previous next

Chapter 4:

  • Convention re-assembles
  • -- returns of election counted -- independence declared -- Governor Houston posts the vote March 4th -- Pro. Visional Constitution ratified -- committee sent to the Governor -- his answer -- a resolution continuing the State Governmentall officers to take official oath -- Governor and secretary refuse to take it -- Ed Clark declared Governor -- Governor Houston Retires -- he Publishes his protest -- effect of the vote on secession -- General Houston Disclaims intention to resist Colonel Waite -- convention Adjourns -- leading men that went to the army.

When the convention reconvened on the 2d of March, 1861, it was known that the provisional government of the Southern Confederacy had been instituted by the election of Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, President, and Alexander Stephens, of Georgia, Vice-President, which generally met the approbation of the members of the Texas State convention. John H. Reagan, of Texas, had been appointed postmastergen-eral. The returns of the election for and against secession coming in were being counted, both in the convention and in the office of the secretary of state, which being completed on the morning of the 4th of March, exhibited the vote of the State to be 60,826, of which 46,129 was for secession and 14,697 against secession, a majority in favor of it of 31,432 votes.

The president of the convention, having about fifteen minutes before 11 o'clock a. m. on the 4th of March, 1861, announced the vote as returned and counted, ‘declared, on behalf of the convention and the people, the [28] State of Texas to be a free and independent sovereignty.’ It was then noticeable that nearly every member wore upon his breast a star with five points, an emblem of Texas independence. The convention soon afterward adjourned for dinner, and in passing out of the capitol grounds the members saw posted on the gate the following printed proclamation of Governor Houston

Proclamation by the Governor of the State of Texas.

Whereas, By virtue of an Act of the Legislature of the State of Texas, an election was ordered to be held on the 23d of February, A. D. 1861, at which the people of Texas were called upon to vote in favor of or against ‘Secession’ from the government of the United States, and,

Whereas, said election was held, and returns thereof, received on the 2d day of March, have been opened and counted as required by law, and it appearing that a majority of those votes, as well as a majority of those received since that period, are in favor of ‘Secession,’

Now therefore, I, Sam Houston, Governor of the State of Texas, do hereby issue my proclamation declaring that a large majority of votes returned and counted of said election are in favor of ‘Secession’ of the State of Texas from the United States of America.

Given under my hand and the seal of the State of Texas, at Austin this 4th day of March, 1861.

By the Governor, Sam Houston.

E. W. Cave, Secretary of State.

This was a declaration of a fact, omitting the consequences of it. On the 5th of March, 1861, the convention passed an ordinance ratifying the provisional constitution of the Southern Confederacy adopted at Montgomery, with directions for its transmission to the Texas delegates sent there to represent Texas, when this State should be admitted to that union.

On the 6th of March the president transmitted the ordinance of ratification to the delegates by the hand of [29] Stephen P. Hollingsworth, who performed the service faithfully, giving the information on his return of the admission of Texas in the confederation of Southern States. On the same day a committee of five, Messrs. Montgomery, Robertson of Washington, Rogers of Harris, Jennings and Broaddus, were appointed to inform the governor of the vote of the people at the election as found by the convention. On the 7th of March this committee reported the answer received by them from the governor, in which he said: ‘In reply to your communication of the 5th I can only say, when the legislature authorized the convention to submit the proposition to the people of Texas on the subject of secession from the Federal government of the United States, it was understood that the performance of that act, when done, would terminate the existence of the convention.’ He stated further that he would recommend to the legislature, when it should meet, to take into consideration the important issues arising out of the severance of our connection with the United States, and suggested that the legislature might then call another convention to make such changes in the constitution of the State as her present and future relations to the world at large may require; concluding, ‘until then it will be the duty of the executive, as well as all State officials, to continue in the lawful discharge of their functions, conforming their action to the sphere of Texas only.’ Thus his present position was defined, without disclosing his ulterior designs. Upon the reading of this letter a furious excitement arose, which, being confined to a few of the members, very soon subsided and gave place to the regular business. On the next day, the 8th of March, it being deemed appropriate for the president of the convention to answer this letter of the governor, calling in question the power of the convention to do anything more than submit the question of secession to the vote of the people, he did so by offering resolutions as follows: [30]

Resolved, That this convention do now declare that it not only had power to pass and submit the ordinance of secession, but that it also possessed and will exercise the right, on behalf of the people, to do whatever may be incidental to the same, and that may be necessary and proper for the protection of the rights of the people, and the defense of the State in the present emergency; and that it will, as speedily as practicable, consummate the connection of Texas with the provisional government of the Confederate States of America, whose constitution has already been ratified by an ordinance of this convention.

Resolved further, That this resolution be communicated by the secretary of the convention to the respective departments of the State government. Which resolutions were unanimously adopted.

