Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Texas Leaves the Union

150 years ago today Texas voted to leave the Union, Sam Houston, the governor and one of the founders of Texas opposed secession and it had one of the lowest populations of slaves in the south. You can read their declaration of the causes of their secession here. They pointed back to 1845 when they were the Republic of Texas and they had freely voted to join the United States. They believed that since they had joined the Union freely as a sovereign republic, they retained the right to freely leave and resume their status among the nations of the world.

Sam Houston


The Federal government under Lincoln denied slaveholders the right to settle in the territories which reached to the Pacific Ocean, and the Texans also pointed to the conflict that had resulted in Kansas. The Texans also said that the Federal government had failed to protect them from the Indians and Mexicans on the border and instead the state government had to spend its money to defend themselves.


They sighted many grievances related to slavery. They protested against the North's ignoring the fugitive slave law, and their campaign to overthrow their institutions. The following is an excerpt from the Texas declaration of secession (actual title, if so capitalize and italicize):
For years past this abolition organization has been actively sowing the seeds of discord through the Union, and has rendered the federal congress the arena for spreading firebrands and hatred between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding States.
By consolidating their strength, they hare placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments. ...
And, finally, by the combined sectional vote of the seventeen non-slave-holding States, they have elected as president and vice-president of the whole confederacy two men whose chief claims to such high positions are their approval of these long continued wrongs, and their pledges to continue them to the final consummation of these schemes for the ruin of the slave-holding States.
One of the problems with this document is that they did not believe that the African race was equal to the whites. I would disagree with this, and you can read more about this in my post on slavery.


After Texas left the Union there was a gap in secession. No more states seceded for several months. You can read more about that here.

The Coming War

Samuel Houston refused to take the an oath to join the Confederacy and therefore resigned as governor. In a speech he said this:
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


Anonymous said...

In what law did the Federal Government under Lincoln deny slaveholders the "right to settle in the territories which reached to the Pacific Ocean," as you put it in the second paragraph?

I would consider the statement in the second paragraph of the excerpt from Texas's declaration to be the concern of all the seceding states. The North consolidated their strength through the new and vigorous Republican party, with slavery containment as the main point of their platform. With Lincoln as the new GOP chief executive and with multiple GOP successes in both federal and Northern State congresses, the South sunk into a "hopeless minority." The South did not lose representation; as the declaration accurately put it, their representation was "of no avail" because of the Republican majorities. This I regard as the cruelty of the democratic system: any group can almost entirely lose its voice if it becomes a minority; democracy is not rule of the people, but rule of the majority.

I have another question: Why did Houston oppose secession and the confederacy?

Joshua Horn said...

The issue of slavery in territories is fairly complicated. The Congress is allowed to pass laws for territories, and so there was debate over whether or not it could forbid slavery in the territories. Dred Scott v. Sandford held that they could not, but they still did in some territories and there were several compromises made between the North and South over where slavery would be allowed.

Another way that they became the minority in Congress is that once states started to secede the ones that remained lost power because the Southern Congressmen and Senators were leaving with their state. It produced a domino effect because they could no longer resist Lincoln.

Houston supported slavery and the rights of the states to leave, and he certainly disagreed with Lincoln, but he believed that disaster waited them if they left. He believed that they should still strive to uphold the Union. He said, "The Union is worth more than Mr. Lincoln, and if the battle is to be fought for the Constitution, let us fight it in the Union and for the sake of the Union." You can read a long speech from him on the matter here: http://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/january-28-1861-texas-secession-convention-opens/.

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