Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Southern States of America
Chapter V - Texas in the New Nation, 1865 - 1909


On June 17, 1865, President Johnson appointed Gen. A. J. Hamilton provisional governor of Texas. Hamilton, it will be remembered, had been prominent in Texas before the war, had remained faithful to the Union, had entered the Federal army, and had been made military governor of Texas in 1863 by Lincoln. He arrived in Texas late in July and set about organizing a government. All necessary officials of state, district and county were appointed— Unionists where possible, and when these were not available, capable secessionists. With the aid of the military, order was fairly well restored. Some difficulty was encountered in maintaining the independent jurisdiction of the provisional civil courts against the overshadowing authority of the military, and Hamilton did not, in fact, support them strenuously because he believed that the juries were generally not inclined to grant full justice to the freedmen and Unionists. Considerable dissatisfaction arose at the tendency of the negroes to abandon the farms and wander about the country in enjoyment of their new freedom, and there grew to be strong demand for compulsory labor under state supervision as the only salvation for the planting interests. The Freedmen's Bureau, organized for the protection of the ex-slaves, made its appearance in Texas late in the summer of 1865 under the direction of General Gregory, and applied itself to the problem of getting the negroes to work. It had little success until after Christmas, when the freedmen confidently expected a general division of property; but in the next spring its efforts met with better results. One of Governor Hamilton's chief duties was to call for a general convention elected by those persons who had taken the oath of allegiance to the United States government and of concurrence in the emancipation of slaves, as provided in the proclamation of general amnesty issued by the President. It was not until November 15 that he ordered the election for the convention. When this body met, Feb. 7, 1866, it was evident that the Unionists and original secessionists were each a strong minority and that the balance of power lay with a third group, the conservatives. After considerable discussion the secession ordinance was declared null and void and the right to secede was disclaimed for the future. The war debt and that portion of the civil debt contracted during the war were repudiated, slavery was prohibited and most of the ordinary civil rights were conferred upon the freedmen. These important measures were not passed without heated debates, and long before the adjournment of the convention party lines became clearly distinguished. The radicals, as the Unionists came to be called, were defeated in most of their measures and therefore assailed the work of the convention. The conservatives and the original secessionists joined forces, and at the close of the session nominated for governor and lieutenant-governor, J. W. Throckmorton and George W. Jones. The radicals selected ex-Gov. E. M. Pease and L. Lindsey. Throckmorton had been a Union man and voted against the secession ordinance in 1861, but entered the Confederate army. The conservatives declared themselves in favor of President Johnson's policy of restoration for the Southern states, while the radicals were rapidly becoming identified with the hostile majority in Congress. Consequently they were defeated overwhelmingly, the Throckmorton ticket being elected by 49,277 votes to 12,168 for Pease.

The new state government was organized in August, 1866, and received the full recognition of the President, who, during the same month, issued his peace proclamation declaring the war at an end and that peace, order, tranquility and civil authority existed throughout the United States. The legislature found many duties awaiting it. Composed almost entirely of the party victorious in the late elections, it was unfortunately not always moved by a moderate spirit. As senators of the United States it elected O. M. Roberts, formerly an organizer of secession and president of the secession convention, and Judge David G. Burnet, ex-president of the old Republic of Texas and later a secessionist. The men defeated were B. H. Epperson and John Hancock, both conservative Unionists. This action was generally regarded in the North as an attempt to perpetuate the principles of the "rebellion," and the senators-elect were not allowed even to enter the Senate lobby when they presented themselves at Washington. The legislature also provided for the election of representatives to the lower house of Congress. When elected, these "representatives of a sovereign state" enjoyed the same reception as was accorded the senators.

Congress had submitted to the several states the proposed Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments to the Federal constitution, and the Texas legislature was required to take action on them. With regard to the former the issue was dodged by the plea that as the principle embodied had been adopted previously in the constitutional convention, and had already been ratified by the requisite three-fourths of the states, no action on the part of the legislature of Texas was necessary. The other amendment could not so easily be disposed of and was squarely rejected as being proposed by a Congress illegally constituted and as an arrogant invasion of the constitutional authority of the states. The most important matters of domestic interest taken up were those concerning the freedmen and labor. Three laws were passed on these subjects. The general apprenticeship law did not differ materially in form from those in force elsewhere. Any minor, with the consult of parent or guardian, could be bound out by the county judge until twenty-one years of age, unless sooner married. He was safeguarded against harsh treatment and was to be taught a trade. The vagrancy law was also similar to those in force in the North. Neither of these laws made any distinction of color and neither was ever interfered with by the Freedmen's Bureau. The labor law was more stringent. It provided that "common laborers" should, when entering into contracts for labor for longer than one month, make them before magistrates or witnesses and that such contracts should be recorded. The laborers should have full liberty to choose employers, but should not leave the one contracted with on pain of forfeiture of all wages earned. Various safeguards and restrictions were thrown about the laborer. It was doubtless intended that a laborer failing to contract would be liable under the vagrancy law. And while this act was left universally applicable, it was clear enough that it was intended for the negroes alone, and was, in consequence, disregarded by order of the Bureau officials who refused to approve contracts made under its provisions. Still another law was enacted to punish any one enticing away an apprentice or a laborer working under a contract, or harboring a runaway.

