UHlioHism i& zeas, 1856-1861
FRANK H. SMYRL
U NIONISM STEMMED PRIMARILY FROM THE PATRIOTIC AND
sentimental desire to prove to mankind that a republican
form of government could maintain itself. In 1856, how-
ever, some Texans were Unionists for more tangible reasons.
Economic ties with Northern manufacturers would break, at
least temporarily, if secession became a fact, and secession threat-
ened a war that would mean confusion and abnormal conditions
no matter who the victor. A Southern nation would create new
problems of great diversity, and it seemed probable to many
moderate Southerners that the "fire-eating" element would cer-
tainly gain the ascendancy in government if disunion occurred.
Unionism seemed to them the wiser course of action, or inaction.
The most obvious expression of Unionism prevalent in Texas
in 1856 was membership and activity in the American or Know
Nothing Party. Until then the party had been covered with a
shadow of secrecy, causing many to look on it with a suspecting
eye. But the state platform of that year included a section
advocating an end to "all secrecy, obligations, passwords, and
signs."' Section II of the platform, one of the cardinal principles
of the organization, was a positive statement of Union senti-
ment. It called for
The preservation and perpetuation of the Constitution and the
Federal Union as the bulwark of our liberties in war, and a prime
source of National greatness and individual happiness, and hence:
first, opposition to the formation or encouragement of sectional or
geographical parties-at this time the most threatening adversary to
The organization counted among its members some of the
state's most respected citizens. R. E. B. Baylor" was chosen its
1San Antonio Weekly Herald, February 6, 1856.
2E. W. Winkler (ed.), Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin, 1916), 69;
San Antonio Weekly Herald, February 6, 1856.
'Baylor was the founder of Baylor University as well as a respected lawyer.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 68, July 1964 - April, 1965. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101198/. Accessed June 2, 2015.