Post Civil War: Drake Constitution

The Constitution of 1865 was called Drake's Constitution because of Charles Daniel Drake, the predominant influence at the Missouri state convention that drafted it. The Constitution was submitted to the people for their approval or disapproval on June 6, 1865, yet despite the test oath required of all Missouri voters, the delegates feared the constitution might be defeated.

Knowing that Union soldiers would be unlikely to vote against a document which struck at men who had supported the Confederate cause, Drake persuaded the convention to require the Governor to send poll books and copies of the proposed constitution to army posts outside the state so that Missouri soldiers in the U.S. armies might vote. Had it not been for the votes of those soldiers, the constitution most likely would have been defeated.

A vote for this Missouri constitution was also a vote for the “Ordinance for the Payment of State and Railroad Indebtedness." Few voters knew the details of the ordinance, but it levied a tax on railroad corporations, the proceeds of which were to be used to pay their debts to the state, and a special property tax of one-fourth percent to help retire the state debt.

The Drake Constitution struck forcefully at the rights of Missourians who had aligned themselves with the Southern Cause during the Civil War. Many found that, upon their successful return home, their Southern loyalty exacted an even higher price than having their property and land seized in common with those of other “rebels”.

Perhaps the hardest disability incurred by these Missouri men was the enforcement of numerous Drake Constitution proscribed acts, all directly or indirectly related to Confederate service or sympathy. Missouri citizens were required to swear an oath specifying their abstinence from a long list of acts and those who failed to take the oath were strictly prohibited from practicing law or medicine, preaching, teaching school, or following almost any other occupation except manual labor or business pursuits. They were also prohibited from voting.

For example, ministers who once held the attention of large congregations but sympathized with the Southern people were prohibited from preaching the Gospel unless they took an oath of perjury declaring that they had no such sympathy.

Many individuals declined to take the oath making it next to impossible for them to return to society in their previous position. Their suffering extended beyond perjury and many were forced to recreate themselves in new professions just to feed and clothe their families. 

The enforcement of the Drake provisions greatly encouraged migration of many Missourians to the Indian territories, Texas or beyond and it is believed to have been a contributing factor to the formation of various post-Civil War outlaw and vigilante groups.

Source: Compilation by Lisa Perry from various sources to include the Missouri State Archives teaching document “Military Poll Book, 1865”.

For more information on “Life in Post-Civil War Missouri”, read the very interesting paper by Missouri historian, Dr. Gary Kremer, posted at