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Claiborne Fox Jackson (1806 - 1862)



During the early period of Missouri’s state history, Democrat Claiborne Fox Jackson served as speaker in the state House of Representatives. He vigorously supported proslavery positions and making Texas a state. Jackson was elected governor in 1860 and soon after assuming office worked to take Missouri out of the Union.


Early Years

Map of Missouri with Arrow Rock and Fayette starred Arrow Rock & Fayette, Missouri

Claiborne Fox Jackson was born in Kentucky on April 4, 1806, to Dempsey and Mary Jackson. The Jacksons were prosperous tobacco farmers and owned numerous slaves. During his boyhood, young Claiborne received some educational instruction. 

Kentucky tobacco farm Kentucky tobacco farm This tobacco farm in western Kentucky is similar to the kind of farm Jackson grew up on in rural Fleming County.

[Courtesy of the Library of Congress]
In 1826, not long after Missouri became a state, Jackson traveled to the central part. He settled in Franklin, where the Santa Fe Trail
William Becknell established this trade route between Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1821. The trail was 800 miles long and took three months to travel. It was replaced by the railroad in 1880.
began. The establishment of the trail opened up a prosperous trade with Mexico. Despite poor economic times elsewhere, the town was a growing, thriving, and bustling community. Jackson and his older brothers established a mercantile store in the affluent town. Many of the first immigrants who settled in this region came from the South.  They brought their slaves and established small and large farms along the Missouri River
At 2,341 miles in length, the Missouri River is one of the longest rivers in North America and a major waterway in the central United States. The river flows east and south from western Montana, forming Missouri's northwest border and crossing the state before merging with the Mississippi River north of St. Louis. With the invention of the steamboat in the early 1800s, the river became part of the nation's first major transportation system and served as a main route during the nation's westward expansion. The Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, houses the remains of the cargo from a steamboat that sank on the Missouri River in 1856.

Jackson Joins the Militia

The Black Hawk War The Black Hawk War General Henry Atkinson led the U.S. troops that eventually defeated Black Hawk and his tribe and led to his capture.

In 1832 Jackson joined the Howard County militia and was elected by its volunteers to lead them during the Black Hawk War. Black Hawk was the leader of the Sac and Fox Indians, many of whom had been forced to leave their traditional territory in northern Illinois in 1804. Some, however, refused to leave permanently. After another treaty agreement was forced upon the Sac and Fox in 1831, Black Hawk led a band from Iowa country into northern Illinois. The military operations against the Sac and Fox tribes ended in their defeat.
Elizabeth Jackson Elizabeth Jackson Elizabeth was Jackson’s third wife. He married three of Dr. Sappington’s daughters. Jackson married Mary Jane on February 17, 1831, and she died five months later. Two years later, on September 12, 1833, Jackson married Louisa Sappington. On May 9, 1838, Louisa died in an accident, leaving Jackson a widower once again. Six months later, Jackson married Eliza. She outlived him by two years.

[SHS 011399]
 Jackson soon returned to civil life and moved west a short distance from Franklin across the Missouri River to Arrow Rock, where he married one of John S. Sappington’s daughters.  Sappington became famous and wealthy for his development and sale of quinine pills, which were an effective cure for malaria
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquito bites. These parasites settle in the liver in human hosts and multiply. They are then released into the bloodstream, where they attack red blood cells, causing severe flu-like symptoms such as extreme weakness, chills, high fever, sweating, headache, intense nausea and diarrhea, muscle and stomach cramps, and sometimes death. Since mosquitos thrive in warm, moist environments, malaria was a common illness in settlements near swamps and rivers in America. In the 1700s and 1800s, malaria was a major problem in Missouri during the summer in cities along the Mississippi River, such as Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis, and along the Missouri River, such as Arrow Rock. Although malaria is now rare in the United States, it is still common in several countries in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
. Jackson benefited both financially and politically from his marriage. His father-in-law had important connections to prominent members of the Democratic Party.


