January 28, 1861: Sam Houston Stands Alone

 

 

But if, through division in the ranks of those opposed to Mr. Lincoln, he should be elected, we have no excuse for dissolving the Union. 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. With a majority of the people in favor of the Constitution, shall we desert the Government and leave it in the hands of the minority? A new obligation will be imposed upon us, to guard the Constitution and to see that no infraction of it is attempted or permitted. If Mr. Lincoln administers the Government in accordance with the Constitution, our rights must be respected. If he does not, the Constitution has provided a remedy.

Sam Houston, September 22, 1860

It took a fair amount of courage to stand against the tide of secession in the South in 1860-1861, but not even his most determined enemy, and he had many enemies, could say that Sam Houston ever had a shortage of that virtue.   As an ardent Unionist he  fought secession every step of the way.  As I outlined in an earlier post, which may be read here,  he realized that secession was a disaster for the South, and with eerie accuracy predicted a great war and military defeat for the South. 

Houston, as governor of Texas, refused to bring the state legislature back into session to consider secession.  The Secession Convention, which held its opening session on January 28, 1861, voted to abrogate the treaty of annexation with the US on February 1.  Secession was put to a popular vote and won at the ballot.  Texas was admitted to the Confederacy on March 1, 1861.  Houston never recognized the legality of any of this, and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy.

“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 was removed from office on March 16, 1861.  On September 22, 1860 he had made a pro-Union speech.  It is a fascinating document.  If this gallant old man had been heeded, the nation would have avoided a fratricidal war that claimed 620,000 American lives.  Here is the text of the speech: 

LADIES AND FELLOW-CITIZENS:
I had looked forward and with many pleasing anticipations to this occasion, as I always do to a meeting with my fellow-citizens, hoping that no untoward circumstance would arise to prevent my giving full utterance to my sentiments on the political topics of the day; but ill-health has overtaken me, and I have, against the advice of my physician, arisen from a sick-bed to make my apology for not being able to fill my appointment; but being here, I will endeavor to say a few words in behalf of the Union, and the necessity of union to preserve it, which I trust will not fall unheeded. The condition of the country is such, the dangers which beset it are so numerous, the foes of the Union so implacable and energetic, that no risk should be heeded by him who has a voice to raise in its behalf; and so long as I have strength to stand, I will peril even health in its cause.

I had felt an interest in this occasion, on many accounts. It is said a crisis is impending. The clamor of disunion is heard in the land. The safety of the Government is threatened; and it seemed to me that the time had come for a renewal of our vows of fidelity to the Constitution and to interchange, one with the other, sentiments of devotion to the whole country. I begin to feel that the issue really is upon us, which involves the perpetuity of the Government which we have received from our fathers. Were we to fail to pay our tributes to its worth, and to enlist in its defense, we would be unworthy longer to enjoy it.

It has been my misfortune to peril my all for the Union. So indissolubly connected is my life, my history, my hopes, my fortunes, with it, that when it falls, I would ask that with it might close my career, that I might not survive the destruction of the shrine that I had been taught to regard as holy and inviolate, since my boyhood. I have beheld it, the fairest fabric of Government God ever vouchsafed to man, more than a half century. May it never be my fate to stand sadly gazing on its ruins! To be deprived of it, after enjoying it so long, would be a calamity, such as no people yet have endured.

