The governor is the chief executive officer of the state. From statehood until 1865, the governor was elected to a single four-year term, with no re-election. Following the Civil War, the 1865 constitution implemented a single two-year term; these limits were repealed in the 1875 constitution, returning the governor to a single four-year term.
The governor appoints the members of all boards and commissions, the heads of all state government agencies, and fills vacancies in public office. He addresses the General Assembly on the state of the government, recommends actions, and submits a budget. All bills and joint resolutions passed by both houses of the legislature are submitted to the governor for his consideration and approval or veto. The constitution, statute, or custom assigns many other gubernatorial duties. Writs of election may be issued by the governor, as well as the power to grant commutations and pardons. In addition, the governor is the commander-in-chief of the state's militia; as such, he may call out the militia to execute laws, suppress threats of danger, and prevent invasion.
These records include gubernatorial papers discussing various aspects of Missouri's antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction history. The records are incomplete; interested researchers may want to consult the collection of governors' papers held by the State Historical Society of Missouri (Columbia). The Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of the State of Missouri, published by the State Historical Society of Missouri, should also be consulted when researching gubernatorial actions. This 20-volume series, including governors from Alexander McNair through John Dalton, consists of biographical sketches; inaugural addresses; messages for special sessions and veto sessions, and to the House and Senate; proclamations offering rewards, calling sessions, and declaring holidays; as well as miscellaneous materials, including writs of election. The Missouri State Archives maintains a copy of this multi-volume series for research use. Researchers may also wish to look at the Hamilton R. Gamble papers held at the Missouri Historical Society (St. Louis); Gamble served as provisional governor of Missouri during the Civil War.
Civil War era papers maintained at the Missouri State Archives that address the approaching war and its aftermath date from Governor John C. Edwards' 1844-1848 administration through Governor Silas Woodson (1873-1875). Nineteenth century issues directed to the governor include abolitionist activities, the Mexican War, free soil political parties, the various mandatory loyalty oaths, runaway slaves, slave executions, border troubles with Kansas, and African American suffrage and education.
Records are most often in the form of correspondence to the governor; the governor's reply is generally not available. Requests for gubernatorial appointments and commission reports are also included. Correspondence is informative, as comments about politics, race, martial law, etc. appear as issues secondary to the letter's primary purpose; perusing gubernatorial correspondence provides commentary on contemporary issues. (See also the Gubernatorial Appointments series in Record Group 005: The Office of the Secretary of State.)
John C. Edwards, 1844-1848
A Kentucky native, Edwards migrated to Missouri in 1828. He was appointed Secretary of State in 1830, a position he held until 1837. He served in both the state legislature and Congress and was elected governor in 1844. The collection contains some correspondence relating to slavery in the state, particularly slave escapes; physical descriptions included. The collection also includes correspondence regarding the formation of militia companies for the Mexican War.
Austin A. King, 1848-1853
Born in Tennessee, King came to Missouri around 1830. He was appointed Ray County Circuit Judge in 1837, and elected governor in 1848. Following his term, he served in the United States Congress, elected in 1862. His papers contain information about slavery and abolition in antebellum Missouri, including correspondence about the capture of a runaway slave; the murder of a slave on board a steamboat; and the prosecution of persons kidnapping slaves from Illinois.
Sterling Price, 1853-1857
A native of Virginia, Price moved to Missouri in 1831, settling in Fayette. By profession a farmer and merchant, he was elected to the state legislature in 1840, and then to the U.S. Congress in 1844. He commanded a regiment during the Mexican War. After his gubernatorial term, he served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. The Price collection contains correspondence relating to slavery. Key documents include letters requesting a stay of execution for Celia, a Callaway County slave convicted of murdering her sexually abusive owner. Other letters discuss the slave trade, a "free soil" newspaper, the Kansas border dispute, the role of slavery in gubernatorial appointments, and fugitive slave laws.
Trusten Polk, 1857
A lawyer born in Delaware, Polk came to St. Louis in 1835. He served as city counselor, and later was elected to the 1845 constitutional convention. Eleven years later, Missouri voters elected Polk governor; soon after his inauguration, the Missouri legislature selected him to serve as United States Senator, succeeding Henry Geyer. He resigned the governor's office at the end of February 1857. The United States Senate expelled Polk in 1862 due to his Confederate sympathies. Polk's papers include several antebellum topics, including Thomas Hart Benton, free soil, and the Know Nothing Party.
