As some alert readers (ARs) undoubtedly know, Missouri entered the Union 200 years ago, on August 10, 1821. For the next five years the State Capitol was on Main Street in St. Charles, a few blocks north of where Schlafly Bankside is today.
Some of these ARs may also be aware of the discrepancy between this date and the one shown on The Great Seal of Missouri adopted by The General Assembly five months later, on January 11, 1822. To refresh the recollections of the ARs who are not aware this discrepancy, the date emblazoned on The Great Seal is MDCCCXX, Roman numerals for 1820, which was one year before Missouri was admitted to the Union. I am not making this up. The Great Seal of The State of Missouri really does claim that the State is a year older than it actually is. The Great Seal is in essence a fake ID, and a rather clumsy one at that.
What else is wrong with The Great Seal? According to Section 10.060 of Missouri Statutes, the most prominent feature of the Seal is “on each side, a white or grizzly bear of Missouri, rampant, guardant proper, standing on a scroll.” This is something else I am not making up. According to a state law adopted in 1822 our Seal must depict a white or grizzly bear of Missouri. As most ARs surely know, there’s no such animal. It’s like saying our State Seal should depict a unicorn native to Missouri. Polar bears have never lived in Missouri. Nor are they shown on any image of The Great Seal I’ve ever seen. And if grizzly bears ever roamed in Missouri it was long before Europeans arrived. After Lewis and Clark set out from St. Charles, not far from where Bankside is today, they didn’t even see a sign of a grizzly bear until a year and a half later, when they were in North Dakota. White and grizzly bears are undeniably majestic creatures, but they aren’t any more indigenous to Missouri than kangaroos or crocodiles.
There’s another problem with our State Seal. It violates The Missouri Constitution. Once again, I am not making this up. As prescribed by Section 10.060, the Missouri grizzly bears are shown standing on a scroll Inscribed with the motto, “Salus populi suprema lex esto.” As ARs who studied Latin may recall, the Roman statesman Cicero wrote these words over 2,000 years ago. The English translation is “Let the welfare of the people be the highest law.” The problem is, Cicero wrote these words in Latin, which puts them in violation of Article I, Section 34 of The Missouri Constitution, which requires that all official proceedings or communications of The State must be in English. However edifying the Ciceronian motto on our State Seal might be, it’s a clear violation of the English Language Amendment to the Missouri Constitution approved by the voters in their wisdom in 2008.
As prescribed by Section 10.060, the Great Seal shows a “star argent” below “a constellation of twenty-three smaller stars” signifying Missouri’s status as the 24th state admitted to the Union. In addition to ranking 24th out of 50 among the states in order of admission, Missouri ranks 18thout of 50 in population and 21st out of 50 in geographical area, putting it close to the middle of the pack in several respects. Since the 1980 census the mean population center of The United States has been in Missouri, having been respectively located in Jefferson, Crawford, Phelps, Texas and Wright Counties. Throughout its history Missouri has been where East has met West and where North has met South. It’s one of two states represented by stars on the Confederate flag despite not having seceded from the Union.
While Missourians have been commemorating their state’s bicentennial, some people in Cook County, Illinois have found a new way to honor the man they recognize as the “Founder of Chicago.” The street formerly known as Lake Shore Drive has now been renamed Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive. What the Chicago politicians who are enthusiastically celebrating DuSable usually fail to note is that shortly after founding their town he chose to pick up stakes and relocate to St. Charles, Missouri, where he operated a ferry across the Missouri River, not far from Bankside.
While it’s known that DuSable died in St. Charles in 1818 and was buried in an unmarked grave in St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery, there’s little historical evidence of his life prior to the 1770s. In 1951 Joseph Jeremie, a native of Haiti, wrote a pamphlet in which he claimed to be a great grandson of DuSable. According to Jeremie, his alleged great grandfather was born in Saint-Marc in what was then Saint Domingue; studied in France and was a coffee dealer in Haiti before moving to North America to found Chicago. John Swenson, an historian and biographer of DuSable, dismissed these claims as “elaborate, undocumented assertions…in a fanciful biography.”
It would appear that some of what has been written about DuSable may be about as reliable as what Missouri Statutes say about the State’s Great Seal.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery