The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998 Page: 322
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
words, the battle between the two parties to control the state after the
Civil War had created an acrimonious political atmosphere that pre-
empted any opportunity for rational, contemplative constitutional
analysis of the issue the case presented; according to the court's detrac-
tors, the court had sacrificed precedent and the rule of law to further
short-term political interests.
Most legal and historical commentators have agreed with the
Democratic evaluation of Ex Parte Rodriguez. Works of Texas history,
studies of Texas government, and later opinions of Texas appellate
courts are replete with negative references to the decision. For exam-
ple, Fehrenbach's popular Texas history book assumes that Rodriguez
resulted from a malevolent Republican conspiracy hatched prior to
the election.3 Texas lawyers still are warned against citing Rodriguez as
precedent and, further, are warned to think twice before citing any
Semicolon Court opinion.4 George Shelley, an attorney, asserted in a
1945 Southwestern Historical Quarterly article that Texas courts should
deny Rodriguez, and perhaps every case decided by the Semicolon
Court, any precedential value.5 A review of Texas case law reveals that
many decisions have indeed followed Shelley's advice.6 Texts used in
state-mandated college government courses teach Texas students
about the evils of Republican-led Reconstruction, and that "injustice,
oppression, and extravagance in government" resulted from the
actions of Governor Edmund J. Davis and the "radical" Twelfth
Legislature "undoubtedly, the worst in the history of the state."7 From
the Democratic perspective, the Semicolon Case simply topped off a
harrowing era in Texas's history.
3 T. R. Fehrenbach, Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans (New York: The Macmillan
Company, 1968), 429-
Later commentators and judges often identified any decision handed down by this court with
the caveat that it was a "Semicolon Court" opinion. Marian Boner, A Reference Guide to Texas Law
and Legal History: Sources and Documentation, 2nd ed. (Austin: Butterworth Pubhshers, 1987), 27;
Oran M. Roberts, "Political, Legislative, and Judicial History of Texas," in Dudley G. Wooten
(ed.), A Comprehensive Hstory of Texas, x865-i897 (2 vols.; Dallas: William G. Scarff, 1898), II,
20o9; James Paulsen and James Hambleton, "Confederates and Carpetbaggers: The Precedential
Value of Decisions From the Civil War and Reconstruction Era," Texas Bar Journal, 51 (Oct.,
1988): 919-92o. Charles Ramsdell, Reconstruction in Texas (191o; reprinnt, Austin: University of
Texas Press, 1970), 316, n.2 states: "and so odious has [the Rodriguez decision] been that no
lawyer likes to cite any opinion delivered by this court."
5 George Shelley, "The Semicolon Court of Texas," Southwestern Hstorical Quarterly, 48 (Apr.,
1 Texas case law abounds with references hostile to Reconstruction court decisions, which cling
to the pro-South view of the era stated in Ramsdell, Reconstruction in Texas. See Forte v. State, 759
S.W.2d 128 (Tex.Crim.App. 1988), 134; Cropper v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 754 S.W.2d 646 (Tex.
1988), 655; Masters v. State, 653 S.W.2d 944 (Tex.App.-Austin, 1983), 947; Lavender v. Hofer,
658 S.W.2d 812 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi, 1983), 815.
7 Quotations from Wilborn E. Benton, Texas Politics: Constraints and Opportunities, 5th ed.
(Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers, 1984), 19; also see Eugene W. Jones, et al., Practzczng Texas
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998, periodical, 1998; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/m1/391/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.