Claiborne Fox Jackson

Claiborne Fox Jackson (1806-1862)

Restoring his public stature at the Lexington Convention, Jackson was elected Governor in 1860 and attempted to lead the state into secession from the Union.
[State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia]

Claiborne Fox Jackson was born in Fleming County, Kentucky into a slave- owning yeoman farming family originally from Virginia. In 1826 he moved to Old Franklin in the Boon's Lick country of Missouri. After several years as a store clerk and a small merchant engaged in the Santa Fe trade, he married Doctor John Sappington's daughter, joining the most prominent family in the area. After his wife's death, he married her sister and joined the Sappington family malaria pill business in Arrow Rock. He later married still a third sister when his second wife died.

The Sappington family were allied closely with Senator Thomas Hart Benton in the 1830's. Benton took a strong Democratic stand "against a protective tariff, a national bank, a national system of internal improvements, and the elitist electoral college." Jackson was an "unqualified supporter" of Benton, unlike the majority of Boons Lick merchants who as Whigs favored "Henry Clay's `American System' of national banking, internal improvements, and a high tariff." The small farmers who formed the large majority in central Missouri were Democrats and Jackson embraced Democracy. [Phillips, Missouri's Confederate, 75ff]

In 1836 with the support of the Sappington family, Jackson was elected the Missouri House of Representatives from Saline County. Although he voted against an act chartering a State Bank of Missouri because he thought the act insufficiently restrictive, he quickly accepted a position as Cashier in the Fayette branch when it was offered by other members of the "Central Clique." For four years he worked at the bank, moving his family to a Howard County farm. [Phillips, Missouri's Confederate, 85]

In 1842 Jackson returned to the General Assembly, this time as the real head of the Central Clique, though Sterling Price was House Speaker. Jackson was able to delay reapportionment of legislative and congressional seats which would have diminished the power of the Boons Lick politicians to the benefit of St. Louis and other areas of the growing state. Jackson remained a strong supporter of Senator Benton, who in 1842 had personally approved 90 percent of the federal appointees in Missouri. . [Phillips, Missouri's Confederate, 144ff]

But in 1848, in response to Benton's support for a bill in Congress to establish a territorial government in Oregon prohibiting slavery, Jackson now Speaker of the House, broke with Benton. He sponsored the "Jackson Resolutions" attempting to instruct Benton's vote in the Senate on slavery in the territories. In language that would later resonate in Kansas, the "Jackson Resolutions declared:

  1. Congress had no constitutional power to legislate on the subject of slavery in the territories, except on the question of fugitive slaves;
  2. That any right to prohibit slavery in any territory belonged exclusively to the people there and could only be exercised by them at the time of framing a constitution and applying for statehood;
  3. That the conduct of northern states on the subject of slavery had released the southern states from adherence to the Missouri Compromise line, if there had been such an obligation;
  4. That the Missouri Compromise could be applied to new territories for the sake of harmony and preservation of the Union, but in the event of passage of any act in conflict with the above principles, Missouri would cooperate with slaveholding states in measures necessary for mutual protection against northern fanaticism.
  5. Missouri's United States Senators were instructed to act in conformity with the terms of the resolutions. [ McCandless, History, 247]

The Democratic party split over the Jackson Resolutions into Benton and anti-Benton factions and Jackson was among those not reelected. He ran for Congress in 1854 and lost to the Whig candidate, with Bentonite votes against him. [Shoemaker, Floyd, Missouri Southern Tradition, 439]

At the 1855 Lexington Convention, Jackson was attempting to reconstruct his political power, He hoped his attendance as a delegate from Saline County "would signal his reemergence into the realm of public men." [Phillips, Missouri's Confederate, 219]

Elected governor in 1860, Jackson recommended calling an 1861 state secession convention. To his surprise, the convention voted against secession, although opposing coercion of the South. Later, Jackson refused President Lincoln's request for troops, calling the Union cause an "unholy crusade." Federal troops then seized a Missouri Militia camp and Governor Jackson called for volunteers but was forced to withdraw from Jefferson City to southwest Missouri. The convention he had called then deposed the state government and Jackson attempted to convene a rump legislature to pass an ordinance of secession.

Jackson took to the field with General Sterling Price, helping organize the Missouri State Guard for the South prior to the battle of Wilson's Creek in Arkansas. Missouri's "secession" by the rump legislature was accepted by the Confederate Government and Jackson served as governor of Missouri's government in exile until his death in 1862. [Phillips, Missouri's Confederate, 274ff]

Charles Clark