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How Would Secession Affect St. Louis and Missouri?


January/February 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, January 8, 1861.

How Would Secession Affect St. Louis and Missouri?

ST. LOUIS, January 5, 1861.

Editors of the Missouri Democrat:

DEAR SIRS:  As I am a laboring man, “as all my fathers were,” and have earn my daily bread by my daily toil, I have not the time to investigate, even if I had the requisite means for information at my command, and, therefore, hope that you will at your earliest convenience, and through the columns of your excellent paper, for the benefit of the Union-loving and laboring portion of the citizens of this city, give me an answer to the following interrogatories:

1st.  Has either of the States that already have seceded or intend to secede from the Federal Union, through their representatives in their Legislatures assembled, or in any other official manner, “declared the cause which impelled them to the separation?”

2d.  Does the Constitution of the United States guarantee to the citizens of each State the right of petition to the general government for the redress of their grievances, and if so, have either of the seceding States been denied this right or petitioned the government in vain for the redress of any actual or imaginary grievance?

3d.  Are the grievances and wrongs alleged by their newspapers and stump orators to have been inflicted upon the seceding States or so recent an existence as not to have allowed them time to present their petitions and remonstrances to the government before the late Presidential election, and “while prayer could be made, and mercy found” at the hands of a purely Southern administration?

4th.  In case of the establishment of a Southern Confederacy, is the financial interest of Missouri so identical with that of the seceding States as to require her to unite with them in preference to remaining in the present Union?

5th.  Should Missouri unite with a Southern Confederacy, formed upon the principle of free trade and the encouragement and extension of African slavery, will her secession cause an increase or decrease in the population of the State—an increase or decrease of the market value of property in the State at large; and particularly in St. Louis?

6th.  Should Missouri unite with a Southern Confederacy, will her secession increase or lessen the demand for mechanics or the wages of laborers in the State, and particularly in St. Louis?

I submit these interrogatories in all candor, seeking only information upon the several points they refer to, and trust you will give me a candid answer; for we, the laboring classes, are vitally interested, and the good of the people—the interest of the whole people—should be consulted and not the party prejudices, or sinister ends of designing and ambitious politicians, in the determination of so important a question as the one which may at no distant day be submitted to the citizens of Missouri, and therefore we wish to act patriotically, and yet intelligently in giving our decision.


We beg to reply that South Carolina has put forward a statement of the causes which have moved her to secede; but this she had done since her secession—so to speak.  The ordinance purporting to dissolve her association with the other States was passed before her “declaration of independence” was made.

Second.  The Constitution guarantees the right of petition, which is a vital active right, not a mere latent one like that which secures the common rights of the Constitution to every citizen.  It is remarkable that the movement which has culminated at last in disunion, commenced in a fierce warfare under the lead of John C. Calhoun on this right of petition.  None of the seceding States have ever asked Congress for a redress of their alleged grievances, which, as “Mechanic” surmises, are purely imaginary.

The present and the past administrations have done hardly anything but labor in the interest of the disunionists and the slavery extensionists; and the present crisis is the consequence of that policy.  Of course, the wrong being all committed against freedom and in favor of slavery, “petitions and remonstrances” could only come from the free States.  Petitions and remonstrances without number, came from that quarter in ’54, when the South laid impious hands on the Missouri Compromise, but they were treated with insolent disdain.  For further information on this point, we refer our correspondent to the three thousand clergymen who remonstrated agains the Kansas Nebraska bill, or to Stephen A. Douglas, who abused them soundly for having the presumption to petition against the passage of that sovereign remedy for agitation.

The fourth, fifth and sixth of the above may be answered under one head.  Missouri has no interest in common with the Southern States except slavery, and her share in that interest will be practically annihilated by secession.  The cotton States buy Missouri negroes now, paying a right good price for them; but one of the projects of the cotton States—indeed their great project—is to prohibit the importation of slaves from the border slave States, and to reopen the slave trade with Africa.  They would thus, they imagine, obtain negroes dog cheap, and at the same time keep a barrier between themselves and the North.  But slavery in Missouri cannot endure civil war, nor even survive peaceable secession, as Gov. Stewart shows in his recent message.

The government expenses of a Southern Confederacy, having neither army nor navy, and which would require a chain of military posts all round its northern border, and a squadron of light armed vessels in the Gulf, as well as all the Atlantic coast, would not be less than forty or fifty millions a year in the beginning.  Missouri being the most populous of the slave States, would have to contribute largely to the expenditures of the new government—three times as much as South Carolina.  Our share would not be less than five millions per annum, at least; while our local taxes, State and city, would be also increased far beyond their present amounts.  The consequences would be the bankruptcy of the State and the ruin of every commercial and manufacturing interest.  Grass would grow in the streets of St. Louis.  The silence of the wilderness would descend on our workshops, and this proud city that, together with the State, has grown so wondrously under the auspices of the Union, would collapse into hopeless poverty, while it is not unlikely that the very river would be taken away from her.  That would have been attempted ere now, were it not for an injunction from the United States Courts.  What the condition of mechanics would be in such a Golgotha, our correspondent can very well imagine!