On the 14th of March the convention passed an ordinance which provided for the continuance of the existing State government and of all the laws of the State not inconsistent with the ordinances of the convention, and that all of the officers of the State shall continue in office upon taking the oath of office, as prescribed in the State constitution adopted by this convention, for their respective terms of office, and that should any officer refuse to take said oath, his office shall be then deemed and held to be vacant; that the governor, lieutenant-governor, secretary of state, comptroller, treasurer, attorney general and commissioner of the general land office, shall be required to appear in open session of the convention to take said oath at such time as the president may appoint within three days (Sunday excepted) from the passage of this ordinance, which oath shall be administered by any justice of the Supreme court, or judge of a district court of this State. The oath of office was promptly administered to the members of the convention, and soon afterward to the members of the legislature.

As the duty was imposed on the president to determine the time for the oath to be taken in the convention by the State executive officers, and as the last of the three [31] days would fall on Monday, the day the legislature was to convene, and as it was deemed by him of the first importance to have it settled before that time who should then occupy the positions of State executive officers, he appointed the second day, Saturday, at noon, for the administration of the oath, and forthwith had notifications of the time and place prepared and sent to them. As Governor Houston was not then in the capitol, he appointed a member, George W. Chilton, to convey to him the notification, accompanied with a copy of the ordinance continuing the State government, and requiring the official oath; which he promptly proceeded to accomplish. The official oath adopted by the convention simply substituted the ‘Constitution of the Confederate States’ for the ‘Constitution of the United States,’ as it previously existed in the constitution of the State of Texas.

Colonel Chilton the next morning reported that he had the evening before presented to the governor the notification and ordinance, and that the governor handed them back with the request that he should return them to the president, stating that he did not acknowledge the existence of the convention and should not regard its action upon him, and expressing a high regard for the individual members of the convention, which he requested should be communicated to them. The report was presented and read to the convention. At the appointed hour it was announced that the time had arrived for administering the official oath to the State executive officers, when Ed Clark, lieutenant-governor, Cyrus H. Randolph, and Francis M. White, commissioner of the general land office, appeared and had the oath of office administered to them. The governor and secretary of state not appearing, the fact of their failure to appear and take the oath was announced to the convention.

At the afternoon session an ordinance was passed in furtherance of the ordinance providing for the continuance in existence of the State government, reciting that, [32] whereas Sam Houston, governor, and E. W. Cave, secretary of state, failed and refused to take the oath prescribed by the constitution and ordinances of the convention; therefore be it ordained, that the office of governor is vacant, and that Lieut.-Gov. Edward Clark is hereby required and authorized to exercise the powers and authority appertaining to the office of governor until another be chosen at the periodical election, and be duly qualified; and that the office of secretary of state, by reason of the said E. W. Cave having failed and refused to take the oath prescribed, is declared vacant, and he is required to turn over and deliver to his successor the archives and great seal of state, and other property belonging to the department of state. Next week Governor Clark entered the governor's office and General Houston retired from it, and thenceforward Governor Clark was recognized by the legislature, the officers and people of the State as the governor, to the end of his term.

In a few days there appeared in the newspapers a letter from General Houston, ‘Addressed to the People of Texas, Executive Department, March 16, 1861’ (the day prescribed for taking the oath), in which at great length he reviewed his course and the action of the convention, and, indicating his future action, said, ‘I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. To avert this calamity I shall make no endeavor to maintain my authority as chief executive of this State, except by the peaceful exercise of my functions. When I can no longer do that, I shall calmly withdraw from the scene, leaving the government in the hands of those who have usurped its authority, but still claiming that I am its chief executive.’ In conclusion he said, ‘If I am thus deprived of the poor privilege of putting on record my sentiments, through a refusal on the part of the legislature to receive my message, I will lay the same before the people and appeal to them, as I declared I would in my inaugural.’ [33]

For a short time a few of his zealous supporters, as indicated in the newspapers, anticipated an uprising of the people to restore him to the office, but any manifestation of it failed to appear on the surface. Notwithstanding his strong opposition, that induced him to resist step by step the desire of a large majority of the people for immediate action of the State and for its union with the other Southern States, his reception of the committees sent to him by the convention, and his communications to them and to the members generally, were of the most courteous and even friendly character, many of the members being his friends personally, and previously his able supporters.

