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The part of the Louisiana Purchase that was once known as the “Missouri Territory” in 1804, applied to Congress to become a state in 1819.

This request for statehood is a testament to the rapid growth of the Boonslick area as it changed from being a French and Spanish Territory into a US state. It was a very bumpy, but short ride, and eventually proved to be worth the struggle.

Struggle for Statehood page MO Compromis

Missouri Compromise of 1820 map, Library of Congress


In (1818) Missouri applied to be admitted into the Union. This application caused a nationwide dispute between slavery and antislavery sympathizers which was not settled until 1820 with the Missouri Compromise. There were 10,000 slaves in Missouri at the end of the Civil War, most of them in the Boonslick area.


When Missouri decided to become part of the Union, many members of Congress were not enthusiastic about admitting another slave state. In 1821, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise, which allowed Missouri to enter as a slave state and Maine to enter as a free state.

(1820) The question of Missouri statehood hangs in the balance until the Missouri Compromise is reached.

(Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)

“The Missouri Constitution Convention met at the Mansion House Hotel in St. Louis, adopting the first Missouri Constitution five weeks later. Soon after, the first statewide elections were held for delegates to the general assembly and statewide offices including the governor and lieutenant governor. Missouri frontiersman Alexander McNair, who became the third man to fill the governor's chair following two other territorial governors, was technically, the first governor of Missouri. He received 72 percent of the vote, defeating the famous explorer and Missouri Territorial Governor William Clark. McNair served as governor from 1820-1824. Among the new legislative body's first action was to make St. Charles the first state capitol. While Missouri was preparing for statehood, it stood at the center of fierce national debates on the future of enslaved Black people and the institution of slavery. Missouri’s admittance to the Union was in peril until the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state while Maine entered the U.S. as a free state, thus keeping the balance of slave and free states equal in congress. The Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery north of the 36th parallel at the southern boundary of Missouri.”

Struggle for Statehood page Memorial.jpg

One of several petitions circulated throughout the Missouri Territory and signed by its residents in the Washington County region in 1817. The petitions were presented to

Congress in early 1818, marking the first attempt to have Missouri admitted as a state, C3982, State Historical Society of Missouri.

(1821) Missouri becomes the 24th state admitted into the United States August 10, 1821. (Courtesy of the Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)

“U.S. Congress allowed for admission of Missouri as the 24th state, a result of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, a decision that would ultimately lead to the American Civil War. The vote was close by both the House and Senate with all opposition coming from representatives from the free states. Missouri was the first state entirely west of the Mississippi River to be admitted to the Union. About the time of statehood, the 1820 U.S. Census had listed Missouri with a population of 66,586, although not an exact science in the early days of census taking. The first state capitol was located in St. Charles between 1821 and 1826 before moving to a permanent capitol building in Jefferson City. Despite all the steps taken to ensure statehood, some members of Congress still sought to block Missouri's admission citing what they saw as an unconstitutional attempt to ban non-white immigration into the new state. After the U.S. House of Representatives rejected Missouri's original constitution, Henry Clay brokered a Second Missouri Compromise whereby Missouri officials promised that no future law would bar non-white immigration in exchange for President James Monroe issuing a statehood proclamation, which he did on August 10, 1821.”


Written By: The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica

Missouri Compromise, (1820), in U.S. history, measure worked out between the North and the South and passed by the U.S. Congress that allowed for admission of Missouri as the 24th state (1821). It marked the beginning of the prolonged sectional conflict over the extension of slavery that led to the American Civil War.

Struggle for Statehood page MO compromis

United States: Missouri Compromise, Compromise of 1850, and Kansas-Nebraska Act

Compromises over extension of slavery into U.S. territories.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

By early 1819 Congress was considering enabling legislation that would authorize Missouri to frame a state constitution. When Rep. James Tallmadge of New York attempted to add an antislavery amendment to that legislation on February 13, 1819, however, there ensued an ugly and rancorous debate over slavery and the government’s right to restrict slavery. The Tallmadge amendment prohibited the further introduction of slaves into Missouri and provided for emancipation of those already there when they reached age 25. The amendment passed the House of Representatives, controlled by the more-populous North, but failed in the Senate, which was equally divided between free and slave states. Congress adjourned without resolving the Missouri question.

The following summer a considerable body of public opinion in the North was rallied in support of the Tallmadge proposal. Much of that anti-Missouri sentiment, as it was called, arose from a genuine conviction that slavery was morally wrong. Political expediency was mixed with moral convictions. Many of the leading anti-Missouri men had been active in the Federalist party, which seemed to be in the process of disintegration; it was charged that they were seeking an issue on which to rebuild their party. The Federalist leadership of the anti-Missouri group caused some northern Democrats to reconsider their support of the Tallmadge amendment and to favor a compromise that would thwart efforts to revive the Federalist party.

When it reconvened in December 1819, Congress was faced with a request for statehood from Maine. At the time, there were 22 states, half of them free states and half of them slave states. The Senate passed a bill allowing Maine to enter the Union as a free state and Missouri to be admitted without restrictions on slavery. Sen. Jesse B. Thomas of Illinois then added an amendment that allowed Missouri to become a slave state but banned slavery in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase north of latitude 36°30′. Henry Clay then skillfully led the forces of compromise, engineering separate votes on the controversial measures. On March 3, 1820, the decisive votes in the House admitted Maine as a free state, Missouri as a slave state, and made free soil all western territories north of Missouri’s southern border.

When the Missouri constitutional convention empowered the state legislature to exclude free blacks and mulattoes, however, a new crisis was brought on. Enough northern congressmen objected to the racial provision that Clay was called upon to formulate the Second Missouri Compromise. On March 2, 1821, Congress stipulated that Missouri could not gain admission to the Union until it agreed that the exclusionary clause would never be interpreted in such a way as to abridge the privileges and immunities of U.S. citizens. Missouri so agreed and became the 24th state on August 10, 1821; Maine had been admitted the previous year on March 15.

Although slavery had been a divisive issue in the United States for decades, never before had sectional antagonism been so overt and threatening as it was in the Missouri crisis. Thomas Jefferson described the fear it evoked as “like a fire bell in the night.” Although the compromise measures appeared to settle the slavery-extension issue, John Quincy Adams noted in his diary, “Take it for granted that the present is a mere preamble—a title page to a great, tragic volume.” Sectional conflict would grow to the point of civil war after the Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and was declared unconstitutional in the Dred Scott decision of 1857.

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Missouri Compromise

Map of the United States that denotes free and slave states as well as the territory open to slavery or freedom by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, c. 1856.

Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C. (digital ID g3701e ct000604)






















Admitted to the Union 1874



Missouri Life: References “Struggle for Statehood”

State Historical Society of Missouri – Cooper County manuscripts collection

Google Books – History of Cooper County Missouri, 1919

Google Books – History of Howard and Cooper Counties, Missouri, 1883  

The county histories from 1876 to 1919 contain some inaccuracies and biases, but still produce some useful information and are certainly interesting reading. These three can be read or downloaded online.

Google Books – A History of Cooper County Missouri, 1876 

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