Upwards of forty-seven years ago, I enlisted, a mere boy, to sustain the National flag and in defense of a harassed frontier, now the abode of a dense civilization. Then disunion was never heard of, save a few discordant notes from the Hartford Convention. It was anathematized by every patriot in the land, and the concocters of the scheme were branded as traitors. The peril I then underwent, in common with my fellow-soldiers, in behalf of the Union, would have been in vain, unless the patriotism of the nation had arisen against these disturbers of the public peace. With what heart could these gallant men again volunteer in defense of the Union, unless the Union could withstand the shock of treason and overturn the traitors? It did this; and when again, in 1836, I volunteered to aid in transplanting American liberty to this soil, it was with the belief that the Constitution and the Union were to be perpetual blessings to the human race,—that the success of the experiment of our fathers was beyond dispute, and that whether under the banner of the Lone Star or that many-starred banner of the Union, I could point to the land of Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson, as the land blest beyond all other lands, where freedom would be eternal and Union unbroken. It concerns me deeply, as it does every one here, that these bright anticipations should be realized; and that it should be continued not only the proudest nationality the world has ever produced, but the freest and the most perfect. I have seen it extend from the wilds of Tennessee, then a wilderness, across the Mississippi, achieve the annexation of Texas, scaling the Rocky Mountains in its onward march, sweeping the valleys of California, and laving its pioneer footsteps in the waves of the Pacific. I have seen this mighty progress, and it still remains free and independent. Power, wealth, expansion, victory, have followed in its path, and yet the aegis of the Union has been broad enough to encompass all. Is not this worth perpetuating? Will you exchange this for all the hazards, the anarchy and carnage of civil war? Do you believe that it will be dissevered and no shock felt in society? You are asked to plunge into a revolution; but are you told how to get out of it? Not so; but it is to be a leap in the dark—a leap into an abyss, whose horrors would even fright the mad spirits of disunion who tempt you on.

Our forefathers saw the danger to which freedom would be subjected, from the helpless condition of disunited States; and, to “form a more perfect Union,” they established this Government. They saw the effect of foreign influence on rival States, the effect of dissensions at home, and to strengthen all and perpetuate all, to bind all together, yet leave all free, they gave us the Constitution and the Union. Where are the evidences that their patriotic labor was in vain? Have we not emerged from an infant’s to a giant’s strength? Have not empires been added to our domain, and States been created? All the blessings which they promised their posterity have been vouchsafed; and millions now enjoy them, who without this Union would to-day be oppressed and down-trodden in far-off foreign lands!

What is there that is free that we have not? Are our rights invaded and no Government ready to protect them? No! Are our institutions wrested from us and others foreign to our taste forced upon us? No! Is the right of free speech, a free press, or free suffrage taken from us? No! Has our property been taken from us and the Government failed to interpose when called upon? No, none of these! The rights of the States and the rights of individuals are still maintained. We have yet the Constitution, we have yet a judiciary, which has never been appealed to in vain—we have yet just laws and officers to administer them; and an army and navy, ready to maintain any and every constitutional right of the citizen. Whence then this clamor about disunion? Whence this cry of protection to property or disunion, when even the very loudest in the cry, declared under their Senatorial oaths, but a few months since, that no protection was necessary? Are we to sell reality for a phantom?

There is no longer a holy ground upon which the footsteps of the demagogue may not fall. One by one the sacred things placed by patriotic hands upon the altar of our liberties, have been torn down. The Declaration of our Independence is jeered at. The farewell counsels of Washington are derided. The charm of those historic names which make glorious our past has been broken, and now the Union is no longer held sacred, but made secondary to the success of party and the adoption of abstractions. We hear of secession—“peaceable secession.” We are to believe that this people, whose progressive civilization has known no obstacles, but has already driven back one race and is fast Americanizing another, who have conquered armies and navies,—whose career has been onward and never has receded, be the step right or wrong, is at last quietly and calmly to be denationalized, to be rent into fragments, sanctioned by the Constitution, and there not only be none of the incidents of revolution, but amid peace and happiness we are to have freedom from abolition clamor, security to the institution of slavery, and a career of glory under a Southern Confederacy, which we can never attain in our present condition! When we deny the right of a State to secede, we are pointed to the resolves of chivalric South Carolina and other States; and are told, “Let them go out and you can not whip them back.” My friends, there will be no necessity of whipping them back. They will soon whip themselves, and will not be worth whipping back. Deprived of the protection of the Union, of the aegis of the Constitution, they would soon dwindle into petty States, to be again rent in twain by dissensions or through the ambition of selfish chieftains, and would become a prey to foreign powers. They gravely talk of holding treaties with Great Britain and other foreign powers, and the great advantages which would arise to the South from separation are discussed. Treaties with Great Britain! Alliance with foreign powers! Have these men forgotten history? Look at Spanish America! Look at the condition of every petty State, which by alliance with Great Britain is subject to continual aggression! And yet, after picturing the rise and progress of Abolitionism, tracing it to the Wilberforce movement in England, and British influence in the North, showing that British gold has sustained and encouraged Northern fanaticism, we are told to be heedless of the consequences of disunion, for the advantages of British alliance would far over-estimate the loss of the Union!

