Tag Archives: freedom

Missouri’s Emancipation Proclamation

AN ORDINANCE ABOLISHING SLAVERY IN MISSOURI Be it ordained by People of the State of Missouri, in Convention assembled That hereafter, in this State, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves are hereby declared free.

One hundred and fifty four years ago today, Missouri freed their enslaved. The State’s constitution allowed slavery with the Missouri Compromise, as it gained statehood on August 10, 1821. Many would later reflect as this was the beginning of the “War between the States” otherwise known today as the Civil War.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln would issue his famous Emancipation Proclamation, and the former enslaved would literally dance in the street. However, Lincoln’s Proclamation did not free those within the State of Missouri. And that would take a Constitutional Convention, of the elected officials of the State of Missouri, with a Representative from each county. That Convention convened on January 6, 1865 in St. Louis. On the opening day, the first order of business would be to elect a President to preside over this history making event, as the Convention had been called in order to deal with the issue of “Emancipation” for those enslaved.

They elected a German born immigrant, who had arrived in Missouri on November 1, 1832. His father had brought the family to America, because he had been told by his friend Gottfried Duden, about this wonderful place that was full of opportunity for a better life. Arnold’s mother died on the journey west to Missouri. Arnold would attend school in St. Charles, become an attorney, begin a German newspaper, found the town of O’Fallon, Missouri (named for his friend John O’Fallon, William Clark’s nephew, both of who were slave owners) and become a highly respected member of the Statehouse.

By the 10th of January, a new Ordinance had been written and laid upon the table to be read before the proceedings the next day. On January 11, the Convention dispensed with the rule that the new Ordinance must be read three separate times. The first reading was held, and the vote was 60-4. With three members not present. There was some discussion, and a few words were substituted but the essence of the motion remained the same. The second reading was held, and a highly respected Unitarian minister who was present to witness as a spectator, William Greenleaf Eliot offered a prayer for the proceedings. Drake had asked that the 44th Rule be suspended and that the Constitutional Amendment be adopted. And for the third and final reading, William G. Owens from Franklin County, called for the vote, and the issue was so adopted. From that moment forward, all of those who had been born enslaved, brought to Missouri to continue their enslavement, and any in the future, would be forever free.

Source: Journal of The Missouri State Convention, Held at the City of St. Louis January 6- April 10, 1865, Missouri Constitutional Convention

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Emigrants hope for a better future

This grapevine above is growing on a trellis on the island of Harriersand in the Weser River near Bremen. Not where you expect grapevines, but these are very hardy. Like the German emigrants that gathered here as members of the Giessen Emigration Society, in 1834, looking forward to a new life in Missouri, “where the sun of freedom shines”. Their ship, the Olbers had left with one woman ill on board, disease spread like wildfire, nearly killing the entire ship.  The second group was just beginning to gather in Bremen 180 years ago, only to soon learn that the ship that they’d booked, would never arrive. They would spend weeks on the island, some families even taking shelter in the huge old hausbarn on the island. Others pitched tents and some who could afford to, found lodging in the nearby village of Brake.  An emigrant needs all the funds they have saved for that new life.

Unless you have emigrated from one country to another, it is difficult to understand all one faces.  On one level, there is the heated discussions with family and friends, if one’s chosen to share that plan. Some don’t because of this. When the Giessen Emigration Society left Germany, there were close friends very angry with the leaders, Muench and Follenius’ and their decision, labeling them traitors to “the cause”. Some of these same friends would be imprisoned and executed within two years.  Others considered them leaving for an impossible dream, a Utopia.

On another more personal level when one is leaving behind all that one knows, whether good or bad, and giving up all one possesses in the world, it takes a great leap of faith.  One hopes one will find one’s destination everything needed, and hoped for. When one arrives, one often faces discrimination; labeled an illegal emigrant when one isn’t, simply because of a name, one’s  appearance or birthplace.

Others don’t understand how often emigrants make the best U.S. citizens. Why?  Because an immigrant has chosen, worked hard, saved, and has given up everything to be a citizen. Immigrants often know the Declaration of Independence better than a natural born citizen. Why? Because they studied it, believed in it and chose the U.S. because of those words.  Immigrants are very hardy stockholders in a better future for the U.S., because they have already paid a high price to make it their own.

One cannot go back.  America is a melting pot for so many, as nearly all of our families were immigrants once. Once our own ancestors came here with their own dreams pinned with hope for a better future.

Giessen Emigration Society boarding the Medora at Bremen in July 1834
Giessen Emigration Society boarding the Medora at Bremen in July 1834