200 years ago, March 6, 1820,
President Monroe signed an enabling act, which Missouri statehood enthusiasts surely thought would outline the final substantial acts they would have to take for Missouri too become one of the United States of America.
The Act had eight sections and they are summarized as follows:
I. The Missouri Territory was empowered to draft and adopt a state constitution and form a government, and upon approval, the state would be admitted to the Union on an equal footing with the existing states in all respects.
II. The boundaries of the new State of Missouri, would be: On the south, latitude 36 degrees north between the Mississippi and St Francois rivers and latitude 36 degrees 30 minutes north from the St Francois west to the west boundary; on the east, the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers; on the north, latitude 40 degrees, 35 minutes from the Des Moines River to the west boundary; and on the west, a straight line passing at the confluence of the Kaw and Missouri Rivers.
III. Forty-one delegates to the constitutional convention all to be white males, 21 years old, or older, and residents of the area of the proposed for three months immediately prior to an election of delegates, were apportioned among the first 15 counties
created (New Madrid, Cape Girardeau, St Genevieve, St Louis, St Charles, Wayne, Howard, Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, Cooper, Montgomery, Pike and Lincoln). The apportionment in the enabling act was decidedly favorable to those counties south of the Missouri River. For instance, Howard, the most populous county, had fewer delegates than St Louis County. However, this may not have had any practical effect on the constitution adopted or the government formed.
IV. The first meeting of the delegates was set for the second Monday in June, 1820. It was required that the convention produce a constitution providing for a republican form of government in no way repugnant to the Federal Constitution.
V. The new state would have one representative in the House of Representatives of the United States Congress until the next general census.
VI. Five proposals for grants, to be accepted or rejected by the constitutional convention, were made:
1. A grant to the State of section 16 in each congressional township in the State for school purposes
2. A grant of all salt springs, not to exceed 12 in number, and six sections of land adjoining each.
3. Five percent (5%) of the net proceeds of sales of public lands in the State after January 1, 1821, for public roads and canals. Three-fifths (60%) of the money would go to the General Assembly for state projects and two-fifths (40%) would be administered by the U.S. Congress for roads to the State.
4. Four sections of land for the purpose of fixing the state capitol thereon.
5. Land for a seminary of learning.
Requirements for acceptance were that all public lands sold within the State after January 1, 1821, and bounty land awarded for military service
would be exempt from taxes for three years so long as held by the veteran or his heirs.
VII. An authenticated copy of the constitution adopted would be filed with the U.S. Congress.
VIII. Missouri could permit slavery within its borders, but it would be prohibited in the area north and west of Missouri above latitude 36 degrees, 30 minutes north.
The three-year conflict and uncertainty over Missouri’s admission to the Union seemed to be finally coming to a close.