Assembling the First Legislature, St. Charles, MO., 1821 by Alice Linneman, mural on the 2nd-floor rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol. Courtesy of the Missouri State Archives.
CLICK ON THIS IMAGE TO LEARN MORE!
MISSOURI'S FIRST ELECTED OFFICIALS
Missouri elected their first officials to state office in 1820, a year before the territory was formally admitted as a state. Missouri’s “founding fathers” were prominent residents of the territory, who had immigrated to the region from all across the nation. They were well educated wealthy landowners who had long been involved in Missouri politics and had found popularity as vocal supporters of the anti-restriction movement.
Missouri's Founding Fathers
Born in Pennsylvania in 1775, McNair moved to the Missouri Territory in 1804 following the Louisiana Purchase. He became a successful businessman and served as a United States Marshal in St. Louis. A popular campaigner, McNair was elected Missouri’s first governor in a landslide victory over famous explorer William Clark. Throughout his single term as governor, he supported anti-restrictionist and proslavery policies, despite his personal friendships with members of the local free black community.
Known as “Old Bullion” in the U.S. Senate, Benton served five terms as a Missouri Senator. Benton was born in North Carolina in 1782 and moved to the Missouri Territory in 1815. Benton was a slaveholder all his life and fought hard to establish slavery in Missouri. Later in life, under the influence of his daughter, Jessie, and son-in-law, the explorer John C. Fremont, Benton eventually came to support the Free Soil side of the slavery debate, open to preventing the spread of slavery west of Missouri. He lost his Senate seat over the issue after a bitter contest in 1850.
Scott was elected as Missouri’s first state representative to Congress in 1821. Born in Virginia in 1785, Scott migrated to the Indiana Territory in 1802. After graduating from Princeton, he moved to Ste. Geneviève and began practicing law. Scott served as Missouri’s lone representative in the House and was instrumental in getting Congress to pass the Missouri Enabling Act. Scott was a staunch anti-restrictionist throughout his life.
Born in Tennessee in 1783, Barton moved to St. Louis in 1809. He became a ranger in Nathan Boone’s company and was later appointed Attorney General of the Missouri Territory. Barton was a passionate anti restrictionist and, at the time, one of the most popular politicians elected in the Missouri Territory.
“Portrait of Alexander McNair, Missouri’s First Governor," ca.1821. Courtesy of the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office.
Thomas Hart Benton by Matthew Harris Jouett, ca. 1820. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
John Scott. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.
David Barton by Chester Harding. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.
Thomas Hart Benton
United States Senator
United States Representative
United States Senator
Did you know?
Senator Thomas Hart Benton’s great-nephew is the celebrated 20th century painter and muralist, also named Thomas Hart Benton. He is famous for his portraits and landscapes depicting the people and culture of Missouri and the Midwest.