Today in Texas History – January 29

From the Annals of Stupidity – In 1861, the Secession Convention of the state of Texas voted overwhelmingly to secede from the United States.  Support for a convention to consider the issue began to swell in October 1860, when it became apparent that Abraham Lincoln would be elected to the presidency. Only the governor could call the legislature into special session and only the legislature could call a convention. Sam Houston who was strongly opposed to secession refused to act hoping that the secessionist furor would die down.  In a blatantly illegal and unconstitutional act, Oran M. Roberts, chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court and several other prominent Texans took the law into their own hands and called a convention.

Once it was clear that some sort of secession convention would meet, Houston called the legislature into session hoping that it would declare the convention illegal.  Houston was rebuffed and the legislature validated the calling of a convention, turned over the House chambers to the convention, and adjourned.

The result was almost a foregone conclusion because of the election process for the delegates.  Delegates were often elected by voice votes at public meetings at which Unionists were not welcomed.  Other Unionists ignored what they viewed to be as an illegal process.  As a result the delegates disproportionally favored secession and the vote of 166 to 8 clearly did not represent the substantial opposition to secession.

The Texas Ordinance of Secession passed by the Convention is certainly one of the most vile racist screeds ever enacted by a representative body in the history of the United States.  It is a direct rebuff to revisionists who claim that the Civil War was not about slavery.

In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon the unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of the equality of all men, irrespective of race or color–a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of the Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and the negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States. By the secession of six of the slave-holding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South.

While Texas was largely spared the ravages of the Civil War by virtue of geography, the defense of slavery cost the lives of thousands of Texans in a cause doomed to failure.

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