The New York Times ran an editorial predicting that slavery would be unable to persist for long in Missouri. Many slaveholders had absconded in fear of federal troops, and antislavery sentiment was growing. As it turns out, there wouldn’t be time for a program of compensated emancipation to be conducted.
See more on emancipation in Missouri at Middlesex History.
Emancipation in Missouri.
It is evident that Slavery cannot exist for any length of time in the State of Missouri. The mere fact that the question is being agitated all over the State seals the doom of the institution. Slavery can neither continue to exist in the midst of protracted war, nor of hostile agitation. The State Convention of Missouri last week gave reluctant consideration to the President’s compensated-emancipation message; and responded that practical action on the proposition was at present uncalled for. But this week an “Emancipation Convention” has sat at the State Capital, at which 195 delegates were present, who represented twenty-five counties, or nearly one-fourth of the area of the State. By this Convention, resolutions were adopted recommending the gradual emancipation of the slaves in the State, and the acceptance of the aid tendered by the general Government.
The mere fact that such a Convention could be held in Missouri, indicates the marvelous change that has taken place in the condition of that State since two years ago — at which time such a meeting, at such a place, would probably have cost the life of every man who attended it. The growth of public opinion in a State like Missouri, is extremely rapid; and opinion hardly gets formed on any topic, ere it is overtaken by public action upon it. If twenty-five counties were represented in the Convention now, we may expect that all the counties in the State will be represented next year, and that the same year will see the question authoritatively submitted to the vote of the people.
The meeting and the action of this Convention is not the only symptom of the change going on in the public opinion of Missouri on the Slavery question. A great part of the Press of the State is now in favor of emancipation. In St. Louis alone there are four powerful daily newspapers, three printed in English and one in German, which advocate emancipation; and the only journal of any influence on the other side of the question, the Republican, seems very anxious to prove that it is not Pro-Slavery. In St. Joseph also, and in a considerable number of other large towns in the State, there are vigorous emancipation journals. Everywhere the question is discussed; everywhere the people are beginning to recognize the fact that they must soon decide it.
The gross number of slaves in the State, by last census, was 115,000; but those familiar with the subject estimate that the number has been reduced by one-half since that time. The war last Summer completely unearthed the institution in nearly half the State. Many slaves were taken by their frightened masters into Arkansas; many fugitives fled to Kansas and other Free States; many were liberated by our troops on their march; and the absence in PRICE’s army of the masters of thousands of them, completely demoralized them (as the French say) for future service as slaves. The negroes of Missouri are a tolerably intelligent class; and there is no doubt that a system of gradual emancipation there would work kindly and easily; and that the bulk of those now held to service would thereafter be employed as free laborers. The inauguration of such a system would greatly help the growth and prospects of the giant young State of the Southwest; and we are rejoiced that the day of its realization is evidently so rapidly approaching.