Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 1, 1861 Texas Secedes from the Union

In January 1861, sixteen years after Texas joined the United States, the Secession Convention met in Austin and, on February 1, adopted an Ordinance of Secession and a Declaration of Causes on February 2. The proposed ordinance was approved by the voters, but even before Texas could become "independent" as provided for in the text of the Ordinance, Texas was accepted as a Confederate state on March 1, 1861.

As most political observers had predicted, the election of Lincoln caused a stampede for secession across the South. South Carolina seceded by the end of the year, followed in January 1861 by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana.

Texas was not far behind. Governor Sam Houston refused to call the legislature into special session to consider secession, so secessionists simply bypassed him. They staged an unofficial election in early January to elect delegates to a special convention that would consider Texas’ relationship with the federal government. The roster of delegates elected represents a who’s who of the era, including a former governor (Runnels), four future governors, and seven future Confederate generals.

Saying, “The Union is worth more than Mr. Lincoln,” Houston tried to block the convention by hastily calling the legislature into session to declare the election illegal. But Houston had become irrelevant to the onrush of events. The legislature met, validated the convention, and turned its chambers over for the meeting.

On January 28, in the House chamber on the second floor of the Texas Capitol, the Secession Convention got under way. Everyone was conscious of the high drama surrounding the deliberations, though Sam Houston, still working in his first floor office, scornfully referred to the delegates as “the mob upstairs.”

Three days later, on February 1, the delegates passed the Texas Ordinance of Secession by a vote of 166 to 8. They provided for a statewide vote in which Texans would ratify their decision. Knowing the results were a foregone conclusion, they also selected delegates to travel to Montgomery, Alabama, where the Confederate States of America were being established. In the meantime, a Committee of Safety was authorized to seize all federal property in the state, especially the federal arsenal in San Antonio.

1 comment:

Shockgrubz said...

Some say they wish they'd have stayed separate.