Tag Archives: Slavery

Today in Texas History – February 5

From the Annals of Racism –  In 1840, the Congress of the Republic of Texas determined that the presence of any more free black citizens in the Republic was utterly intolerable.  As such, the Congress passed the racist Law of February 5.  These legislators (which included many of the founding fathers of the Republic) were apparently concerned that the presence of any more than the very few free blacks in the Republic would somehow affect the status of slavery.  And after all, the protection of slavery had been a major motivating force for the revolution as slavery was outlawed in Mexico in 1829 by its partially black President Vicente Guerrero.  The law declared that all free blacks who had entered Texas after the Texas Declaration of Independence must leave the Republic within two years or be declared slaves for the rest of their lives. Free blacks already in the Republic before Texas independence would continue to have all the rights of their white neighbors – which in practice they did not.

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Today in Texas History – January 24

JOHNSON, BRITTON | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas ...

From the Annals of the Llano Estacado – In 1871, former slave Britton Johnson was killed by a band of Kiowa who attacked his wagon train. Johnson had been a slave of Moses Johnson, but was treated more like the foreman of his ranch and allowed freedom of movement and to raise his own livestock.  In October of 1864, Indians killed his son and kidnapped his wife and other children in the Elm Creek Raid.  Johnson pursued his relatives and became somewhat legendary for his exploits across the Llano Estacado that eventually resulted in the ransom of his relatives. After the Civil War, Johnson worked as a teamster hauling goods between Weatherford and Fort Griffin.   On the fateful trip he and two other black teamsters were ambushed by a band of about 25 Kiowa four miles east of Salt Creek in Young County.  A group of teamsters from a larger train of wagons discovered the bodies and reported that it appeared that Johnson died last in a desperate defense behind the body of his horse.  Other teamsters who found the mutilated bodies of Johnson and his men counted 173 rifle and pistol shells in the area where Johnson made his stand. He was buried with his men in a common grave beside the wagon road.

Today in Texas History – September 15

From the Annals of the Abolitionists –  In 1829, Mexican President Vicente R. Guerrero issued the Guerrero Decree which abolished slavery throughout the Republic of Mexico except the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  This was a major spark for the Texas Revolution as many Anglo settlers had brought slaves with them and were opposed to abolition.  The role of the preservation of slavery as a cause of the revolution has been understated in Texas history for as long as Red can remember. It was far from the only cause, but there were approximately 5000 enslaved persons out of a total of about 38,000 people (not including Native Americans) living in Texas at the time of the revolution.  After winning independence, the Constitution of the Republic of Texas of 1836 provided:

All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state of servitude…  Congress shall pass no laws to prohibit emigrants from bringing their slaves into the republic with them, and holding them by the same tenure by which such slaves were held in the United States; nor shall congress have the power to emancipate slaves; nor shall any slave holder be allowed to emancipate his or her slave without the consent of congress, unless he or she shall send his or her slave or slaves without the limits of the republic.

Today in Texas History – October 13

From the Annals of Statehood –  In 1845, Texas voters approved annexation of Texas as a new member of the United States.  Voters also approved a new state constitution and the annexation ordinance. 

The annexation of Texas was part of a much larger political game between the free and slave states and between the pro-slavery Democrats and the anti-slavery Whigs.  In 1843, U.S. President John Tyler decided to pursue the annexation of Texas as part of his political platform for another four years in office.  Tyler claimed that he was attempting to  outmaneuver the British government’s alleged plans to recognize Texas as an independent state in exchange for emancipation of slaves.  Tyler believed this would undermine slavery in the US.  Through secret negotiations with Sam Houston’s administration, Tyler secured a treaty of annexation in April 1844.   Now in the public eye, the terms of annexation and Texas’ admission to the Union took center stage in the election of 1844. Pro-Texas-annexation southern Democratic delegates denied their anti-annexation leader Martin Van Buren of New York the nomination at their party’s convention in May 1844.  Instead, the Democrats nominated James K. Polk who ran on a pro-Texas Manifest Destiny platform.

In June 1844, the Senate, with its Whig majority rejected the Texas Annexation Treaty.  But Polk narrowly defeated anti-annexation Whig Henry Clay in the fall.   This opened the door for lame-duck Tyler to ask Congress to revisit Texas annexation which it did.  The last major act of the Tyler administration was to sign the Texas Annexation bill.

Today in Texas History – September 15

From the Annals of Emancipation –   In 1829, Mexican President Vicente R. Guerrero issued the Guerrero Decree. The decree abolished slavery in the Republic of Mexico.  It would be another 46 years before Mexico’s northern neighbor would do the same via the 13th Amendment.  With the Decree, Mexico enacted what Padre Hidalgo had originally decreed with El Grito in 1810—the abolition of slavery in Mexico.

Guerrero’s hatred for slavery was probably linked to his own Mestizo origins.  Being of mixed race – including African heritage – Guerrero refused to identify himself with as being of a particular ethnicity.  He referred to himself as an “Americano” and his only loyalty was to his patria and not with any caste or class of the Mexican nation.

The Guerrero Decree was not well received among the freedom-loving, slave-owning, Anglo residents of Texas who were determined to hang onto their slaves despite what decrees might be issued in Mexico City.  Anglo resistance to the abolition of slavery was a major cause of the Texas Revolution only six years later.

A Translation of the Guerrero Decree

The President of the United States of Mexico, know ye: That desiring to celebrate in the year of 1829 the anniversary of our independence with an act of justice and national beneficence, which might result in the benefit and support of a good, so highly to be appreciated, which might cement more and more the public tranquility, which might reinstate an unfortunate part of its inhabitants in the sacred rights which nature gave them, and which the nation protects by wise and just laws, in conformance with the 30th article of the constitutive act, in which the use of extraordinary powers are ceded to  have thought it proper to decree:

 1st. Slavery is abolished in the republic.

2nd. Consequently, those who have been until now considered slaves are free.

3rd. When the circumstances of the treasury may permit, the owners of the slaves will be indemnified in the mode that the laws may provide. And in order that every part of this decree may be fully complied with, let it be printed, published, and circulated.

 Given at the Federal Palace of Mexico, the 15th of September, 1829.

Vicente Guerrero To José María Bocanegra

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.

Today in Texas History – January 14

From the Annals of the Constitution –  In 1860, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee of Thirty-Three submitted a proposed constitutional amendment protecting slavery in all areas where it already existed. The proposed amendment was intended to stop states from seceding.   Following the election of Abraham Lincoln, the secession fury picked up in the South.  The Republican Party was committed to restricting slavery in the Western territories, and Southerners were dead set on protecting their right to own other human beings.  The House of Representatives appointed the Committee of Thirty-Three, consisting of one member from each state, to investigate avenues of compromise that would keep the South from seceding.

Most of the floated plans involved an expansion of slavery into the Western territories, but that fight was what had killed off the Whigs and given rise to the Republican party, and Northern states were opposed to any further slave states entering the Union.  The only plan to make it out of the committee was submitted by Thomas Corwin of Ohio and called for an amendment to protect slavery, enforce the fugitive slave laws, and repeal state personal liberty laws.  The South was increasingly concerned faced with numbers of slaves escaping to the North and the personal liberty laws made it difficult to return persons to the condition of chattel slavery.  South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama had already seceded by the time Corwin made his proposal. The plan went no where and the issue of slavery was only resolved with a long and bloody civil war.

And this is why floating absurd plans to amend the Constitution to fundamentally alter our federal system are a stupid idea Governor Abbott.