The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 358
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358 Southwestern Historzcal Quarterly
this time with congressional direction and military supervision. Soon
thereafter, in the ultimate demonstration of how badly the Lincoln-
Johnson approach had failed, many of the officials elected on June 25,
1866, including Gov. James W. Throckmorton, would lose their posi-
tions to military appointees.2
Presidential Reconstruction in Texas failed for many reasons, not all
of which arose from within the Lone Star State. The political ineptitude
of President Johnson, the determination of Radical Republican leaders
like Thaddeus Stevens, and developments across the eleven states of
the old Confederacy all contributed. Nevertheless, many Texans them-
selves, voters and officeholders alike, maintained attitudes and pursued
policies that almost guaranteed the failure of what has been called
"self-reconstruction" in 1866-1867.'
Among those elected on June 25, 1866, were twenty district judges
who, though not so important as Throckmorton and other key political
leaders, played a major role in determining the fate of Texas's new gov-
ernment. Under the Constitution of 1866, state district courts had
original jurisdiction in all felony cases and all civil suits involving claims
of $1oo or more and appellate jurisdiction over county courts. The
judges of those courts had relatively long tenure on the bench (eight-
year terms) and good salaries ($3,5oo annually).4 In a state notable for
its lawlessness, and at a time when many civil grievances left over from
the war remained in litigation, district judges enjoyed great power.
They had greater immediate impact on many people across the state
than did the governor or the legislature. Therefore, this study exam-
ines the district judges elected on June 25, 1866, with the intention of
determining who they were, how they won office, and how they con-
ducted themselves on the bench. Their story helps answer several
major questions about conditions in Texas during the first two years
2The best general account of the major events of the congressional takeover at the national
level is Eric Foner, Reconstructzon: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York:
Harper & Row, 1988). Ramsdell, Reconstruction in Texas, 145-199, describes events in Texas in
1867, including the removal of Throckmorton. The governor's role is presented sympathet-
ically m Claude Elliott, Leathercoat: The Life History of a Texas Patriot (San Antonio: Standard
Printing Co., 1938), 99-178.
sThe best accounts of the failure of Presidential Reconstruction across the South are Carter,
When the War Was Over, and Foner, Reconstruction, 176-227. Where the Lone Star State in par-
ticular was concerned, Ramsdell, Reconstructzon in Texas, 141, blamed the failure on Congress
rather than Texans themselves, but m recent years revisionist works have questioned this con-
clusion. See, for example, Owens, "Presidential Reconstruction m Texas," and Richard [R.]
Moore, "Radical Reconstruction: The Texas Choice," East Texas HistoricalJournal, XVI, No. 1
(1978), 15-23. Revisionism has begun to appear m the state's best college-level text, Rupert
Norval Richardson, Ernest Wallace, and Adrian N. Anderson, Texas: The Lone Star State (5th
ed.; Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1988), 229-235, but the tendency still is to blame the
failure on developments across the South, rather than to emphasize the situation in Texas.
4H. P. N. Gammel (comp.), The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897 ... (io vols.; Austin: Gammel
Book Co., 1898), V, 865-867.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/414/: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.