The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984 Page: 394
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
as well as personal melodrama. These had made him one of the great
legendary figures of the age.2
As early as 1854, Houston had aroused Walter's amused admiration
by making verbal attacks on Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, Walter's
rival. Meigs, of the Corps of Army Engineers, tangled with the architect
many times through the 185os for authority over the Capitol project.
Walter wrote from Washington in 1854: "Old Sam Houston is here,
and I heard he has hooked fingers with old Early to slaughter Cap.
Meigs-I am told that a shot was fired this morning in the Senate..."3
Houston was a thorn in the side of the Capitol work. In several long
addresses he made his fellow senators roar with laughter as he made
mock in particular of the building's allegorical sculpture. While
Walter might otherwise have objected, he seems to have been grateful
for the trouble Houston gave Meigs, even though Houston's attacks
were really only a way of getting at Meigs's devoted patron, Jefferson
Davis, chairman of the building committee. A special source of irrita-
tion to Houston, Senator Davis was powerful in the transformed Demo-
cratic party, which had increasingly little use for the Jacksonian Hous-
ton and his improbable presidential ambitions.4
During the Kansas-Nebraska controversy of 1854, Houston's strong
stand for preserving the Missouri Compromise turned the leaders of
the Democratic party entirely against him. In January, 1854, the month
the Kansas bill was presented in the Senate, architect Walter wrote to
his sister: "Tell father that old Sam Houston is here showing his teeth
and growling from the bottom of his stomach, but so that he does
nothing worse, I shall be satisfied.""
Five years later, at the beginning of 1859, Houston was thinking
about a comfortable retirement in Texas. Defeated in a bid for the
governorship of the state in 1856, he had waited out the balance of
2Henry-Russell Hitchcock and William Seale, Temples of Democracy: The State Capi-
tols of the USA (New York, 1976), 124, 13o-131, 138, 141, 144-146; James Q. Howard,
"The Architects of the American Capitol," International Review, I (Nov., 1874), 752-753.
sDunbar Rowland (ed.), Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist: His Letters, Papers, and
Speeches (1o vols.; Jackson, Miss., 1923), II, 194, 367-368; Hitchcock and Seale, Temples
of Democracy, 130-131, 137-138; Thomas U. Walter to John Rice, Jan. 3, 1854, Thomas
U. Walter Papers (The Athenaeum of Philadelphia).
4Llerena Friend, Sam Houston, the Great Designer (Austin, 1954), 192-196, 234-235,
24o-242, 258, 270, 298; Congressional Globe, 35th Cong., ist Sess., 1858, pt. 3:2463; Row-
land (ed.), Jefferson Davis, II, 330-332, 417, 486, III, 11o, 122, IV, 502.
5Friend, Sam Houston, 227-233; Thomas U. Walter to Martha S. Walter, Jan. lo, 1854,
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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/m1/462/: accessed November 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.