How would these seceding States be received by foreign powers? If the question of their nationality could be settled (a difficult question, I can assure you, in forming treaties), what do you suppose would be stipulations to their recognition as powers of the earth? Is it reasonable to suppose that England, after starting this Abolition movement and fostering it, will form an alliance with the South to sustain slavery? No; but the stipulation to their recognition will be, the abolition of slavery. Sad will be the day for the institution of slavery, when the Union is dissolved, and with war at our very doors, we have to seek alliances with foreign powers. Its permanency, its security, are coequal with the permanency and the security of the Union under the Constitution.

When we are rent in twain, British Abolition, which in fanaticism and sacrificial spirit, far exceeds that of the North (for it has been willing to pay for its fanaticism, a thing the North never will do), will have none of the impediments in its path, now to be found. England will no longer fear the power of the mighty nation which twice has humbled her, and whose giant arm would, so long as we are united, be stretched forth to protect the weakest State, or the most obscure citizen. The State that secedes, when pressed by insidious arts of abolition emissaries, supported by foreign powers, when cursed by internal disorders and insurrections, can lay no claim to that national flag, which when now unfurled, ensures the respect of all nations and strikes terror to the hearts of those who would invade our rights. No! Standing armies must be kept—armies to keep down a servile population at home, and to meet the foe which at any moment may cross the border, bringing in their train ruin and desolation. Do you wish to exchange your present peaceful condition for the day of standing armies, when all history has proved that a standing army in time of peace is dangerous to liberty? Behold Cuba, with her 20,000 lazy troops, eating the substance of the people and ready at the beck of their masters to inflict some new oppression upon a helpless people; and yet, without a standing army, no State could maintain itself and keep down its servile population.

It is but natural that we all should desire the defeat of the Black Republican candidates. As Southern men, the fact that their party is based upon the one idea of opposition to our institutions, is enough to demand our efforts against them; but we have a broader, a more national cause of opposition to them. Their party is sectional. It is at war with those principles of equality and nationality upon which the Government is formed, and as much the foe of the Northern as of the Southern man. Its mission is to engender strife, to foster hatred between brethren, and to encourage the formation here of Southern sectional parties equally dangerous to Southern and Northern rights. The conservative energies of the country are called upon to take a stand now against the Northern sectional party, because its strength betokens success. Defeat and overthrow it, and the defeat and overthrow of Southern sectionalism is easy.

I come not here to speak in behalf of a united South against Lincoln. I appeal to the nation. I ask not the defeat of sectionalism by sectionalism, but by nationality. These men who talk of a united South, know well that it begets a united North. Talk of frightening the North into measures by threats of dissolving the Union! It is child’s play and folly. It is all the Black Republican leaders want. American blood, North nor South, has not yet become so ignoble as to be chilled by threats. Strife begets strife, threat begets threat, and taunt begets taunt, and these disunionists know it. American blood brooks no such restraints as these men would put upon it. I would blush with shame for America, if I could believe that one vast portion of my countrymen had sunk so low that childish threats would intimidate them. Go to the North, and behold the elements of a revolution which its great cities afford. Its thousands of wild and reckless young men, its floating population, ready to enter into any scheme of adventure, are fit material for demagogues to work upon. To such as these, to the great hive of working population, the wily orator comes to speak in overdrawn language of the threats and the words of derision and contempt of Southern men. The angry passions are roused into fury, and regardless of consequences they cling to their sectional leaders. As well might the Abolitionists expect the South to abandon slavery, through fear that the North would go out of the Union and leave it to itself. No, these are not the arguments to use. I would appeal rather to the great soul of the nation than to the passions of a section. I would say to Northern as well as Southern men, “Here is a party inimical to the rights of the whole country, such a party as Washington warned us against. Let us put it down”; and this is the only way it can be put down.

