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1865 June 24: New Missouri Constitution “declares Missouri a Free State forever”

June 27, 2015

Part reporting, part editorial, this article was printed in the June 24, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.  For more details on the 1865 Missouri constitution see “Constitution of 1865 — The Drake Constitution” on the Civil War in Missouri website.  They begin with a little history:

  • In 1863, the Missouri General Assembly passed a gradual emancipation order. Over the next two years the order became increasingly unpopular.

  • In 1865, in response to criticism of gradual emancipation, the General Assembly voted for a convention to be held to consider changes to the Missouri Constitution of 1820.

  • The delegates would eventually write a completely new Constitution.

  • Because Charles D. Drake was a vocal and uncompromising Radical Republican and an experienced lawyer, the mostly inexperienced delegates relied on him greatly in the formation of the new Constitution, which became known as the Drake Constitution.

  • The convention lasted from January 6 to April 10, 1865.

The New Missouri Constitution.

There is now no doubt but what the new Missouri Constitution has been adopted by 5,000 majority.—We copy below some of the more important provisions of this instrument :

It declares Missouri a Free State forever.

It establishes the equality of all men before the law.

It prohibits legislation interfering with the personal rights of men on account of their color.

It declairs [sic] that Missouri shall ever remain a member of the American Union.

It excludes from the ballot box and from office, traitors, rebels, rebel sympathizers, guerilla [sic] marauders, bushwhackers, and their aiders and abettors.

It, in like manner excludes Knights of the Golden Circle, Sons of Liberty, and O. A. K.’s.

It, in like manner, excludes those who enrolled themselves as disloyal, or as Southern sympathizers, to avoid military duty.

It provides for an efficient registration of voters, thereby securing the exclusion of illegal voters.

It removes the rule requiring treason to be proved as any other crime.

It invites immigration from Europe, by extending the elective franchise to those persons of foreign birth, who have, more than one year before an election, declaired [sic] their intention according to law, to become citizens of the United States.

It forbids private, local and special legislation, which for thirty years has cursed that State, and brings the State under a uniform system of general laws.

It prohibits lotteries.

It forbids the legislature’s making compensation for emancipated slaves.

It stops the creation of corporations by special acts, with enormous powers, and requires all corporations to be formed under general laws.

It prohibits the creation, renewal, or extension of the charter of any bank of issue.

It protects the interests of the people, by imposing upon stockholders individual liability for the debts of corporations.

It secures an efficient system of common schools, for the free education of the children of the State.

It gives increased facilities for its own amendment, and allows the people a direct vote upon every amendment proposed.

Missouri under this constitution cannot fail to prosper, and will soon prove a formidable rival in commerce and internal improvement, among her Sister Free States.

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