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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Drake Constitution Again

I've written previously about the Drake Constitution that was passed in Missouri at the very end of the Civil War. Named after Charles Drake, its chief proponent in the legislature, it forbade anyone who had ever fought against the U.S. or openly sympathized with the South during the Civil War from voting or holding critical positions such as lawyer, teacher, and preacher without first taking an oath of allegiance to the U.S. Many unrepentant Rebels, of course, were unable in good conscience or unwilling to take such an oath, and it is hard to overestimate the level of resentment the law engendered among them. As I have stated previously on this blog, the Drake Constitution even led, indirectly at least, to a number of violent clashes in Missouri between ex-Union men and ex-Confederate men during the years immediately after the war.
The subject of the Drake Constitution was so controversial that it is hard to read more than a few issues of any Missouri newspaper published in the years immediately after the war without the subject appearing. This is especially the case if the editors of the particular newspaper you are reading happened to have held Southern sympathies. A case in point is the Jefferson City People's Tribune. I was browsing through issues of this newspaper from 1868 recently, and practically every issue had an article railing against the Radicals and/or the Drake Constitution they had passed at the end of the war. For instance, in one such article in the August 5 issue, the editor attacked Missouri governor Fletcher for a statement he had made at a recent Radical Congressional Convention declaring that every man "primia facia is not a voter and must satisfy the registrars that he is a qualified voter." In other words, the editor opined, every man who applies to vote is assumed to be a criminal until he can prove otherwise. "This is a strange declaration of law to proceed from the mouth of the Governor of a great state," continued the editor, since the whole history of democratic criminal justice was built on the premise that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
"Doubtless the Governor thinks that inasmuch as very many persons presume him guilty of criminal complicity in many villainies that have been perpetrated in this State," the fiery editor went on, "that it would be well for him to declare the whole people of the State subject to a like presumption against them of criminal conduct." The newspaperman concluded that the fable of the fox that got his tail cut off in a steel trap and then endeavored to have all the other foxes agree to have their tails cut off, too, in order that he not appear abnormal was a good illustration of "his Excellency's deplorable situation."
This is just a small sample of the type of anti-Drake Constitution vitriol that was prevalent in Missouri among Southern sympathizers in the years after the Civil War. Indeed, the article I cited above was just one of several anti-Radical and anti-Drake Constitution columns that appeared in the August 5th issue of the People's Tribune.


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