Emancipation of Slaves Is Celebrated Here; A Look Back; Convention, Meeting Downtown, Formally Freed Missourians in 1865

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * Sixty cannon thundered along Clark Street. The evening sparkled with a fireworks show and thousands of lanterns and candles an "illumination," as it was called then.

The occasion was the celebration on Jan. 14, 1865, of Missouri's decision to emancipate all slaves within its borders. A state constitutional convention, meeting at the Mercantile Library, 510 Locust Street, had abolished slavery three days before. Freedom took hold the moment of the vote.

"Before the genial heat of the sun shall dispel the covering of snow which now hides the soil of Missouri, the action of this assembly will reveal that soil purified from the stain of slavery," said George Strong, a lawyer from St. Louis and a convention leader.

Missouri's decision had come in many stumbling and bloody steps. When the Civil War began, 115,000 Missourians were in bondage, most of them in counties along the Missouri River. Gov. Claiborne Jackson, a slaveholder-planter, tried to maneuver the state into the Confederacy.

Pro-Unionists, concentrated in St. Louis, thwarted Jackson but had wildly differing views on slavery. The next governor, Hamilton Gamble, wanted to save the peculiar institution and the Union. U.S. Sen. Gratz Brown supported letting blacks vote, but few Missourians went that far. Meanwhile, guerrilla war raged across the state.

President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, declared on Jan. 1, 1863, didn't cover the border states. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery wouldn't be ratified until December 1865. …


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.