America finds itself facing an unprecedented adversary at the moment. This invisible enemy of coronavirus has challenged us deeply, but has also brought out the best in people as we come together in community.
Indeed, the best of America has been showcased during this crisis as we continue to fight though this.
For over 220 years now, Mississippi has been a part of this American community, united by the common values we share. On this day, April 7th, in 1798, Mississippi first became an official territory of the United States, setting it on a historic path.
In so doing, we recognized our belief in a fundamental set of principles founded on liberty, freedom, and personal responsibility. We joined a society governed by the Constitution, a document that empowered the people instead of a king and wrote into law an unprecedented form of republican governance.
In 1795, through an agreement with Spain, most commonly referred to as Pinckney’s Treaty, in honor of the American diplomat who negotiated it, the United States settled territorial disputes and Spain released its claims over swaths of land in what is now Mississippi and Alabama, paving the way for American control and formal governance in the region.
Mississippi was the product of a famed migration that occurred among American colonists following the victory in the Revolutionary War. Population dramatically jumped and Mississippi quickly went from a territory to a state by 1820. So quickly was migration to the Mississippi territory growing that some in the old Southern colonial states worried over this population flight, even referring to it as the “Mississippi Fever.”
Poor agricultural practices and expanded farms left the older agricultural states with little land left available. So, hundreds of thousands of Americans pushed west in search of new land and opportunity. In Mississippi, they found a vast untamed wilderness, but also fertile soil. It wasn’t long before the agricultural economy quickly developed, and with it came slavery, a continued stain on the promise of freedom.
With the imperfection of man comes the inability to ever achieve perfection in regards to the ideals towards which we strive: freedom, liberty, personal responsibility. And yet, there is something remarkable about having the ability to trace one’s beliefs through generations to those who laid the foundations for our current governance structure.
On this day, in 1798, Mississippi took a major step forward. In joining the United States, we were partnered to a fundamentally revolutionary idea. Through self-government and republican rule, our nation was making history. As we look back on this story, well over 200 years down the line, it is remarkable to understand the challenges that were faced, the hurdles that were overcome, and the incessant march, to which we are still committed, which centers around constantly seeking to better uphold the freedoms that we committed to in 1798.