Hancock Lee Jackson, 1857
Born in Kentucky, Jackson settled in Missouri in 1821. He was the first sheriff of Randolph County and served as a captain in the Mexican War. A term in the state senate (elected 1850) was followed by his election as Lieutenant Governor in 1856. When Governor Trusten Polk left office for the United States Senate, Jackson became governor, but was unsuccessful in his own 1860 election bid. Much of his collection includes requests for political appointments and pardon requests, but also includes political correspondence regarding slavery, the Whig Party, and the Know Nothing Party.
Robert M. Stewart, 1857-1861
Stewart was born in New York and came to Missouri in 1839. He settled in St. Joseph, and set up practice as an attorney. From 1846 through 1857, he served as state senator; he was elected governor in a special election following Governor Trusten Polk's resignation. His papers include requests for appointments and commission posts, including one from a man who rejected "free soilers." Other correspondence makes reference to "Bleeding Kansas" and "abolition fanatics," and Frank Blair. See also Stewart's correspondence with Kansas officials during the Missouri - Kansas border troubles in Record Group 005: Office of the Secretary of State, Special Collections .
Claiborne Fox Jackson, 1861
A Kentucky native who emigrated to Missouri's "Little Dixie" area, Jackson was elected state representative in 1836 (Saline County) and in 1840 (Howard County). He served as Speaker of the House twice before his election as state senator in 1848. Jackson introduced the infamous proslavery "Jackson Resolutions." The resolutions stated that Congress did not have the power to halt the spread of slavery; that a U.S. citizen could take his property, including slavery, to any American territory; and that slavery could only be prohibited in a territory by popular vote. The collection only contains four letters, one of which is Jackson's correspondence to the governor of Arkansas. The letter references the future of the Union, slavery, abolition, states' rights, and "Black Republicans." (See Record Group 000: State Documents, General Assembly Collection, Extra Session of the Rebel Legislature in Neosho, Missouri, October 1861.)
Willard P. Hall, 1864-1865
Born in Virginia, Hall settled in western Missouri in 1840. Elected to Congress in 1846, he served three terms. In 1861, the State Convention appointed him Lieutenant Governor; he became governor upon the death of Hamilton Gamble in 1864. This small collection offers details about the political upheaval during the Civil War, the role of the provisional government and its elected officials, and the 1861 Missouri State Convention. Other correspondence includes citizens' refusal to take the loyalty oath, vacancies in county offices due to that refusal, and the necessity for new appointments. Bushwhackers and the state militia are other topics of interest in these papers.
Thomas C. Fletcher, 1865-1869
Fletcher was the first native-born Missourian to serve as governor. A lawyer by occupation, he was appointed Assistant Provost Marshal General in St. Louis in 1861; serving in combat, he was wounded and imprisoned in Libby Prison until 1863. He commanded the infantry in the Battle of Pilot Knob. After his 1864 election as governor, Fletcher issued an Emancipation Proclamation (11 January 1865) which freed all Missouri slaves nearly a year before the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Included in his correspondence are references to the education of African American children, compensation for emancipated slaves, black suffrage, African Americans serving in the military, and racial crimes. Other topics include the State Convention's "Ousting Order" and elections for vacant offices, the loyalty oath and/or failure to take it, the 1865 Constitution and thoughts about the "Drake" constitution, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the proclamation for the restoration of civil law, life in a military district, the effect of war on the court system, and voting rights and loyalty issues.
Joseph Washington McClurg, 1869-1871
A native of St. Louis County, McClurg served in Congress for three terms. There, he voted for the abolition of slavery even though he owned slaves. The Republican Party nominated McClurg for governor in 1868; he served one term. Much of the correspondence in his collection relates to requests for pardons, commission appointments, and fine remittance. Included among the pardon requests are those for former slaves convicted of various crimes, including William Clark (petit larceny) and Melville Wells (assault); and for African Americans who were convicted with possibly insufficient evidence due to lack of black Missourians on juries, as well as many citizens convicted of assorted war crimes.
Benjamin Gratz Brown, 1871-1873
Born in Kentucky, Brown moved to St. Louis in 1849, where he practiced law. A supporter of U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton, Brown served several terms in Missouri's General Assembly and one term in the U.S. Senate. The papers in his collection refer to a number of issues facing Missouri during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. One letter from Carter County describes a family terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan; other correspondence reveals Klan intimidation tactics in the area, warning against the building of African American schools and churches. Brown pardoned several former slaves for various crimes, and received messages regarding black education and Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City.
Silas Woodson, 1873-1875
Woodson was born in Kentucky and migrated to Missouri in 1854. He practiced law in St. Joseph and, in 1872, became the first Democratic governor elected in Missouri after the Civil War. Correspondence relating to African Americans primarily relates to gubernatorial pardons. There is also information regarding the 1875 state constitution.