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A Turner Bugler, 2004

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The Bill to Annul the City Charter


March and April 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, March 1, 1861.

The Bill to Annul the City Charter.

Our Democratic Senators are desirous of rounding their fame with a measure worthy of their previous essays in statesmanship.  Under the title of a bill to create a Board of Police Commissioners for St. Louis, a project has been introduced in the Senate for putting the city under the rule of a disunion satrapy.  The first batch of commissioners are to be directly legislated into power, and their successors, at the end of two and four years, to be appointed by Claib. Jackson and the next Governor.  The Board is to be authorized to issue scrip annually, bearing interest at the rate of ten per cent., to an amount exceeding by $10,000, the cost of the police department in 1860.  Of course they would never stop at that figure.  An application would be made at each succeeding session of the Legislature to enlarge their power and especially the power of taxing the people, and running the city in debt, and thus we should have a new colossal banking corporation established, on the principle of the French Credit Mobilier, which collapsed some two years ago, ruining hundreds of thousands.  The system proposed, in its police features proper, is very similar to that which prevails in countries where representative institutions are unknown.  The books of the Commissioners are to be open to inspection only to a committee of the General Assembly.  The Board, or rather a majority of it, are to have the exclusive power of calling out the military.  The sheriff is to be no longer a peace preserving officer.  All measures which the Mayor and Council might adopt for preserving the public peace, would be not only null and void but absolutely illegal.  The Recorder’s Court is to be practically abolished, as well as the Mayoralty.  Justices of the peace selected by the Board are to have a monopoly of the business which is now transacted in the Recorder’s Court and of the criminal business transacted in all the Justices’ Courts.  The Council is to be deprived of the imprescriptible right of the representatives of every free people—that of holding the purse strings.  In brief, the proposed satrapy are to have command both of the purse and the sword, and to be responsible only to the General Assembly.  In speaking of such a nefarious scheme for robbing the people of St. Louis of the right of self government, and putting them under the thrall of an irresponsible band of satraps, the fiercest invective would be tame compared with a literal statement of the provisions of the bill.

The government of the Roman Empire was carried on in the old Republican forms.  In like manner our municipal organization is to be permitted to have a nominal existence while all its powers are to be usurped and exercised by a despotism composed of third class Disunionists.  The plan is in fact but a modification of those previously projected for putting the city under military rule.  The authors are of the same relentless Disunion clique, if they be not the same individuals.  The tactics which were employed in behalf of the attempt to put the city under martial law, are again resorted to.  For instance the Republican had a melodramatic description of a German organization, called the Schwartz Jagers on Sunday last, designed to keep the fast expiring sparks of excitement alive.  What new trick are the Disunionists playing now!—was the question everybody asked on reading the article in question.  The answer was found in the reports from Jefferson city next day announcing the introduction in the Senate of a bill to emasculate, or rather to annul, the city charter.  The Schwartz Jagers is now the cry when a plot is afloat to drive the General Assembly into the perpetration of some outrage against St. Louis.  Whenever Florida wanted anything from Congress, and that was very often, a vision of Billy Bowlegs, in all the lurid glories of war paint was sure to appear to all the people of that State, except to those residing where the scene of the incident was laid.  The Jagers serve the same office for the Republican, and the other Disunion interests here, that the semi mythical Indian did for the Florida wreckers.

We believe there would be very little opposition in any quarter to the creation of a Board of Police Commissioners, and the reorganization of the department on another basis, if the control and supervision of the police establishment were to be kept in the hands of those who have to foot the bills, and for the protection of whom the police is instituted.  We know that Mr. Filley has been all along in favor of such a change.  There is no objection to a Board of Commissioners, provided that they shall be elected by the people, or, better still, appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the Council.  The citizens of St. Louis, it is to be presumed, know what manner of men to entrust with the guardianship of their property and lives.  They naturally have an invincible repugnance to have the appointment and government of the police, whose duties are to be performed within the city limits, transferred to gentlemen who live five hundred miles distant, perhaps, and who are necessarily ignorant of the requirements of a large city, as well as exempt in their persons and purses from the dangers peculiar to such places.  It is not the reorganization of the department, then, to which the people here demur, but to the iniquitous contrivance for planting a Disunion despotism among them, to plunder and overawe.  Surely, the community which sent such model statesmen as Johnson, Churchill, O’Neill, and Coleman—the wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best of Senatorial delegations—as its representatives to the more august branch of the General Assembly, is competent to choose the managers of its police establishment.  This consideration is conclusive, we should think, unless, indeed, our sage Senators have a suspicion they were fraudulently elected, in which case no one can wonder at the inveterate distrust which they manifest of their ostensible constituents.  Are they not satisfied with destroying the relations existing between debtor and creditor, buyer and seller, by the stray [?] law—an act which will attest their capacity for legislation whatever other effect it may have?  Are they not satisfied with perpetuating an irredeemable paper currency thus coining the blood and sweat of the working classes for the purpose of filling the coffers of the rich?

But the public must not complain.  If it will have such paragons of wisdom and virtue to govern it, it must pay dear for the privilege.


The City of St. Louis finally regained local control of it police department in September 2013.