Debating the Legalities of Missouri’s Change of Government 1861

       In the last couple of days I’ve been having an exchange of comments with another reader of Kevin Levin’s Civil War Memory blog regarding the legality of the provisional government established in Missouri in 1861. I’ve written about this before. See here. “Bernard” raises some very challenging points. Certainly, when it comes to the legalities of actions by many people with many different agendas in the Civil War era, there is room for discussion and debate. It was a time of unprecedented exigencies. Abraham Lincoln’s own actions have been sliced, diced, and dissected by historians and legal scholars for 150 years. I believe the will of the people of Missouri ultimately prevailed.  I have been quoting from the Journal of the Missouri State Convention held at Jefferson City, July, 1861, which can be read in its entirety here.

      The discussion has centered on the proceedings of the Convention in July of 1861 that declared the state’s elected official’s seats “vacated.” One group of Missourians who supported the actions of the Convention, both in July and the earlier one in March that had rejected secession, was the St. Louis German-American community. I’m currently reading Germans for a Free Missouri: Translations from the St. Louis Radical Press, 1857- 1862, so I thought I would share this, taken from the St. Louis newspaper Anzieger des Westens of March 18, 1861:

     A Whitewash for Missouri

 is our state convention. The affair with the border terrorists and the baleful make-up of the last two legislatures have allowed the rest of the world to give up on Missouri. Outside people have become used to categorizing our state as the most reprehensible of all the slave states and our population as on the lowest level of decadence. Naturally, since “By their fruits they are known,” so we can hardly complain when the staff of judgment is broken over us. And now this convention assembles, which shows not the slightest trace of the rowdy spirit, is in general so considerate and reasonable, and appears so thoroughly faithful to the Union that it is a genuine joy, even if it is a little pussyfooting, anxious, and wanting in energy. This, however, is the result of the fact that it is the first time the people have awakened and the first time the best men have not held themselves back. The legislature in Jefferson City, elected on 6 August of last year, and the convention in St. Louis, elected on 18 February are like night and day. One is arrogance, arbitrariness, ignorance, and coarseness incarnate, the other respectability, goodwill, and complete dedication to the people and its interests! Hopefully the people will learn a lesson for all time from this.

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