JEFFERSON CITY — 175 years ago, Dred Scott and his wife Harriet first sought to be freed from slavery at the landmark Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

Their case went on for 11 years. While the St. Louis court initially sided with the Scotts, on appeal, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against them, denying freedom for them and their daughters. The U.S. Supreme Court later upheld the Missouri court’s decision.

Now, nearly two centuries later, the Missouri legislature has formally declared that the decision was wrong.

House concurrent resolutions 4 and 5, sponsored by Rep. Raychel Proudie, D-Ferguson, gained approval in the Senate on Thursday. It had unanimously passed the House in March.

“We declare the March 22, 1852, Missouri Supreme Court Dred Scott decision is fully and entirely renounced,” the resolution reads.

Sen. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, carried the resolution in the Senate. He had also proposed a similar Senate version denouncing the decision. Roberts thanked members from across the aisle for their support, including Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove. Moon had pushed for similar resolutions in previous sessions, when he was a member of the House.

“The court’s not always right,” Moon said. “It’s great that we can come together (and) recognize that.”

Following the resolution’s passage by the Senate, onlooking members of the House began to celebrate. Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who presides over the Senate, then intervened.

“The representatives wanted to clap, and I reminded them that this is not the House,” Kehoe said, with a laugh. “This is the upper chamber.”

Constitutional Convention

The Senate passed another resolution Thursday calling for a constitutional convention of the states in order to limit the size and spending of the federal government.

This kind of convention is one of two ways laid out by Article V to amend the U.S. Constitution. The other is through an act of Congress and ratification by the states.

Since the Constitution became the supreme document of governance in 1788, it has never been amended through a convention of the states.

The resolution was sponsored by Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield. Burlison decried the way in which the national debt has grown over the last four decades. He said, under presidents of both parties, the federal government has spent money without concern for future ramifications. Debt “destroys nations,” Burlison said.

While it has never happened, Burlison said “over 30” states have considered calling for a convention on this issue. Thirty-four states are needed for one to occur.

“This is a movement that’s well organized,” Burlison said in a March hearing. “We get emails daily from our constituents. People get excited about it.”

The Senate later gave initial approval to another bill proposed by Burlison, which details the selection process for delegates to a constitutional convention if one were to ever take place.

  • State Government Reporter, Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. Reach me at wickerperlis@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700

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