Missouri, the Heart of the Nation

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

THREE
The Coming of the Americans
and the Statehood Crisis

The citizens of Upper Louisiana were undoubtedly curious as to what they could expect under their new rulers, the Americans. Captain Amos Stoddard, who had been appointed acting commandant for the region, noted that "a cordial acquiescence seems to prevail among all ranks of people." Hoping to avoid needless antagonism, the War Department had instructed Stoddard to deal fairly with the people and to assure them that their religious and property rights would be upheld. Until such time as Congress established a permanent government for the area, Stoddard would exercise both military and civil functions as the appointee of the President.

In October 1804, Congress attached the area to the Territory of Indiana, with its capital at Vincennes. This did not set well with the local citizens, who objected to being governed from such a distance. They were also concerned with the effects this might have on slavery, which was illegal in Indiana. As a result, the following year Congress created the Territory of Louisiana, which consisted of the region beyond the Mississippi River above the 33rd parallel. When the area south of that line became the state of Louisiana in 1812, the name of the northern part was changed to the Territory of Missouri.

Following the pattern that had been laid down by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Missouri became a first-class territory in 1805. This allowed for the appointment by the President of a governor, a secretary, and three judges to rule the area. There was no legislature, and the people had no direct voice in governmental affairs. The territory's first governor was General James Wilkinson, a highly controversial figure who had a checkered career of intrigue dating back to the American Revolution. At the time of his appointment he had been holding secret conversations with Aaron Burr, presumably

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