Beginnings of the Movement

Memoirs of John H. Reagan

Page 1

There was little abolitionist sentiment in Texas. For Texans, as the debate over slavery intensified, the burning issue was whether to secede or to remain part of the Union. For patriotic Texans, the choices were painful and not at all obvious.

The career of John H. Reagan epitomizes these painful choices. Reagan had come to Texas as a young man where he worked as a frontier scout. He began his political career as a young attorney when Texas became a state in 1846. He served as a county judge and in the Texas House of Representatives, then was elected a district judge in 1852. Reagan became an increasingly prominent and powerful Democrat. In 1857 he was elected to the U.S. Congress from East Texas. Like Sam Houston and others, Reagan tried to find a formula to keep the Union together while preserving the institution of slavery. In 1859, he published a circular articulating his views, as he recounts in this excerpt from his memoirs. He spoke out strongly against hotheaded proposals such as reviving the slave trade from Africa and against filibustering (expeditions by soldiers of fortune to try to gain new slave territory in Mexico, Central America, or Cuba).

The efforts of Reagan and others to find a compromise came to nothing, and Texas seceded from the Union in 1861 and joined the Confederacy. Reagan became the postmaster general of the Confederacy (see Portraits of Texas Governors for more about Reagan's career during and after the Civil War). His memoirs were published in 1906.

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John H. Reagan memoirs

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Chapter VII, Memoirs, John H. Reagan Collection, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.


Page last modified: August 24, 2011