Missouri Bicentennial Minutes: Missouri's First State Election

Aug 27, 2020

The next step toward statehood was election of Missouri’s first Governor, Lieutenant Governor, members of the General Assembly, the U. S. House representative, county sheriffs, and county coroners on August 28, 1820.

Most campaigning in those days was simple, involving notices in newspapers and a few local speeches and appearances. The two gubernatorial candidates were Alexander McNair of St. Louis, who voted with the liberal faction at the constitutional convention and campaigned vigorously, and territorial governor William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame. Clark was out of state much of the summer, and while popular with older residents, failed to appeal to recently arrived settlers. McNair received 73% of the vote.

For Lieutenant Governor, William H. Ashley, large landowner, businessman, and fur trader, defeated Nathaniel Cook and Henry Elliott. John Scott ran unopposed for the U. S. House. State senators included Isidore Moore from Ste. Genevieve County, George F. Bollinger and Abraham Byrd from Cape Girardeau-New Madrid; and David Logan from Madison-Wayne.

The roster of representatives included Joab Waters, James Caldwell, David Murphy, and James H. Relfe from Ste. Genevieve County, Samuel D. Strother from Madison; Ezekiel Rubottom from Wayne; Joseph McFerron, Edmund Rutter, Thomas W. Graves, and Robert English from Cape Girardeau; and John Hall and Richard H. Waters of New Madrid.

Most of those elected had no political experience, a distinct change from the constitutional delegates--many of whom ran but were defeated. This was partly a reaction to the conservative nature of the constitution and high salaries mandated for the governor and judges. While the constitution established a workable state government, it took pains to protect slavery, which was controversial among some newer residents.