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Southeast Missouri had a key role in the road to Missouri statehood in 1817-1821. The events leading to statehood, and some of the events, people, and lifeways in the area may be unfamiliar to many modern-day Missourians. Currently, Missouri is celebrating its Bicentennial, and this program aims to summarize the events leading to statehood, some of the factors affecting Missouri’s entry into the Union, and how people lived and worked during that time 200 years ago.Every Friday morning at 6:42 and 8:42 a.m. and Saturday morning at 8:18 a.m., Bill Eddleman highlights the people, places, ways of life, and local events in Southeast Missouri in 1821.The theme music for the show ("The Missouri Waltz") is provided by Old-Time Missouri Fiddler Charlie Walden, host of the podcast "Possum’s Big Fiddle Show."

Missouri Bicentennial Minutes: Missouri's First Constitution

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Missouri State Archives
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The preamble of the first Missouri Constitution.

Welcome to the Missouri Bicentennial Minute from the State Historical Society of Missouri. The first Missouri Constitution, drafted mainly by David Barton, was adopted by the convention and not submitted to the voters for approval. Some historians praise the document as “a marvel of moderation and political sagacity,” and it remained in effect until after the Civil War.

Unique provisions in the document included regulation of slavery, notably a requirement that the General Assembly enact legislation preventing free people of color from moving into the state. Most people of the time viewed political preaching negatively, which is probably why a provision that “no bishop, priest, clergyman, or teacher of any religious persuasion, denomination, society or sect” could serve in the General Assembly, or in any paid office except justice of the peace.

Local officials were to establish public schools as soon as possible in each township, which were to be free for the poor. The constitution authorized “one banking company” with up to five branches, with no more than one branch established in any one session of the General Assembly.

The voters chose the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and the General Assembly chose the Treasurer. The Governor appointed all other offices. The Supreme Court, a Chancellor, and Circuit Courts comprised the judiciary, with inferior courts to be established. The Governor appointed judges, who served on good behavior but had to be aged 30-59.

One unique provision was a declaration of rights, including those in the U. S. Bill of Rights, but adding others. This section has survived in all versions of Missouri’s Constitution. The state forwarded the completed constitution to Congress for approval, and prepared for its first elections. We’ll discuss that next time. I’m Bill Eddleman.

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