Soon afterwards I was offered the political editorship of the Democrat, which I accepted on the one condition that there was to be “no let-up on emancipation.” I held the position until Missouri was a free State.
In a surprisingly short time after the question of Missouri’s status in reference to the Union was decided, the issue between Pro-Slaveryism and Anti-Slaveryism came up. Political parties ranged themselves upon it. Those who favored slavery’s immediate or speedy abolishment became known as Radicals, while those advocating its prolongation were called Conservatives. Those descriptives, however, were too mild for such a time, and they were quickly superseded by a more expressive local nomenclature. The Radicals, because of their alleged sympathy with the negro, were branded as “Charcoals,” and their opponents, made up of Republicans, Democrats, and Semi-Unionists, because of the variegated complexion of the mixture, were set down as “Claybanks.” Mulattoes are Claybanks.
The Claybanks, or Conservatives, at the outset enjoyed a decided advantage in having the State government on their side. This was not the regularly elected administration, which was driven out because of its open support of secession, but its provisional successor. In trying to take the State out of the Union with a show of legality, the lawful Governor and his official associates made provision for a State convention to be chosen by the people, which they expected to control, but which, having a Unionist majority, played the boomerang on them by sending them adrift and taking the affairs of the State into its own hands. In this it had opposition. The most progressive men of the State insisted that, after it had settled the question of Missouri’s relations to the Union, with reference to which it was specially chosen, it was functus officio. They held that there should be a new and up-to-date convention, especially as the old one, owing to the desertion of many of its treasonably inclined members, including General Sterling Price, of the Confederate Army, who was its first president, had become “a rump,” and so there were old-conventionists and new-conventionists. The old-convention men, however, were in the saddle. They had the governmental machinery, and were resolved to hold on to it. In that spirit the convention proceeded to fill the vacant offices. It was in sentiment strongly pro-slavery, as was shown by the fact that a proposal looking to the very gradual extinguishment of slavery was rejected by it in an almost unanimous vote, a circumstance that led the leading pro-slavery journal of the State to boast that the convention had killed emancipation “at the first pop.” Very naturally such a body selected pro-slavery officials. Hamilton R. Gamble, whom it made Governor, was a bigoted supporter of “the institution.” He had not long before been mixed up in the proceedings that compelled Elijah P. Lovejoy to leave Missouri for Alton, Illinois, where he was murdered by a pro-slavery mob. Gamble was an able and ambitious man.