Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 72
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
by a stable national organization. Cruel treatment would not be allowed, but the former
slaves could not travel on public roads or assemble without passes from their employers.
These regulations were to continue in force for two months, until a federal agency was
organized in Texas to oversee the transition of blacks from sJavery to freedom.3
Two weeks before the Union Army arrived and Texas slaves were emanci-
pated, political opinion began to take shape. Writing from Frelsburg to the future
provisional governor, Andrew J. Hamilton, native Kentuckian Kidder Columbus Walker
expressed his disgust at the "machinations" of the secessionists, whose "villainous"
deeds could be compared to an anaconda snake. These men should be revealed in all their
"deformity," execrated, and "rendered powerless for future mischief." To Walker,
"talent, dignity and moral worth" would replace "unprincipled mediocrity." Citizens
would learn to "venerate government, and recoil with horror from the idea of violating
a constitution as being a sacred law, upon which rest their liberties and rights."4
Walker's recommended method for reconstructing Texas and the former
Confederacy, and his perception of how the postwar South should be treated, differed
from those of most residents. He asserted that he was "decidedly of [the] opinion" that
every state that seceded should "go through a military probation before its ultimate civil
reorganization. " He praised General Canby's decision to reorganize Mississippi into a
state government under military control as a model for Texas. During this period the
people would "calmly review" the "revolting aspects" of the "crimes of secession."
Already, even with the war over, the "same class of mischief makers" were maneuvering
to gain a significant foothold in future political events.5
Walker indicated that the former slaveholders would deal harshly with the
newly emancipated and "pervert the important work of revising the constitution." The
influence of those who had led the secession movement, to whom Walker referred as
"that class of men," had not yet run its course and the citizens would have to use the
"instrumentality of the press" with the "poor, hitherto a passive mass," to make them
"a political element." If the lower classes did not "learn to think and act independently,"
the "aristocracy" would "lead them as before." The "charmed victim of the serpent," he
concluded in his letter to Hamilton, "feels the power of fascination even after the spell
is broken; that is, after the head of the serpent is pounded."6
Although Walker may have anticipated that the power of the press and the
occupation of Texas by the Union Army might be used to undermine the influence and
control of the "aristocracy," he was clearly afraid that the freedmen would become
pawns in the struggle over the adoption of a new constitution. Walker deemed the press
to be a significant factor in the forthcoming struggle. He certainly should have realized
that if newspapers could influence the white lower classes, who were probably not much
3 OR, series I, vol. 48, part 2, p. 929; Campbell, "The End of Slavery in Texas," p. 71; Flake's Daily
Bulletin (Galveston), June 29, 1865, p. 1.
4 Kidder Walker (Frelsburg) to Andrew J. Hamilton, June 5, 1865, Governor's Papers: Hamilton
(Texas State Library, Austin). In a postscript dated July 15, Walker said he had "no reason whatever to change
the views" previously expressed, and to promote Unionist principles and ideals, he encouraged Hamilton to
establish a newspaper.
5 Walker to Hamilton, June 5, 1865.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995, periodical, May 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151394/m1/4/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.