JEFFERSON CITY -- Rep. Joseph Davis warned that immediate freedom for slaves would endanger whites in the countryside and transform contented blacks into criminal beggars.
Davis, of Howard County, was a leader of the conservatives in the Missouri House. In a lengthy speech proposing a constitutional amendment to begin ending slavery in 1888, Davis said only gradual change would work in the heavy slaveholding regions along the Missouri River.
Under Davis' proposal, all children born to slaves after July 4, 1863, would become free at age 25. Those born before that date would remain slaves until they died.
Hemp and tobacco were the primary cash crops of the Missouri River …