previous next

Doc. 185.-Sam Houston's speech at Independence, Texas, May 10.

The troubles which have come upon the community are neither unexpected to me, nor do I fail to realize all the terrible consequences yet to ensue. Since the passage of the Nebraska and Kansas bill, I have had but little hope of the stability of our institutions. The advantages gained to the North by that measure, through the incentive to Anti-Slavery agitation and the opening of a vast territory to Free-Soil settlement, were such that I saw that the South would soon be overslaughed, and deprived of equality in the Government — a state of things which a chivalrous people like ours would not submit to. Yet I fostered the longing hope that when the North saw the dangers of disunion, and beheld the resolute spirit with which our people met the issue, they would abandon their aggressive policy, and allow the Government to be preserved and administered in the same spirit with which our forefathers created it. For this reason I was conservative. So long as there was a hope of obtaining our rights, and maintaining our institutions, through an appeal to the sense of justice and the brotherhood of the Northern people, I was for preserving the Union. The voice of hope was weeks since drowned by the guns of Fort Sumter. It is not now heard above the tramp of invading armies. The mission of the Union has ceased to be one of peace and equality, and now the dire alternative of yielding tamely before hostile armies, or meeting the shock like freemen, is presented to the South. Sectional prejudices, sectional hate, sectional aggrandizement, and sectional pride, cloaked in the name of the Government and Union, stimulate the North in prosecuting this war. Thousands are duped into its support by zeal for the Union, and reverence for its past associations; but the motives of the Administration are too plain to be misunderstood.

The time has come when a man's section is his country. I stand by mine. All my hopes, my fortunes, are centred in the South. When I see the land for whose defence my blood has been spilt, and the people whose fortunes have been mine through a quarter of a century of toil, threatened with invasion, I can but cast my lot with theirs and await the issue.

For years I have been denounced on account of my efforts to save the South from the consequences of the unhappy measures which have brought destruction upon the whole country. When, in the face of almost my entire section, and a powerful Northern strength, I opposed the Kansas and Nebraska bill, the bitterness of language was exhausted to decry and vilify me. When I pictured the consequences of that measure, and foretold its effects, I was unheeded. Now, when every Northern man who supported that measure is demanding the subjugation of the South, our people can see the real feelings which actuate them in supporting it. Devoted as I was to peace and to the Union, I have struggled against the realization even of my own prophecies. Every result I foresaw has already occurred. It was to bring peace and strength to the South. It has brought war, and spread free soil almost to the northern border of Texas. All we can now do is to stand firm by what we have, and be more wise in the future.

The trouble is upon us; and no matter how it came, or who brought it on, we have to meet it. Whether we have opposed this Secession movement or favored it, we must alike meet the consequences. I sought calm and prudent action. I desired a united and prepared South, if we must leave the Union. Entire cooperation may not now be possible, but we have ample strength for the struggle if we husband it aright. We must fight now whether we are prepared or not.

My position was taken months since. Though I opposed secession, for the reasons mentioned, I saw that the policy of coercion could not be permitted. The attempt to stigmatize and crush out this revolution, comprehending States and millions of people, as a rebellion, would show that the Administration at Washington did not comprehend the vast issues involved, or refused to listen to the dictates of reason, justice, and humanity. A stubborn resort to force when moderation was necessary, would destroy every [267] hope of peace and the reconstruction of the Union. That my views on this point might not be misunderstood, I sent to the Legislature, prior to the passage of the Secession Ordinance by the Convention, a message, in which I said:

Having called you together to provide for an expression of the sovereign will of the people at the ballot-box, I also deem it my duty to declare that, while the people of the State of Texas are deliberating upon this question, no impending threats of coercion from the people of another State should be permitted to hang over them, without at least the condemnation of their representatives. Whatever that sovereign will may be when fairly expressed, it must be maintained. Texas, as a man, will defend it. While the Executive would not counsel foolish bravado, he deems it a duty we owe to the people, to declare that, even though their action shall bring upon us the consequences which now seem impending, we shall all (be our views in the past and present what they may) be united.

