The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 effectively doubled the size of the United States. It covered everything from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Gulf Coast to the Canadian Border, except for Texas, which was not part of the deal.
The entire country turned and faced westward waiting for permission to move into this territory. There were only about two so-called towns in the entire new territory, the Port of New Orleans and St. Louis. Both towns were mostly French-speaking communities. When the Louisiana Territory was finally opened for American occupation, the majority of those heading west headed for St. Louis. Many of the newcomers to land in Missouri moved on westward, but a great number of them set down roots here and the population around St. Louis began to explode.
Missouri was first in line to apply for statehood, but it was not about to happen anytime soon. The struggle for statehood is one of the most dramatic battles of American history. No other state went through such an experience, and some historians have written that the Missouri quest for statehood was the seed that brought on the Civil War 40 years later.
Between 1810 and 1812 Missouri sent 15 petitions to Congress for statehood. On June 4, 1812, Congress created the Territory of Missouri and four years later raised it from a second-class to a first-class territory – but statehood was denied time and time again. In 1817, citizens in all areas of Missouri signed petitions to admit Missouri as a state. John Scott, the last territorial delegate, presented the petitions to Congress, but there was simply no response.
The fury in Missouri really began to mount. Eight states had been added to the original 13 – Indiana, Mississippi, illinois, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and even Louisiana.
In 1820, Congress passed an “appeasement bill” allowing Missouri to go ahead and adopt a constitution, but still no statehood. The slavery issue remained a barrier and feelings ran high in Missouri. There were mutterings about breaking away and starting their own nation, a free and independent republic.
Thomas Jefferson was beside himself, and wrote, “The Missouri question is the most portentous which ever threatened the Union. In the gloomiest days of the Revolutionary war, I never had apprehensions equal to what I feel from this source.”
It was not a Southern state, but it was sure not a Northern state either. It was just a geographical thumb stuck out in the Western Sea.
Then came that congressional maneuver known as the “Missouri Compromise,” when Maine was admitted as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. President James Monroe signed the bill admitting Missouri to the union. There was no gathering around the president when he affixed his signature, no scramble for the famous ink pen, and no cheers.
Missouri then settled down to the role of the gateway to the “Far West” and one of the brightest stars in the Union Galaxy. Her initial battle was over.
Reference: “Missouri Heritage,” by Lew Larkin.
To reach Ted W. Stillwell send an email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.