Guide to Civil War Resources at the Missouri State Archives

Missouri General Assembly

Missouri's first general assembly met in September 1820 at the Missouri Hotel in St. Louis. Qualified members were free, white male citizens of the United States and tax-paying residents of Missouri. Representatives were at least twenty-four years of age and senators were thirty years old. The first general assembly enacted legislation necessary to make the constitution operative. This included statutes governing slavery, taken in large part from the territorial "black code" legislation. Measures governing the activities of free blacks and abolitionists in Missouri, as well as provisions allowing the pursuit of freedom from slavery, were passed. Many measures proposed to regulate persons and activities in the state never passed, though; research of the original bill packets may be revealing in understanding the activities of Missouri's General Assembly during the period that led up to the Civil War, the war itself, and during reconstruction of the state.

Record Group 550: General Assembly, Original Bill Packets, 1845-1875 (incomplete); arranged chronologically.

The records of the General Assembly include original bill packets, which detail summary of bill, sponsor, committee, and final disposition. Early nineteenth century legislation, however, may not include such comprehensive information. The records include original journal pages, House and Senate bills, roll calls, and committee reports.

In addition, elected officials and citizens corresponded with the legislature regarding a number of issues, including the Mexican War, slavery, and the rights of free blacks. The messages received from the governor include items from other states, including resolutions regarding slavery, taxation, the annexation of Texas, protection of traveling emigrants, and the Oregon Trail. From the Secretary of State's office came notice of oaths of loyalty received. This correspondence, as well as resolutions, petitions, memorials, and accounts, is contained in the collection; these materials include a variety of topics including runaway slaves, the rights of free negroes, and school aid for African American students. Studied in conjunction with the traditional General Assembly records, the additional materials can help researchers define the role of the legislature during the antebellum, Civil War, and postwar Reconstruction eras.

Researchers may find it useful to consult the printed and indexed Journals of the House and Journals of the Senate for specific topics. These are located in the State Government Documents collection. In addition, the Missouri State Archives maintains a collection of published Laws of Missouri and Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri that are also indexed and can provide reference to legislation approved by the General Assembly.

Included in the printed volumes are ordinances passed at various sessions of the Missouri State Convention (found in Volume 18) that discuss the vacating of the state's executive offices, organization of the state militia, voting qualifications, and more. The index to the laws includes such topics as laws to enhance the value of Union Military Bonds, prescribing an oath of allegiance for certain military officers, and relief for sick and wounded soldiers and the families of soldiers, as well as the repeal of certain slave laws. The end of the war found legislators addressing the mustering out of troops and their pay, as well as encouraging immigration to the war-torn, depopulated state.