Governor Throckmorton made it the chief task, of his administration to get rid of the military forces still quartered in the state, and in order to effect this labored to put down lawlessness and give the full protection of the courts to all classes so that there might be no excuse for the presence of soldiers. This was a difficult task, for the population of Texas displayed all the turbulence of the frontier, and the war had brought to the surface all the rough and lawless elements. However, conditions were rapidly growing better when, by the famous Congressional Reconstruction Act of March 2, 1867, the Southern states were suddenly reduced once more to the basis of provisional organization and put completely under military rule.

It would be out of place here to discuss the unfortunate quarrel between President Johnson and the Congressional radicals culminating in the all but complete victory of the latter. Many of the Texas radicals had taken part in the contest to the extent of denouncing their opponents in the state as disloyal, rebellious, and persecuting Union men, all of which they attributed to the policy of the President. There seems to have been comparatively little foundation for the charges, but they were none the less effective. Throckmorton remained provisional governor for some months, but found it exceedingly difficult to administer the government both according to the wishes of the military commanders and his own conception of his duty under the laws of the state. Moreover, the radicals were clamoring for his removal.

On July 30, 1867, Sheridan, the district commander, issued an order removing Throckmorton as an "impediment to reconstruction," and appointed E. M. Pease in his place. Soon afterward the other state officials elected with Throckmorton were replaced with radicals. Pease began removing various county and district officers in the same manner. Sometimes the positions could not easily be refilled, and considerable confusion resulted. The "ironclad" oath prescribed by act of Congress and applied by order of the military made it difficult to secure juries and hold courts. This, together with the bitterness aroused by the new situation, increased lawlessness and disorder; this again reacted upon and fed the fury of faction. The reconstruction acts had provided for a registration of voters, without restriction of color, and a vote for a convention. Only those who could take the test oath were eligible to vote. In hope of defeating the call for a new constitutional convention, many of the conservatives refrained from voting, but the ruse failed. The convention, composed chiefly of radical members, several being negroes, met in Austin June 1, 1868. No sooner had the radicals secured control of the state than they fell out among themselves. The extreme party, headed by E. J. Davis and Morgan C. Hamilton, contended that all acts of the recent state government as well as of that existing under the Confederacy had been null and void ab initio; the moderates under the leadership of ex-Gov. A. J. Hamilton and Gov. E. M. Pease opposed the application of this doctrine as dangerous and contrary to public interest. The former also wished to disfranchise all persons participating in the "rebellion" and were opposed by the moderates. After two stormy sessions the latter party succeeded in getting through the convention a constitution in accord with the acts of Congress, but free of the harshest measures proposed by the Davis faction. The latter severely attacked the work of the convention and at first threatened to defeat the ratification of the constitution. Later they gave up that and each party put out a ticket, E. J. Davis and A. J. Hamilton becoming opposing candidates for governor. The conservatives presented no ticket, but most of them gave their support to Hamilton. In the meantime the district commander, Gen. J. J. Reynolds, had interested himself to such an extent in the success of the Davis faction that Governor Pease resigned. For nearly four months thereafter Texas had no governor, all the functions of that officer being in the hands of General Reynolds. In the election in November the constitution was ratified overwhelmingly, and the Davis ticket was declared by Reynolds to have received a majority of about 800 votes. [It was always asserted by friends of Governor Hamilton that he had really been elected, but had been counted out by General Reynolds, and that a political bargain to that end had been made between Reynolds and Davis.]

Davis took the oath as governor on Jan. 17, 1870. The legislature met in February, adopted the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the Federal constitution, and elected as United States senators Morgan C. Hamilton and J. W. Flanagan. On March 30 the act of Congress readmitting Texas to the Union was approved by President Grant.

The next four years left a greater heritage of bitterness in Texas than any period of equal length in the history of the state. Governor Davis had been placed in power by the votes of negroes and extreme radicals; he regarded his administration as a continuation of the reconstruction of the state, and he had no confidence in the willingness of the whites to obey the laws and to recognize the rights of the freedmen. At his request the legislature passed acts organizing a state militia composed of all male inhabitants subject to military duty under the direct control of the governor, and established a "state police" to be in active service under the governor's orders. This last body was composed mostly of irresponsible whites and negroes, and did far more to create disturbances and provoke disorder than to secure quiet. The sheriffs, deputies and city police were everywhere required to cooperate with them under penalty of removal by the governor, who made frequent use of the power granted him to declare martial law and to try cases by military commission. Elections were held under surveillance of these negro police. The arbitrary and tyrannical powers assumed by Davis were enough to array against him the whole population of the state except that portion directly dependent upon him. In some respects his administration accomplished good. The foundation of a better school system was laid, and numerous public improvements attempted in the way of better roads, homestead laws, the encouragement of railways and immigration. However, the finances of the state were handled in reckless fashion, and despite increased faxes a deficit was created that steadily grew into a debt of $4,500,000. The thirteenth legislature, elected in 1872, was Democratic— for the reaction against the Republicans had already set in—and managed to remedy some of the evils, but little could be done under the existing administration. In the election of 1873 Davis made desperate efforts to secure his reelection; but against him were arrayed not only the solid body of Democrats, but many of his quondam Republican allies whom he had alienated by his headstrong-course. He was defeated by Richard Coke, the Democratic candidate, by 85,549 votes to 42,633. Davis then endeavored to have the election declared null and void, and secured a decision to that effect from the supreme court, appointed by himself. It was disregarded, and after a futile effort to secure the aid of the National government in prolonging his term, he was forced to give way Jan. 17, 1874. The last days of his incumbency were marked by great excitement. Crowds of determined men gathered in Austin in anticipation of armed resistance by Davis and his followers, and only the most careful management prevented bloodshed. Now that the choice of the majority of the people had securely assumed the executive office every true citizen felt relieved. Texas was once more in the hands of her own people.

