The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984 Page: 152
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
At least four distinct explanations have been offered for the se-
cession of Texas. In 1863 James P. Newcomb, a Texas unionist who
had fled north, summed up the opinion of many contemporary ob-
servers of secession when he published his Sketch of Secession Times in
Texas. Newcomb attributed secession to a conspiracy led by a handful
of radical and self-serving Texans who duped the public into believing
slavery and southern rights could only be preserved by secession. Ever
since, the tendency to ascribe secession to a small band of plotters or,
depending upon one's point of view, a group of vigilant patriots, has
been a persistent theme in secession studies.2 In the early twentieth
century, troubled by secession in Texas, Charles William Ramsdell
put forward a second interpretation. In his essay on "The Frontier and
Secession," Ramsdell argued that not only did its frontier environment
make Texas different from other southern states, but that in some
ways the state's peculiar local conditions and pragmatic concerns
created an impetus for secession. According to Ramsdell, not just con-
cern for slavery but also bitter resentment of the federal government's
failure to provide adequate protection from Indian attack caused fron-
tiersmen to accept secession.3 In the 1950s, following the lead of
Avery O. Craven, interpreters of secession in Texas examined the
An Almanac, 1861-I865 (New York, 1971), 701, 702, 709-712. For evidence that the vast
majority of Texas voters clustered around the political center see Francis Richard Lub-
bock, Six Decades in Texas; or, Memoirs of Francis Richard Lubbock, Governor of Texas
in War Time, z86z-63. A Personal Experience in Business, War, and Politics, ed. C[ad-
well] W. Raines (Austin, 1900oo), 179-313; Standard (Clarksville), Aug. 6, 13, 20, Nov. 5,
Dec. 17, 1859, Oct. 13, 20, 27, 186o, Jan. 19, 26, 1861; True Issue (La Grange), Aug. 6, 13,
1859, Jan. 1o, 17, 24, 1861. On the economic boom in Texas see Lewis Cecil Gray, History
of Agriculture in the Southern United States to z86o (2 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1933), II,
905-907; Raymond E. White, "Cotton Ginning in Texas to 1861," Southwestern Historical
Quarterly (SHQ), LXI (Oct., 1957), 257-269; Vera Lea Dugus, "Texas Industry, 186o-188o,"
ibid., LIX (Oct., 1955), 151-157-
2James P. Newcomb, Sketch of Secession Times in Texas and Journal of Travel from
Texas through Mexico to California, including a History of the "Box Colony" (San Fran-
cisco, 1863), 1-12. On Newcomb see Dale A. Somers, "James P. Newcomb: The Making of
a Radical," SHQ, LXXII (Apr., 1969), 449-469; Roy Sylvan Dunn, "The KGC in Texas,
186o-1861," ibid., LXX (Apr., 1967), 543-573. For other contemporaries who believed se-
cession to be the work of conspirators and demagogues see J[ohn] T. Sprague, The
Treachery in Texas, the Secession of Texas, and the Arrest of the United States Officers
and Soldiers Serving in Texas (New York, 1862); Sam Houston, "Speech at Brenham,"
Mar. 31, 1861, The Writings of Sam Houston, 18z3-1863, ed. Amelia W. Williams and
Eugene C. Barker (8 vols.; Austin, 1938-1943), VIII, 295-299. For later studies that also
stress the role of heroes and anti-heroes see Edward R. Maher, "Secession in Texas" (Ph.D.
diss., Fordham University, 196o); Leonard Bailey, "Unionist Editors in Texas during the
Secession Crisis" (M.A. thesis, Texas Southern University, 1973); Oran Lonnie Sinclair,
"Crossroads of Conviction: A Study of the Texas Political Mind, 1856-1861" (Ph.D. diss.,
Rice University, 1975)-
3Charles William Ramsdell, "The Frontier and Secession," Studies in Southern History
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984, periodical, 1983/1984; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/m1/188/: accessed March 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.