Sherman Democrat Report of Picnic 1885 Continued
The old Texas was not the man of modern machinery and co-operation, worshiping the
visible agencies of Force and Power. His marked individuality could not be merged and
lost in the association or syndicate. Persally [abbr: Personally] responsible for his
undertakings, taught to carry his life in his hands, and to look upon danger as the eagle
looks upon the sun, he was as free and self-reliant on his wide praires, as a highland
chieftain on his native hearth. He formed no rings or combinations to rob his fellow-man
through the forms of law, and shielded not his own estate behind that modern house or
refuge--that corporation. If he robbed you at all it was direct and at his own personal
risk. But his neighbor lived in no dread of his cunning and invidious plots to steal away
his home and the happiness of his household. Except when the gentle moonlight gave
warning of the fierce approach of the Marauding Indian, the old Texan slept with open
doors and with unlatched stables. Jails and prison houses were of slow growth in the
atmosphere of Texas. We heard then of no insoluble problems, concerning "convict
labor," nor of "syndicates and corporations outside of Texas," monopolizing
the grass and lands. The virgin soil was here, carpeted with its flowers and verdure, and
the land was blessed with skies as bright and a climate as gentle as that of Italy. Each
individual was expected to defend his person and fireside, and to work out his destiny by
his own courage and prowess, and woe to the laggard who places his trust in a passing
Hercules. For there was no appeal then, in every slight of emergency, to the strong arm
of a paternal government, nor to the stealthy and mysterious power of the secret
This study of self-reliance, engendered by the hardships of frontier life, stamped itself upon our national character,--for remember, Texas was a nation before she became State of the Union. No people ever impressed their traits and characteristics more visibly upon their laws and institutions, than did the founders of the Texan government. Modeling their form of government upon that of the United States, as the one calculated to secure the largest degree of personal freedom, they were equally happy in the enactment of laws for the regulation of their domestic conduct. Not being an English colony they were not hampered by the precedents and iron forms of the common law. Whatever was best adapted to their circumstances, in the "Code Napoleon," was literally appropriated; and many portions of cilil law, derived from Spain, expecially those which emancipated women from the disabilities of coverture, under the feudalisms of the common law, were retained. Thus we have the laws regulating the community estate of husband and wife, by which she is given an equal share of the accumulations of their joint labor; and the whole of her separate estate is secured to her use, without the intervention of trustees.
But the chivalrous devotion of the Texan to the sex did not end here, but originated a father protection, in the enactment of the homestead exemption laws--a thing then unknown to the legislation of any country. This just and humane legislation, for which Texas set the example, and for which, I am sure, the whole world of women are grateful to the fathers of Texas, has been followed by many of the States of the Union, and partially by all of them. Something more than a dozen of them designate a given number of acres of land as a homestead, secure from the misfortunes and reverses of life, ranging from 40 to 160 acres; but none of them designate the full amount of 200 acres, which Texas has always exempted. And whilst all of States and Territories exempt property of a certain value, nont of them exceed $5,000, the amount exempted by us for an urban homestead. It can be truly said that Texas, the inventor and originator of the legal legal homestead, still exempts to the loved ones of the household, a larger amount of property than any other State or Territory in the Union.
With characteristic cotempt for all forms and ceremony, Texas very early abolished all distinction in forms of procedure, in courts of law and equality; and the wisdom of this departure, in what Tennyson calls "the lawless science of our law" has been seen and followed in the courts of many of the States.
Texas early saw the necessity for popular education, in the preservation of a free and enlightened form of government; and so declared in their Declaration of Independence--the gage of battle thrown down to the ungrateful mother country. When annexed to the Union the State retained control of her public lands, which she wisely devoted to the encouragement of immigration and the building of internal improvements, but principally to the erection of eleomosinary institutions, and the endowment of a system of public education, which, in its perfection and full development, will be the peculiar pride and glory of our people, enabling all, even the humblest to partake of the sweets of knowledge, from the first draughts of the common district school to the classic forms of an unrivaled university.
But it was as a citizen-soldier that the independence and self-reliance of the original Texan shown forth with heroic splendor. When banded into a little undisciplined army, they were the instrument by which God worked out the miracles of the Texan revolution. Miracles! for God has not withdrawn his guiding hand from the protection of his children. The student of history recognizes it everywhere, but especially in the history of our own country.
Behold the Alamo and San Jacinto! Who can look upon them and say that the God of Israel is not still the Lord of Hosts! The martyrdom of the Alamo was more than human--it was divine. It was a manisfestation of the Divine Agony in giving birth to the new forms of our social existence.
"The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church." The blood of the Alamo was necessary to Texas,--and to the world.
Oh, the wild charge of the brave Texans as they rushed upon their toes and shouted, "Remember the Alamo." Then was born the youth, youngest of republics, a new flag was floated to the breeze, a new and lone star, never seen of men before, blazed forth in the political skies.
"Remember the Alamo!" It was a shriek of deliverance--a shout of victory! It was the birth-cry of a new born nation! It was the voice of Jehovah speaking into existence a new State, destined to supplement and complete the work of the Pilgrim Fathers! And San Jacinto! How insignificant it seems to us now, in its details! Only a hand full of troops--1,500 of the army of invasion and 783 Texans, poorly armed and equipped for serious warefare. A mere skirmish in the swamps of our coast country! And yet, how mighty and far-reaching in its results! It was one of the decisive battles of the world. It was the Marathon of modern history. Waterloo, with its kings and emperors, its crowns and empires, was not more decisive of the fate of Europe than San Jacinto was of the fate of the western hemisphere. In its results, it demonstrated man's capacity for self-government, over a limitless extent of territory, peopled by millions of population, of every race and complexion.
Permit me to say why San Jacinto stands out as one of the mountain tops of history. It alone enabled the United Stated of the north and the nations of Europe to officially recognize the previously declared independence of the infant republic. At that time the most important even in history of the United States, after the successful termination of the Revolutionary War, was the purchose in 1803m frfom the First Consul of France, of that vast territory, known as the Louisiana Purchase. its boundaries were not well defined, and Texas having been bought and sold as the exigencies of European diplomacy required, the government at Washington set up a vague and indefinite claim to its territory, as a part of the Lousiana Purchase. But the claims ofthe Spanish crown were thought to be superior; and subsequently in 1819, in the extinguishment of the title of S;ain to Florida, the United States, by solemn treaty stipulation, relinquished all claims whatever to Texas. She then became the property of the haughty Castillian, by an absolute title guaranteed by the strongest government on this continent, and acquiesced in, by the nations of Europe. The successful struggle of the Mexican colonies, which soon followed, to throw off the Spanish yoke and adopt a constitution, left Texas a part of Mexico by a title as perfect as that of our government to any state of the Union. This then was the attitude of the government of the United States towards Texas, at the beginning of her revolution. Ignorantly, or unmindful, of the vast resources and marvelous capacity of this broad land, they had solemnly treated away every shadow of claim to the sovereignty of Texas, for the orange groves and everglades of Florida. Hence the inestimable value of San Jacinto--for nothing but victory to the Texan arms--victory complete, decisive, overwhelming--just such a victory as San Jacinto, only, presents, could have justified the United States in the eyes of civilized nations in officially recognizing Texas independence.
Acknowledgement of the independence of Texas led inevitably to annexation, as the larger attracts the smaller body. Texas was an orphan among nations--a maiden in the forest, whose beauty and riches excited the cupidity of kingdoms and republics alike. In her helplessness, it was natural that she should turn to the mother of her colonists, who had so gloriously inauguraged and consummatedher successful revolution. her appeal was not unheeded. Before her cry for protection from the sisterhood of States, the white plume of Henry Clay went down, never to rise again in the ascendant. Henceforth, her destiny was to be that of the Great Republic, which still exists to refute all previous speculations upon the art of government and the divine rights of annointed rulers.
It was a sublime spectacle. A sovereign State, whose independence was disputed by the defeated mother country only, voluntarily and gladly yielding the dear insignia of her sovereignty. But she was building wiser than she knew. She had been taught in a different school of thought, and knew not that she was yielding her crown jewels to the strong arm of the giant. From the foundation of the American government, there had been two theries [corr: theories] of interpretation running through her institutions, of equal power and in perpetual conflict, like the twin spirits of good and evil in the Parsce religion. The very constitution of the fathers, that compendium of political wisdom, was a compromise between these conflicting principles. The one taught a Nation, with the power of self-preservation and of armed coercion--the other taught a league of sovereign States, yielding nothing of their autonomy, ex. [abbr: except] what was "nominated in the bond." The young republic, being in a southern land and born beneath southern skies, believed in this latter doctrine, while yielding her crown of soverignty at the feet of the great Nation.
Old Settlers Association (Grayson County, Tex.). Old Settler's Association of Grayson County, Vol. 1.. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth11279/. Accessed January 25, 2015.