Now that not only coercion, but a vindictive war is about to be inaugurated, I stand ready to redeem my pledge to the people. Whether the Convention acted right or wrong is not now the question. Whether I was treated justly or unjustly is not now to be considered. I put all that under my feet, and there it shall stay. Let those who have stood by me do the same, and let us show that at a time when peril environs our beloved land, we know how to be patriots and Texans.

Let us have no past, except the glorious past, whose heroic deeds shall stimulate us to resistance to oppression and wrong, and burying in the grave of oblivion all our past difficulties, let us go forward, determined not to yield from the position which the people have assumed until our independence is acknowledged, or if not acknowledged, wrung from our enemies by the force of our valor. It is no time to turn back now — the people have put their hands to the plough; they must go forward. To recede would be worse than ignominy. Better meet war in its deadliest shape than cringe before an enemy whose wrath we have invoked. I make no pretensions as to myself. I have yielded up office and sought retirement to preserve peace among our people. My services, perhaps, are not important enough to be desired. Others are perhaps more competent to lead the people through this revolution. I have been with them through the fiery ordeal once, and I know that with prudence and discipline their courage will surmount all obstacles. Should the tocsin of war, calling forth the people to resist the invader, reach the retirement to which I shall go, I will heed neither the denunciations of my enemies, nor the charms of my own fireside, but will join the ranks of my countrymen to defend Texas once again. Then I will ask those who have pursued me with malignity, and who have denounced me as a traitor to Texas and the South, to prove themselves more true, when the battle shock shall come. Old and worn as I am, I shall not be laggard. Though others may lead, I shall not scorn to follow; and though I may end life in the ranks, where I commenced it, I shall feel that the post of duty is the post of honor.

We have entered upon a conflict which will demand all the energies of the people. Not only must they be united, but all of the heroic virtues which characterize a free people must be brought into requisition. There must be that sacrificing spirit of patriotism which will yield the private desires for the public good. There must be that fortitude which will anticipate occasional reverses as the natural consequences of war, and meet them with becoming pride and resignation; but, above all, there must be discipline and subordination to law and order. Without this, armies will be raised in vain, and carnage will be wasted in hopeless enterprises. The South, chivalric, brave, and impetuous as it is, must add to these attributes of success thorough discipline, or disaster will come upon the country. The Northern people by their nature and occupation are subordinate to orders. They are capable of great endurance and a high state of discipline. A good motto for a soldier is, Never underrate the strength of your enemy. The South claims superiority over them in point of fearless courage. Equal them in point of discipline, and there will be no danger. Organize your forces; yield obedience to orders from Headquarters. Do not waste your energies in unauthorized expeditions; but in all things conform to law and order, and it will be ten times better than running hither and thither, spending money and time, without accomplishing any of the plans of a campaign which your leaders have marked out. Once organized, stay organized.

Do not be making companies to-day and unmaking them to-morrow. If you are dissatisfied with your captain, wait until the battle-day comes, and he gets killed off, then you can get another. It is better to fight up to him and get rid of him in that way than to split off, and make a new company to be spilt up in the same way. I give this advice as an old soldier. I know the value of subordination and discipline. A good citizen, who has been obedient to law and civil authority, always makes a good soldier. I have ever been conservative, was conservative as long as the Union lasted — am a conservative citizen of the Southern Confederacy, and giving to the constituted authorities of the country, civil and military, and the Government which a majority of the people have approved and acquiesced in, an honest obedience, I feel that I should do less than my duty did I not press upon others the importance of regarding this the first duty of a good citizen.--N. Y. Tribune, May 31.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Texas (Texas, United States) (5)
Independence, Texas (Texas, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Sam Houston (1)
Doc (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 31st (1)
May 10th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: