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A Pretext for Revolution.


May 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, May 7, 1861.

A Pretext for Revolution.

The Police Commissioners of this city have formally demanded of Capt. Lyon, the officer in command at the Arsenal, the removal of United States troops from all places and buildings occupied by them outside the arsenal grounds. The Captain, as was doubtless expected, declined compliance with the demand, and the Commissioners have referred the matter to the Governor and Legislature. The Commissioners allege that such occupancy is in derogation of the Constitution and laws of the United States; and in rejoinder Capt. Lyon replies, inquiring what provisions of the Constitution and laws were thus violated. The Commissioners in support of their position say that originally “Missouri had sovereign and exclusive jurisdiction over her whole territory,” and had delegated a portion of her sovereignty to the United States, over certain tracts of land for military purposes, such as arsenals, parks, &c.; and the conclusion implied, but not stated, is, that this is the extreme limit of the right of the United States government to occupy or touch the soil of the sovereign State of Missouri. This argument rests upon the assumed fact, that originally the State of Missouri had exclusive jurisdiction over her whole territory. We affirm that originally the territory of the sovereign State of Missouri all belonged to the United States, which had exclusive jurisdiction over it. The United States created her territorial government, and after due probation she was admitted as a State on the 10th of August, 1821. By admitting her as a State certain power and authority were conferred upon her, but subordinate, however, to the supreme authority of the constitution and laws of the United States. At this present time, a considerable portion of the territory of the State belongs to the government of the United States, and never did belong to the State of Missouri. But if the sovereignty of Missouri excludes the United States from all territory of the State except the arsenal and barracks, what becomes of the custom houses, post offices, land offices and Indian agencies within it? Why has not the insulted sovereignty of Missouri resented the frequent march of U. S. troops through the State and the establishment of forts on the unsold lands upon the border? How dare the United States open recruiting stations within the city of St. Louis, where soldiers are received and mustered into service of the government, without first humbly soliciting permission to do so of the Police Commissioners, or the august sovereignty of the State in the person of the Governor? We shall not insult the common sense of our readers by further illustrations of the absurdity of the claim set up by the Commissioners of Police.

The Constitution confers upon the United States government the power to regulate commerce between the States, to establish post-offices and post routes, to constitute judicial tribunals, to raise and support armies, and to make all laws necessary for executing these and other powers vested by it in the government. The Constitution withholds from the States the power to enter into any treaty, alliance or confederation, to grant letters of marque and reprisal, to keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, &c. If the execution of these powers requires the occupation of any portion of the territory of a State, it is the right and duty of the President to occupy it. If he should have reason to believe that the property of the government in the custom houses, or forts or arsenals was in danger of injury or destruction from the actions of the State authorities, or from a mob, it would be his right and duty to employ the army of the United States to protect it, and for that purpose to march across the territory of the State or occupy such portions as might be necessary for that purpose. Suppose, in the opinion of the President, the Custom House in this city was in danger of robbery and destruction by the violence of a mob, and deeming it necessary, he should rent and occupy with troops a building opposite, would the Police Commissioners or the Governor seriously dispute his right to do so?

The Commissioners pretend that the occupation of buildings outside the Arsenal grounds endangers the public peace, tends to anarchy and disorder, and may at any moment produce bloodshed, and declare they know it is inflaming the public mind; yet there has been no disturbance of the peace, no anarchy, no disorder and no bloodshed, although the troops have been quartered outside for the last three or four weeks. Curiosity attracts numbers to the Arsenal, but they are peaceable and orderly citizens, and the troops outside, instead of endangering the peace, protect it, and instead of inflaming, tranquilize the public mind. There are, without doubt, men in this city whose minds are inflamed by the formidable military force gathering at the Arsenal, but they are the traitors to the Union, assembling under a traitorous flag, to plot the robbery of the Arsenal and the destruction of the Union. This proceeding of the Commissioners, as we view it, is to furnish a pretext to the Governor and Legislature for precipitating a revolution in this State. It is to furnish them an excuse for bringing the State military force into collision with the United States troops and to excite and inflame the disunion sentiment throughout the State into open rebellion. The calm, public sentiment of the State is for the Union, and hence some pretext must be sought for revolution, and the Commissioners of Police allow themselves to be used as the instruments to create it. Such, we believe, is the general belief of the people of this city. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and we warn the Commissioners that if bloodshed and civil war shall result from this act of theirs, the responsibility must rest upon their shoulders.