Monday, April 23, 2012

Sam Houston and Secession

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

We all know the story - the election of Abraham Lincoln precipitated the secession of seven lower South states. By December 1860, lower South secessionists were set to move pretty quickly. South Carolina was out of the Union on December 20. Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama left on January 9, 10, and 11 respectively. Georgia seceded on January 19 and Louisiana on the 26th. On the 1st of February, the last of the seven lower South states, Texas, left the Union.

But even in the lower South, where the movement for secession was most vocal, the voice of caution sounded from some of the higher echelons of state government (except maybe in South Carolina, but we can talk about that another day). I am speaking today of Sam Houston - hero in the movement for Texas independence, advocate of annexation, and governor of Texas during the secession winter of 1860-61.

Houston fought the secessionists as hard as he could. He claimed that if Texas left the Union that the move would weaken their society and threaten the very things that secessionists were claiming to safeguard. He refused to recognize the secession convention that met in Austin in January, 1861. But Houston's days as governor were numbered. Once the state voted to leave the Union he was simply replaced by lieutenant governor Edward Clark. The eviction, as it were, happened on March 16, when Houston refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. He wrote:

"Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas....I protest....against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void."

Houston might have been in the minority in the lower South, but his actions during the secession crisis show that not everyone was on board with the movement to establish a new slave-holding republic. Houston exemplifies not the voice of moderation - not the wait and see attitude of some of those less vehement on the secession movement - but the voice of opposition. To no avail. Once he was ousted, he retired to his home in Galveston. But he had this to say to his fellow Texans before he bid farewell to public life.

"Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South."

Don't mess with Texas? Forget about it...don't mess with Sam Houston.



1 comment:

  1. Texans of course were traitors to not one but two countries, first seceding from Mexico in the 1830s then the good ole USA a few decades later. The Alamo now combines both these plucky failures into one ultimate creation myth with a who-cares to the prejudices involved.

    I live across the road from Fort Sam Houston! Howdy :)