The error has been that the South has met sectionalism by sectionalism. We want a Union basis, one broad enough to comprehend the good and true friends of the Constitution at the North. To hear Southern disunionists talk, you would think the majority of the Northern people were in this Black Republican party; but it is not so. They are in a minority, and it but needs a patriotic movement like that supported by the conservatives of Texas, to unite the divided opposition to that party there and overthrow it. Why, in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey alone, the conservatives had a majority of over 250,000 at the last Presidential election, and in the entire North a majority of about 270,000.” Because a minority at the North are inimical to us, shall we cut loose from the majority, or shall we not rather encourage the majority to unite and aid us?

I came not here to vindicate candidates or denounce them. They stand upon their records. If they are national, approve them; if they are sectional, condemn. Judge them by the principles they announce. Let past differences be forgotten in the determination to unite against sectionalism. I have differed with all three of the candidates; but whenever I see a man at this crisis coming boldly up to the defense of the Constitution of the country, and ready to maintain the Union against its foes, I will not permit old scores to prejudice me against him. Hence I am ready to vote the Union ticket, and if all the candidates occupy this national ground, my vote may be transferred to either of them. This is the way to put Mr. Lincoln down. Put him down constitutionally, by rallying the conservative forces and sacrificing men for the sake of principles.

But if, through division in the ranks of those opposed to Mr. Lincoln, he should be elected, we have no excuse for dissolving the Union. 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. With a majority of the people in favor of the Constitution, shall we desert the Government and leave it in the hands of the minority? A new obligation will be imposed upon us, to guard the Constitution and to see that no infraction of it is attempted or permitted. If Mr. Lincoln administers the Government in accordance with the Constitution, our rights must be respected. If he does not, the Constitution has provided a remedy.

No tyrant or usurper can ever invade our rights so long as we are united. Let Mr. Lincoln attempt it, and his party will scatter like chaff before the storm of popular indignation which will burst forth from one end of the country to the other. Secession or revolution will not be justified until legal and constitutional means of redress have been tried, and I can not believe that the time will ever come when these will prove inadequate.

These are no new sentiments to me. I uttered them in the American Senate in 1856. I utter them now. I was denounced then as a traitor. I am denounced now. Be it so! Men who never endured the privation, the toil, the peril that I have for my country, call me a traitor because I am willing to yield obedience to the Constitution and the constituted authorities. Let them suffer what I have for this Union, and they will feel it entwining so closely around their hearts that it will be like snapping the cords of life to give it up. Let them learn to respect and support one Government before they talk of starting another. I have been taught to believe that plotting the destruction of the Government is treason; but these gentlemen call a man a traitor because he desires to sustain the Government and to uphold the Constitution.

Who are the people who call me a traitor? Are they those who march under the national flag and are ready to defend it? That is my banner! I raised it in Texas last summer, and when the people saw shining amid its stars and stripes, “The Constitution And The Union,” they knew it was no traitorous flag. They rallied to it; but these gentlemen stood aloof. I bear it still aloft; and so long as it waves proudly o’er me, even as it has waved amid stormy scenes where these men were not, I can forget that I am called a traitor.

Let those who choose, add to my watchword, “the enforcement of the laws.” If they maintain the Constitution and the Union, the enforcement of the laws must follow.

