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: Continue Reading