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.

one-issue parties

In the "Era of Good Feelings", when many candidates were of the same party, specific issues would divide the candidates and the candidates would be described in newspapers in terms of their support or opposition of that issue. The various one-issue parties include:

  • New York 1807 Assembly, Dutchess County: The Division and Anti-Division Tickets.
  • New Jersey 1810 Essex County: The Bank Tax Ticket and the Anti-Bank Tax Ticket.
  • Pennsylvania 1814 Assembly, Columbia, Northumberland and Union: In 1813, Northumberland County had been divided into three counties: Northumberland, Columbia and Union. The 1814 Assembly election for the district composed of these three counties split on the division.
  • Maryland 1816 House of Delegates, Montgomery County: Moderates and Violents. Both groups appeared to be Federalists, but were listed in several newspapers as Moderates and Violents (including the Daily National Intelligencer (Washington), Alexandria Herald, Federal Republican (Baltimore) and Federal Gazette (Baltimore). Throughout the early republic, the Federalist remained incredibly united. One exception was the 1816 Montgomery County election. Montgomery was among the most Federal counties in Maryland, and as sometimes happens when one party is so dominant, dissension, often in the form of personality conflicts erupt. The exact cause of this split is not yet known, but it is interesting that none of the Delegates chosen in 1815 ran for re-election, although one was a candidate for Congress. Although all the candidates for Delegates were Federalist, it was stated that Republicans supported those listed as Moderates. Among those listed as Violents was Alexander C. Hanson, owner of the virulent Baltimore Federal Republican, which had recently moved back to Maryland from Georgetown. Although Hanson was not elected to the House of Delegates, he was chosen a few months later to the United States Senate. With his appointment, this conflict seemed to subside.
  • New Hampshire 1816 House of Representatives, Portsmouth: Brickites and Woodites. Both groups were Republicans but were split on a "law passed for the exclusive erection of brick buildings" (Portsmouth Oracle. March 16, 1816.)
  • Kentucky 1817 and 1818: George Madison who was elected Governor of Kentucky in August 1816, died very shortly after being inaugurated. He was succeeded by Gabriel Slaughter, who had just been elected as Lieutenant Governor. The new Lieutenant Governor, appointed John Pope, who was considered by many to be an avowed Federalist, to the office of Secretary of State for Kentucky. This caused uproar among the Kentucky Republicans and many of them demanded a new election for Governor and that became a big issue in the state elections of 1817. It would have required an act of the State Legislature to call for a new election of a Governor, so in the 1817 and 1818 state elections, candidates for the state legislature aligned themselves into those who were in favor of a new election for Governor, and those against a new election for Governor.
  • New York 1819 Assembly, Ontario County: The Division and Anti-Division Tickets.
  • Illinois and Missouri 1820: Various elections included tickets there listed as either Pro-Slavery and Anti-Slavery or Restrictionist (anti-slavery) and Anti-Restrictionist or variations of the two tickets running against each other (e.g. Pro-Slavery vs. Restrictionist). These would come up again in Illinois in 1824.
  • Maryland 1822 and 1823 House of Delegates elections in Anne Arundel County and the 1822 Assembly election in Annapolis City: The Caucus and Anti-Caucus tickets. With their loss of the State Senate in September 1821, and even more for Delegates in the following month of October, by the next election of 1822, the Federalists in many counties offered only token any opposition. With the upcoming Presidential election, in which a Congressional caucus would be called upon to choose the republican candidate, the system of caucus nominations, both nationally and on the state level was coming under increasing attack. In 1822, several Federalist newspapers, listed some candidates in Annapolis City and Anne Arundel County as Anti-Caucus. In Annapolis City, Lewis Duvall who had been elected for many years a Republican member to the House of Delegates was not re nominated in 1821. This apparently caused some dissension, as he still received substantial support in both 1821 and 1822. In Anne Arundel County, two candidates were set up in opposition to the Regular Republican ticket and both were elected. It is interesting to note that almost half of their votes came from the most Federalist district within that county. It does appear that in both places, much of the support for these candidates was drawn from Federalists. Throughout the states, regularly nominated Republican candidates faced opposition from others within their party, a further reflection of dissatisfaction with the nomination process.
  • Kentucky 1822 House of Representatives, Bullitt County, Assembly, Fayette County and Assembly, Franklin and Owen Counties, 1823 Assembly, Fayette County and 1824 Assembly, Madison County: The Relief and Anti-Relief (or Constitutionalist) Tickets. The Relief and Anti-Relief parties were a reaction to the crisis caused by the national economic downturn [Panic of 1819] and how the state of Kentucky was dealing with the aftermath.
  • Maryland 1823 House of Delegates, Washington County: The Jew-Bill Ticket and the No Jew-Bill Ticket. This was in reference to the bill, eventually passed in 1826, that removed the Christian oath requirement for public office in Maryland.
  • Pennsylvania 1824 Commissioner, Moyamensing Township: The People's ticket and the Family Ticket.
  • Pennsylvania 1824 Commissioner, Southwark District: The 25 Cent ticket and the Quality Ticket.
  • Kentucky 1824 House of Representatives, Bourbon, Fayette, Franklin, Mercer and Washington Counties: The Court Ticket and the Country Ticket.