But, fellow-citizens, we have a new party in our midst. They have deserted the old Democracy, and, under the lead of Mr. Yancey, have started what they call a Southern constitutional party. They say that they could not get their constitutional rights in the national Democracy; and because the platform was adopted which they all indorsed and under which they all fought in 1856, they seceded. It will be recollected that I objected to that platform in 1856; but I was declared to be wrong. They all denounced me then; but now they suddenly see that the platform won’t do, and they secede to get their constitutional rights. They are the keepers of the Constitution; they don’t want anything but the Constitution, and they won’t have anything but the Constitution. They have studied it so profoundly that they claim to know better what it means than the men who made it. They have nominated Southern constitutional candidates, and have men traveling about the country expounding the Constitution; and yet there is scarcely one of them but will tell you that, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Lincoln may be elected in the mode pointed out by the Constitution and by a constitutional majority, they will not submit. You hear it from the stump, you read it in their papers and in their resolutions, that if Mr. Lincoln is elected the Union is to be dissolved. Here is a constitutional party that intends to violate the Constitution because a man is constitutionally elected President. Here is a constitutional party that proclaims it treasonable for a man to uphold the Constitution. If the people constitutionally elect a President, is the minority to resist him? Do they intend to carry that principle into their new Southern Confederacy? If they do, we can readily conceive how long it will last. They deem it patriotism now to overturn the Government. Let them succeed, and in that class of patriots they will be able to outrival Mexico.

But who are the teachers of this new-fangled Southern constitutional Democracy? Are they not men like Yancey and Wigfall, who have been always regarded as beyond the pale of national Democracy? Transplants from the South Carolina nursery of disunion. Whenever and wherever the spirit of nullification and disunion has shown itself, they and their coadjutors have been found zealously at work. They have been defeated time and again; but like men who have a purpose, they have not ceased their efforts. No sacrifice of pride or dignity has been deemed too great if it assisted in the great purpose of disunion. What if they assailed the Compromise of 1850. They indorsed it in the platform of 1852. From nonintervention they turn to intervention! From the peculiar advocates of State Rights, denying the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, they become the advocates of the Supreme Court as an arbiter, and shout for the Dred Scott decision. Anything for disunion! They can as readily dissolve the Union upon one issue as another. At the Nashville Convention they determined to dissolve it unless the Missouri Compromise line was extended to the Pacific. In 1854 they deemed the existence of this line a cause of separation, and demanded its repeal. The admission of Kansas was the next ultimatum, and now it is the election of Mr. Lincoln. Should they fail, it will then be the adoption of the Slave Code and the repeal of the laws making the Slave Trade piracy.

These men of convenient politics intend to hang the peaceable and law-loving citizens of the country if they take office under Lincoln. You are to have no postmasters, no mails, no protection from the United States army, no officers of the Government in your midst, for fear of these Southern constitutional Democrats. One of them, Col. Wigfall, your illustrious Senator, said upon the northern line of Virginia some time since, that if Lincoln was elected I would be one of the men who would take office, and have to leave Texas to keep from being “tarred and feathered.” And this is the kind of talk by which men are to be driven into resisting the constituted authorities, and yielding their liberties into the hands of these Southern constitutional Democrats. Now let me ask whether the most humble citizen, who deems it his duty to obey the laws, has not an equal claim to consideration with these men? Whenever the time comes that respect for the Constitution of our fathers leads to the scaffold or the block, he who falls a martyr in its defense will have a prouder fate than those who survive its destruction to share the ruin that will follow.

What do these men propose to give you in exchange for this Government? All are ready to admit their ability to pull down, but can they build up? I have read of the glory of a Southern Confederacy, and seen the schemes of rash enthusiasts; but no rational basis has been presented— none that would sustain a government six months. They take it for granted that because the Union has self-sustaining powers, they need but call a Southern Convention, secede, set up for themselves, and all will go on smoothly. But where are their Washingtons, their Jeffersons, and Madisons? Where is the spirit of sacrifice and patriotism which brought the Union into existence, and maintained it amid privation and danger? Look at the men who are crying out disunion, and then ask yourselves whether they are the men you would choose to create a new government? Do they combine that wisdom, prudence, and patriotism which would inspire you with confidence and lead you to trust the destinies of a nation in their hands? Where are the proofs of their patriotism? Point to one of them, leading this secession movement, who has ever raised his arm or bared his bosom to the foe, in defense of the honor of his country, save Jefferson Davis; and even he, whose chivalrous bearing in battle, does not excuse trifling with the safety of the Union, is thrown in the background by the impetuous Yancey, Wigfall, Keitt, and Rhett.