A Career in Politics

Jackson home in Fayette Jackson home in Fayette Jackson lived in this house located one and a half miles northwest of Fayette.


 In 1836 the people of Saline County elected Jackson to the state House of Representatives. After the term, he moved to Fayette, the seat of Howard County and an important center of Democratic political power in Missouri. For a time, Jackson worked at the Fayette branch of the state bank and developed important political alliances, which proved invaluable to him later.

John B. Clark John B. Clark John B. Clark lived in Fayette, Missouri, and was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives in 1850 and 1851. He was elected as a Democrat to the 35th Congress and served from 1856 to 1861, when he was removed for supporting the Confederacy.

[Courtesy of the Library of Congress]
In 1840 Jackson became involved in a dispute with John B. Clark, the Whig Party
The Whigs were an American political party that existed from the mid-1830s to the mid-1850s. Because it was formed as a protest against the amount of power claimed by President Andrew Jackson, the Whig Party borrowed its name from a British political party protesting the amount of power claimed by the king of Britain. The Whigs were made up of several different groups in the North, South, and West, and were mostly united by their dislike of Andrew Jackson and the Democratic Party. As such, they were often divided on many issues. Although they disagreed about the morality of slavery, most Whigs agreed that slavery should be limited, and several opposed allowing slavery in new territories or letting slave regions like Texas join the United States. Many Whigs were in favor of a stronger national government (though not a stronger presidency) and wanted to raise taxes on foreign goods being sold in America so that the money could be used to build national improvements like roads, canals, and railroad lines. The Whig Party fell apart in the 1850s over disagreements on several issues, such as opposition to immigration, and about whether or not slavery should be abolished. Many former Whigs went on to support the Republican Party.
nominee for governor. Both men resided in Fayette. The controversy began when Jackson anonymously published an editorial in a local paper accusing Clark of election fraud. The dispute led to Clark challenging Jackson to a duel, but the matter was resolved without bloodshed. Eventually the two men became political allies after Clark switched to the Democratic Party.

The voters of Howard County returned Jackson to the state house in 1842. A strong supporter of slavery, he soon became a leader in the legislature. He was also a member of what came to be known as the “Central Clique,” an unofficial organization that sometimes made important policy and nomination decisions for Missouri’s Democratic Party. By this time Jackson had accumulated considerable wealth and devoted much of his time to politics.

Jackson home in Fayette Senator Thomas Hart Benton Senator Benton’s position that slavery should not be extended into the territories cost him his reelection bid in 1850.

[The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-made Men: Missouri, 1878. SHS]

During the 1844 campaign, Missouri’s Democratic Party was split over the issue of making Texas a state, which was then an independent country. The issue was known as the annexation question. Many Democrats, including U. S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton, and almost all Whigs opposed annexation as dangerous.  They believed it would endanger the Union by agitating the slavery issue and possibly provoking war with Mexico. Jackson, who supported annexation, at first opposed Benton’s reelection. However, the Democrats worked out a compromise in which Benton agreed to annexation “at the earliest practicable moment.” In return they would support his candidacy.


Speaker of the House

Missouri State Capitol Missouri State Capitol The second capitol in Jefferson City faced east and would have been the one Jackson was familiar with as a representative and governor.

[SHS 126067]

In 1844 the state house elected Jackson as its speaker. He presided over a turbulent session marked by infighting among its Democratic members. Among the many disputes, serious splits developed over several issues in particular. They were a resolution instructing Missouri’s congressmen to vote for the annexation of Texas, a bill to reduce the pay of Missouri’s governor and judges, and legislation to make representation more equal in the General Assembly.

This latter bill angered those who wanted to maintain the advantage then held by rural Missourians over the more densely populated regions of the state. Even though it was unfair, many Democrats opposed reforming the system of representation because the law benefited their party. 

