Missouri Bicentennial Minutes

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 preparing to celebrate 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.

On the last Friday of each month, beginning February 28, 2020, at 6:42 and 8:42 a.m., Bill Eddleman will share an event of 200 years ago and put it in the context of the Missouri Bicentennial with a Southeast Missouri focus.

During 2020, a new Missouri Bicentennial Minute each month will focus on the halls of Congress, the beginnings of state government, and some of the key people and events affecting Missouri statehood, focusing on Southeast Missouri. The bicentennial year of 2021 will feature new vignettes weekly that will highlight 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."

Ways to Connect

Missouri State Archives

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.

Missouri State Archives

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.

(From Louis Houck, History of Missouri Vol. 3, p. 266.)

The enabling act passed by Congress directed Missouri to draft a constitution. The acrimonious debates in Congress in which northern interests proposed to dictate terms of the state constitution alienated even some Missourians who favored restriction of slavery.

The enabling act delineated the number of delegates by county, with 41 total delegates. Delegate election occurred on the first Monday and two succeeding days of May, 1820. While both parties presented candidates to the voters, restrictionists were in the minority. Thus, voters elected strong pro-slavery men.

The issue of slavery delayed statehood until the inclusion of the Missouri Compromise in the bill. How did Missouri develop as a slave state before statehood?

Slavery by the French was initially small scale. Large-scale importation of African slaves began in 1720. Phillippe François Renault brought 500 slaves from Saint-Domingue to lead mines of southeastern Missouri. After the Louisiana Purchase, settlers from North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia brought additional slaves. While many slaves grew crops, hiring out of slaves was common.

Sketch from a daguerreotype, from: Louis Houck, History of Missouri, Vol. 3, p. 13.

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.