The political history of Texas since the close of Reconstruction has been essentially that of one party, and while it is not devoid of interest, the student of this recent period finds far more attractive matter in tracing the social and material development of the mighty young commonwealth.

Industries Old and New.

The situation of Texas far to the southwest, closely allied in some respects to the older South, in others to the vigorous new West, a close neighbor of Mexico, and yet with an individuality all her own, her vast extent of territory comprising an almost infinite variety of soil, climate and natural resources, rendered it inevitable that when she should come into her proper inheritance she would find herself one of the richest and most happily situated of the states of the Union.

The first industry to attain importance in Texas was stock raising. The vast prairies afforded pasturage for countless herds of cattle, horses and sheep in the days when wire fences were unknown and grass was free to all. In the earlier days this occupation was almost universal, for cattle could be taken to market more easily than the products of the farm. Only those sections of the state given over to Indians were free from the cattle ranches. A ranch, comprising the headquarters of the owner and the "range" over which his cattle drifted, might be of any size and was wholly unfenced. The land might belong to the owner of the cattle, but was more often public land upon which he had temporarily squatted or which he had leased at a very low rate from the state. Land was so very cheap that it could easily be bought, but usually no one cared to do that. Pasturage being practically free, little attention was paid to the quality of stock. The lean, muscular, long-horned variety was the standard among cattle; most of the horses were small, wiry mustangs, and the sheep were Mexican, with coarse flesh and little wool. The markets for cattle were in the North, and before the railroads came, beeves were driven over "the long trail" through the Indian Territory to Kansas and Missouri, and thence shipped to Chicago and other points. Wool was carried on wagons to the coast to be shipped to eastern markets.

This system lasted for several years after the close of the War of Secession, but in the early 80's a change began. The westward sweep of population had greatly increased the number of tilled farms, and decreased in proportion the amount of pasturage; lands were rising in value and being cut up into smaller tracts, and large amounts of public lands were being taken up by homesteaders. More than this, barbed wire had been introduced, and with this cheap fencing material it was possible for private or leased lands to be reserved for the owner or lessee. Free pasturage almost disappeared, and except in the extreme west the pasture ranch became the type. While some of these were larger than an ordinary county, the tendency was for them to grow smaller, and in many cases they became stock-farms where feed was grown to supplement the pasturage. As this could not prove profitable with stock of poor quality, improved breeds were introduced. Heavy beef cattle supplanted the "long-horns," dairy cows became common, the mustang was bred into a larger and stronger horse, Merinos and Shropshires replaced the old Mexican sheep, and the "razor back" hog, lean and athletic as a deer and voracious beyond belief, gave way to the stocky, heavy and quickly-grown breeds. With the coming of the railroads from the North the markets came into closer reach, the long trail was abandoned and prices became more uniform. Within the last decade large packing houses at Fort Worth and Dallas have furnished Texas markets with meat products of all sorts from Texas stock-farms. If the transformation of the picturesque cowboy into the commonplace farmhand has destroyed the romance of the frontier, it has nevertheless produced better meat, and it has increased enormously the annual output of wealth in the state. In connection with the stock-farms should be mentioned the dairy industry which is now undergoing rapid development.

But stock-raising, important as it still is, has long since yielded first place to farming. The big plantation as it existed in the old slave system never took possession of a very large part of Texas. It was confined from the first to the river bottom lands of the eastern and southeastern sections. There, in a modified form, it still exists—large farms worked for the most part by negroes who are "furnished" by the landlord and allowed half of the crop. The system is generally wasteful and the crop less than it should be, for the average negro is lazy and unintelligent; but as white men usually find the bottoms unhealthful, the black man is allowed to monopolize them. Aside from these "plantations" farming interests have shown the same development that is seen in other activities. Better breeds of stock, better tools, better seed and improved methods of cultivation have worked great changes. More and more land has been brought under tillage until the greater part of the state is like one vast farm. The almost desert-like regions along the Rio Grande, the dense thickets and pine woods of east Texas, the humid, low-lying coast lands, the high, cool, windswept plains of the panhandle, and the thick, rich, black-waxy soil of central Texas insure the greatest possible variety of farm products. It had been said that Texas grows everything in field, orchard or garden that will grow in any other state in the Union. The chief crop is, of course, cotton, in which Texas far exceeds any other state, her average yield being nearly 4,000,000 bales. Vast quantities of corn are grown in all parts except in the extreme west and south. Near the coast large tracts are planted in rice. Wheat, oats, milo-maize, cane, hay and other forage crops are produced in profusion. Not only have more and more varieties of farm products been added to the list, but the yield per acre has shown a gratifying increase under improved methods of cultivation. The most serious obstacle to progressive farming is, perhaps, the tenant system, so prevalent in the black-land cotton districts. The tenant, working usually for a part of the crop and moving about once in every two or three years, does little or nothing to conserve the fruitfulness of the soil, while the landlord does no more to keep the houses, barns and fences in proper repair.