A vote of the people was absolutely necessary. For with 2,700 Federal troops of all arms in Texas, and the people sectionally divided, as was shown in the election, wherein a number of populous counties in northern and western Texas polled majorities against secession, and the chief executive of the State with numerous influential supporters standing out in open opposition, nothing but a vote of the people on the question at issue could have prevented a division in hostile array in Texas just as soon as a gun was fired to force the people of the South in subjection to the rule of the Republican party in control of the Federal government. That vote acted like a charm in harmonizing the conflicting political elements, so that Texas was a unit on the side of the South during the whole war. Even General Houston, always a Texas patriot, afterward in a speech to the soldiers of a Confederate regiment, while referring to his opposition, expressed the hope that their efforts would be crowned with success, and said that he had fitted up his son to be a soldier in the cause and if he had a hundred he would send them to the ranks to fight for their country. In fact, most of those who opposed secession became good officers or soldiers in the Confederate army. General Houston exhibited his care for the Texas people shortly after he [34] left the office of governor by the following letter to Colonel Waite, who had just then assumed command of the Federal troops in Texas:

Austin, March 29, 1861.
Dear Sir: I have received intelligence that you have, or will soon receive orders to concentrate United States troops under your command at Indianola, in this State, to sustain me in the exercise of my official functions. Allow me most respectfully to decline any such assistance of the United States government, and to most earnestly protest against the concentration of troops or fortifications in Texas, and request that you remove all such troops out of this State at the earliest day practicable, or at any rate by all means take no action toward hostile movements till further ordered by the government at Washington City, or particularly of Texas.

Thine, Sam Houston. Colonel Waite, U. S. Army, San Antonio.

The convention continued in session, and on the 18th of March an ordinance was passed authorizing the raising of a regiment of mounted men for the defense of the State. For this regiment Col. John S. Ford was elected colonel, John R. Baylor, lieutenant-colonel, and Edwin Waller, major. On the 20th an ordinance was passed to confer jurisdiction over the forts, navy yards, arsenals and lighthouses in Texas upon the Confederate States. Ordinances were passed to authorize the purchase from Col. Ben McCulloch as agent of a gun factory in Virginia, of 1,000 muskets; declaring the military property of the United States, except that taken away by the soldiers, to belong to the State of Texas, and requiring the commissioners appointed by the convention to make a full report (of the property surrendered to them) to the governor.

Almost daily the convention had been receiving tenders of military services from individuals and companies. An ordinance was adopted requiring Colonel Ford to discharge the force on the Rio Grande when his regiment [35] was organized, and also requiring Col. Henry E. McCulloch to discharge his men when his regiment for Confederate service was organized, and requiring those officers, together with E. B. Nichols and Hiram Waller, to report their accounts which had not been passed upon by the convention to the governor A resolution was passed commending the action of the committee of public safety, and of the commissioners and officers that had been appointed, for the faithful discharge of the duties intrusted to them.

On the 23d of March, 1861, an ordinance was passed ratifying the permanent constitution of the Confederate States, and was promptly communicated to the Texas delegates in the Confederate Congress at Montgomery.

It was a fortunate circumstance that Messrs. Nelson, Stewart, Stockdale, Henderson, Baxter and others were members in both bodies, thus the convention and legislature were informed of what was doing in each body; and both having common objects to accomplish, they were constantly kept inharmonious co-operation. The convention adjourned on the 25th of March, leaving the legislature in session to prepare the State for further action as a member of the Southern Confederacy.

The number of the members of the convention (180) had purposely been made large to bring into it many distinguished citizens who had not actually been engaged in politics, whose solid judgment and influence assisted greatly in the direction of everything that was done, and equally in preventing from being done some things that would have been used by those acting in opposition to the prejudice of the cause. As the object of this history so far has been confined mainly to exhibiting the process in the great struggle by which a large majority of the people had become a part of the Southern Confederacy, also the military operations set on foot by the convention to take possession of the Federal property and remove from the State the Federal forces, no note has been made [36] of other conspicuous action by the members of both the convention and the legislature, as not necessary to be set forth, however commendable they were in effecting the common purpose by which all were inspired, which was to secede and join the Southern Confederacy. Many of the citizens who signed the call for the convention, and of the members of the convention, and of the senators and representatives in the special session of the legislature, afterward attested the sincerity of their purpose in what they did, by voluntarily entering the Confederate army, which deserves to be commemorated as a part of the history of that eventful period.

