Wednesday, January 11, 2012

February 1, 1861 – Texas Delivers Ordinance of Grievances

After a half-shouted speech by Governor Sam Houston on January 21, the Texas state legislature begrudgingly determined that they would not be able to rally enough support to pass an act of secession over his veto. In his speech, Houston called the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln “unfortunate” but not grounds enough for the "rash action" of seceding from the Union that Texas had come into only fifteen years before. Responding to increasing tension, Houston prophesied,

"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."

The special convention which had been expected by organizers to vote overwhelmingly for secession was hamstrung by the governor’s continued Unionist pressure, but the legislature vowed to review the decision of the delegates. Houston practically hounded the convention, drumming up support for the Union and noting that the United States of America had attempted to make peace with King George before its Declaration of Independence. Many Texans supported secession for a number of reasons, but others, especially the newly settled German population, respected the Union and wished to hold to it. Finally, with only a slight majority firmly wishing to secede, the convention voted to give Washington a chance to address the grievances of Texas, mainly the failures of protection from Indian attacks, raids across the borders for the theft of property including slaves, and an assurance of white superiority. Most of all, the ordinance called for support of states’ rights, which was outlined in the Tenth Amendment and final point in the Bill of Rights, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Texas would remain neutral in the matter of secession for a time. New-to-office President Lincoln offered to send 50,000 Union troops to aid Governor Houston in quelling any rebel insurrection, but the elder politician declined and counseled Lincoln to be slow to call for punishment against his fiery Southern brothers.

A Texas state referendum on February 23 confirmed the list of grievances, which gave great credence to the Peace Conference of 1861 being held in Washington. Derisively dubbed the “Old Gentlemen’s Convention” because so many of its participants were former statesmen, including former president John Tyler, the conference met to discuss the necessities to avoid a War Between the States. Many of the points to come out of the conference were similar to the Crittenden Compromise, which had failed in Congress the month before, but the sentiment for peaceful compromise was enough to spur the later convention in Virginia to call for neutrality rather than secession after Lincoln’s meeting with Virginian delegates assured them that the firing upon Fort Sumter in South Carolina would be a black mark for the Confederacy, not Union. Virginia led many border states and joined with Texas in a sense of neutrality as the Federal government worked to resolve a compromise. Meanwhile, the Cotton South descended into the long and grinding Civil War from Tennessee to Florida and Louisiana. Paramilitary forces conducted bloody guerilla combat in neutral states such as Missouri, North Carolina, Arkansas, and, especially, Texas, where Houston worked feverishly until his death in 1863 to calm the massacres of German immigrants and slave rebellions. On a positive end, the “galvanized Yanks” (Confederate POWs who volunteered to serve in forts in the West) solved the issues of Indian raids with a seeming surplus of willing soldiers.

Lincoln narrowly lost the election of 1864 to Democrat George McClellan, who began the process of Reconstruction for the Cotton South after the surrender of P.G.T. Beauregard. While the slaves of rebellious states had been freed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (believed to have been what cost him the election in the border states), slavery would continue in the United States until advances by the Industrial Revolution, growing labor movements, and international pressure caused it to disappear by the late 1880s, with Texas to be the last state in the Union to declare it illegal in 1891.


In reality, Houston was largely neutral, claiming that if Texas were to secede, it should at most revert to its independent status as a republic. The Texas legislature pledged to uphold whatever decision came of the convention, which voted 166 to 7 for secession. Houston refused to acknowledge Texas’ shift to the Confederacy and was drummed out of office. After being hounded by crowds calling for reasons behind his lack of support for the Confederacy, Houston made his prophetic speech on April 19, just days after the Battle of Fort Sumter, Lincoln’s call for 75.000 volunteers to retake federal property by force, and Virginia’s resulting secession. The war would end with the cost of over 600,000 lives and an 1879-estimated $6,190,000,000.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter