Thursday, March 10, 2011

St. Louis During the Civil War

Readers might remember my previous post explaining that St. Louis lost control of its police department during the Civil War and the State of Missouri has yet to give it back. 

The Opinionator Blog at the New York Times, which is blogging the Civil War, recently published an interesting piece by Adam Arenson about St. Louis and the Rise of the West during the Civil War (reg. req.).

… in November 1860, the northern free states voted for Abraham Lincoln, most slave states voted for John Breckinridge and three Upper South states voted for John Bell, Missouri was the only state to vote for the Northern Democrat, Stephen Douglas. The results in St. Louis were even more unusual: Lincoln edged out Douglas in a four-way race that — unlike any other that day — mirrored the returns of the country as a whole. St. Louis became the only large city in a slave state won by the president-elect, defying regional stereotypes. And Missouri stayed true to form on March 9, 1861, when its secession convention became the first such meeting to vote for staying in the Union.

Aronsen argues that we should not only think of the Civil War as a struggle between North and South to control the West (slave or free) but also a struggle between East and West.  St. Louis represented the West.

[Missouri] wasn’t a Southern state or a Northern state, but a Western state. The same goes for St. Louis: a city founded by the French, governed by the Spanish and sold to the Americans, a borderland city that was the hub of western movement across the continent. It was a moderate city with a Republican Party leadership in a slave state led by a secessionist governor. It was an ideal place to view America changing — and the see the power of the West at play in the secession crisis.

I can imagine that the people of St. Louis in the 1860’s were tired of being a place to “view America changing” because St. Louis is still a place to “view America changing” as we watch our state actions today.

On Monday, St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan renewed his tongue in cheek call for St. Louis to secede from Missouri and join Illinois as West East St. Louis.

Enough of this. Why pretend our relationship is worth saving?

Besides, many of us in West East St. Louis have seen enough of this legislative session to know we want out. The legislators in Jefferson City want to repeal child labor laws, lift the restrictions on puppy mills, do away with the voter-approved cost of living increases to the minimum wage and kill unions. Oh yeah, slap teachers around, too. Edge-ee-cay-shun? Who needs it? We'll take those lazy little tykes out of the classroom and put them to work where they belong …

It is really just a matter of dividing the assets.

We'll take urban street crime. They can have the meth labs.

Sigh.  Compare that to the State of Illinois which just eliminated the death penalty.  There are days that I think secession sounds like a good idea. And then we could even get back our police force:

Certain issues will solve themselves. Local control of the St. Louis Police Department, for instance. Springfield won't want it. They even let Chicago mismanage its own police department.

I’m ready to sign on.  Or maybe I should just sell my house and move across The River.