Speaker Jackson, however, was from a populous region and favored a more fair system of representation. When it came time to appoint members to a committee to reconcile the house and senate bills, some Democratic members feared that Jackson would appoint members opposed to the house bill. To prevent this, some members moved to elect committee members on the house floor.

Because this had never happened before and reflected upon his leadership, Jackson resigned as speaker. He was soon reelected unanimously. Ironically, Hamilton R. Gamble, a Whig member of the house and later his firm opponent during the Civil War
The Civil War was a military conflict that began on April 12, 1861, when Southern forces fired on Fort Sumter outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Several Southern states had seceded from the United States (also known as the Union) and formed the Confederate States of America (also referred to as the Confederacy) out of fear that the United States' newly elected president, Abraham Lincoln, would not allow the expansion of slavery into new western states. Battles and skirmishes were fought throughout the country by Union and Confederate forces. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. As other Confederate forces heard the news of Lee's surrender, they surrendered as well and the war was soon over. Over half a million men were killed or wounded in the war. Thousands of former slaves gained their freedom. After the war, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution were passed prohibiting slavery, providing equal protection for all citizens, and barring federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote due to their race, color, or status as a former slave.
, renominated Jackson. After Jackson’s reelection, Gamble was one of three members sent to notify him.

Jackson and the Issue of Slavery

After the United States acquired new territories from Mexico at the end of the Mexican War
The Mexican War lasted from 1846 to 1848 and was fought by the United States and Mexico. When the United States annexed Texas, which had been a part of Mexico but had won its independence, in 1846, Mexico felt its territory had been invaded and declared war against the United States. U.S. President James K. Polk, who had wanted to buy large amounts of land from Mexico but was refused, also called for war. The United States then proceeded to take all of the land that Mexico did not want to sell, making the boundary between the two countries the Rio Grande River. The land taken included what is today California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war and the United States paid Mexico $15 million for the land.
in 1848, debate over the future of slavery again became an important issue. Would these new lands be slave or free? Senator Benton’s forceful opposition to the further extension of slavery again brought him into direct conflict with the South and many Missourians. Led by Jackson, in 1848 Missouri’s General Assembly passed a series of measures called the Jackson Resolutions. The measures opposed Benton and asserted that Congress had no power to limit or prohibit slavery in the territories. These resolutions also instructed Missouri’s representatives in Washington DC to support the extension of slavery into the territories.
Henry S. Geyer Henry S. Geyer Geyer was a pro-slavery Whig candidate who ended Benton’s long reign in the U.S. Senate. The Whigs supported national banking and internal improvements that would help American merchants get their products to the West.

[SHS 010200]

After Jackson and other proslavery leaders of the Democratic Party in Missouri opposed him, Benton failed to gain reelection in 1850. Instead, for the first time, the General Assembly elected a member of the Whig Party, Henry S. Geyer, a prominent lawyer. Jackson also suffered political repercussions, however, for Benton’s supporters prevented his nomination to Congress in both 1853 and 1855. During this period, Missouri Democrats, indicating the split in their party, referred to themselves as either Benton or anti-Benton Democrats.


Jackson Becomes Governor

Governor C. F. Jackson gives his inaugural address in which he claims to support the Union and the best interests of the state of Missouri. Inaugural Address Governor C. F. Jackson gives his inaugural address in which he claims to support the Union and the best interests of the state of Missouri.

[The Liberty Tribune, January 18, 1861, p. 1, c. 3]

While he held no elected office in the 1850s, Jackson remained deeply involved in politics as chairman of the Democratic Central Party and worked to mend the split in the party between Benton’s supporters and opponents. Through this position and his contacts, Jackson plotted to gain political office again. In 1860 he won the Democratic nomination for governor running as a moderate.

