Missouri Bicentennial Minutes: Missouri Petitions for Statehood

Feb 27, 2020

Welcome to the Missouri Bicentennial Minute from the State Historical Society of Missouri. I’m Bill Eddleman. Over the next two years, I’ll be presenting short vignettes of the events leading to Missouri Statehood and some views of life in southeastern Missouri 200 years ago.

The status of the drive toward Missouri statehood had been underway for over two years in February 1820. John Scott of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri’s territorial delegate to Congress, presented the first petition to Congress from Missouri Territory requesting statehood on January 8, 1818. The process and debate was on!

Missouri would be the first state admitted from west of the Mississippi, and slavery quickly became a major impediment to its admission. Anti-slavery legislators opposed the extension of slavery into new states, and admission of Missouri as a slave state would also upset the balance of slave and free states in the Union.

Pro-slavery legislators thought each state should choose whether to allow slavery or not, in which case Missouri would likely allow slavery. Representative James Tallmadge of New York authored two amendments to the statehood bill banning slavery and freeing all slaves in the new state, while Delegate Scott argued for the opposition. Both provisions passed the House, but the Senate removed them. The House refused to pass the amended bill, and the debate and process deadlocked for the 1818 session. Missouri renewed its application in late 1819, and Congress renewed the debate.

What happened next, which I will discuss next time, was to guide federal action on slavery and the admission of new states to the United States for the next 34 years.