Signers of the call for the convention subsequently held rank as follows: John Gregg, Thomas Green, John A. Wharton, Henry E. McCulloch, brigadier-generals; R. Q. Mills, Edward Clark, C. M. Winkler, Geo. Baylor, Geo. Flournoy, John R. Baylor, colonels; Wm. Bird, lieutenant-colonel; D. M. Pendergast, John J. Good, W. C. Pitts, captains; and Thos. J. Chambers, aidede-camp to a general in Virginia the first part of the war, though advanced in years. Of the members of the convention who became officers besides John Gregg and John A. Wharton, were Allison Nelson, Wm. P. Hardeman, Jerome B. Robertson, Wm. Scurry, Joseph L. Hogg, brigadier-generals; James. H. Rogers and John Henry Brown, adjutant-generals; Colonels A. T. Rainey, John S. Ford, Wm. P. Rogers, P. N. Luckett, Thos. S. Lubbock, B. F. Terry, A. M. Hobby, E. B. Nichols, J. J. Diamond, Oran M. Roberts, Geo. Flournoy, W. B. Ochiltree, Eli H. Baxter, Isham Chisum, Thos. A. Anderson, M. F. Locke, Robert S. Gould, Tignal W. Jones; Lieutenant-Colonels A. H. Davidson, Thos. C. Frost, A. G. Clopton, Philip A. Work, John Ireland, A. J. Nicholson, Wm. W. Diamond, Jas. E. Shepard, P. T. Herbert, John C. Robertson, C. A. Abercrombie, Wm. H. Johnson, Wm. M. Neyland; Majors Geo. W. Chilton, C. M. Leseuer, J. W. Throckmorton; Captains Richard Coke, Amazi [37] Bradshaw, Wm. Clark, Drury Fields, Robert Graham, J. W. Hutchinson, Lewis W. Moore, W. R. Peck, C. M. Pendergast, Wilkins Hunt, Jas. M. Harrison, Gilchrist McKay, Sam A. Wilson; Lieutenants Richard L. Askew, J. E. Cook, John R. Hays and A. P. Shuford.

Among the members of the legislature were Colonels J. H. Parsons, Richard B. Hubbard, N. H. Darnell, D, B. Culberson, P. H. Mabry, A. F. Crawford, R. H. Taylor; Lieutenant-Colonels E. E. Scott, J. H. Manly; and Majors Matt Dale and Wm. Wortham. Doubtless there were many others of each class referred to that entered the army of whom no record or other reliable information has been obtained. [38]

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 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 (11)
Edward Clark (4)
Waite (3)
John S. Ford (3)
George W. Chilton (3)
E. W. Cave (3)
John A. Wharton (2)
John C. Robertson (2)
E. B. Nichols (2)
Allison Nelson (2)
Henry Eustace McCulloch (2)
John Gregg (2)
George Flournoy (2)
Ed Clark (2)
John R. Baylor (2)
Eli H. Baxter (2)
William Wortham (1)
Philip A. Work (1)
Clinton M. Winkler (1)
Sam A. Wilson (1)
Francis M. White (1)
Hiram Waller (1)
Edwin Waller (1)
Tignal (1)
J. W. Throckmorton (1)
B. F. Terry (1)
R. H. Taylor (1)
Fletcher S. Stockdale (1)
J. A. Stewart (1)
Alexander Stephens (1)
A. P. Shuford (1)
James E. Shepard (1)
William Scurry (1)
E. E. Scott (1)
William P. Rogers (1)
James H. Rogers (1)
H. Rogers (1)
Jerome B. Robertson (1)
Oran M. Roberts (1)
Houston Retires (1)
John H. Reagan (1)
Cyrus H. Randolph (1)
A. T. Rainey (1)
W. C. Pitts (1)
D. M. Pendergast (1)
C. M. Pendergast (1)
W. R. Peck (1)
J. H. Parsons (1)
William B. Ochiltree (1)
A. J. Nicholson (1)
William M. Neyland (1)
Lewis W. Moore (1)
Montgomery (1)
Roger Q. Mills (1)
Gilchrist McKay (1)
Ben McCulloch (1)
John H. Manly (1)
P. H. Mabry (1)
Philip N. Luckett (1)
Thomas S. Lubbock (1)
M. F. Locke (1)
C. M. Leseuer (1)
W. Jones (1)
William H. Johnson (1)
Jennings (1)
James (1)
John Ireland (1)
J. W. Hutchinson (1)
Wilkins Hunt (1)
Richard B. Hubbard (1)
Stephen P. Hollingsworth (1)
Joseph Lewis Hogg (1)
A. M. Hobby (1)
P. T. Herbert (1)
Henderson (1)
John R. Hays (1)
James M. Harrison (1)
Abram Harris (1)
William P. Hardeman (1)
Thomas Green (1)
Robert Graham (1)
Robert S. Gould (1)
John J. Good (1)
Thomas C. Frost (1)
Houston Disclaims (1)
William W. Diamond (1)
James J. Diamond (1)
Jefferson Davis (1)
A. H. Davidson (1)
Nicholas H. Darnell (1)
Matt Dale (1)
B. Culberson (1)
A. F. Crawford (1)
J. E. Cook (1)
Richard Coke (1)
A. G. Clopton (1)
William Clark (1)
Isham Chisum (1)
Thomas J. Chambers (1)
John Henry Brown (1)
Broaddus (1)
Bradshaw (1)
William Bird (1)
George Baylor (1)
Richard L. Askew (1)
Thomas A. Anderson (1)
Amazi (1)
C. A. Abercrombie (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: