Missouri shouldn't cast stones

Editorial written by James Baughn on Saturday, June 9, 2001

from the no-moral-highground-to-be-found dept.

ST. LOUIS -- Mayor Francis Slay decided last week to remove the Georgia and Mississippi flags from the City Hall rotunda because they feature the Confederate flag. A Post-Dispatch editorial hailed the move as "the right thing to do" and congratulated Slay for removing a symbol of "slavery, racism, and segregation".

However, if Mayor Slay was truly interested in removing all symbols of hatred, he should have taken down the Missouri flag as well. Our own state's history is filled with acts of oppression and hatred that were just as evil as anything conducted by the Confederacy. It was virtually illegal for Native Americans to reside in Missouri until 1910, and the "Mormon Extermination Order" was on the books until 1975.

Many people have called Governor Bob Holden "the worst governor in state history", but I think it's safe to say that Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs still holds that dubious honor. Boggs issued the Mormon Extermination Order in 1838, which stated, "The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public good. Their outrages are beyond all description."

It wasn't until 1975 that Kit Bond formally rescinded this order. How does it feel to live in a state where it was technically legal until 26 years ago to murder a person because of their religious beliefs?

Native Americans weren't welcome in Missouri either during the 1800's. Under an 1824 law, no white man could legally conduct trade with a Native American, effectively outlawing Indians from living in this state. This law wasn't repealed until 1910.

And that's not all. Missouri history also features these events from the 1800's:

  • "Order 11", which resulted in the destruction of several counties in western Missouri known later as "The Burnt District".

  • The "Ironclad Oath", which effectively disenfranchised anybody who supported the South during the Civil War.

  • The "Honey War", in which the governors of Missouri and Iowa unsuccessfully tried to declare war on each other.

All of these events demonstrate the foolishness of criticizing other states for their history and their symbols. Our leaders should not embrace a holier-than-thou attitude towards Georgia and Mississippi when our own state's history is just as tarnished. If the Confederate flag is a symbol of hatred towards blacks, then the Great Seal of Missouri is a symbol of hatred towards Mormons and Indians.