Description

    Secession and the question of slavery in Texas

    George Washington Smyth Archive spanning the years 1860 through 1869 contains four letters, two papers, a proclamation against secession, a loyalty oath, a freedman contract for work, and a booklet containing Congressional speeches.

    George Washington Smyth (1803-1866) was born in North Carolina and came to Texas in 1828. During the 1830s, he served as a land surveyor, land commissioner, and as the first judge of Bevil Municipality. He was elected to the Convention of 1836 and was one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. He, along with his wife and children, were involved in the famous "Runaway Scrape." Following the Revolution, he was appointed to the boundary commission by Texas President Mirabeau Lamar to determine the location of the Texas-Mexico border. Beginning in 1853, he served one term in the Unites States House of Representatives. Smyth was an outspoken opponent of secession (though he himself was a slave owner), however some of his sons served in the Confederate Army. He was a delegate of the Constitutional Convention of 1866 and died in Austin on February 21, 1866.

    One of the more exciting pieces of this collection is the handwritten proclamation dated Wednesday, July 4, 1860, and addressed to his "Fellow Citizens" arguing against the Democratic State Convention's Galveston platform of April 1860 which aimed at secession of the state. It reads in part: "I deny the truth of the proposition here enumerated, and allege; that in becoming a member of the Union, Texas parted with her sovereignty to the full extent embraced in the second clause of the sixth Article of the Constitution, but no further."

    Letters

    [Civil War]. Autograph Letter Signed "Geo. W. Smyth." Four pages on blue, lined paper, 10" x 8", Jasper [Texas], October 1, 1861, to his son regarding the life and works of Thomas Jefferson. It reads, in part: "I send you the miniature portrait of one of the founders and early apostles of the liberty of his country. Thomas Jefferson with his 'rules for the conduct of practical life.' No one who will practice these rules faithfully, can fail to be respectable." Of the current war, he writes: "You and your young friends are now in a situation entirely new to you. No doubt it has its privations, some o which will go a little hard with you, particularly, at first." He encourages his son to write often, but not to use his lengthy letter "as a specimen. As a general rule, I expect to write short letters, and do not expect long ones in reply." Smoothed folds and wrinkling. Damage to the bottom right corner has removed portions of the text. Light staining at the bottom corner of the last page.

    Partial Autograph Letter Signed by George W. Smyth (Son) to His Brother Joseph G. Smyth. Two pages, 8.5" x 11'' on "Office of Sabine Tram Company" letterhead, Beaumont [Texas], undated. Only the last two pages are included so a full scope of the letter is impossible to glean, but it regards legal trouble over land. Weakened folds have begun to separate at the edges with minor loss of paper, not affecting the text.

    Autograph Letter Signed to The Civilian editor Hamilton Stuart. Four and one-half pages, 8" x 14", Jasper [Texas], September 8, 1865. Smyth articulates his joy at the revival of the Galveston newspaper The Civilian and argues against another paper's assertion that the South was coerced into secession by the Republican Party. Bound with ribbon at top edge. Water damage at bottom, obscuring some of the text.

    Letter, circa 1860. Three pages, 8" x 13", n. p., n.d. Smyth expresses concern for the hypocrisy he perceives of the people of the South. He also cites the 25th Article of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Case of 1858, and the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Fine condition with minor ink bleeding.

    Papers

    Also in the archive are two handwritten manuscript drafts. The first, four pages, 7.75" x 12.5", traces the path to secession. It reads, in part: The principles of the Democratic Party as proclaimed by Jefferson and Madison and Jackson, have been the cherished principles of my life...but for the first time, secession and disunion have been planted in the democratic platform, and our faith has been challenged and our obedience commanded to these political heresies." The second, sixteen pages and is titled "The Settlement of the Question of Slavery in the Territories Effected by the Compromise Measures of 1850." The paper focuses on the events leading up to the Compromise of 1850, as well as the reasons behind it, to "heal the wounds of a bleeding country, torn by the conflicts of opposing factions."

    Miscellaneous

    Memorandum of Contract between Joseph G. Smyth and Freedmen Workers. Two pages, 10" x 8", December 1869. Contract of employment of freedmen workers on the farm of Joseph G. Smyth for the duration of one year. Very good condition with some folding and a small tear along one fold. There is minor staining on the bottom area of the recto side. [and:] Loyalty Oath to the United States Signed "J. G. Smyth." One page, 10" x 7.75", on "United States of America, State of Texas, Register's Office" letterhead, Jasper County, November 23, 1869. Loyalty oath administered to Smyth's son, Joseph G. Smyth, swearing to have never raised arms against the United States and confirming loyalty to the United States four years after the end of the Civil War. [and:] Autograph Booklet Featuring Extracts from Congressional Speeches. Forty-two pages, 5.5" x 8.5". Each extract is featured with title and date and concerns debates in Congress over the question of slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War. The booklet is in very good condition, with the exception of minor wear on the binding and some ink bleeding. The script is bold and bright.

    Held in a black leather case which is heavily worn and tattered with a broken spine.


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    April, 2012
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