The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957 Page: 245
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AgitatioM i Zexas or
AC opelig the Slave Zrade
EARL W. FORNELL
AGITATION for the repeal of the laws prohibiting the African
slave trade was a prominent subject of discussion in com-
mercial and political conventions throughout the lower
South in the last half of the eighteen fifties.' The Texas delegation
which attended a commercial and slave trade convention in New
Orleans in 1856 voted unanimously for action which would lead
to legalizing the trade.2 Texas delegations voted the same way at
similar conventions held in 1857, 1858, and 1859.3
An early Texas advocate for the repeal of the existing restric-
tions against the African slave trade was Hamilton Stuart, pub-
lisher and editor of the Galveston Civilian. Since Stuart was also
the federal customs collector at the port, and therefore responsible
for enforcing the laws restricting the traffic, a conflict between
duty and interest was clearly present at the customs office of the
only major harbor in Texas. Because of the dynamic character of
politics during these years, however, Stuart at times favored a
policy of acquiring African labor, even though to do so required
the violation of state and federal laws. At other times he opposed
the traffic so long as the laws made the trade illegal and finally,
in 1859, he opposed it categorically. He took the final position in
1859, when he decided to support Sam Houston for the governor-
ship rather than the pro-slave trade candidate, Hardin R. Runnels.
Among the arguments Stuart often marshalled in support of
the advocacy of bringing African labor to the cotton fields of
Texas were citations from the Holy Scriptures which appeared to
indicate that the savage Negro was ordained to be the servant of
1W. E. Burghardt DuBois, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade of the
United States of America, 1638-z870 (New York, 1896), 169. Hereafter cited as
2Houston Telegraph, December 22, 1856.
aDuBois, Slave-Trade, 169-173.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957, periodical, 1957; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/m1/270/?rotate=90: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.