The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974 Page: 242
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
raid on the United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in mid-Octo-
ber. According to most recent historians writing about state politics of the
period, the shock created by this attack drove Texans from the pro-Union
camp of Houston into the secessionist camp of Wigfall and his kind." A
close examination of the period between Brown's raid and Wigfall's elec-
tion, however, reveals that the abolitionist's incursion was not a factor of
any significance in the United States Senate race in Texas. Wigfall's victory
was primarily the result of the Texas Democrats' desire to redeem the party
from the defeat that it had so recently suffered; to a lesser extent it was a
reward for his service and devotion to the party.
Wigfall, a South Carolinian by birth, came to the Lone Star State in
I846, settling in Marshall and bringing with him his John C. Calhoun
philosophy of states' rights. A lawyer by profession, he entered politics short-
ly after coming to the state. The Marshall area, one of the hotbeds of seces-
sion sentiment in the state, with a large slave population, was hospitable to
Wigfall's radicalism and proved politically profitable to him, electing him to
the state house of representatives in 1849. He served only until December,
I85o, but throughout the I85os he was constantly involved in politics and
was one of the leading figures in organizing the Democratic party into an
effective organization. In the early part of the decade he gained recognition
8Although it is impossible to determine why almost every recent account of Wigfall's
election considers Brown's raid as a significant factor, the idea possibly stems from
Roberts, "Political, Legislative, and Judicial History of Texas," 57-58. Roberts's I898
account states that the raid "aroused the most angry feelings of resentment all over Texas.
It was under the influence of such feelings that the regular Democrats took their seats
in the legislature, determined to send to Congress the most violent partisan in the
state"-Louis T. Wigfall. Roberts was writing over three decades later when he realized
the long-run historical significance of the raid in the I86o-186I crisis. Other contem-
poraries of Roberts in their histories of the period do not tie Wigfall's election to John
Brown's raid. For example see John Henry Brown, History of Texas, From 1685 to 1892
(2 vols.; St. Louis, 1893), 380; Francis R. Lubbock, Six Decades in Texas, or Memoirs
of Francis Richard Lubbock, edited by C. W. Raines (Austin, 1900), 256-258; John H.
Reagan, Memoirs, With Special Reference to Secession and the Civil War (New York,
19go6); and John Salmon Ford, Rip Ford's Texas, edited by Stephen B. Oates (Austin,
1963). Evidently, however, most twentieth-century histories have agreed with Roberts's
assertion that Wigfall's election was a direct result of the raid. For example see Friend,
Sam Houston, 326-327; Ben H. Procter, Not Without Honor: The Life of John H.
Reagan (Austin, 1962), 113-114; King, Louis T. Wigfall, 72; Allan Nevins, The Emer-
gence of Lincoln (2 vols.; New York, I950), II, I13; Seymour V. Connor, Texas: A
History (New York, 1971), Igo-191; Ralph A. Wooster, "Early Texas Statehood: A
Survey of Historical Writings," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LXXVI (October,
1972), 126. Since these recent historians, with the exception of King, do not footnote
back to Roberts, proof that they depended on his account is lacking. Nevertheless, un-
doubtedly all were familiar with Roberts, and he appears to have been the first historian
to tie Wigfall's election to John Brown's raid. The cause-effect relationship between
the election of the fire-eater and the Harpers Ferry incident, seemingly, has become so
widely accepted that it requires no source.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974, periodical, 1973/1974; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/m1/276/: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.