It is only within the last ten or twelve years that extensive development has begun in horticulture and truck-gardening. In the sandy regions of eastern Texas peach-growing has proved immensely profitable, while melons, tomatoes, potatoes, berries and other fruits do wonderfully well. On the coast, in the neighborhood of Galveston and below it, strawberries, figs, oranges and practically all vegetables are grown in immense quantities. In the valley of the lower Rio Grande during the last few years similar developments have been wrought, while in the irrigated valleys of the west all varieties of the finest grapes are produced in profusion. Most of these products find markets in the North or the large cities of the West. The chief difficulties in the path of this new industry have been in the lack of proper methods of marketing. With the increase of railroad feeding lines and the placing of legal safeguards upon handling in transit, the first obstacle has been materially reduced, while the organization of business-like associations among the growers for the marketing of their produce has saved the expense of the middleman and rescued them from the thraldom of the commission merchant. Still in its infancy, this industry promises abundant growth.

The lumber industry has of late years become the most important one of eastern Texas. The pine and hardwood forests there are the most extensive of any Southern state, and immense quantities of lumber are shipped to Mexico and all parts of the Union, especially into the Mississippi Valley region. Some of the lumber companies are taking precautions against the complete denudation of their forest lands.

Texas is rich in minerals, but mining has not yet become a prominent industry. In the Llano country in the central part of the state are found deposits of iron-ore reputed the finest in America. Small quantities of gold and silver are present in the same region. Iron is also plentiful in east Texas in the vicinity of Rusk. The chief obstacles to the development of iron mines have been the absence of coal for smelting and the expense of transporting fuel from elsewhere. How long this immense wealth will lie undeveloped cannot easily be foreseen. Good bituminous coal is found in Texas, the chief deposits being in the northern counties to the west of Fort Worth. In other places deposits of lignite are mined. In the far west, in Brewster county, great quantities of quicksilver have been found and extensive mines are in operation there. But the most conspicuous mineral product of the state is petroleum. The discovery of the immense fields of oil at Beaumont in 1901 first drew attention to this vast , storehouse of nature, and since that time oil has been found in various parts of east Texas and also in the northern, central and western counties. [There were oil wells at Corsicana in central Texas long before the Beaumont "gushers" came into existence, but though profitable they were weak when com pared with the latter.] To indicate the variety and richness of the virgin resources of the state it is necessary only to mention other natural deposits of various kinds, such as granite, marble, limestone, fuller's earth, potter's clay, salt, gypsum, sulphur and numbers of other minerals, many of which are to be found in vast quantities and few of which have begun to be extensively mined or quarried.

In manufacturing, Texas is apparently only making a beginning. Although producing nearly one-fourth of the world's cotton, she has very few cotton mills, and these turn out only coarse cloth. There are hundreds of cotton-seed-oil mills, but the crude product is usually refined elsewhere. Nor has Texas any great iron works, though there are several new foundries of fair size in the larger towns. In Texas, as in all young countries where land is cheap and labor high, it would be impossible to procure factory labor as cheap as that of the New England cotton mills, and not until the price of land shall have risen far beyond its present mark and the urban population is relatively much greater than at this time is it likely that Texas will rank high as a manufacturing state.


The people of early Texas were of the hardy, adventurous type that always seeks the frontier. Rough and lawless though many of them were, they were still the sort to conquer the wilderness, drive back the prowling Indian and prepare the way for the softer civilization of to-day. Despite representations to the contrary, most of them were not refugees from the criminal laws of the United States. A large percentage was well educated, even college bred, and they were attracted by the apparently boundless opportunities afforded by a rich and virgin country. The greater part of them came from neighboring Southern states, but all parts of the Union were represented.

