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POLITICAL CONFLICT WITHIN THE SOUTHERN CONSENSUS: HARRISON COUNTY, TEXAS 1850-1880 Randolph Campbell The election of 1860 marked a crisis in the lives of thousands of communities across the South. Would Abraham Lincoln win the presidency, and, if so, would the South submit to "Black Republican" rule or secede from the Union? Certainly the importance of this issue was clear to the citizens of Harrison County, Texas, a major slaveholding, cotton-producing community located on the Louisiana border in the eastern timberland region of the Lone Star State.1 The county's two weekly newspapers, the Marshall Texas Republican, a Southern Democratic journal that supported John C. Breckinridge, and the Harrison Flag, a Constitutional Unionist paper that endorsed John Bell, discussed the election in virtually every issue from July to November 1860. Both parries had active campaign organizations that sponsored frequent rallies and speeches.2 Only the most determined apathy could have prevented interest in the election among any of the community's voters. 1 The people of Harrison County definitely thought of themselves as acommunity. The county provided the physical limits of the local government, economy, and society that they shared. Marshall, thecountyseat, was the focal point ofcommunity activity, butit did not constitute a community in itself. Instead, important questions always called for county-wide meetings. Those who lived within the county saw themselves as citizens of "Old Harrison." The importance of the county in slaveholding and cotton production may be established from published census returns. In 1850 it ranked first among Texas's counties in total population and slave population and second in cotton production. Ten years later it remained first in slave population and ranked third in total population and cotton production. SeeJames D. B.DeBow, Statistical Viewof the United States . . . Being a Compendium of the Seventh Census, . . . (Washington, 1854), 308-19 and U.S. Bureau of the Census, Eighth Census of the United States, 1860: Population in I860 (Washington, 1864), 484-86; Ibid., Statistics of Agriculture in 1860 (Washington, 1864), 140-51. 2 Marshall Texas Republican, July 7 to Nov. 3, 1860; Harrison Fhg, July 6 to Nov. 10, 1860. Civil War History, VoLXXVI, No.3 Copyright ® 1980 by The Kent State University Press 0009-8078/80/2603-0002 $01.10/0 TEXAS POLITICS219 For most of the campaign, the Flag insisted that Texas Democrats were making the choice one between Breckinridge and disunion. This, the editor argued, was a serious mistake in that it ignored the existence of a large minority in the community who felt that their rights and interests lay not with Breckinridge or with disunion but with the Union instead. The Flag of September 15, 1860, for example, pointed out that in political matters "the democratic party has an old, an hereditary and powerful adversary in the South." Call this party what you will—federalist, whig, American, Union orknow-nothing—it is still ... a power within the state. . . . Separate the two—the democratic party and the southern opposition—and you will find as much patriotism, as much intelligence, as much true statesmanship, as much virtue and moral courage, as much wealth, energy and enterprise in the opposition ranks as in the democratic party. . . . If they (the disunion party) have not the self-denial, not the forbearance, not the patriotism to submit—not to Abraham Lincoln, but to the laws of their county—we may well doubt their capacity for self-government, and dread to risk them as our rulers in a southern confederacy. The southern opposition have been accustomed to submit and submit for years. They submitted to Polk, they submitted to Pierce, and they submitted even to Buchanan. They never dreamed of disunion or threatened it. No man who has not learned to submit himself has yet acquired the first rudiments for governing others.3 This comment serves as an excellent point of departure in examining an issue ofbasic importance to the history of the mid-nineteenth-century South. Stated baldly, was the South a region of rigid conformity on issues such as slavery, secession, and control of reconstruction by white conservative Democrats, or was there significant diversity ofopinion on these matters? Clement Eaton's well-known study, The Freedom-ofThought...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 218-239
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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