Two hundred years ago, Missouri became a State on August 10, 1821. Its birth was not easy though. The land was purchased by the United States in 1804, and organized into a Territory in 1812, with the first Legislative session held in Pierre Choteau Senior’s home. For the second session they were at the home of Madame Dubrevill on Second Street, also in St. Louis.
Residents wanted to discuss Statehood, so they gathered at E. Maury’s Hotel on October 26, 1818. There they began to draft a Constitution, which was completed when the Convention met at the Mansion House on June 12, 1820. This was a large 3 story brick on the corner of Third and Vine Streets, that had been built in 1816. At this session, the Convention also drafted a resolution that the seat of government would remain at St. Louis until 1826, when it would be moved to a point on the Missouri River within 40 miles of the Osage River. The rivers were the highways of their day.
The first session of the Missouri General Assembly was convened in St. Louis, and the election returns counted, with Alexander McNair becoming the first Governor. This was followed by high drama at the Missouri Hotel, at Main and Morgan Streets. U.S. Senators were elected by a caucus of a joint General Assembly, and the first seat went to David Barton by a unanimous decision. However, a bitter fight broke out between Judge John B. Lucas and Thomas Hart Benton. For days the 14 State Senators and the 43 members of the House debated and remained in a deadlock. It grew acrimonious and bitter. Then someone remembered that Representative Daniel Ralls had not come down from his room because he was ill. Needing the stalemate to end, a group of Benton supporters, carried his bed down to the Dining Room, where he feebly announced his vote for Benton. He died within a few days.
Before it adjourned, and after yet another long fight, they named Saint Charles the temporary Seat of Justice. McNair convened a special session on June 4, 1821 to discuss the objections raised by the U.S. Congress, on the second floor of a brick building on Main Street. That summer the heated debate over slavery floated down to listeners in front of the Peck Brothers Mercantile. A great compromise suggested by Henry Clay, ended the debate. Missouri was a slave state with the institution part of its history from its very beginning. With 11 free states, and 11 states in the Union, it would take the free state of Maine to balance Missouri’s entry as the 24th State.
“Whereas the Congress of the United States, by a joint resolution of the 2d day of March last, entitled “Resolution providing for the admission of the State of Missouri into the Union on a certain condition,” did determine and declare “that Missouri should be admitted into this 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 of 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 first Monday in November next an authentic copy of 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 this Union shall be considered as complete;” and
Whereas by a solemn public act of the assembly of said State of Missouri, passed on the 26th of June, in the present year, entitled “A solemn public act declaring the assent of this State to the fundamental condition contained in a resolution passed by the Congress of the United States providing for the admission of the State of Missouri into the Union on a certain condition,” an authentic copy whereof has been communicated to me, it is solemnly and publicly enacted and declared that that State has assented, and does assent, that the fourth clause of the twenty-sixth section of the third article of the constitution of said State “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 United States shall be excluded from the enjoyment of any of the privileges and immunities to which such citizens are entitled under the Constitution of the United States:”
Now, therefore, I, James Monroe, President of the United States, in pursuance of the resolution of Congress aforesaid, have issued this my proclamation, announcing the fact that the said State of Missouri has assented to the fundamental condition required by the resolution of Congress aforesaid, whereupon the admission of the said State of Missouri into this Union is declared to be complete.”