In 1836 the total population of the new republic, including Anglo-Americans, Mexicans and negroes, was estimated at less than 40,000. Immigration, however, set in immediately, and in 1850 the population had risen to 212,592. Ten years later it had reached over 604,000. Immigrants from across the sea had joined those from the older states. The southwest and parts of the south were being filled with Germans, while a large colony of Scandinavians had settled in central Texas. Nearly every nation of Europe was represented. The War of Secession and the disturbances of the Reconstruction period arrested immigration, but even before conditions were fairly quiet the ceaseless flow began once more. In 1870 there were 818,000 people in Texas; by 1880 the number was nearly double—1,519,700. The Indians had been expelled from the west, railroads were penetrating to all parts of the interior, and in 1890 the population had increased to 2,235,-500. The farmer was gradually encroaching upon the great ranches of the west, and in 1900 Texas ranked sixth among the states with 3,048,000. Since, that date the tide of immigration has been greater than ever. Whole districts, comprising several counties, have been covered with farms and houses as if by magic. It is believed that in 1910 there will be nearly 5,000,000 inhabitants in Texas. The character of this incoming population is of the best. Most are from the older states, farmers who have sold their high-priced lands and seek cheaper homes in a milder climate and more fruitful soil. Many, however, are from Europe. Galveston has recently become an immigrant station, and through it thousands of foreigners, chiefly Germans and Italians, are pouring into Texas. A large proportion of these, especially the Germans, bring money and buy land, and it is a well-known fact that nine-tenths of these Europeans, no matter what the nationality, become landowners within five to eight years. A far less desirable class of immigrants are the Mexicans, who come in great numbers from across the Rio Grande and drift about the country as day laborers. They rarely buy homes and are almost impervious to American civilization. There is some negro immigration to Texas, but it is inconsiderable. During the decade preceding 1900 the total colored population increased 25 per cent., while the white population increased 39 per cent. The proportion of blacks in the total number of inhabitants decreased from 21.8 per cent. to 20.4 per cent. The census of 1910 will undoubtedly show a still further lowering of the percentage of colored inhabitants.

The great bulk of the population of Texas is, and for a long time will be, rural. In 1890 only 13 per cent. was gathered into towns of more than 4,000 inhabitants, and ten years later that portion had increased to only 14.9 per cent. Of the actual increase during that time 75 per cent. had gone to the country. According to the census of 1900 there was but one city, San Antonio, with 50,000 inhabitants, and but thirty-six towns with 4,000. But with the extension of railroads, the multiplication of farms and the rapid expansion of trade since that date, more than a score of towns have sprung into the 4,000 class, while at least three, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, are close to the 100,000 mark.


The rapid increase of land values is a phenomenon common to the West and not unfamiliar in most parts of the United States; but in Texas it especially deserves notice as a reflection of the many-sided development of the state. When the War of Secession ceased the best of the black-land belt in central Texas could have been bought easily for fifty cents per acre. Ten years later the price had advanced comparatively little. During the next decade values started upward, yet twenty-five years ago the best of farm lands in that region could have been bought at ten to fifteen dollars per acre. Ten years ago the average valuation was thirty to thirty-five dollars in the vicinity of railroads, and in 1907 it would have been difficult to buy the same land at seventy dollars per acre, while it often sold for more. In some sections of east Texas in the sandy country prices are much lower; in the west and south they are still about one-third to one-half as much as in the black-land districts, though values have been going up rapidly in those sections within the last five years. All parts of Texas have felt the impulse, though unevenly. The causes of this development are not difficult to discover. Increase of population, immigration, and the consequent need for more lands, the gradual absorption of uncultivated lands into the farms, the extension and multiplication of railroads, and resultant better and more accessible markets; all of these helped to accelerate the natural growth of values. New crops came into notice, and regions before regarded as unfit for older forms of agriculture suddenly acquired a new and peculiar importance. Thus it was with the peach and tobacco lands of east Texas, the cotton-growing parts of the west, and the rice and orange districts in the southeast. Moreover, the unusual prosperity of the past few years has sent heavy sums, especially the profits of farms, seeking investment in real estate—a familiar and favorite form of property with farmers. In some sections of the state—it might almost be said in all sections—real estate values increased within the two years ending Oct. 1, 1907, from 50 to over 100 per cent. Nor has the more recent spasm of hard times succeeded in breaking down prices to any appreciable extent. On the contrary, a great deal of money, hastily withdrawn from more hazardous enterprises, has been put into lands as a result of the panic. It is not likely that land in Texas will ever be very much cheaper than it now is.

Even the briefest discussion of lands in Texas could not omit mention of the state's public domain, yet this subject is one of such vast proportions and such intricacy of detail that only the most meagre account is possible here. The total area claimed by the Republic of Texas after 1836 comprised about 390,000 square miles. Of this approximately 125,000 square miles was sold to the United States by the compromise of 1850. Of the remaining 167,000,000 acres now constituting the state of Texas, about 25,000,000 acres had been appropriated before the revolution under old Spanish, Mexican and colonial grants. Subsequent grants made under laws providing for bounties, donations, headrights, preemptions, homesteads and sales have amounted to about 56,000,000 acres more. The remainder, about 85,000,000 acres, has been appropriated for schools and the promotion of internal improvements. Only this last class will be considered here.

It is highly creditable to the founders of the Republic that they were careful to provide that some part of the landed wealth of Texas should be devoted to the education of her youth. By acts of Congress in 1839 and 1840 each county was given four leagues of public land, or 17,713 acres, for the maintenance of its schools. At the same time fifty leagues were to be set aside as university lands, but these were not located until after 1856. In 1858 additional land, one-tenth of railroad surveys reserved to the state, was granted to the university's endowment; but by the constitution adopted in 1876 this last grant was revoked and 1,000,000 acres elsewhere substituted for it. In 1873 and 1874 one-half of all lands not otherwise appropriated was reserved to the general public school fund. With the one exception stated above, each new constitution has respected and maintained all previous grants of land for educational purposes. Since the close of the "War of Secession the lands thus appropriated have been put on the market for sale to actual settlers, and the proceeds therefrom have been invested in state, county or municipal bonds as part of the permanent school fund. The amount of public lands devoted to school purposes, including 400,000 acres granted to various asylums, approximates 45,111,000 acres. The greater part of this has been sold. [For a brief but comprehensive account of land legislation with regard to public schools, see Wooten: Comprehensive History of Texas (Vol. L., pp. 835-843); also Lane: History of Education in Texas (pp. 24-44, 123 ff.).]

