Map of Missouri

Missouri's political history unfolded in a world of colliding cultures and conflicting political traditions. During its early days as a borderland colony governed by imperial France and Spain, its political culture rested on a hierarchy of patrons and clients who often mixed public and private interests. After the Louisiana Purchase placed the frontier province under the authority of the United States, American officials pondered how best to maintain order and introduce a political system grounded on republican principles. To ensure an orderly process, President Thomas Jefferson briefly contemplated closing portions of Upper Louisiana to settlement and making those lands a refuge for relocated eastern Indians. That scheme went nowhere, and in 1804 Congress divided the territory into two administrative units: the District of Louisiana (Upper Louisiana) and the Territory of Orleans. As a cost-saving measure, it placed the less populous northern district that now encompasses Missouri under the jurisdiction of officials in Indiana Territory. That arrangement drew protests from local residents who objected to being subject to the dictates of absentee officials. Congress relented in 1805 and agreed to create a new Territory of Louisiana with a government of its own administered by a governor, secretary, and three superior court judges all appointed by the president.

Although this somewhat authoritarian system, initially prescribed for first-stage territories in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, found favor with old-line French Creoles and their allies, many republican-minded American newcomers pressed for the territory's prompt advancement to second-stage status. The higher classification allowed tax-paying adult white males to elect members of a territorial assembly for two-year terms and empowered them to send a nonvoting delegate to Congress for a similar period. It also created an upper chamber or legislative council consisting of nine members appointed by the president for five-year terms from a list of nominees proposed by the lower house. Before any legislation could take effect, it had to be approved by both houses and signed by the governor, who remained a presidential appointee. The 1812 statute that elevated Louisiana to a second-stage territory also changed its name to the Territory of Missouri to avoid confusion with the nation's newest state, Louisiana, which had previously been known as the Territory of Orleans.

Between 1804 and 1820, bitter disagreements over Spanish land titles and mining concessions divided the territory into warring political camps competing to influence public policy on these and related matters. The contest pitted a coterie of French Creole fur traders and merchants with numerous unconfirmed Spanish land concessions and the influential American attorneys and government officials they had enlisted to their cause against a rival group of American land speculators determined to challenge the old order and its pursuit of confirmation for those contested land titles.

In Missouri's highly charged and intensely personal political culture, name calling, threats of bodily harm, and accusations of official misconduct were commonplace. Allegations of voting irregularities in the 1816 contest for territorial delegates caused the U.S. House of Representatives to vacate the results and order a new election. In the rematch that followed, an attempt to challenge political newcomer Thomas Hart Benton's eligibility to vote culminated in a duel that tragically left Charles Lucas, the promising young attorney who had raised the objection, dead by Benton's hand. Election-day antics seldom degenerated into mortal combat, but combative politics had become the order of the day. It mattered little that partisans on both sides of the territorial divide styled themselves Republicans.

A rapid increase in the territorial population following the War of 1812 gave rise to growing demands for statehood. The territorial assembly's 1818 petition calling for Missouri to be admitted as a slave state triggered a contentious national debate over the extension of slavery. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 temporarily resolved the matter and paved the way for Missouri's formal admission to the Union on August 10, 1821. The new state's first constitution provided for a popularly elected governor and lieutenant governor who served four-year terms, but it barred the governor from succeeding himself. The document created a bicameral General Assembly consisting of a House of Representatives and a Senate whose members served two-year and four-year terms, respectively, and gave them the authority to override a governor's veto with an absolute majority of both houses. The framers of the 1820 Constitution ensured an independent judiciary by allowing the governor to appoint judges for life, but they also eliminated a tax-paying requirement for voting and bestowed suffrage on all adult white males who had lived in the state for at least one year before the election.

In the new state's initial elections, an electorate that included many first-time voters declined to continue most members of the well-entrenched territorial political establishment in office. William Clark, celebrated co-leader of the expedition to the Pacific and highly successful territorial governor, was among the casualties when he lost his bid to become the state's first elected governor to Alexander McNair, a relative political novice. Clark, a scion of Virginia's old republican order, fell victim to a populist political dynamic that championed the common man. That lesson was not lost on Missouri's newly elected U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton and his cohorts, who rushed to exploit the rising democratic tide. This new generation of Missouri politicians entered the national forum just as the second American party system was beginning to take shape. Their support for a combative brand of popular democracy and for expanded economic opportunities placed them and their state in the vanguard of the emerging Jacksonian movement that would soon take center stage in the national political arena.


  • Aron, Stephen. American Confluence: The Missouri Frontier from Borderland to Border State. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2006.
  • Foley, William E. "After the Applause: William Clark's Failed 1820 Gubernatorial Campaign.” Gateway Heritage, 24 (Fall 2003–Winter 2004), 104–111.
  • ________. "The American Territorial System: Missouri's Experience." Missouri Historical Review, 65 (July 1971): 403–426.
  • ________. The Genesis of Missouri: From Wilderness Outpost to Statehood. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989.
  • ________. A History of Missouri: 1673–1820. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1971.
  • McCandless, Perry. A History of Missouri, 1820–1860. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1972.