If the wisdom of the past century combined has not sufficed to perfect this Government, what hope can we have for another? You realize the blessings you have: give them up and all is uncertainty. Will you have more protection to your property—more rights, and have them better protected? We now have all that we ever could have under any government, and notwithstanding all the complaints we hear, they are as perfect as at any time since the formation of the Government. Because we carry the question of niggerism into national politics, and it engenders bad feeling, it is no reason for believing that our rights are invaded. We still have the institution of slavery. All the legislation on the subject for the past twenty vears has been to secure it to us, so long as we may want it. It is our own, and the North has nothing to do with it. The North does not want it, and we have nothing to do with that. Their customs are their own. They are guaranteed to them just as ours are to us. We have the right to abolish slavery—they have the right to establish it. It is our interest to have it. Climate, soil, association—all make the institution peculiarly suited to us. If it were to their interest, the people of the North would have it. Even in Massachusetts, as I told them a few years since in Boston, they would have it yet, but for the fact that it would not pay. Now, when the “cotton States“ are “precipitated into a revolution,” and the Southern Confederacy is formed, is the idea of State Rights to be maintained, or is there to be a centralized government, forbidding the States to change their institutions, and giving peculiar privileges to classes? I warn the people to look well to the future. Among the unsatisfied and corrupt politicians of the day, there are many who long for title and power. There are wealthy knaves who are tired of our simple republican manners; and they have pliant tools to work upon in the forum and with the pen. So long as the Union lasts, the masses need not fear them—when it falls, aristocracy will rear its head.

Whenever an encroachment is made upon our constitutional rights, I am ready to peril my life to resist it; but let us first use constitutional means. Let us resist, as our fathers did, with right on our side. They exhausted all legal means of remedy first. When submission to tyranny or revolution was all that was left them, they tried revolution. It was the same in Texas. The people fought to uphold the Constitution of 1824. When it was again violated, they sent petitions to the Central Government. Their agent was imprisoned, and an army was sent to disarm them. Then they raised the standard of revolution. In the share I have borne in these things I claim nothing more than the right to love my country in proportion as I have done my duty to it; but I may ask, what higher claim have these men, who would inaugurate revolutions before their time?

My weak condition warns me against giving vent to feelings which will come up when I behold the efforts of whipsters and demagogues to mislead the people. Here in Texas they convert the misfortunes of the people into political capital. Property has been burned in some instances, and here and there a case of insubordination has been found among the negroes. Occasionally a scoundrel has attempted to run a negro off to sell him; and all these things are charged to abolitionism. Terrible stories are put afloat of arms discovered, your capitol in flames, kegs of powder found under houses, thousands of negroes engaged in insurrectionary plots, wells poisoned, and hundreds of bottles of strychnine found. Town after town has been reported in ashes, and by the time the report has been found to be false, some new story to keep up the public excitement has been invented. The people of the South have been filled with horror by these accounts, and instead of Texas being looked upon as the most inviting spot on earth, they turn from it as from a land accursed. Who will buy land here, so long as these things continue? What Southern planter will emigrate with his slaves to such a country? If there was a cause for it, we could bear it without a murmur; but there has been no cause for the present state of feeling. We all know how every occurrence has been magnified by the disunion press and leaders and scattered abroad, and for no other purpose than to arouse the passions of the people and drive them into the Southern Disunion movement; for if you can make the people believe that the terrible accounts of abolition plots here are true, they will be ready for anything, sooner than suffer their continuance. Who are the men that are circulating these reports, and taking the lead in throwing the country into confusion? Are they the strong slave-holders of the country? No; examine the matter and it will be found that by far the large majority of them never owned a negro, and never will own one. I know some of them who are making the most fuss, who would not make good negroes if they were blacked. And these are the men who are carrying on practical abolitionism, by taking up planters’ negroes and hanging them. They are the gentlemen who belong to the duelling family that don’t fight with knives, but choose something that can be dodged. Some of them deserve a worse fate than Senator Wigfall would visit on me; and, sooner or later, when the people find out their schemes, they will get it. Texas can not afford to be ruined by such men. Even the fact that they belong to the Simon Pure Constitutional Democracy will not save them.