The policy of the state in promoting internal improvements by the use of public lands is an important feature of her economic history. The first general law dealing with land subsidies for railroads was passed in 1854, and formulated the plan for all subsequent legislation on that subject. It provided, in brief, that for every twenty-five miles of railroad built and put into operation within the state the railroad company should survey 800 sections of public land, the alternate sections of which were to be reserved to the state, the others to be given the company on condition that said lands be alienated within twelve years on pain of forfeiture. The act was to remain in force for only ten years. It will be seen that one of the prime objects in view was to promote immigration by compelling the railroads to sell their lands. By later acts the time for compliance with the law was extended, and before 1861 several million acres had been appropriated in this manner. By the close of the Reconstruction period railroad building was vigorously renewed. A constitutional amendment in 1873 allowed a donation of twenty sections to the mile, and acts of the next two years granted extension of time for completing roads actually under construction. By the constitution adopted in 1876 not more than sixteen sections per mile can be donated. In 1882 the legislature repealed all laws and parts of laws granting land or land certificates to any person, firm, corporation or company for the construction of railroads, canals and ditches, and thus ended the long list of state donations to these enterprises. The wisdom of the policy had often been called in question, and it seems certain that in some individual cases the grants were ill-advised. However, the coming of the railroads was hastened, and they have played an immense part in the development of the state. The total amount of land granted to railroad companies in this manner was nearly 35,000,000 acres. In the matter of grants made for other forms of internal improvements, the advantages to the people are far less obvious. Approximately 5,000,000 acres have been given away on various navigation and irrigation enterprises, nearly all of which have proven valueless. The greater part of these grants for the dredging and widening of rivers wholly impossible of profitable navigation were made in 1874 and 1875, when it was the boast of the government that the extravagancies of reconstruction were being retrenched. Texas is now shorn absolutely of her public domain. There has been some extravagance in the disposal of it; there has been, without a doubt, some fraud; but by far the greater part has been used wisely for the upbuilding of the state.


The story of the disposition of public lands leads, naturally, to some account of the railroad industry in Texas. The first railroad constructed in Texas was the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio, organized in 1853, and running from Harrisburg twenty miles to Stafford's Point. During the next year the Houston and Texas Central was begun. These were extended gradually, and before 1861 others were under way. At the beginning of the war there were about 300 miles in operation in detached sections. Only thirty-five miles were built during the war, but by 1870 the total had reached 711 miles. Soon after this the return of prosperity and political security and the liberality of the state in land subsidies combined to induce a rapid expansion of railroads. By 1880 there were 3,293 miles of road. Immigrants were pouring in, the west was settling up, new trunk lines and feeders were projected despite the repeal of the laws granting land subsidies in 1882, and in 1890 the mileage had increased to 8,709. In the later 80's the sharp competition between lines, subsequent pooling and combinations, and unjust or arbitrary discriminations in rates led to bitter agitation, especially among the farmers against the roads. The Granger movement and the Farmers' Alliance were both directed against what they believed to be wicked oppression by the lords of transportation. During the years 1886 to 1890 Atty.-Gen. James S. Hogg had brought suit against and vigorously prosecuted various roads for alleged discriminations, pooling, over-capitalization, and for the recovery of lands alleged to have been obtained illegally. His course precipitated wide agitation, and his demand for some form of state control over railroad corporations carried him into the governorship in 1890.

In the election an amendment was adopted by a vote of nearly three to one providing for the creation of a railroad commission. By legislative enactment during the next spring a commission of three persons was created with powers to hear and adjudge complaints made by either party in controversies about the business of the roads and to fix rates subject to an appeal to the courts of the state under prescribed regulations. From time to time other acts have been passed increasing or more accurately defining the powers of the commission, and further limiting and bringing under the control of the state railroads, express companies and other common carriers. Owing partly to the restrictions of the laws, but more to the financial crisis of 1893 to 1896, the mileage of the roads increased more slowly during the decade after the establishment of the commission. Yet, in 1900, there was a total of 11,546.4 miles in operation. Since then it has increased even more rapidly, there being on June 30, 1907, an aggregate of 15,482 miles, a total far greater than is now shown by any other state.