What is today referred to as the Democratic Republican Party did not exist as such under that name.

"The party name which the Jeffersonians used most commonly in self-designation was Republican. Since nearly all Americans professed to be supporters of a republic, Federalists were reluctant to allow their opponents the advantage of this name, preferring to label them as Antifederalists, Jacobins, disorganizers, or, at best, Democrats." (Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., History of U.S. Political Parties Volume I: 1789-1860: From Factions to Parties. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. New York, 1973, Chelsea House Publisher. p. 240.)

"No precise date can be given for the establishment of the Republican party, for it did not spring suddenly into being, and even those leaders most intimately involved in its formation were not fully aware of what they were creating. The beginnings of what in course of time became the Republican party can be found in the Second Congress in the congressional faction that contemporaries referred to as the 'republican interest.' . . . An examination of roll calls during the Second Congress indicates that a voting bloc was forming around Madison in opposition to another bloc that united in support of Hamilton's program. While only about half of the membership of the House could be identified with one or the other of these factions, two such groups had not been observable in the First Congress." (Cunningham, p. 241)

"As members of Congress defended their legislative records and sought reelection, they took to the electorate the issues and the disputes that had divided Congress, and they tended in their campaigns for reelection to impart to the voters something of the partisanship that was developing in Congress. Thus, the party divisions in Congress filtered down to the voters through the electoral process, and voters came to align along the lines that divisions in Congress had marked out. In this process the congressional factions acquired the mass followings in the county necessary to transform them from capital factions into national political parties." (Cunningham, p. 244)

Though Thomas Jefferson was seen as the primary leader of the emerging Republican Party, his retirement in 1793 would force that mantle back upon James Madison. "Contemporaries referred to 'Madison's party,' and, when Jefferson was put forward for the presidency in 1796, he was recognized as the candidate of Madison's party. Adams's supporters warned that 'the measures of Madison and Gallatin will be the measures of the executive' if Jefferson were elected. Under Madison's leadership, the Republican party in Congress moved from a role characterized largely by opposition to administration measures, mostly Hamiltonian inspired, to one of offering policy alternatives and proposing Republican programs." (Cunningham, p. 246)

"As the country became dangerously polarized, the Federalists, in 1798 with the passage of the Alien and Sedition Laws, used the full power of the government in an effort to destroy their opponents, whom they saw as subversive. The Republicans, forced to do battle for their very survival, were compelled to change their strategy radically. Prior to 1798 they had optimistically believed that the people would repudiate leaders who supported antirepublican measures hostile to the general good of society. By 1798, however, the Federalists' electoral successes and their hold on the federal government seemed to belie that belief. Therefore, the Republicans shifted their focus of attention from the national to the state level. And by emphasizing a more overtly, self-consciously sectional, political enclave strategy, they left the clear implication that state secession and the breakup of the union might follow if the federal government refused to modify its policies and actions to make them more acceptable to opponents, especially Southerners." (American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. James Roger Sharp. New Haven, 1993, Yale University Press. p. 12)

"On the national level, Republican members of Congress through their informal associations in the national capital formed the basic national party structure. Many of them lodged together in boarding houses or dined together in small groups where there were ample opportunities to plot party tactics. They kept in close touch with political leaders and party organizations in their home states. In 1800, Republican members introduced what was to become the most important element of national party machinery and the most powerful device for the maintenance of congressional influence of the leadership of the party: the congressional nominating caucus." (Cunningham, p. 252)

"The coming to power of the Jeffersonians in 1801 marked the beginning of the Republican era that saw the presidency passed from Jefferson to Madison to Monroe. When the Virginia dynasty came to an end in 1825, the presidential office went to a former Federalist who had become a Republican while Jefferson was president. But, although John Quincy Adams was a Republican, the presidential election of 1824 shattered the Republican party and destroyed the congressional nominating caucus which had given direction to the party's national structure since 1800. Adams's presidency was a period of restructuring of parties - a transitional period from the first party system of the Federalists and the Jeffersonians to the second party system of the age of Jackson." (Cunningham, p. 258-259).

"During the period from its rise in the 1790's to its breakup in the 1820's, the Jeffersonian Republican party made contributions of major significance to the development of the american political system. It demonstrated that a political party could be successfully organized in opposition to an administration in power in the national government, win control over that government, and produce orderly changes through the party process. In challenging the Federalist power, Republicans were innovative in building party machinery, organizing poltical campaigns, employing a party press, and devising campaign techniques to stimulate voter interest in elections and support of republican candidates at the polls. In the process, it became acceptable for candidates to campaign for office and for their partisans to organize campaign committees, distribute campaign literature, see that voters get to the polls, and adopt other practices which, though subsequently familiar features of american political campaigns, previously had been widely regarded with suspicion and distrust. Many of the methods of campaigning and the techniques of party organization, introduced by the Jeffersonian Republicans, while falling into disuse by the end of the Republican era, would be revived by the Jacksonians. In taking office in 1801, the Jeffersonians led the nation through the first transfer of political power in the national government from one party to another; and Jefferson demonstrated that the president could be both the head of his party and the leader of the nation." (Cunningham, p. 271)

Additional Sources:

  • History of U.S. Political Parties Volume I: 1789-1860: From Factions to Parties. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. New York, 1973, Chelsea House Publisher.
  • American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. James Roger Sharp. New Haven, 1993, Yale University Press.
  • Partisanship and the Birth of America's Second Party, 1796-1800: "Stop the Wheels of Government". Matthew Q. Dawson. Westwood, CT, 2000, Greenwood Press.
  • Party of the People: A History of the Democrats. Jules Witcover. New York, 2003, Random House

Beginning in 1799, many Federalist papers began to refer to the Republican Party as Democrats or the Democratic Party. This continued throughout the first quarter of the 18th Century until what is currently known as the Democratic Party emerged among the followers of Andrew Jackson in the 1828 Presidential Election.