After Lincoln’s election, Jackson, despite having presented himself during the campaign as a supporter of the Union
Union is the term used to identify the United States and its government during the Civil War.
, immediately pushed for secession
Secession occurs when a region formally attempts to withdraw from the government that rules over it. During the Civil War, the slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas seceded from the United States to form the Confederate States of America. These states were readmitted to the Union after the Civil War ended. Although many Missourians fought for the Confederacy and Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson actively tried to lead Missouri into secession, Missouri remained in the United States during the Civil War.
. In his inaugural speech as governor, he made clear his determination to support the South.
Map of the United States, 1861 Map of the United States, 1861 After President Lincoln’s election in 1860, eleven states left the Union to form the Confederate States of America.

[A History of Missouri by Eugene Morrow Violette, 1918. SHS]

A majority of Missouri’s voters rejected secession, however, and elected to a state convention only delegates who favored remaining in the Union. This result surprised Jackson and others supporting secession. Up to this point, February 18, 1861, state legislators had been willing to arm and prepare for war.

Undaunted, Jackson tried to persuade the legislators to pass a military bill, but he was unsuccessful. The convention delegates rejected secession and called for Missouri to act as a neutral to mediate between the North and the South in the hope of avoiding war.


The Civil War

This letter, dated April 17, 1861, is the original draft of the reply of Governor C. F. Jackson to Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, regarding his call for a Missouri quota of men for service in the United States Army. C. F. Jackson letter, 1861 This letter, dated April 17, 1861, is the original draft of the reply of Governor C. F. Jackson to Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, regarding his call for a Missouri quota of men for service in the United States Army.

[Bryan Obear, Collection, 1911-1918 (C1387), The State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscript Collection-Columbia]
After this, Jackson secretly tried to achieve what he could not do openly through the political process. First, he rejected President Lincoln’s call for troops from Missouri. Later, he communicated with President Jefferson Davis and other Confederate
Confederacy is a term used to identify the states that seceded from the United States and formed their own separate government during the Civil War. "Confederacy" is also used interchangeably with the terms "the South" and "the Confederate States of America."

Confederate is the term used to identify an individual who was loyal to the Confederacy.
representatives to coordinate efforts. Jackson also sought to prepare the state militia for conflict and hoped soon to seize weapons at the St. Louis Arsenal. After federal commander Nathaniel Lyon captured a militia training camp near St. Louis
The Camp Jackson Affair was an incident early in the American Civil War that occurred on May 10, 1861, when Union military forces captured a pro-secession state militia camped outside of St. Louis. The camp was named after Claiborne Fox Jackson, Missouri's governor, who wanted the state to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. The men in the camp were preparing to capture a federal arsenal and give its weapons and other military supplies to the South, but the Union forces prevented them from attacking the arsenal. A riot broke out when the captured men were marched into the city, and twenty-eight people were killed when the soldiers fired into the crowd.
, incidentally named for Governor Jackson, both Unionists and Secessionists quickly prepared for war.
Map of the United States, 1861 Meeting at the Planter's House Hotel Claiborne Fox Jackson met with Sterling Price, Nathaniel Lyon, and Frank Blair, June 11, 1861, in St. Louis, to discuss the future of Missouri in the upcoming conflict.

[The Struggle for Missouri by John McElroy, 1909. SHS 012947]

To buy time, Jackson met with Lyon and Congressman Frank Blair Jr., but Lyon made it clear that the time for negotiations was over. Jackson then called for 50,000 state volunteers for the militia. In response, Lyon led forces from St. Louis and captured Jefferson City, the state capital. Jackson and his supporters, including most of the state legislature, however, had fled before Lyon’s arrival. The state convention then passed measures removing Jackson from office. They replaced him with Hamilton R. Gamble, who served as Missouri’s provisional governor for more than two years.

This letter, dated April 17, 1861, is the original draft of the reply of Governor C. F. Jackson to Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, regarding his call for a Missouri quota of men for service in the United States Army. Planter's House Hotel This image shows the second Planter’s House Hotel on 4th and Pine Streets in St. Louis. It was completed in 1841 and torn down in 1891 due to fire damage.