It is hardly possible that the unprejudiced student of railroad history in Texas since 1890 will call in question the wisdom of the measure creating the commission. It has amply justified itself, for while not all problems have been solved, conditions are much more sane and more satisfactory than before. Much is said these days of the hostility of Texas to capital, and especially foreign capital, and the efforts of the legislature to place a larger share of the burdens of taxation upon the railroads is cited as an example of this hostility. It may frequently happen that ignorance of railroad economics and doubtful notions of political expediency are responsible for imperfections in laws for the regulation of these public service corporations, but it is assuredly untrue that the people of the state are hostile to railroads or other forms of corporate wealth per se. On the contrary the people of Texas desire more railroads and more investments of capital within the state because they are mighty factors of progress, but the people are determined that these corporations shall give due return for the wealth they are allowed to acquire, and that they shall never become independent of the public interest.

Constitutional Government.

A detailed description of the constitutional government of Texas will not be given here, because it would prove but a dull repetition of many features familiar to citizens of all other states. Yet there are some peculiarities of law and government that require at least passing notice, for the history of the state has left deep marks upon both. Early Texas was the meeting ground of the Roman civil law, as modified in Spain and Mexico, and the English common law, the heritage of the Anglo-Americans. In the system of jurisprudence built up under the Republic and the state, many features of the former were retained. Thus, laws governing lands and land titles and laws of married persons were left essentially unchanged. The civil law rules of pleading were retained, as was the identity of procedure in law and equity, the common law distinction between them being rejected. In other respects, as trial by jury, the common law was accepted as the basis. This compromise has given Texas jurisprudence a great advantage over that of the older states. The homestead law, for the protection of the families of debtors, also belongs to that period and was original in Texas. It has since been adopted in some form in practically every state in the Union. None of these principles or laws have been lost through all the vicissitudes of legislation and of constitutional changes since that time.

The present constitution was adopted in 1876, just after the close of Reconstruction, and bears evidence of the experiences of that trying epoch. In general, two aims are apparent throughout: first, to prevent concentration of power in the officials of the state, particularly in the governor, and correspondingly, to keep all officers under the close control of the people; and secondly, to maintain economy in the government. These principles can best be illustrated by reference to each of the branches of government, a division familiar in all the states; The governor is not the sole executive, nor is he responsible in any way for any policies of administration outside of the sphere left him. The comptroller, treasurer, attorney-general, commissioner of the general land office and superintendent of public instruction are all elective and are independent of his control, except in certain matters in which there is joint action. The secretary of state, the commissioner of insurance and banking, the adjutant-general, the state health officer, the state revenue agent and the state purchasing agent are appointive, as are the heads of the various state eleemosynary institutions. Most of these appointive positions have been created since the adoption of the constitution. Fear of concentrated authority dictated the distribution of executive power among so many heads, a fear based upon the old hostility of the union of "the sword and the purse," and reinforced more lately by the almost autocratic authority assumed by Gov. E. J. Davis. The result, however, has been a lack of coordination and sometimes of harmony among officials whose duties lie close together, and an absence of tangible responsibility that has not been for the best interests of the people. The salaries of these officials are uniformly low, and it has proven well-nigh impossible to have them raised to an adequate amount. As a matter of economy this policy has assuredly been of doubtful value.

The same general observations apply to the legislature. The chief things to be noted are the restrictions upon its power. In addition to the general guarantees in the bill of rights a number of negative provisions were inserted to guard more effectually the liberties of the people. A series of clauses greatly restricts the power of the legislature over taxation and appropriations, and an important one is that which allows the governor to veto separate items in appropriation bills. The constitution has frequently been criticized as containing a large amount of statute law, since many provisions, especially those of a restrictive character, concern matters usually open to general legislation. Texas is even more niggardly in the payment of salaries to her legislators than to other public officers. They receive five dollars per day for sixty days and then two dollars per day, but in special session they receive five dollars. The low pay has had a tendency to keep the ablest men out of the legislature, while those who go for the sake of the salary have shown a ready disposition to adjourn at the end of sixty days in order to be called in extra session to attend to unfinished business.

The judicial department embraces justice, county, district and appellate courts, and a supreme court, each with appropriate fields of jurisdiction. All positions are elective, the purpose being to keep them responsible to the people directly instead of to the governor. The faults of a system in which judicial position must depend upon political acumen and power are easily apparent, but it cannot be said that it has worked very badly in Texas. The railroad commission, which is partly judicial and partly legislative, may be assigned to this branch of government, but its powers have already been stated.

Little or nothing need be said about the ordinary county and municipal systems of government, except that they are essentially the same as exist in the older states of the South. Public notice has been widely attracted to the new "commission plan" of municipal government, first devised at Galveston as a result of the crisis produced by the terrible storm of 1900. The ''Galveston idea'' was simply to elect from the city at large a small number of men who would take entire charge of the administration. This did away with obscure ward bosses and aldermen, those old plagues of city government, and tended to the selection of men of general prominence and ability. The plan has been followed with modifications in a number of other cities both in Texas and in other parts of the Union and with general satisfaction. It seems, therefore, that Texas is to give to the world another advanced principle of government.

Educational System and Social Conditions.

Something has already been said of the endowments in public land provided for the schools of Texas by the founders of the Republic and the state. Little was realized from these lands in the early days, and such schools as were in existence were supported chiefly by taxation. The first regular system of public free schools began in 1854. The office of state superintendent was created in 1866. Since that time the office has several times been abolished and reestablished, but it has now become a permanent part of the state administration. Normal schools for the training of teachers, high schools and colleges have been added gradually until there is something like a systematic arrangement of public schools.

