Flawed And Charismatic, Sam Houston Was Fiercely Devoted To The Union

The Texas founding father shares a birthday with the republic he helped bring to life.

By Michael MarksMarch 2, 2018 11:15 am,

“When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, the right of self-preservation enjoins it to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their future welfare and happiness.”

That’s the annotated version of a document adopted on March 2, 1836 – a declaration signed by 60 men, one of whom has become a nearly mythological figure in Texas. But Sam Houston was all too human, says Bob Lowe, a contributor to the Colorado County Citizen, and longtime student of Sam Houston the man.

Lowe says Sam Houston is the only person to have served as governor of two states – Tennessee and Texas – and as president of an independent republic, also Texas.

“He probably only spent six months during his entire life in a formal classroom setting,” Lowe says. “As a child, he was a truant. He did not go to school. His parents couldn’t make him go.”

Houston, Lowe says, had truant tendencies in later life, too, running away from his family to spend three years with Cherokee Indians, and later still, Houston returned to the Cherokees after separating from his life and resigning the governorship of Tennessee.

Houston was also a slave owner.

Lowe says Houston clearly suffered from depression, and some have speculated that he had bipolar disorder. He also commanded attention when he entered a room.

“I think he was very charismatic,” Lowe says. “He was kind of a large man for that era. People were a bit smaller than they are today.”

If Houston were set down in modern-day Texas, Lowe says, he would be glad to find the state still a part of the United States.

“That was so important to him,” Lowe says. “He was asked to resign as the governor of Texas because he refused to swear allegiance to the Confederacy.”

As fiercely as Houston believed in maintaining the union, however, he declined President Abraham Lincoln’s offer to send 50,000 troops to keep Texas a part of the United States during the Civil War.

“He said that he loved Texas too much to impose that on Texas,” Lowe says.

As we celebrate Texas Independence Day, Lowe says, we might remember that it’s also the birthday of one of the men who made it possible, Sam Houston.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

University of Texas at Austin Portrait Gallery

Sam Houston

University of Texas at Austin Portrait Gallery

Sam Houston