The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978 Page: 284
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
to go to Mexico for the duration of the Civil War. During this travel he
studied both Spanish and Mexican law. Upon returning to Texas Alex-
ander was appointed state attorney general by Hamilton. General
Charles Griffin, commander of the Fifth Military District, chose the for-
mer Kentuckian to fill the same office in 1867, but differences of opinion
with Governor Pease caused Alexander to resign his post in October of
that year. Davis selected him for the same position in 1870 and this ten-
ure of office was completed in 1874 without interruption. In writing to
General Griffin in 1867, Pease described Alexander as having been a
practicing Texas lawyer "for upwards of twenty years .... a thorough
Radical, one of the best educated men in the State ... [with] few equals
in his profession." William Alexander died on February 16, 1882, in
Austin, Texas, about seven years after the events described on these
Alexander's purpose in writing the bogus letter was to embarrass
Democrats by lampooning their political attitudes, objectives, and style.
To do this, the prankster adopted the manner of address of a high Dem-
ocratic official writing to other leading members of his party on behalf
of an elite group. The purpose was to advise the party establishment on
how to control three potentially dissident elements of the party-young
aspirants for office, Grangers, and newspapers. The condition which ne-
cessitated this advice was the lack of Republican opposition, a necessary
ingredient for maintenance of party discipline.
The former attorney general's circular clearly fits Chaucer's maxim,
"Many a true word is spoken in jest."3 Indeed, the circumstances which
made Democrats vulnerable to Alexander's wit have not been adequate-
ly explored by historians. In ridiculing young politicians, Grangers, and
newspapers, the Republican joker scored against a deeply divided Dem-
ocratic party by exposing the source of its division. He gained political
advantage by pointing out several areas of friction within the party. The
tenderest spot, however, was the growing split between the Democratic
party establishment and the Grangers.4 In the 1875 election, the Patrons
2E. M. Pease to General Charles Griffin, July 22, 1867, Giaham-Pease Collection, quoted
in James A Baggett, "Biith of the Texas Republican Party," Southwestern Historical Quat-
terly, LXXVIII (July, 1974), 7; Walter Prescott Webb, H. Bailey Carroll, and Eldon Stephen
Branda (eds.), The Handbook of Texas (3 vols.; Austin, 1952, 1976), III, 16-17; Austin
Daily Statesman, February 19, 1882; National Archives, Recoid Group 393, Department of
Texas, Letters Sent, Letter Book li, 5MD, p. 331.
3This is a modern rendering of Chaucer's line: "Ful ofte in game a sooth I haue herd
seye." John M. Manly and Edith Rickert (eds.), The Text of the Canterbury Tales: Stud-
ied on the Basis of All Known Manuscripts (8 vols.; Chicago, 1940), IV, 220 (line 3154).
4In particular, see Roscoe C. Martin, "The Grange as a Political Factor in Texas," South-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 81, July 1977 - April, 1978, periodical, 1977/1978; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101205/m1/324/: accessed September 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.