[Abiel Leonard Papers, 1782-1932, n.d., (C1013), The State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscript Collection-Columbia]

In August 1861 Jackson met in Richmond, Virginia, with Confederate President Jefferson Davis and gained support for Missouri’s Confederate army under Sterling Price’s command. He arranged for treaty negotiations between the state and the Confederate government. Jackson also convened the ousted legislature, despite its legality being in doubt, to meet and pass a bill of secession. In late 1861 Jackson left Missouri never to return alive. He died of cancer at Little Rock, Arkansas, on December 6, 1862. His body was buried in a cemetery in Arrow Rock, Missouri.


Jackson's Legacy

Claiborne Fox Jackson Claiborne Fox Jackson Jackson did not return to Missouri until after his death in December 1862. He is buried at Arrow Rock in the Sappington family cemetery.

[SHS 021960]

Jackson’s career was similar to that of many state politicians of his period. As a Southerner, it seems he never questioned the morality of slavery and strongly condemned those who did. Jackson worked for Missouri’s secession from the Union and therefore shared responsibility for the great destruction of property and loss of life that occurred in the state during the Civil War.

Text and research by Dennis Boman


References and Resources

For more information about Claiborne Fox Jackson's life and career, see the following resources:

Society Resources

The following is a selected list of books, articles, and manuscripts about Claiborne Fox Jackson in the research centers of The State Historical Society of Missouri. The Society’s call numbers follow the citations in brackets. All links will open in a new tab.

  • Articles from the Missouri Historical Review
  • Articles from the Newspaper Collection
    • “Death of Gov. Jackson Confirmed.” Liberty Weekly Tribune. January 16, 1863, p. 2 c. 3.
    • “Gov. Jackson’s Reply to the Call for Troops.” Liberty Weekly Tribune. April 26, 1861, p. 1 c. 6.
    • “Governor’s Proclamation.” Liberty Weekly Tribune. June 21, 1861, p. 4 c. 1.
    • “Inaugural Address.” Liberty Weekly Tribune. January 18, 1861, p. 1 c. 3.
    • “A Secession Candidate.” Liberty Weekly Tribune. May 4, 1860, p. 2 c. 1.
    • “Sketch of C.F. Jackson of Howard.” Liberty Weekly Tribune. March 14, 1851, p.1 c. 6.
  • Books
    • Christensen, Lawrence O., William E. Foley, Gary R. Kremer, and Kenneth H. Winn, eds. Dictionary of Missouri Biography. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999.  pp. 423-426.  [REF F508 D561]
    • Phillips, Christopher. Missouri’s Confederate: Claiborne Fox Jackson and the Creation of Southern Identity in the Border West. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000. [REF F508.1 J1325]
    • Snead, Thomas L. The Fight for Missouri: From the Election of Lincoln to the Death of Lyon. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1886. pp. 17, 21-25, 66-67. [REF F554.1 Sn21]
  • Manuscript Collection
    • Sappington, John (1776-1856), Papers, 1803-1887 (C1027)
      This collection contains correspondence and miscellaneous papers, largely concentrating on Sappington’s anti-fever medicine business. Also included are the correspondence and papers of Claiborne Fox Jackson.

Outside Resources

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Historic Missourians: Claiborne Fox Jackson
Claiborne Fox Jackson Claiborne Fox Jackson was the Democratic governor of Missouri in 1861 before he was driven from office at the opening of the Civil War.

[Bryan Obear Collection, 1911-1918 (C1387), The State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscript Collection-Columbia]

Claiborne Fox Jackson

Born: April 4, 1806
Died: December 6, 1862 (age 56)
Category: Politicians
Region of Missouri: Central
Missouri Hometowns: Arrow Rock, Fayette
Related Biographies: Sterling Price, Nathaniel Lyon, Hamilton R. Gamble, Senator Thomas Hart Benton, John S. Sappington
Claiborne Jackson's Signature