Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention
:--I feel greatly oppressed by the circumstances under which I now stand before you. After a life spent in labor, I had hoped that I would be permitted to pass its evening in retirement.
I have never coveted public office, never desired public station.
I have been content to discharge my duties as a private citizen, and I hoped such would be my lot during the remainder of my life.
Circumstances seemed to make it a duty for me, when the convention was first elected, to agree to serve as one of its members, because the condition of the State
and country at large seemed to demand that every citizen of the State
should throw aside his own preferences, choice, and even his own scheme of life, if necessary, in order to serve the country.
In accordance with what I regarded as an obligation every citizen owes to the community of which he is a member, I allowed myself to be chosen as a member of this body.
I came here and endeavored, as far as I could, to serve the best interests of the State
, and you now have chosen to put upon me a still more onerous and still more distasteful duty — a duty from which I shrink.
Nothing but the manner in which it has been pressed upon me ever would have induced me to yield my personal objections to it. The members of this body, in the present distracted state of the country, have come to me since it was clearly manifest that the office of Provisional Governor
would be made, and have urged that I should allow myself to fill that position.
Nor was it the action of any political party--men of all parties have united in it. Those who have belonged to the parties that have all departed in the midst of the present difficulties and trials of the country have united in making this application to me. They have represented that my long residence in the State
and the familiar acquaintance of the people with me would insure a higher degree of confidence, and better secure the interests, the peace, and order in the community than would be consequent on the selection of any other person.
God knows there is nothing now that I would not give within the limits of any thing reasonable, in order to escape being appointed.
But when it was said to me by those repesenting the people of the State
that I could contribute, by assuming this public trust, to secure the peace of Missouri
, in which I have lived for more than forty years, that I might secure the peace of those who are the children of fathers with whom I was intimate, I thought it my duty to serve.
It is, therefore, an entire yielding up; it is the yielding of all my own schemes, of all my own individual wishes and purposes, when I undertake to assume this office.
I could give you, gentlemen of the convention, no better idea of my devotion to what I believe to be the interest of the State
, than I do now, if you could only understand the reluctance with which I accept the election with which you were pleased to honor me. But yet, gentlemen, with all that has been said of the good result to be accomplished by me, it is utterly impossible that any one man can pacify the troubled waters of the State
; that any one man can still the commotion now running throughout our borders.
No man can do it. You, as you go forth to mingle with your fellow-citizens throughout the land, look back upon this election as an experiment that is about to be tried to endeavor to pacify this community, and restore peace and harmony to the State
It is an experiment by those whose interests are with your interests, and who are bound to do all in their power to effect this pacification of the State
It may be we have not adopted the best plan or the best mode of securing the object which we desire; but we have done what seemed to us in our maturest judgment best calculated to accomplish it. And now, gentlemen, when you go forth to mingle with your fellow-citizens, it must depend upon you what shall be the result of this experiment.
If you desire the peace of the State
--if you earnestly desire it — then give this experiment a fair trial; give it a full opportunity of developing all its powers of restoring peace.
I ask you — I have a right to ask of every member of this convention — that he and I should so act together as will redound to the common good of our State.
I feel that I have a right to ask, when you have by your voice placed me in such a position, that you shall unite with me your efforts and voice, instead of endeavoring to prevent the result we all desire.
Unite all your efforts so that the good which is desired may be accomplished; and with the blessing of that Providence
which rules over all affairs, public and private, we may accomplish the end for which we have labored, and which shall cause all the inhabitants of the State
Gentlemen of the convention, what is it that we are now threatened with?
We apprehend that we may soon be in that condition of anarchy, in which a man when he goes to bed with his family at night does not know whether he shall ever rise again, or whether his house shall remain intact until morning.
This is the kind of danger, not merely a war between different divisions of the State
, but a war between neighbors, so that when a man meets those with whom he has associated from childhood, he begins to feel that they are his enemies.
We must avoid that.
It is terrible.
The scenes of the French
revolution may be enacted in every quarter of our State, if we do not succeed in avoiding that kind of war. We can do it if we are in earnest, and endeavor with all our power.
So far as I am concerned, I assure you that it shall be the very highest object — the sole aim