Missouri, the Heart of the Nation

By William E. Parrish; Charles T. Jones Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

FIVE
The Age of Benton

The United States had become virtually a one-party nation at the time of Missouri's admission as a state. The Federalist party had fallen into disgrace during the War of 1812 and failed thereafter to provide effective opposition to the DemocratRepublicans. Consequently President Monroe was reelected in 1820 with all of the nation's electoral votes except one. Missouri politics reflected a similar situation. All voters bore the Democrat-Republican label. Yet that party quickly became factionalized around certain personalities and issues. The lines between factions tended to remain somewhat fluid during the 1820s as each voter and politician sought to find the niche in which he felt most comfortable. By the end of the decade, however, two distinct parties had emerged at the national level—the Democrats and the National Republicans, who later became the Whigs. Most Missourians thereafter found their place in one or the other of these groups.


The Emergence of Political Differences

Differences began to emerge in Missouri's First General Assembly over two interrelated issues: the question of what kind of public relief should be offered the people as a result of the panic (or depression) of 1819; and the matter of certain controversial parts of the new constitution, especially those relating to the courts, salaries, and appointive powers. The panic of 1819 had ended the boom times that followed the War of 1812. It began in the East, but its full effect was not felt in Missouri until the winter of 1820–21. It had been brought on by extended land speculation backed by a too liberal credit policy. Numerous banks had issued loans based on unsound currency for which they did not have adequate backing of gold or sil

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