I look around me and behold men of all parties. I appeal to you, old line Whigs, who stood by him of the lion heart and unbending crest, gallant Henry Clay. I ask you, did you ever hear from his lips a word disloyal to the Constitution and the Union? Did he ever counsel resistance to the laws? Gallantly he led you on, inspired you with devotion to his fortunes and principles. When defeat overwhelmed you and him, did he ever seek to plunge the country into a revolution? In all that glorious career did Henry Clay ever utter a word of treason? No! There was a broad spirit of nationality pervading his life. While unbending, so far as his political views were concerned, there was a conservatism in his character which elevated his patriotism above considerations of party and made him a man for the whole country. You may say I was opposed to Clay while he lived. True, I was on questions of ordinary politics; but the barriers of party never divided us when the good of the country was at stake. There were national issues when his great mind bent all its energies for but one end, and that the glory and perpetuity of the Union. There were common sentiments, which had come down from the patriots of the revolution and the founders of our Government, to which he and I could subscribe. Whenever these were at issue, I beheld him the champion of the Union driving back its foes by the power of his eloquence. Would that the tones of that voice of his could once more fall upon the ear of the people and thrill the national heart. Treason, secession, and disunion would hide themselves as of yore. He was the Ajax whose battle-axe glistened aloft in the thickest of the fight for the compromise of 1850. Whenever we saw his helmet plumes proudly waving, we knew that the battle was going well. Old Whigs recollect who were his foemen then! Behold them now swelling the ranks of disunion! With the memory of your gallant leader before you, will you go with them? I stood with Clay against Yancey and his coadjutors. The same illustrious Wigfall, who now denounces me as a traitor upon my native soil, then proclaimed Houston and Rusk as traitors for their support of that measure. But the people condemned them, just as they will condemn them now. The conservatism of the land rose against them just as it is rising now. They were rebuked, and the country had peace until the Nebraska and Kansas bill came—that charmer, which was to bring peace, security, and power to the South. Scarce a ripple was seen on the popular current when it came. I saw the storm gathering as it passed and strove to arrest it. Would that I could have been successful; but yet you cast me off. I do not taunt you with the results. My last prediction has been fulfilled. It has broken up the party. Those who denounced me as a traitor for voting against it, were the first to deny the bargain they had made and to break with their Northern friends in reference to its construction, when its construction was as well known at the time of its passage as then. I proclaimed my opposition to it on account of the power it conferred on the Territories. And yet the men who then denounced me, now denounce their Northern friends for holding them to the bargain. They denounced me for voting with the Abolitionists; but it was forgotten that the illustrious men of the South stood side by side with Seward, Hale, Giddings, and the rest, against Henry Clay, in the battle for the compromise. I saw then how extremes could meet. Their affiliations were so close that I was reminded of the Siamese twins; and yet they were never branded as traitors.

I have appealed to the old Whigs. Let me now invoke the shade of Andrew Jackson and ask Democrats whether the doctrines which in these latter days are called Southern Constitutional Democracy, were democracy then? Men of 1832, when flashed that eagle eye so bright, when more proudly stood that form that never quailed, as when repelling the shock of disunion? Jackson was the embodiment of Democracy then. He came forth in the name of the people and fought these heresies which are now proclaimed here as democracy. Democrats, you remember! Whigs, you remember! how Clay and Webster aided Jackson to put down nullification and secession! Will you stand back now, when both are openly avowed by sectionalists North and South?

