Texas Secession and Slavery

150 years ago today, Texas seceded from the Union.  It was the last of the  Lower South states to leave.  The day following, February 2, 1861, the state’s secession convention issued a “Declaration of Causes” to explain its decision.

In all the southern states that chose to explain their act of secession at length–South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas–slavery figures prominently.  This blog will visit the relevant language for the three former states over the course of this month.  Today, Civil War and Emancipation shares the passages on slavery in Texas’ “Declaration of Causes.”  They clearly show the centrality of slavery to secession in the Lone Star State. 

“She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery–the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits–a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?”

“The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave-holding States.”

“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.”

“For years past this abolition organization has been actively sowing the seeds of discord through the Union, and has rendered the federal congress the arena for spreading firebrands and hatred between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding States.”

“By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments.”

“They have for years past encouraged and sustained lawless organizations to steal our slaves and prevent their recapture, and have repeatedly murdered Southern citizens while lawfully seeking their rendition.”

“They have invaded Southern soil and murdered unoffending citizens, and through the press their leading men and a fanatical pulpit have bestowed praise upon the actors and assassins in these crimes, while the governors of several of their States have refused to deliver parties implicated and indicted for participation in such offences, upon the legal demands of the States aggrieved.”

“They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides.”

“They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose.”

“They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.”

“They have refused to vote appropriations for protecting Texas against ruthless savages, for the sole reason that she is a slave-holding State.”

“And, finally, by the combined sectional vote of the seventeen non-slave-holding States, they have elected as president and vice-president of the whole confederacy two men whose chief claims to such high positions are their approval of these long continued wrongs, and their pledges to continue them to the final consummation of these schemes for the ruin of the slave-holding States.”

Source: http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/ref/abouttx/secession/2feb1861.html

About Donald R. Shaffer

Donald R. Shaffer is the author of _After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans_ (Kansas, 2004), which won the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship in 2005. More recently he published (with Elizabeth Regosin), _Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files_ (2008). Dr. Shaffer teaches online exclusively (i.e., a virtual professor). He lives in Arizona and can be contacted at donald_shaffer@yahoo.com
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2 Responses to Texas Secession and Slavery

  1. Mark says:

    Very true — there are all kinds of documents, speeches, articles, where the South bragged,boasted, and shouted that their whole point was slavery.

    Not just slavery but the SPREAD of slavery. This is a major distinction we don’t grasp today, but everyone grasped it then. The South did not fight to protect slaver — utter nonsense. They fought to SPREAD slavery, and spread it against the wishes of the people.

    See the amazing Southern Ultimatums — Five Ultimatums issued by Southern leaders in Montgomery, in March of 1861. These Ultimatums were reported in newspapers North and South — for example, the RIchmond paper headlines about the Ultimatums read “THE TRUE ISSUE”

    ALL five Southern Ultimatums were about the same thing — the SPREAD of slavery. The SPREAD of slavery against the will of the people.

    SPecifically, the First Ultimatum was that slavery be spread in the territories — they meant, of course, Kansas. Kansas had just voted 98% to 2 % to keep slavery out forever. But that didn’t even slow the Southern leaders down — their first ultimatum was that Slavery MUST be spread there, and the US Congress must do the spreading!

    This is a total repudiation of the fig leaf of “state’s rights”– once Kansas rejected slavery, the Southern leaders were in a quandry. What do we do now? We have lied to people and said we only wanted what the white people wanted. Well, Kansas just said NO, in a major way.

    Toombs shouted “EXPAND OR PERISH” he meant expand slavery or perish. The Ultimatums were all about the spread of slavery — states had no rights to decide anything about any slave issue, according to the Southern Ultimatums.

    These ultimatums were not the drunken reckless radicals– these were the considered, and decades long demands of the South. And the Southern newspapers said so. They said these were the demands we have always made!

    These were the demands in 1820, when the South then promised violence if they could not spread slavery. The “Compromise” of 1820 was about as much compromise as a 7-11 armed robbery. And the South knew it. In 1850, the South wanted to spread slavery again — they weren’t satisfied with the robber spoils from 1820. Once again, they demanded the spread of slavery. Once again, we tried to clean it up and call it a “Compromise”.

    By 1861, the South wanted even more, not content to push slavery where they had said before. Now they wanted the territories that had rejected slavery — rejected slavery overwhelmingly.

    And that was what their Ultimatums were all about: the SPREAD of slavery against the wishes of the people.

    Every US history text book in schools should have three documents. One, the Declaration of Independence. Two, the Southern Ultimatums to spread slavery. And three, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

    Each are that important.

    If the South had won the Civil War, they would have put these Ultimatums in every class room. They would have had their children memorize the Ultimatums to spread slavery. But they lost. So they have done everything possible to cover this crazy aspect of their history.

    What their leaders demanded, what their newspapers shouted out with pride, they dare not even mention to this day. Its been 150 years, and they are still terrified of their own statements, their own demands, their own Ultimatums.

    • Hi Mark. You’re correct that the expansion of slavery is an important issue. The position of many white Southerners by 1860 was without the ability to expand, slavery would slowly wither and die, and emancipation would unleash a bloody race war. That is why bnorthern reassurances of non-interference with slavery were insufficient in late 1860/early 1861 to forestall secession.

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