Monday, November 8, 2010

We’re Still Fighting the Civil War Here in Missouri

The New York Times (subs. req.) is blogging the Civil War and it’s pretty cool.  Lincoln was just elected yesterday. Today they put up a time line for 1861 that ends with the imposition of martial law in the City of St. Louis. There is a link to a Times article on the actual Order of General Halleck.  It is hard to imagine this city living under martial law, but it was. 

We’re still living with the effects of events that led up to the imposition of martial law.  In March 1861, the Missouri legislature passed the so-called “St. Louis Police Bill”,  a bill to take the police force of the City of St. Louis away from the City and give control of it to the State.  They’ve never given it back.   That’s right, after all these years, 149 years,  they still haven’t given it back.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that St. Louis was generally a pro-Union city in the midst of a state that was Southern in its sympathies,” says Robert Archibald, president of the Missouri History Museum. “The St. Louis police department constituted the largest quasi-military organization in the state, and [the police bill] was a Civil War measure passed by people who wanted to control it as part of the Civil War.”

Yes, that’s right.  Even back then the City of St. Louis was more progressive than the rest of the state.  And even back then the rest of the state punished us for that.

Here’s what one of St. Louis’ representatives said at the time:

“It was one of the most infamous pieces of legislation ever attempted to be inflicted. Our revolutionary fathers threw off the yoke of Great Britain on the very grounds now pursued by this legislature toward St. Louis, which attempts to deprive the people of their right to representation—to appoint foreign officers to preside over them—to take away from them their rights to franchise, to pension hirelings as officers upon them, and to impose taxes to support them without that consent. This Legislature [will] yet see whether the spirit of American freemen has yet died out in the breasts of the citizens of St. Louis.”

His tirade did no good.   But taking away our police drove a wedge between St. Louis and the rest of the state that still is there.

“There continues to be a split between St. Louis and the rest of the state, and in historical terms, I suspect it has its roots in the Civil War,” Archibald says. “I think the lack of a close relationship stems more from the war than from the typical urban-rural split that you see in other states.”

You bet there is a wedge.  Bill McClellan, columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has even called for St. Louis to secede from Missouri and join Illinois, becoming “West East St. Louis”.  Tongue in cheek that might be, but still tempting.   

I bet Illinois would let us have our own police.