Texas and the Nashville Convention of 1850
T EXAS'S DISPUTE WITH THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OVER THE
Santa Fe area of New Mexico provided one major issue in the
crisis and compromise of 1850. Outspoken southern leaders, not wish-
ing to see the youngest and largest of the slave states lose its claim
to what would almost certainly otherwise become free soil, made the
Texas-New Mexico question a focal point in the North-South contro-
versy. This boundary dispute has somewhat overshadowed the fact
that Texas as a slave state had a deep interest in all aspects of the
crisis of 1850 including the movement for southern unity which was
building toward a premature climax in the Nashville Convention of
The population of Texas was only 212,592 in 185o, but 58,161
or 27 percent of her people were slaves. The "typical" Texan was
not a slaveholder, but as was the case throughout the South, slavery
drew support from the majority of the white population of the state.
Economically, planters and farmers in the Lone Star State were only
beginning to realize on the potential profitability of slave labor in
the production of cotton. Socially, most whites apparently found
slavery a satisfactory system of race relations.' Whatever the reasons,
Texans were willing to join other southerners in defense of the
"Peculiar Institution" in the 1850's and carry this defense to the point
of secession in 1861. Shouldn't a great many Texans have been inter-
ested in 1850 in any move to unite and organize the South to protect
her interests, especially the rights of slavery?
Historians have quite understandably focused their attention on
the boundary dispute as the question of greatest immediate impor-
tance to Texas in the crisis and compromise. Texan reaction to the
movement for southern unity and more particularly to the Nashville
Convention has been generally dismissed from consideration on the
*Mr. Campbell, associate professor of history at North Texas State University, is a
co-author of The Dallas Cowboys and the NFL.
'Population figures are from Rupert N. Richardson et al., Texas: The Lone Star State
(Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1970), 149. For general information on slavery in Texas see also
ibid., 16o-162; Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bel-
lum South (New York, 1956), 3-2, 120o-, o, 18, 194, 213, 225, 408.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101202/. Accessed March 15, 2014.