I’ve often thought about the future of slavery in Texas. If it had not been for the War Between the States, Texas would have rapidly become the epicenter of slavery in the late 19th century.
The following excerpt comes from Randolph B. Campbell’s book An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas:
“The limited nature of Texas’s historical experience with slavery, however, belies the vast importance of the institution to the Lone Star state. The great majority of immigrants to antebellum Texas came from the older southern states (77 percent of household heads in Texas in 1860 were southern born), and many brought with them their slaves and all aspects of slavery as it had matured in their native states. More than one quarter of Texas families owned slaves during the 1850s, and bondsmen constituted approximately 30 percent of the state’s total population. Proportions of slaveholders and slaves in the populations of Texas and Virginia during the last antebellum decade were closely comparable. In this sense, then, slavery was as strongly established in Texas, the newest slave state, as it was in the oldest slave state in the Union.
In 1850 and 1860, more than 93 percent of Texas’s free population and 99 percent of its slave population lived east of a line extending from the Red River at approximately the 98th meridian southward to the mouth of the Nueces River on the Gulf of Mexico. The area of slaveholding, although covering only the eastern two-fifths of Texas, was as large as Alabama and Mississippi combined (see map 1). Even without further expansion to the west, it constituted virtually an empire for slavery.”
In 1860, 77 percent of White Texans were Southerners and many of the rest were recent German immigrants. The Texas Revolution was fought and won by Southerners like Davy Crockett who died at the Alamo and Sam Houston who had been the governor of Tennessee.
“At the outbreak of the Civil War in April, 1861, Texas had nearly two hundred thousand slaves. For the next four years, as the fate of those bondsmen were settled on battlefields across the South, the Peculiar Institution remained less disturbed in Texas than in any other Confederate state. The primary reason was simple – Texas escaped any significant invasion by federal troops, and thus the great majority of the state’s slaves were not uprooted by advancing armies or given an opportunity to flee to nearby Union forces.”
Of all the Southern states, Texas suffered the least damage during the War Between the States. As a result, huge numbers of Southerners left their devastated areas and migrated west to Texas in the decades after the war to start a new life. Between 1860 and 1880, the population of Texas rose from 604,215 to 1,591,749, which is 6x faster than it is even growing today.
East Texas is firmly part of the Deep South.
“The economic dominance of slaveholders is best documented by statistical information from United States census returns. In 1850, slaveholding households, which constituted 30 percent of the total in Texas, owned 72 percent of the state’s real property. Ten years later, although slaveholding families had declined to 27 percent of the total, they still controlled 73 percent of all wealth (real and personal property combined). In 1850, slaveholding farmers, who headed 33 percent of agricultural units worked by their owners, owned 68 percent of the total improved acreage and 61 percent of the livestock (by value), and produced 65 percent of all the corn grown in Texas. By 1860, when the percentage of slaveholding farmers had decreased slightly to 32 percent, they owned 71 percent of all improved acreage and 60 percent of the livestock and produced 72 percent of all corn. Cotton production, which was even more important as an indication of slaveholders’ economic domination, was virtually a monopoly for slaveholders. The approximately one-third of all farmers who owned bondsmen grew 89 percent of the state’s cotton in 1850 and 91 percent in 1860. Nonslaveholders, although a sizable majority among Texas farmers, did not participate in the cash-crop agricultural economy in any significant way.
Slaveholder control of Texas politics may be shown through a profile of those who were political leaders during the years from statehood to disunion. In 1850, when slaveholders headed 30 percent of Texas’ households, 58 percent of all federal, state, and local officeholders owned bondsmen. Ten years later one the eve of disunion, the 27 percent of all households heads who owned slaves provided 68 percent of the officeholders. …”
East Texas alone was the size of Alabama and Mississippi combined. The Cotton Kingdom was in its infancy when slavery was destroyed in 1865. The Mississippi Delta and most of East Alabama where I am from were only opened up to slavery after the 1830s. Texas and Arkansas and virtually the entire Old Southwest was barely removed from the frontier. The loss of Kansas was only a political loss because there was still enormous room for the expansion of slavery in Texas and the Old Southwest.
“Perhaps slavery faced, as Charles Ramsdell argued, a barrier to expansion once it reached the semiarid plains of western Texas and the areas within easy reach of the Mexican border, but those limits were not reached by 1861. Slavery was still growing everywhere in the state, and the blackland prairie/Grand Prairie region of north-central Texas offered a vast expanse of suitable acreage relatively untouched by slaveholders and their bondsmen. To open that area, only transportation was needed, and the railroad would have preceded that. Texas constituted a virtual empire for slavery, and on the eve of secession Texans talked with buoyant optimism of the millions of bondsmen who would build the state’s future.”
Here’s an excerpt from the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Geography on the natural western border of the South that runs through Central Texas:
“Environmental and climatic factors suggest that much of Texas is southern. A fault line, the Balcones Escarpment, is a geological dividing line, marking in solid rock a physical separation between east Texas – the center of southern influences – and west Texas. In the middle of the state the land changes from piney woods in the east to grassy prairies to the west, with increasingly barren-looking plains and desert even further west. Markedly decreased rainfall in west Texas reinforces the sense of a western physical landscape, nurturing different forms of animal and plant life. These physical differences were matched by differing settlement populations as well – blacks form a major population group in east Texas, gradually diminishing in numbers to the west, where Hispanics increase in numbers and cultural influence. …”
This is the Balcones Escarpment which is southwest of Dallas:
The 98th to 100th Meridian and the Balcones Escarpment are natural climatic and geological borders between the East and West. As with the Appalachian Mountains or the Ohio River though, these barriers didn’t stop the settlement of West Texas by Southerners who continue to push west all the way to the Pecos River Valley in eastern New Mexico.
Let’s imagine for a moment that Stephen Douglas won the presidency in 1860, Lincoln was defeated, the South shrugged off the loss of Kansas and the War Between the States had been avoided by a Compromise of 1861. Slavery would spread through Texas in the late 19th century.
Where is cotton grown today?
The Cotton Kingdom is now in West Texas and Southern Arizona having moved there in the mid-20th century due to soil erosion, mechanization and the invasion of the humid Southeast by the boll weevil. Irrigation opened up the arid Southwest to cotton in the 20th century. It is gradually coming back here though thanks to genetic engineering and higher rainfall.
Imagine where we would be today if the Confederacy had won its independence and hung on long enough to the beginning of the Texas Oil Boom at Spindletop in 1901. If our economy hadn’t been crippled for 75 years by Lincoln and Black Republicanism, all of world history would have been altered as Germany would have won World War I and liberal democracy and communism would have been checkmated in Europe. The Third Reich and the Soviet Union would have never existed.