The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999 Page: 442
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
stereotypes" regarding Texas Germans: that they "(1) did not own slaves,
(2) favored the abolitionist cause, (3) were morally opposed to slavery,
and (4) harbored Unionist sentiments," all of which he claims were
"inaccurate" when applied to "many or most" ordinary Texas Germans.
Jordan is certainly correct in disputing that Germans were fully united
on any of these issues, but as will be shown below, he goes too far in his
revisions, and exaggerates the degree to which Germans agreed with
Anglo Texans on issues such as slavery, race, secession, and Civil War.2
Neither Jordan nor anyone else has dug deeply into the local press for
precinct-level voting returns or other evidence of German attitudes
toward the Confederacy, nor has anyone examined closely patterns of
German slaveholding in relation to overall property holdings.
One must beware of geographical determinism in explaining the
regional differences among Texas Germans in slave ownership or sup-
port for secession. Although geographic conditions in the Hill Country
may have discouraged slavery, Jordan's own work shows that in three
counties where 11 percent of the Anglo families owned slaves, not a sin-
gle German did. According to Jordan, lack of capital was the main factor
that restricted slaveholding among Germans in eastern Texas. Indeed, a
recent study has documented some sixty Germans in the older settle-
ments in Austin, Fayette, and Colorado Counties who did own slaves
between 1840 and 1865. Still, despite the strong presence of Germans
in these counties they made up less than 5 percent of the local slaveown-
ers (Table 1). Moreover, at every level of wealth, a higher proportion of
Anglos than Germans owned slaves. For example, among persons worth
between $3,000 and $6,ooo, more than half of the Anglos but barely 2
percent of the Germans were slaveowners. People of the servant-keeping
class in Germany, especially those from the East Elbian nobility, were
especially prone to slaveholding. But even among those worth more
than $15,000, only half of the Germans owned slaves, in contrast to 92
percent of the American-born in the same financial class. Moreover,
Germans typically held fewer slaves; they made up 4 percent of the slave-
owners but possessed only 2 percent of the slaves in the area. Granted,
slaveholding was a voluntary act among Germans unless they married
into an Anglo family, whereas many Anglo-Americans in Texans inherit-
ed slaves rather than purchasing them outright. But contrasts of this
2 Terry Jordan, German Seed in Texas Soil (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1966). Jordan's
later work is simply a more systematic restatement of his earlier interpretations without any addi-
tional evidence; see Jordan, "Germans and Blacks in Texas," in Randall Miller (ed.), States of
Progress: Germans and Blacks in America over 300 Years (Philadelphia: German Society of
Pennsylvania, 1989), 89-97, quote on 96. The beginnings of a reinterpretation were already sig-
naled by Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas, I83zr-861 (Austin:
Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1930). See also Biesele, "German Attitudes toward the Civil War," which
was apparently reprinted posthumously and unrevised in Ron C. Tyler, Douglas E. Barnett, Roy
R. Barkley, Penelope C. Anderson, and Mark F. Odintz (eds.), The New Handbook of Texas (6 vols.;
Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996), III, 138-39.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999, periodical, 1999; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/m1/513/: accessed October 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.