A new Prager University video asks and answers, “Was the American Civil War Fought Because of Slavery?”
The shallow and predictable answer is “yes.”
This article is on the unique role of Texas and Sam Houston in the Civil War, but I would briefly mention:
- Yes, slavery was the primary issue, but it was hardly the only issue.
- States’ Rights is the other ‘issue’, but it is actually a group of many separate issues which all matter: Is State participation in the Union voluntary? What about Secession? Nullification? Can States interpret the Constitution? Or is it OK that the Supreme Court just gave itself Judicial Review?
- The Confederates were Democrats.
- The north fought and won because of guns, money, and special interests. Not because of moral superiority or even popular sovereignty or consent. Barely anyone even liked Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclimation didn’t actually free a single slave. It was a pragmatic war tool.
The important point I want to make in this article is that Sam Houston was illegally thrown out of office in Texas and therefore Texas never legally joined the Confederacy.
Texas joining the Confederacy was not illegal because of the lame centralist Texas v White decision. That decision just echoed the attitude of the Supreme Court vs every state, stating that secession per se is illegal and unconstitutional. Which it isn’t.
Texas joining the Confederacy was actually illegal because it involved actions which were not legal under Texas law.
Sam Houston was a real Texan for a variety of reasons. He helped earn Texas nationhood then became the President of Texas. He ran in elections independent of a party. He smoked Stephen F. Austin and other historic figures in terms of popularity at the time.
After Houston helped Texas become a state of the US, he was elected governor by defeating his Democratic Party opposition. Houston was a Unionist and he opposed the racist Democrat Confederacy.
According to Texas law: “…only the governor could call the legislature into special session, and only the legislature could convene a convention.”
The convention would be required to allow Texas to join the Confederacy, but Houston refused to allow it. A number of wealthy lawyers and slave owning Democrats (ie, special interests) banded together to call for a secession convention anyway.
That secession convention of delegates was illegal.
Sam Houston realized the convention was going to occur and that even though it was illegal it might gather support anyway. Houston called the Texas legislature into session in order to condemn the secession convention and declare it illegal, but the legislature instead declared the secession convention legal and adjourned.
The legislature which convened was the 8th First called session of the Eighth Texas Legislature. Every Senator of that legislature was a Democrat. The Lieutenant Governor was a Democrat. The parties of the House are not well recorded, but I haven’t noted a non-Democrat elected at the time yet in the House either.
As mentioned, Texas law allows the legislature to call a convention which could have been used to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. That is, from the perspective of Texas law, not from the perspective of US law of course, which deems secession illegal per se.
When the legislature calls for a convention it can’t just be any convention. It has to be run a certain way according to certain rules or it is not valid.
Just like an election today. A Senator in Ohio can resign office and the legislature can call for a special election to fill the vacancy, but does that mean any sort of election will work? No! That election has to conform to various election rules and so on or it is not valid.
Here’s the tricky part many people miss: The fact that the unanimously Democratic 8th Texas Legislature declared the secession convention legal doesn’t make it so. In the same way, the Ohio legislature today can’t simply declare some illegal election to be legal. That’s not their place or job.
The Texas secession convention in 1861 was illegal because it broke many of the rules of a legal convention, including:
- Many delegates were illegally elected by voice vote.
- Delegate elections were not declared legal until after they occurred, so many Unionists didn’t bother to attend as they correctly considered such elections illegal.
- Delegates were not legally elected on January 8 because those elections weren’t called beforehand by the legislature.
- The Texas legislature has no legal power to retroactively legalize elections even if they wanted to.
- While the Jan. 28 convention was recognized beforehand by the Texas legislature, the delegates which attended the convention had no legal right to take legal action at the convention as they were illegally elected.
- The popular ratification of Texas secession was not legitimate and de facto secession occurred before the popular ratification occurred, showing that popular ratification was inconsequential to the new illegitimate Texas government.
- The illegal government already de facto seceded by forcing evacuation of federal troops from Texas.
- The illegal government had already sent representatives claiming legal authority to the Confederate capital in Montgomery, Alabama.
- The illegal government had already mislead many Texan citizens about Texas law and so on.
- The convention delegates illegally declared the office of Governor vacant. Lol. This is not a legal power of any such convention. Neither is it provided for in the Texas constitution. Even the legislature itself, which supersedes the convention, doesn’t have the power to simply declare the office of Governor vacant. That would be like the Senate voting that Obama isn’t President anymore.
It’s worth mentioning that neither the Ordinance of the Convention of Texas, July 4, 1845, nor the Joint Resolution of the Congress of the United States, March 1, 1845, which collectively provide for annexation of Texas, provide for secession or repeal of annexation.
One might argue that Houston had some slaves and therefore this article painting him as a good guy is a load of crap and really he was pro-slavery.
As usual, reality is complicated. Sam Houston did own a small number of slaves but at the same time he argued for a gradual end to slavery.