Title Reviewed:
A History of Missouri. Volume II, 1820 to 1860

Author Reviewed:
Perry McCandless

Victor B. Howard


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 162-164

Article Type:
Book Review

Download Source:

A History of Missouri. Volume II, 1820 to 1860. By Perry McCandless. Missouri Sesquicentennial History. Edited by William E. Parrish. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1972. Pp. ix, 325. Notes, maps, essay on sources, index. $9.50.)

In this second volume of The Missouri Sesquicentennial History, a five volume series being published in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Missouri's statehood, Professor Perry McCandless traces the story of Missouri and its people through the formative years between statehood and the Civil War. The author has developed a concise and sound synthesis based on extensive research in both primary and secondary sources, and the result is a well balanced history that describes and analyzes the social, political, and economic growth of the state. Because the format of the series calls for a general survey of each chronological period rather than a highly detailed study, footnotes have been limited to explanatory matters.

McCandless is at his best when dealing with political history. Effectively using the career and personality of Thomas Hart Benton to connect Missouri's history with that of the nation, he details the state's political development and the role it played in both regional and national history. Benton looms as a giant on both the state and national levels, and a thorough and sound knowledge of his life permits McCandless to write a masterful account of Missouri's place in national politics during the first half of the nineteenth century.

The treatment of social and cultural history in this study does not measure up to the standards of the discussion of politics. For example, German culture in Missouri, especially as regards German newspapers and the theater, could have been more thoroughly analyzed. There are also weaknesses in the handling of religious history, where, for one thing, McCandless inaccurately states that the cooperative Plan of Union between the Presbyterians and the Congregationalists in Missouri "was discarded" in 1840 (p. 209). Actually, the Plan of Union continued until 1857 when the New School Presbyterian Church split over slavery. On the other hand, McCandless' discussion of education in Missouri is both complete and accurate.

McCandless focuses his volume primarily on Missouri's involvement in the sectional issues which ultimately led to civil war. In 1820, when Missouri was at the center of the rising sectional controversy, he finds a homogeneous people "united in their demands for statehood without restriction on slavery." In 1860, McCandless sees Missouri "torn internally" by the sectional issues involving slavery in the nation. He considers that the primary reason for this change was the growth of cultural diversity, a result of immigration from Europe and migration from the North which brought diversification of the economy and new ideas that challenged the social system of the old sectional ties (pp. ix, 289).

Missourians organized and directed the trans-Mississippi fur trade as well as the Santa Fe trade, and McCandless clearly delineates the advantages and importance of the state's key geographical location as the gateway to the Far West. Its unique geographical position determined that Missouri would play a significant role in both southern and western history.

As represented by this volume, The Missouri Sesquicentennial History is a useful contribution to both local and national history. It sets a standard of balance that could well be followed by similar projects in other states.

Morehead State University Morehead, Ky. Victor B. Howard

Published by theĀ Indiana University Department of History.