- To the People of Texas, an Appeal: In Vindication of His Conduct of the Navy
For much of its nine-year life, the Republic of Texas displayed something of a split personality, alternately acting as if it desperately wanted to join the United States, then as if it would rather go it alone and rival the United States. Those tendencies manifested themselves according to who occupied the presidency. Sam Houston, hero of San Jacinto and a fiscally conservative unionist, typified the former; Mirabeau B. Lamar, a fiscally liberal nationalist, typified the latter.
Texas’s presidential terms meant that those policy attitudes could see-saw, and in fact they did. Houston served as Texas’s first president, Lamar replaced him for [End Page 209] three years, and then Houston returned to office. Given these circumstances, it was nearly impossible for department heads, bureau chiefs, or military commanders to know which policies will become continuous and span administrations or which ones will effectively die after an election.
Into such political uncertainty came Edwin W. Moore, a Virginian and experienced sailor in the United States Navy. In 1839, Lamar appointed Moore to command Texas’s eight-ship navy. As commodore, Moore was to protect Texas’s Gulf Coast—critical to growing the Texas economy—from Mexican raiders. Lamar would use that booming economy to open a corridor from Texas to the Pacific. If Moore could use the navy to support rebellious federalist states in Mexico and keep its Centralists (who remained in a state of war with Texas) busy, all the better.
But in 1841, Houston returned to the presidency, and he swept out Lamar’s nationalist plans. Houston had always wanted Texas to join the United States. He cared nothing about Texas expansion, and he certainly cared little about its navy. He saw it as a drain on Texas’ strained budget, and he often refused to pay for expensive expeditions or upkeep on the ships.
Thus ignited a feud between Houston and Moore that lasted until the men died. They fired missives at each other, engaged in name-calling, charged each other with malfeasance, and at one point Moore challenged Houston to a duel. In the midst of the feud, Houston asked authorities in New Orleans, where Moore was supposedly in port, to arrest the commodore. In 1843, even though Houston wanted him ashore in Texas, Moore sailed his two seaworthy ships to Yucatan to break a Mexican blockade of the rebel state. He won the Battle of Campeche and effectively cleared the Texas coast of any Mexican naval threat. Regardless, Moore’s naval career was over. Texas joined the United States in late 1845, and the U.S. Navy absorbed the little Texas navy and its sailors.
Moore spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name of what he considered a Houston smear campaign. Moore’s main weapon was a 204-page manuscript he entitled To the People of Texas, An Appeal: In Vindication of His Conduct of the Navy. Most of this volume is a reprint of Moore’s Appeal. Editor Jonathan W. Jordan’s excellent introduction, however, provides understanding and context for what would otherwise be primary source material valuable only to niche-filling Texas historians. That introduction, plus Moore’s notes and annotations, make this book instead an enjoyable read. One quibble: since they are largely informational rather than citations, the notes would perhaps be more valuable to readers in footnote style rather than in endnotes.
This book is not only valuable to Texas historians, but to anyone working in the larger fields of Gulf Coast history or American naval history. Highly recommended.