Sam Houston and the Republic of Texas

He helped found Tennessee, lived among the Cherokee, fought in the War of 1812, and helped Texas gain independence.

AMERICAN MINUTE WITH BILL FEDERER

Sam Houston descended from Ulster Scots, whose ancestor was a Norman knight.

His great, great-grandfather, Sir John Houston, had an estate in Scotland.

His great-grandfather, also named John Houston, emigrated from Scotland to Pennsylvania in 1735, then to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where he and other Scots-Irish settlers founded the Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church.

Sam Houston’s father, Major Samuel Houston, fought in General Daniel Morgan’s Rifle Brigade during the Revolutionary War.

His uncle, Rev. Samuel Houston, was a Presbyterian minister who attempted to found the State of Franklin out of western North Carolina, an area that would instead be the eastern part of the new state, Tennessee.

Tennessee was admitted into the United States in 1796, during President George Washington’s administration.

Tennessee’s 1796 Constitution stated:

“Article VIII, Section II: No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.”

Sam Houston’s father died in 1806, while moving his family to Tennessee. At the age of 16-years-old, Sam Houston ran off to live with the Cherokee. He was adopted by Chief Oolooteka and given the name “Raven.” Three years later, Sam Houston returned to Knox County, Tennessee, and opened a one-room schoolhouse – the first school built in the State.

He joined the army and fought in the War of 1812.

“Red Stick” Creek Indians were supplied with arms from the British. They massacred over 500 men, women and children at Fort Mims, Alabama. General Andrew Jackson was sent south in response.

Sam Houston fought under General Jackson against the Red Stick Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814. An arrow struck Sam Houston near his upper thigh. He had the arrow removed, was bandaged, then returned to the fight. He was struck again with bullets in his shoulder and arm. General Andrew Jackson took notice of Sam Houston and began mentoring him.

In 1818, Sam Houston, wearing Indian dress, led a delegation of Cherokee to Washington, D.C., to meet with President James Monroe.

Sam Houston studied law under Judge James Trimble, passed the bar, and opened up a legal practice in Lebanon, Tennessee. Houston was appointed the local prosecutor and was given a command in the state militia. Sam Houston was elected to Congress in 1823, and in 1827, he was elected the Governor of the State of Tennessee.

After a short failed marriage in 1829, Sam Houston resigned from being Governor of Tennessee and moved to the Arkansas Territory, where he lived again among the Cherokee Tribe.

Understanding that Cherokee needed to be a “nation” in order for the U.S. government to honor a treaty, Sam Houston helped the Cherokee compose a constitution.

While visiting Washington, DC, a politician slandered Houston’s character resulting in an altercation and trial. Francis Scott Key was Houston’s lawyer, and future President James K. Polk interceded for him, resulting in Houston getting off with a light reprimand and a fine of $500. Polk’s Vice President was George M. Dallas, for whom the city in Texas was later named. Rather than pay the fine, Sam Houston left Washington, D.C. and traveled out west.

He married a Cherokee wife, Tiana, in 1830, but she refused to follow him to the Mexican Territory of Tejas, or Texas.

Texas was first colonized in 1825, when Stephen F. Austin led 300 families there. To protect the settlers, Austin organized a group of armed colonists in 1827, which grew into the Texas Rangers.

On December 27, 1831, Houston was a passenger on a steamboat where he met French writer Alexis de Tocqueville who was traveling throughout the United States.

In Nacogdoches, Texas, Sam Houston was baptized in 1833 into the Catholic faith, which was a requirement to own property in the Mexican Territory.

Santa Anna seized control of the Mexican government in 1833, initially being supported by Stephen Austin. As Santa Anna ruled more dictatorially, Austin went to Mexico City in January of 1834 to appease tensions with Texas settlers, but was instead was imprisoned. After nearly a year, Austin was released and returned to Texas, which by now had hardened in its resistance to Santa Anna’s oppressive policies.

Santa Anna scrapped Mexico’s Federal Constitution and declared himself a dictator. He brutally punished Mexican States which opposed him:

  • San Luis Potosí,
  • Querétaro,
  • Durango,
  • Guanajuato,
  • Michoacán,
  • Yucatán,
  • Jalisco, and
  • Coahuila y Tejas.

Citizens of the Mexican State of Zacatecas declared their independence in 1835, but Santa Anna crushed them, defeating General Francisco Garcia Salinas, taking 3,000 prisoners, and letting his army ransack and pillage the city for two days.

