Secessionist Sentiment in Texas
Digital History ID 353
In just three weeks, between January 9, 1861 and February 1, six states of the Deep South joined South Carolina in leaving the Union: Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Unlike South Carolina, where secessionist sentiment was almost universal, there was significant opposition in the other states. Although an average of 80 percent of the delegates at secession conventions favored immediate secession, the elections at which these delegates were chosen were very close, particularly in Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. To be sure, many voters who opposed immediate secession were not unconditional Unionists. But the resistance to immediate secession did suggest that some kind of compromise was still possible.
In the Upper South, opposition to secession was even greater. In Virginia, on February 4, opponents of immediate secession received twice as many votes as proponents, while Tennessee voters rejected a call for a secession convention.
A correspondent from Galveston, Texas, describes attitudes toward the Union and secession in the Lone Star State two weeks before a secession convention voted to leave the Union.
I do not know that I can find language sufficiently strong to express to you the unanimity and intensity of the feeling in this region in opposition to the perpetuation of the Union under the rule of President Lincoln and a black Republican administration. That there are among us men of a conservative tendency, and hopeful of preservation of the rights and honor of the Southern States in the confederation, is true, and also a class upon whom the present depression of all material interests acts more powerfully than considerations of future political or social stability. But these are few, very few, in number, while the great majority are for secession without compromise on any terms.
As in the rest of the Gulf States that I have visited, the desire for revolution is paramount among the people, and the Union is constantly spoken of as both a danger and a disgrace that is to be averted and avoided. The benefits that it has conferred upon all sections of the country are never referred to, and seem to be entirely forgotten; and the fact that a revulsion of public sentiment may have occurred in the North, equal to that which has taken place in the South since the Presidential election, never seems to be for a moment considered possible. The popular majority which all the free States have exhibited for Lincoln is looked upon as irreversible, and the party slogan that slavery is "an evil and a crime," and must be belted in with a line of socially hostile States, is accepted as the permanent opinion of the Northern people. It is not alone the fear of danger to their social organization that rouses the Southern community to resistance and revolution; the moral obloquy that is conveyed in the sweeping condemnation of an institution which, in a community of mixed races, is considered to be the most wise, and consequently the most productive of high moral results, touches the honor of every Southern man and woman, and leads to that blind resentment which discards all considerations of material interest. The coming administration of Lincoln is looked upon as the embodiment of this moral slur upon Southern society and hence it is believed that submission to it will be an admission of inferiority in the face of the whole world.
This sentiment has swept away all the old party distinctions in the South, and made revolutionists of Breckinridge men and Bell men alike to such a degree that formerly recognized party leaders are now partyless and powerless, and the masses have shown themselves to be far in advance of those to whom they have hitherto been accustomed to look for counsel in public affairs. So ripe is the feeling for revolution here, that it is today attacking the State government, as well as the general government. Governor [Sam] Houston had refused to assemble the State Legislature for the purpose of considering the present political crisis, and had assigned valid reasons of State policy for his course. These were generally admitted to be binding upon him; and yet the people were determined to assemble in convention and take revolutionary action, in which the State government must have acquiesced or be superseded. In consequence of this state of things Governor Houston has changed his course, and issued his proclamation for the assembly of the Legislature....
It is stated in some quarters that the Lone Star men are in favor of exhausting every measure for obtaining guarantees for Southern institutions in the Union before resorting to secession, and it is probable that the coming political conflict in this State will take the shape of a struggle to remain in the confederation with new constitutional guarantees for the South, or a return to the old condition of the independent republic of Texas.
Such a course opens grand visions of achievement and glory to all young minds. It is believed that Arizona will unite with us and give us a Pacific as well as an Atlantic shore. In the present dilapidated condition of Mexico, large accessions from her territory to the new republic are deemed possible. Tamalipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuitla, Chihuahua and Sonora offer a vast field for enterprise and the carrying out of numerous fortunes in their fertile lands and prolific mineral resources, and thousands upon thousands of energetic and ambitious youth would leave the disintegrated States of a disrupted confederacy and seek a new future under the Lone Star of Texas. How long it will be before these anticipations are realized will depend upon the representatives in Congress of the Northern States, if they persist in their hostility to the present necessary social organization of the South, nothing can preserve the present Union. None of the extreme Southern States will remain in the confederacy except upon the admitted equality of Southern to Northern society, and the recognized wisdom of domestic servitude for the inferior race where whites and blacks are living in community.
Herein lies the great doubt of the Southern people. They see the feeling of hostility to African slavery pervading the churches, the Sunday schools, the moral propagandist societies, the school books, and every kind of moral and religious organization in the North, and they believe that the Northern people are so indoctrinated with hatred to an institution which they know theoretically only, through the most exaggerated and highly colored representations of those evils that are to be found in every constituted society, that they despair of justice being rendered to them. Hence the prevailing wish to sever the bonds of political union. The anti-slavery oligarchy, which rules the North through the clergy and the demagogues, are believed to be immutably enthroned there, whether their policy be for weal or woe to the country. It is for the Northern people to disabuse this belief, and only by so doing can the Union and its immense benefits be preserved to us.
Source: New York Herald, January 14, 1861
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