The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969 Page: 450
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
"in getting fat printing contracts."' Notwithstanding the charges of
conservative southern historians and the accusations of contemporary
opponents, Newcomb endorsed Radical Reconstruction for reasons
other than greed and ambition. His support, in fact, represented a
logical extension of his early political development. Tracing his career
from the 1850's through the war and into Reconstruction reveals
that he became a Radical Republican not merely because he wished
to obtain "fat printing contracts" or to satisfy a craving for public
office, but primarily because he had waged a long struggle in defense
of the Union and had no desire to see the battle lost when victory
appeared clearly in view.
Born in Nova Scotia in 1837, Newcomb came to Texas with his
family in 1839. His father, Thomas Newcomb, had been a successful
lawyer and newspaperman in Halifax. The Newcombs settled in Vic-
toria, where Thomas Newcomb developed a fairly extensive law
practice, handling cases in Victoria, Corpus Christi, San Antonio
(where the family moved in 1847), and surrounding towns. In 1842
he became district attorney for the Western District of the Republic
of Texas, a position he held until annexation.' After Thomas New-
comb died during a cholera epidemic in 1849, his son lived with
foster parents. Young James completed his education in private schools.
At one of these institutions he came into contact with X. B. Saunders,
a devoted Unionist and later a Radical Republican, who seems to have
been partly responsible for instilling in Newcomb an unwavering
dedication to the Union. While attending school, Newcomb took
part-time jobs as a printer's "devil" (apprentice), for two San Antonio
newspapers, the Western Texan and the Ledger. Soon dissatisfied with
this position, he decided to edit his own newspaper. In March of
1854, at the age of sixteen, he began publication of the Alamo Star.
When this enterprise collapsed in January of the following year, he
persuaded J. M. West, an older, more experienced newspaperman, to
4Wallace, Texas in Turmoil, 201.
'Certificate dated January 1, 1838, signed by J[ames] S. Morse, Attorney and Barrister
of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia; English and Blackador, Editors and Publishers of
the Halifax Acadian Recorder, to Thomas Newcomb, September 21, 1839; Thomas J.
Devine to Thomas Newcomb, December 24, 1845; H[enry] M. L[ewis] to Thomas New-
comb, February 25, 1848; James M. Manning to Eliza Newcomb, January 27, 1850 (Thomas
Newcomb Papers and Letters, San Antonio Public Library); Frederick C. Chabot, With
the Makers of San Antonio (San Antonio, 1937), 353-354; and Bethuel M. Newcomb,
Andrew Newcomb, 1618-686, and His Descendents (New Haven, 1923), 313-315.
6Diary of James P. Newcomb, passim; James P. Newcomb, "Composition Book" (James
P. Newcomb Papers, Archives, University of Texas Library).
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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/m1/522/: accessed September 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.