Texas Secedes — Over Slavery and Race
Texas was the last of the Deep South states to secede and the only one to require the action of the state’s secession convention to be ratified by the people. On February 1, delegates to the convention voted 166 to 8 to separate from the United States. For the most part, the fears of the Texas delegates assembled in Austin mirrored the fears of the previous six states to secede. Most of them agreed with the convention President
Oran M. Roberts‘ assessment of the problem:
“The crisis upon us involves not only the right of self government, butthe maintenance of a great principle in the law of nations — the immemorial recognition of the institution of slavery wherever it is not locally prohibited — and also the true theory of our general government as an association of sovereignties.”
The next day, the delegates approved a “Declaration of Causes” which articulated their reasons for leaving. The threat to slavery that they perceived from the incoming Republican administration could not have been expressed more clearly:
“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.”
As the delegates concluded their list of grievances against the “abolition organization” of the North, they presented their own philosophy of government, which had everything to do with race:
“We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
“That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States.”
To ensure that the people of Texas understood why the convention deemed separation essential, and to encourage voters to approve the decision to secede, the delegates ordered 10,000 copies of the declaration printed, including 2,000 in German and 2,000 in Spanish.
Source: William Winkler, Journal of the Secession Convention of Texas, 1861 (Austin: Austin Printing Company, 1912), 17, 63-64, 66.
Story Behind Lithograph (click on image for larger size)