I invoke the illustrious name of Jackson and bid you not prove recreant to his memory. To those who plot the ruin of their country. North or South, that name brings no pleasant remembrances; but to the national men of long service, to the young men who have been reared to love that name, I appeal. The same issue is upon you that was upon him. He stood with the Constitution at his back and defied disunion. Let the people say to these abolition agitators of the North, and to the disunion agitators of the South, “You can not dissolve this Union. We will put you both down; but we will not let the Union go!”

Now, mark me, I do not call all those Democrats who are in the ranks of this Southern Constitutional party. I do not proclaim their candidates to be disunionists. You have their records and present declarations, and can judge for yourselves. There are good and loyal men to be found in this party, and I would not charge them wrongly.

  * * * * * * * * * * *  

No, my fellow-citizens, I do not say that all these Southern Constitutional Democrats are disunionists; but I do say, that all the Southern disunionists are Southern Constitutional Democrats.

I can speak but little longer; but let my last words be remembered by you. When I look back and remember the names which are canonized as the tutelar saints of liberty, and the warnings they have given you against disunion, I can not believe that you will be led astray. I can not be long among you. My sands of life are fast running out. As the glass becomes exhausted, if I can feel that I leave my country prosperous and united, I shall die content. To leave men with whom I have mingled in troublous times, and whom I have learned to love as brothers—to leave the children of those whom I have seen pass away, after lives of devotion to the Union—to leave the people who have borne me up and sustained me—to leave my country, and not feel that the liberty and happiness I have enjoyed would still be theirs, would be the worst pang of death. I am to leave children among you to share the fate of your children. Think you I feel no interest in the future for their sakes? We are passing away. They must encounter the evils that are to come. In the far distant future, the generations that spring from our loins are to venture in the path of glory and honor. If untrammeled, who can tell the mighty progress they will make? If cast adrift—if the calamitous curse of disunion is inflicted upon them, who can picture their misfortunes and shame?

About these ads
Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (7)  
Tags: , ,

7 Comments

  1. Houston said,

    “It is but natural that we all should desire the defeat of the Black Republican candidates. As Southern men, the fact that their party is based upon the one idea of opposition to our institutions, is enough to demand our efforts against them; but we have a broader, a more national cause of opposition to them. Their party is sectional. It is at war with those principles of equality and nationality upon which the Government is formed, and as much the foe of the Northern as of the Southern man. Its mission is to engender strife, to foster hatred between brethren, and to encourage the formation here of Southern sectional parties equally dangerous to Southern and Northern rights. The conservative energies of the country are called upon to take a stand now against the Northern sectional party, because its strength betokens success. Defeat and overthrow it, and the defeat and overthrow of Southern sectionalism is easy.”

    So do all you Lincoln lovers actually agree with Houston, that the North started all this disunion and sectionalism to begin with?

  2. No Eric, I would not agree that the North started disunionism or sectionalism. The root cause of the War was slavery, as Houston pointed out in his speech, and the irrational fear in the South that Lincoln would destroy the ability of white Southerners to own blacks as chattels. Houston thought that this fear was irrational and he was correct. The secession movement destroyed slavery in one of the great ironies of American history.

  3. Houston and Patrick Henry are two of my favorite orators. They were wordsmiths in the truest fashion. Not sure that any exist in politics today.
    In Christ
    Dennis McCutcheon

  4. The only one in that class in my lifetime that I can think of Dennis was Reagan, whose 100th birthday is Sunday.

  5. I’m trying to do a project for history class, and I was just wondering if I could get some specific info about this.Where exactly did Sam’s speaking against secession occur?

  6. Irelynn, the speech was given in Austin, Texas on September 22, 1860. It was one of many speeches that Houston gave against secession.

  7. [...] leaving the Union. Houston, a dyed-in-the-wool Jacksonian Democrat, was a flawed man in many ways, but he was dead right on secession, and foresaw better than most the ultimate outcome of the conflict that the fire-eaters so blithely [...]


Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 150 other followers

%d bloggers like this: