William C. Price (1816-1901)
"Rabid Pro-Slavery" and a "Religious Fanatic," Price served
briefly as Treasurer of the United States.
[Connelly, The Provisional Government of the Nebraska Territory]
Kansas Historian William Connelly attributed authorship of the "Black Laws" passed by the Bogus Legislature to Judge William Price of Springfield, Missouri and other "rabid Pro-Slavery men" in an 1855 meeting held in Weston immediately after the election of the Legislature. [Connelly, History, Ch. 21] Price himself claimed to have been Senator Thomas Hart Benton's principal opponent in Missouri, to have been in continuing communication with extremist southern leaders Calhoun, Davis and Benjamin, and to have been the originator of the anti-Benton movement in 1844. [Trexler, Slavery in Missouri, 134]
William Cecil Price was born in Russell county, Virginia and emigrated with his farming family to Greene county, Missouri in 1836. He was a double cousin of the better known Missourian, Sterling Price. He attended Knoxville College in Tennessee and returned to Missouri to teach school, clerk in a store and read law. In 1840 he was appointed deputy sheriff of Greene county and in 1841 appointed to fill a vacancy on the Greene county (administrative) court. He was admitted to the bar in 1844 and elected probate judge (chief official) of the county (administrative) court in 1847. [Holcombe, History of Greene County, 591]
Price was said to have visited every part of Missouri in 1844, warning slaveholders of the peril of their situation if the Missouri Compromise were not repealed. [Macy, The Anti-Slavery Crusade, Ch. 10] His efforts were in support of the movement that generated the Jackson Resolutions and later fostered the anti-Bentonite faction of the Missouri Democratic Party.
Judge Price later claimed that the idea of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise originated with him. He believed "Missouri could not remain slave with Iowa free on the north, Illinois free on the east, and a free State on the west." Repeal was discussed a meeting in New Orleans in 1850 that Price attended along with extremists Jefferson Davis, J.P. Benjamin and Robert Toombs. Without expansion of slavery to the West, Price and other radical Southern leaders believed conflict with the North was inevitable and favored secession long before 1861. [Connelly, History, Ch. 15]
In 1854 Price was elected to the State Senate but resigned in 1857 to accept appointment as Circuit Court Judge. In 1859 Missouri's governor appointed him to represent the state in Washington at land office discussions on swamp and overflowed lands. Price "saved several hundred houses and acres of land for his State." [Holcombe, History of Greene County, 591]
In 1860 President Buchanan appointed Price as Treasurer of the United States where he served only briefly until Lincoln's inauguration. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Price enlisted in Missouri's confederate brigade as a private, serving under his cousin General Sterling Price. He was captured at the battle of Pea Ridge, imprisoned at Alton, Illinois for eight months and then exchanged for a southern prisoner at Vicksburg. Confederate President Jefferson Davis then assigned him as a recruiting officer in Missouri with the rank of Major. In 1864 he resigned to rebuild his finances, farming in Arkansas. After the war he returned to Missouri, practicing law first in St. Louis and finally in Springfield. [Holcombe, History of Greene County, 592]
Price returned from the war "a wholly unreconstructed man" and although he had earlier been an active member of the Methodist Church South, he left the church and "gave himself up entirely to the contemplation of theology and the solution of metaphysical problems." [Fairbanks, Past and Present Greene County, 444] To some, he was a "religious fanatic." [Macy, The Anti-Slavery Crusade, Ch. 10]