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“To Dissolve the Union Between the State of Texas and the…United States of America”

February 12, 2009

In February 1861, Texans put themselves on a path of separating from the United States and aligning their state with the Confederacy.

A broadside publicizing the February 1 ordinance declaring that Texas "is a sovereign State and that her citizens and people are absolved from all allegiance to the United States or the Government thereof."

A broadside publicizing the February 1 ordinance declaring that Texas "is a sovereign State and that her citizens and people are absolved from all allegiance to the United States or the Government thereof."

While Texas shared many characteristics of other Southern states, historian Dale Baum writes in The Shattering of Texas Unionism that “the Lone Star State…was also distinctive [as] only Southern state with an international boundary, an extensive western frontier, and a sizable population of Mexicans and Germans” (1).

Additionally, asserts Ralph A. Wooster in the Handbook of Texas Online, “while most Texans had a strong attachment to the Union that they worked so hard to join in 1845, they expressed increasing concern over the attacks upon Southern institutions by Northern political leaders.” Specifically, even though “only one Texas family in four owned slaves, most Texans opposed any interference with the institution of slavery, which they believed necessary for the continued growth of the state.”

About a week after Lincoln's election, Sam Houston expressed his views on the country's situation. "Here I take my stand!" he declared. "So long as the Constitution is maintained by 'Federal authority' and Texas is not made the victim of 'Federal wrong,' I am for the Union as it is."

"Here I take my stand!" Governor Sam Houston declared soon after Lincoln's election. "So long as the Constitution is maintained by 'Federal authority' and Texas is not made the victim of 'Federal wrong,' I am for the Union as it is."

The Confederate States of America, writes James M. McPherson in Battle Cry of Freedom, “organized itself, drafted a constitution, and set up shop in Montgomery, Alabama, within three months of Lincoln’s election.” (By comparison, the second Continental Congress “deliberated fourteen months before declaring American independence in 1776,” and two additional years were needed to write the Constitution and create a new government.) The South “moved so swiftly” because “secession proceeded on a state-by-state basis rather than by collective action” (234). Indeed, following Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860, six states in the Deep South left the Union: South Carolina on December 20; Mississippi on January 9, Florida on January 10, Alabama on January 11, Georgia on January 19, and Louisiana on January 26.

In his March 16 broadside "to the people of Texas," governor Houston emphatically stated "I protest in the name of the people of Texas against all the acts and doings of this [secession] convention, and declare them null and void!" That same day, the convention removed Houston from office.

In his March 16 broadside "to the people of Texas," governor Houston protested the actions of the secession convention. Its members removed him from office that same day.

These events caused the move towards secession in Texas to gain momentum. When Texas governor Sam Houston refused to call the legislature into special session, secessionist leaders formed a special convention and, on February 1, 1861, approved a secession ordinance by a vote of 166 to 8. Texas voters approved the ordinance by a better than three to one majority (46,153 votes to 14,747 votes) on February 23. The following month, the convention formally joined the Confederate States of America. Texas was the seventh state to secede, and the last to secede before Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4 and the firing on Fort Sumter on April 12-13.

References and Further Reading

The Shattering of Texas Unionism: Politics in the Lone Star State During the Civil War Era by Dale Baum.

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson.

Journal of the Secession Convention of Texas, 1861 edited by Ernest William Winkler; also available online here through the University of Texas at Austin.

Click here for a full citation of the documents and images included in this entry.

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