Republicans were also called by a variety of different terms in various newspapers throughout the period:


Though the Anti-Federalists were not quite the exact same group as the Republicans as they would develop after 1792, there were still some of those who referred to them as such. The term was used by the following newspapers in the following elections:

  • Porcupine's Gazette (Philadelphia). October 22, 1798. Pennsylvania 1798 Assembly, Chester County.
  • Virginia Gazette (Richmond). April 30, 1799. Virginia 1799 House of Delegates, New Kent County.
  • The Virginia Federalist (Richmond). April 26, 1800. Virginia 1800 House of Delegates, Norfolk County.
  • Virginia Gazette (Richmond). May 12, 1802. Virginia 1802 House of Delegates, Bedford County.
  • Virginia Gazette (Richmond). May 12, 1802. Virginia 1802 House of Delegates, Pittsylvania County.
  • The Salem Gazette. May 17, 1805. Massachusetts 1805 House of Representatives, Salem.

Democratic Republican:

Though the term is commonly used today to distinguish the Jeffersonian Republicans from the later Republican Party and because so many of those among the Jeffersonian Republicans eventually became Jacksonian Democrats, this term was extremely rare during the actual period. It was used by the Readinger Adler in the October 27, 1818 edition recording the 1818 county elections in Pennsylvania.

French / War / Warhawk / Jacobin:

Starting in 1798, various Federalist newspapers would refer to Republicans as Jacobins. ("In Newbern district the contest lay between two federalists -- No Jacobin had the effrontery to offer himself." United States Gazette. September 1, 1798.) These references continued through until at least 1810. ("From the Cooperstown Federalist: The election in this County has terminated in favor of the Jacobin Ticket for Assembly. An important revolution has been effected by the most shameful artifices. Never before were the jacobin ranks so completely formed and thoroughly drilled for action. We hope next week to be able to lay before our readers a correct statement of votes, and to exhibit to the world a picture of depravity in the conduct of some of the inspectors of the election which has no parallel." The American (Herkimer). May 3, 1810.)

Beginning in 1810, the Newburyport Herald (MA), began referring to Republicans as the French Party (as opposed to the "American" Party, who were Federalists). This continued in the 1811 elections.

Beginning in 1812 ("In laying before our readers the above Canvass of this county, a few remarks become necessary, to refute the Assertion of the war party, that the Friends of Peace are decreasing in this country." Northern Whig (Hudson). May 11, 1812.) and continuing through 1813 and 1814 a number of newspapers were referring to the Republicans as the War Party (or Warhawk Party, as the Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill) of March 19, 1814 used) due to their support of the Madison administration and the War of 1812 (most of these same papers referred to the Federalists as the Peace Party). These newspapers include the Trenton Federalist, the Columbian Centinel (Boston), the Northern Whig (Hudson), the Independent American (Ballston Spa), the Broome County Patriot (Chenango Point), the New York Spectator, the Commercial Advertiser (New York), the New York Evening Post, the Albany Gazette, the Political and Commercial Register (Philadelphia), the Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill), The Federal Republican (New Bern), the Freeman's Journal (Philadelphia), Alexandria Gazette, Poulson's, Middlesex Gazette (Middletown), the Raleigh Minerva and The Star (Raleigh).

Jackson / Jacksonian:

With the Presidential election of 1824 split among four candidates who were, ostensibly, members of the same political party, the divisions among the Republican Party began to be apparent.

The phrase "Jackson" or "Jacksonian" candidate was used in nearly every state election in Georgia in 1824 to distinguish between those were were supporters of Andrew Jackson as opposed to the supporters of William H. Crawford. The Maryland Republican (Annapolis) and the Federal Gazette (Baltimore) used the term "Jacksonian" in the Cecil County elections of 1824 (as opposed to "Adamite" or "Crawfordite") and the Allegheny and Butler county election in Pennsylvania in 1824.


The New Hampshire Gazette of March 5, 1816 would refer to the Republican ticket as the Whig Ticket and as being in favor of Peace and Commerce.

House of Representatives

House of Representatives: the lower or popular house of the United States Congress or of a State legislature. The name of the lower house in all states prior to 1825 except for Maryland and Virginia, (House of Delegates), New Jersey and New York (Assembly) and North Carolina (House of Commons).

Oxford English Dictionary

1787 - 1825: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont

Office Scope: State

Role Scope: County / District / Town(ship) / Parish