Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Drake Constitution

The Missouri Constitution of 1865, passed at the end of the Civil War when Radical Republicanism was at its zenith in the state, completely disenfranchised unrepentant Southern sympathizers. Usually called the Drake Constitution after its chief proponent, Charles D. Drake, the constitution provided that anyone who had ever been in Confederate service or who had openly sympathized with the rebellion could not vote, hold office, serve on a jury or hold certain important jobs like teacher, preacher, or lawyer without first taking an oath of allegiance to the United States. The most amazing thing to me about the Drake Constitution is that, even with unrepentant Southern sympathizers barred from voting, it barely passed when put to a statewide vote in June of 1865. Obviously there were a lot of conservative and fair-minded Union people who didn't feel it was right to punish a person for what he believed or had believed in the past. There were just enough Radicals, though, to get the constitution passed into law. I can, to a certain extent, understand the punitive feeling of the Radicals who pushed the new constitution into law. If I had been a strong Union sympathizer during the Civil War, I would have found it hard to immediately start welcoming back with open arms the people who had wanted to rend the country asunder. However, the practical effect of the Drake Constitution was merely to deepen and prolong the bitterness that had torn the country apart in the first place. In some cases,it even led to violent incidents, such as the murder of Rev. Samuel S. Headlee, a Southern sympathizer who was killed when, without having taken an oath of allegiance, he tried to preach at Pleasant View Church just across the Greene County line in Webster County (near present-day Elkland) in the summer of 1866 with an eye toward restoring the congregation, which had aligned with the Methodist Episcopal Church North during the war, to the southern branch of the M. E. Church.
Fortunately the Drake Constituion didn't last very long. By the early 1870s, the most objectional provisions of the document were already being repealed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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October 18, 2012 at 11:09 AM  
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October 19, 2012 at 9:30 AM  

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