Missouri Bicentennial Minutes: John Scott

Apr 23, 2020

The road to Missouri statehood was more than just a list of events, but involved many dedicated people. One of the key players in this quest was a Southeast Missouri man, John Scott.

Scott was born in 1785 in Virginia, and the family went west in 1802. He attended Princeton Collage, graduating in 1806. He gained admission to the bar in 1806, practicing in Ste. Genevieve. Scott served in the War of 1812 as an officer, and in Missouri’s first territorial legislature. His election as Missouri Territory’s third Congressional Delegate occurred in 1816. However, his opponent had alleged fraud, and Congress invalidated the election. Scott won election to the vacant seat, serving from August 4, 1817 to March 3, 1821.

John Scott was active in the debates leading to Missouri statehood and the Missouri Compromise. Later he was instrumental in drafting Missouri’s first Constitution. He promoted inclusion of free public education, leading to his unofficial title of the “Father of Missouri Education.”

After statehood, Missourians elected him to the House of Representatives, where he served until 1827. His final bid for reelection was unsuccessful largely because as an 1824 Presidential elector he cast the deciding vote for John Quincy Adams. Most Missourians enthusiastically supported Andrew Jackson.

Accusations swirled around his vote, probably unfairly, including that it was part of a deal to acquit his brother of dueling charges or because of outright bribery. His stated reason was that he did not favor a military man for President. Scott returned to the practice of law in Ste. Genevieve. He survived to see the Union sundered, dying in Ste. Genevieve in 1861 at age 79.