The Civil War in Texas: An Exhibit from the Texas State Library and Archives

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Sam Houston Senate Speech, February 15, 1854

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Sam Houston speech opposing the Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854


the spirit which must actuate some in relation to
the agitation of this subject, I desire to read from
a letter, dated Washington, 6th day of February,
from a special correspondent of the Richmond In-
quirer. In the second paragraph the writer says:

“I hear that General Sam Houston, of Texas, will vote
against the Nebraska bill. Incredible as this may be, there
is no doubt of the fact; a gentleman informs me that had
it from his own lips.”

Well, sir, I had opposed the Nebraska bill at
the last session. The honorable President knows
very well that throughout the night previous to
the adjournment, that bill was discussed on this
floor. My opposition was notorious. And why
might I not conscientiously and consistently op-
pose the bill at the present session? It was a most
reasonable conclusion that I should, if I was to
receive credit for consistency.

“What objects Mr. HOUSTON has in view, and what ex-
cuses he may have to attempt to gratify them, I know not.
Nothing can justify this treachery; nor can anything save
the traitor from the deep damnation which such treason
may merit. It will, however, effect no injury; and its im-
potency will but add to its infamy. The man who deserts
at this crisis—one affecting the future destiny of half the
continent, and the perpetuity of the Union—will be con-
signed to a proper fate. The South, with a blush of shame,
and the North with secret delight, will alike look without
sympathy to the execration of a man who is destitute either
of the power to benefit or to injure. ‘Hissing, but stingless,’
let the viper crawl on.”


Now, sir, this looks to me as though there was
some agitation in the country. This looks like
agitation against myself. I am not angry at the
man; I am not vexed; and I do not hate him. I
would think badly of myself if I were capable of
descending to the level of his hate. But I would
take care, if I were even to know him, to do as
on such occasions I think it is always proper to do.
As he talks about “slime,” if he has left any upon
his track, I would step over it. [Laughter.]

However, I was sorry to see such things in that
paper, because I had a veneration for it from my
childhood. I recollect to have seen it more than
fifty years ago. When I first saw the Richmond
Inquirer, in old Rockbridge county, Virginia, I
thought it was the only newspaper in the world.
[Laughter.] Sir, I was very young then. It was
deemed orthodox at that time. It has changed
hands since, and that it should change politics and
principles is not strange. I do not claim the char-
ity of the Richmond Inquirer, because I am a na-
tive of the Old Dominion. I have never piqued
myself upon my origin. I have never received any
marks of sympathy, favor, or admiration from
that State. I shall never ask for them, although
I have always endeavored to deserve them. Yes,
sir, from the deepest gorges in her mountains
I have drunk of her pure streams; on their sum-
mits my eyes first learned to look upon nature,
and I have never ceased to feel proud that it was
upon her soil that I walked in childhood. I re-
member it still. For her virtues I will laud her;
in her misfortunes I will pity her. I will not
raise a parricidal hand against my mother. Some
of her children, though, have no doubt been
spoiled, sir. [Laughter.]

Well, Mr. President, that has taken up more
time than I had anticipated; but I do not intend
that it shall protract my speech beyond the ses-
sion of to-day. It appears that there was some
thing prophetic in that writer. He says that I am
opposed to the bill. Yes, sir, I am opposed to
the provision in relation to the Indians; and if it
were possible that I could feel more repugnant
and determinedly against anything else, it would
be the provision to repeal the Missouri compro-
mise. Why, sir? Because I have stood upon it.
Did I stand alone? If I did in one section
of the Union, I did not in the other. If I voted
alone, the people of the South sustained me.
Why? Because it was regarded as a solemn com-
pact, and because they are proud, chivalrous, just,
and generous. I adopt no new course, but have
heretofore maintained my present position; and
the reasons which I gave on that occasion I will
take care, sir, to reassert on this, and will show
that it is no new ground to me; that it is one
which I have maintained since Texas was an-
nexed to the United States, and since she formed
one star of our constellation.

If I voted, Mr. President, on a former occa-
sion, in 1848, for the Missouri compromise, I voted
for it in accordance with the sanction of Texas.
“As a Texan, I could not consistently have voted
otherwise. The compromise forms a part of the
constitution of that State, and her Senators in
Congress must be bound by it so long as it con-
tinues a portion of her organic law. Upon her
citizens, her officers and agents, in whatever ca-
pacity they may be acting, it rests with paramount
authority, which admits of no waver or dispensn- [sic]
tion.” Among the conditions expressed in that
enactment, to which the consent of the Republic
of Texas was peremptorily exacted, as a pre-
requisite to her admission into the Union, will be
found the following. It provides that all new
States formed north of 36°30’, within the limits of
Texas, as she then rightfully claimed, slavery
should be prohibited; that in all south of that, they
could come into the Union with or without slavery,
as they might think proper. This was accepted
by Texas, with all the sanctity and solemnity
that could attach to any compact whatever. She
adopted the Missouri compromise:

“The consent of the Texas Republic to this condition
was given in every possible mode whereby it could be ex-
pressed by the Government and the people. It was man-
ifested in the most solemn form, by her Executive, by her
Legislature, by her deputies in convention, and her people
at the polls; for the constitution, after its formation, was
submitted to the popular vote, and they ratified the previous
action of the Executive, the Legislature, and the conven-
tion, and finally it was attached to and became a part of the
constitution, under which she was admitted as a State into
the Union. Whenever a question may arise, involving
the application of this rule of action, I must and will obey
its command. Such was the case, when the bill for the or-
ganization of Oregon as a Territory was brought forward.
No part of that Territory lay south of the parallel of 49°; its
southern limit being more than five and a half degrees north
of the Missouri compromise line.”

“The Missouri compromise has been repeatedly recog-
nized and acted upon by Congress as a solemn compact
between the States; and as such, it has received the sanc-
tion of each individual member of the Confederacy. I con-
sider that the vital interests of all the States, and especially
of the South, are dependent, in a great degree, upon the
preservation and sacred observance of that compact.
Texas, in adopting the compromise line, in compliance with
the imperative demand of the other States, as a part of the
price of her admission, surrendered more than one third of
her territory in latitudinal extent, her right to continue the
institution of slavery. This sacrifice was exacted by the
southern as well as by the northern States. The sacrifice
was received at the hands of Texas, and among the solemn
guarantees then made to her in behalf of the Union,, to the
full benefit of which she is now entitled, that of preserving
the Missouri compromise is, in my humble judgment, not
the least in value.”

Such were the opinions I expressed in a letter

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Image enlarged 150%. Speech of Hon. Sam Houston of Texas, Delivered in the Senate of the United States, Feb. 14 and 15, 1854. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: February 17, 2016