The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969 Page: 2
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
engaged to erect desperately needed buildings on Thomas Affleck's
East Texas plantation, threatened to walk off the job if a certain
unpopular foreman were not fired. In this, as in most like incidents,
the threat failed, for no matter how great the need, the owner refused
"to be dictated to by a group of common laborers."' Yet, on occasion,
such outbursts might prove successful. Late in the era of the Republic,
Galveston seamen took advantage of a shortage of qualified seamen
and a Republic of Texas law requiring that three-quarters of the crew
of ships flying "Texian Colors" be citizens of Texas, to wrest increased
wages from its owner on threat of leaving the craft unmanned.2 In
these and similar cases, no organization existed before, during, or after
the action took place. Indeed, most of the group activity on the part
of workers in the antebellum days was hardly more than immediate
action designed to meet a specific problem or take advantage of a
promising situation, characterized by little prior organization or plan-
ning and with no attempt to maintain the group when the situation
passed. In the kind of economic institution most common in Texas-
small enterprises with no stable labor force-unions, as such, could
not exist. The most common way to gain recourse from a grievance
was a threat to quit-a threat the worker would have to be prepared
to make good because he usually would be fired for such insubordi-
Not all spontaneous group action by workers was motivated by on-
the-job grievances. At a time when the public meeting to protest this
or that was almost a reflex action, it was only natural that workers
would adopt this method to comment on issues which affected them.
When a mechanics' lien law was before the Congress of the Republic
of Texas in January, 1839, "a meeting of the master-workmen and
mechanics generally of Houston" was called "to discuss some matters
relating to the LIEN LAW." It is not known what action the meeting
took, or if it had any effect on the final passage of the law, one of the
first such laws in North America, but apparently there had developed
1Fred C. Cole, "The Texas Career of Thomas Affleck" (Ph.D. dissertation, Louisiana
State University, 1942), 137-138. Thomas Affleck, well-known agricultural reformer and
editor of several agricultural papers, moved from his native Mississippi to near Brenham
in 1858. There he operated a large plantation and established one of the earliest
nurseries in Texas. Walter P. Webb and H. Bailey Carroll (eds.), Handbook of Texas
(2 vols.; Austin, 1952), I, 11.
2R. P. Jones to [the] Cong[ress] of the Republic of Texas, January 11, 1845, Memorials
and Petitions, Congress of the Republic of Texas (Archives, Texas State Library, Austin);
N. H. P. Gammel (comp.), The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897 (o10 vols.; Austin, 1898), II,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969, periodical, 1969; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/m1/18/: accessed May 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.