The present system may be outlined briefly. At its head stands the University of Texas, organized in 1883, located at Austin, with the medical department at Galveston, having a teaching force of 150 and a total enrollment of over 2,500 students of both sexes. Its highest governing body is a board of regents appointed by the governor. The regents select the president of the university and with his advice the professors and instructors. Neither the university nor any of its officers have control over the schools of lower grade, except in so far as it establishes a standard of preparation for the admission of its students. The university is supported by the income from its lands and notes to the amount of about $100,000, and by appropriations from the legislature, an amount that is variable but never excessive. Despite handicaps, it is growing in power, civic usefulness and sound scholarship.

Next to the university stands the Agricultural and Mechanical College, organized in 1876 and located near Bryan. It has an enrollment of about 600 men, and is doing work of the highest grade in fitting them for scientific farming, stock-raising, engineering and the mechanical industries. It is supported chiefly by legislative appropriations and receives from the United States an annual appropriation of $25,000 for the teaching of agriculture and the mechanic arts. An experiment station connected with the college is also supported by the Federal government. The governing body of the college is a board of directors appointed by the governor. At Prairie View is the Normal and Industrial College for colored youths. It is under the management of the board of directors of the Agricultural and Mechanical College. The state now supports three normal schools for teachers—at Huntsville, Denton and San Marcos. There is also at Denton the Industrial Institute and College for girls. There are a number of schools maintained for the unfortunates of the state, at Austin the Institute for the Blind, the Deaf and Dumb Institute, and at Corsicana the State Orphans' Home. The support accorded these is fairly liberal and they are rapidly growing in usefulness.

High schools are to be found in practically every town and are growing with astonishing rapidity in number, attendance of pupils and efficiency of work. About 140 are affiliated with the University of Texas, their graduates being admitted to the latter without examination, and more are being added to the list every year despite the constant raising of the standard of work. They are supported in the same way as the schools of lower grade in their districts, partly by the income from the state school fund, mostly by local taxation. These lower grade schools are of two kinds, those depending wholly upon the revenue from the general school fund and those in "independent" districts organized for the levying of a special tax. The former are country schools and usually run only about three to four months in the year. The self-taxing districts are both in the country and the towns, yet a distinction, enforced by the present law, exists between these two. While the incorporated towns may levy a tax of five-tenths per cent., the districts not so incorporated or incorporated only as school districts can levy only two-tenths of one per cent. on the valuation of property. An injustice is thereby worked upon the country child whose school term averages less than six months while that of the more favored runs nine months. Effort is being made to blot out this distinction, and the next two years will probably see it accomplished.

Any consideration of the educational system of Texas would be incomplete without some reference to the work of the numerous and influential denominational and private schools, some of which antedate the first public school. Limitations of space, however, forbid more than a mere enumeration here. Baylor University at Waco, founded in 1845 as a small Baptist college at Independence, "Washington county, is the oldest and largest. It is under the control of the Baptist Church. Next to Baylor in size is the Southwestern University at Georgetown, located there in 1873 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, after futile efforts to maintain a school elsewhere. The Christian Church maintains the Texas Christian University at Waco, the Presbyterians Trinity University at Waxahacie and Daniel Baker College at Brownwood. The Catholics have a half dozen schools, the largest being St. Edward's College at Austin. There are fully two score or more of church and private schools, some of college grade. The work they have done and are doing for Texas is attested by their thousands of ex-students, who form a part of the most influential citizenship of the state.

One may say that the educational interests of Texas are being well looked after. Much remains to be done, for schools are costly necessities and money is never easy to obtain. However, the Texas State Teachers' Association and the Conference for Education in Texas, comprising both teachers and laymen, are doing much effective work to this end.

Her schools and churches and her new industrial opportunities have wrought great changes in Texas within the past quarter of a century. She has ceased to be a frontier state and has become agricultural with a law-abiding and fairly homogeneous population. Some good people in the East still insist that every Texan carries a deadly six-shooter and revels in "fire-water." Homicides are decreasing in Texas year by year, stringent laws forbid the carrying of concealed weapons and restrict the sale of them. Saloons are rapidly disappearing under the operation of the local option law. Three-fourths of Texas is "dry." A proposition for state prohibition was endorsed in the summer of 1908 by a majority of more than three thousand votes, and almost the sole argument against it was that the local option system would be more effective in the long run. These are cited only as indications of the trend of things in Texas. She is looking to the future with the confidence of vigorous youth.

Bibliography.—Gammel: Laws of Texas; Lane, J. J.: History of Education in Texas; Lubbock, F. R.: Six Decades in Texas; Wooten, R. G.: Comprehensive History of Texas; Townes on Texas Pleading; War of the Rebellion, Official Records; Twelfth Census of the United States; Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association (Vol. XL); Annual Reports of the Texas Railroad Commission; Executive Correspondence and Executive Records (MSS. in Texas State Archives); various newspapers in Texas State Library.

Charles William Ramsdell,
Instructor in History, University of Texas; Corresponding Secretary Texas State Historical Association.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus