The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966

)ta#bership i' Early Zeas
Cegislatures, 1850-1860
RALPH A. WOOSTER
N RECENT YEARS INCREASED INTEREST HAS BEEN SHOWN IN
political leadership within the states of the Old South. As
is still true in most cases, the legislature was the most im-
portant branch of state government.' In addition to law-making,
the legislatures of the early ante-bellum period chose nearly all
state officials including the governor. Even after the wave of
democratic reforms of the Jacksonian era, Southern legislatures
continued to wield great power: on the state level by making
laws, appropriating money, supervising expenditures, and regu-
lating county and local government,2 and on the national level
by adopting resolutions on federal relations, electing United
States senators, and frequently instructing congressmen how to
vote. Yet surprisingly little study has been made of particular
state legislatures in the ante-bellum period or of the membership
of such legislative bodies.3 Several logical questions arise con-
cerning the men who exercised such power. Were they slavehold-
ing aristocrats, professional men, or commoners? Were their
connections with the agrarian or mercantile interests? In what
age group did they fall? Were they native-born Southerners, mi-
grant Northerners, or foreign immigrants?
A study of the legislative membership of Texas for the late
ante-bellum period affords some insight into these questions.
1Charles S. Sydnor, The Development of Southern Sectionalism, 1819-1848 (Baton
Rouge, 1948), 44-45. Research for this article was made possible by a grant from
the Lamar State College of Technology Research Committee.
"See for example: V. O. Key, A History of Texas County Government (Master's
thesis, University of Texas, 1930), 46-49, 51-52; Dick Smith, Development of Local
Government Units in Texas (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1938), 34-35.
'Exceptions are Sydnor, Development of Southern Sectionalism, 49-55, in which
attention is devoted to membership of various legislatures in the Jacksonian period;
and Herbert J. Doherty, Jr., The Whigs of Florida (Gainesville, 1959), 68-71, in
which political leadership in the Florida legislature is analyzed.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117144/. Accessed December 25, 2014.