"Unnecessary taxation leads to surplus revenue, surplus revenue begets extravagance, and extravagance sooner or later is surely followed by corruption." So said U.S. Rep. Alexander Monroe Dockery, Missouri's Third District, 1883-99.
Alexander Monroe Dockery was born Feb. 11, 1845, near Gallatin. He was the only child of Willis E. and Sarah Ellen (McHaney) Dockery. His father was a Methodist minister and one of the early settlers to Daviess County.
Dockery was educated in local public schools, attended the St. Louis Medical College (now Washington University School of Medicine) and graduated March 2, 1865. He set up his medical practice in Chillicothe in Livingston County. He met Mary Elizabeth Bird, and the two were married in 1869. From 1870-74, Dockery was the county physician for Livingston County. From 1871-73, Dockery served as president of the Chillicothe board of education, and in 1872 he became a member of the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri.
Dr. Dockery retired from medicine in March 1874 and moved to Gallatin to begin a banking career. While serving as cashier and treasurer of the Farmers Exchange Bank, Dockery developed many money management skills.
Dockery was on the Gallatin City Council from 1878-81, then served as mayor from 1881-83. In 1882, he ran for U.S. Congress and won. His banking skills were largely responsible for his sobriquet, "Watchdog of the Treasury," which he earned during his years on the House Appropriations Committee. He helped modify and update accounting practices in the Treasury Department and served as chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Post Office. After eight terms, Dockery turned his sights on the Governor's Mansion.
Winning by a very narrow margin, Dockery began his work. There was increased education funding, establishment of school districting across the state, election reforms and a franchise tax law. With increased revenue and changes in fiscal management techniques, the state's bonded indebtedness was soon paid off.
On March 23, 1903, Dockery signed into law the first state legislation licensing automobiles. It also included a statewide speed limit of 9 miles per hour, the first in the nation.
Dockery's term was up 1905. Missouri's Constitution prohibited a second term and, leaving office a widower, Dockery returned home to retire. However, his retirement ended in 1913 when he went to Woodrow Wilson's inauguration and was appointed third assistant postmaster general and charged with putting the agency's fiscal house in order. Dockery held that position until March 31, 1921.
Alexander Monroe Dockery died Dec. 26, 1926, and was laid to rest in Edgewood Cemetery in Chillicothe.
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written Historically Yours for the Boonville Daily News for over 10 years. In celebration of Missouri's upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to [email protected]