented by them are as follows:

Cape Girardeau.—Stephen Byrd, James Evans, Richard S. Thomas, Alexander Buckner and Joseph McFerron.
Cooper.—Robert P. Clark, Robert Wallace, Wm. Lillard.
Franklin.—John G. Heath.
Howard.— Nicholas S. Burkhart, Duff Green, John Ray, Jonathan S. Findley, Benj. H. Reeves.
Jefferson.—Daniel Hammond.
Lincoln.— Malcom Henry.
Montgomery.—Jonathan Ramsey, James Talbott.
Madison.—Nathaniel Cook.
New Madrid.—Robert S. Dawson, Christopher G. Houts.
Pike.—Stephen Cleaver.
St. Charles.—Benjamin Emmons, Nathan Boone, Hiram H. Baber.
Ste. Genevieve.—John D. Cook, Henry Dodge, John Scott, E. T. Brown.
St. Louis.—David Barton, Edward Bates, Alexander McNair, Wm. Rector, John C. Sullivan, Pierre Chouteau, Jr., Bernard Pratte, Thomas F. Riddick.
Washington.—John Rice Jones, Samuel Perry, John Hutchings.
Wayne.—Elijah Bettis.

On the 13th of November, 1820, Congress met again, and on the sixth of the same month Mr. Scott, the delegate from Missouri, presented to the House the Constitution as framed by the convention. The same was referred to a select committee, who made thereon a favorable report. [34]

The admission of the State, however, was resisted because it was claimed that its constitution sanctioned slavery, and authorized the Legislature to pass laws preventing free negroes and mulattoes from settling in the State. The report of the committee to whom was referred the Constitution of Missouri was accompanied by a preamble and resolutions, offered by Mr. Lowndes, of South Carolina. The preamble and resolutions were stricken out.

The application of the State for admission shared the same fate in the Senate. The question was referred to a select committee, who, on the 29th of November, reported in favor of admitting the State. The debate, which followed, continued for two weeks, and finally Mr. Eaton, of Tennessee, offered an amendment to the resolution as follows:

"Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to give the assent of Congress to any provision in the Constitution of Missouri, if any such there be, which contravenes that clause in the Constitution of the United States, which declares that the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."

The resolution, as amended, was adopted. The resolution and proviso were again taken up and discussed at great length, when the committee agreed to report the resolution to the House.

The question on agreeing to the amendment, as reported from the committee of the whole, was lost in the House. A similar resolution afterward passed the Senate, but was again rejected in the House. Then it was that that great statesman and pure patriot, Henry Clay, of Kentucky, feeling that the hour had come when angry discussions should cease,

"With grave
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seem'd
A pillar of state; deep on his front engraver
Deliberation sat and public care;
And princely counsel in his face yet shone

proposed that the question of Missouri's admission be referred to a committee consisting of twenty-three persons (a number equal to the number of States then composing the Union), be appointed to act in conjunction with a committee of the Senate to consider and report whether Missouri should be admitted, etc. [35]

The motion prevailed; the committee was appointed and Mr. Clay made its chairman. The Senate selected seven of its members to act with the committee of twenty-three, and on the 26th of February the following report was made by that committee:—

"Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled: That Missouri shall be admitted into the Union, on an equal footing with the original States, in all respects whatever, upon the fundamental condition that the fourth clause, of the twenty-sixth section of the third article of the Constitution submitted on the part of said State to Congress, shall never be construed to authorize the passage of any law, and that, no law shall be passed in conformity thereto, by which any citizen of either of the States in this Union shall be excluded from the enjoyment of any of the privileges and immunities to which such citizen is entitled, under the Constitution of the United States; provided, That the Legislature of said State, by a Solemn Public Act, shall declare the assent of the said State, to the said fundamental condition, and shall transmit to the President of the United States, on or before the fourth Monday in November next, an authentic copy of the said act; upon the receipt whereof, the President, by proclamation, shall announce the fact; whereupon, and without any further proceeding on the part of Congress, the admission of the said State into the Union shall be considered complete."

This resolution, after a brief debate, was adopted in the House, and passed the Senate on the 28th of February, 1821.

At a special session of the Legislature held in St. Charles, in June following, a Solemn Public Act was adopted, giving its assent to the conditions of admission, as expressed in the resolution of Mr. Clay. August 10th, 1821, President Monroe announced by proclamation the admission of Missouri into the Union to be complete. [36]

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