At Veracruz, Santa Anna defeated the army of Federal General José Antonio Mexía marching from New Orleans to Tampico, and executed every prisoner.

Stephen Austin led Texas forces October 12 to December 11, 1835, at the Siege of Béxar (San Antonio).

The Battle of the Alamo took place February 23 to March 6, 1836, with Santa Anna raising the blood-red flag of no quarter, meaning that everyone, including those who surrendered, would be killed.

On March 2, 1836, the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed by 60 delegates, among whom was Sam Houston, whose 43rd birthday was that exact day.

The Texas Declaration of Independence stated:

“When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people … and … becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression … it is a … sacred obligation to their posterity to abolish such government, and create another in its stead …

General Antonio Lopez Santa Anna, who having overturned the constitution of his country, now offers, as the cruel alternative, either abandon our homes acquired by so many privations, or submit to the most intolerable of all tyranny …

(His government) denies us the right of worshiping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience, by the support of a National Religion, calculated to promote the temporal interest of its human functionaries, rather than the glory of the true and living God.

It has demanded us to deliver up our arms, which are essential to our defense — the rightful property of freemen — and formidable only to tyrannical governments …”

The Texas Declaration ended:

“Conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme Arbiter of the Destinies of Nations.”

The Massacre of Goliad took place on March 27, 1836, in which Santa Anna ordered an estimated 445 Texan prisoners executed

Sam Houston was made Commander-in-Chief of the Texas army. On April 26, 1836, Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, April 21, 1836.

One report was that Sam Houston had three horses shot from under him, but he kept fighting. James Monroe Hill wrote in a letter, October 20, 1895 (McArdle Notebooks-The Battle of San Jacinto, Texas State Library and Archives):

“As I passed down the flat lands I saw General Houston on a different horse. I afterward heard that it was the third one, two having been killed under him. I did not know then that he himself was wounded.”

A bullet had shattered Houston’s ankle, yet he continued the fierce attack. In the 18 minute battle, 900 Texans had defeated 1,500 Mexicans.

Later that year, September 4, 1836, President Andrew Jackson wrote to General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna:

“Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 4th day of July last, which had been forwarded to me by General Samuel Houston …

If … Mexico should signify her willingness to avail herself of our good offices in bringing about the desirable result you have described, nothing could give me more pleasure than to devote my best services to it.

To be instrumental in terminating the evils of civil war and in substituting in their stead the blessings of peace is a divine privilege …

Your letter, and that of General Samuel Houston, commander in chief of the Texan army, will be made the basis of an early interview with the Mexican minister at Washington …

In the meantime I hope Mexico and Texas, feeling that war is the greatest of calamities, will pause before another campaign is undertaken and can add to the number of those scenes of bloodshed which have already marked the progress of their contest and have given so much pain to their Christian friends throughout the world.”

On OCTOBER 22, 1836, General Sam Houston was sworn in as the first President of the Republic of Texas.

The Republic of Texas was its own independent nation for nearly ten years. In 1845, Texas joined the Union, being the 28th State, and the second largest in size.

The Texas Constitution, August 27, 1845, stated:

“We, the people of the Republic of Texas acknowledging, with gratitude, the grace and beneficence of God …

All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences …

Members of the Legislature … shall take the following oath … So Help Me God …

Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bears arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State.”

In 1846, Sam Houston became the first U.S. Senator from Texas, and in 1859 he was elected Governor.

Sam Houston was the only person to have been “elected” the governor of two different States, Tennessee and Texas.

In 1838, he received word that his Cherokee wife, Tiana, had died.

In 1840, at the age of 47, Sam Houston married 21-year-old Margaret Moffette Lea of Alabama, and together they had eight children. Margaret attended Independence Baptist Church in Independence, Texas, not far from Washington on the Brazos. Margaret, with the help of her pastor, George Washington Baines, Sr., the great-grandfather of Lyndon Baines Johnson, convinced Sam Houston to be baptized. At Little Rocky Creek, Sam Houston was baptized by Pastor Ralph C. Burleson, President of Baylor University, on November 19, 1854.

The historical marker reads:

“Sam Houston was baptized here … Nov 19, 1854, by Dr. R.C. Burleson, Pastor of the Independence Baptist Church and President of Baylor University.”

Governor Sam Houston wanted to keep Texas out of the Civil War, stating:

“I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. To avert this calamity, I shall make no endeavor to maintain my authority as Chief Executive of this State, except by the peaceful exercise of my functions.”

When he refused to join the Confederacy, he was removed from office on March 16, 1861.

President Lincoln, through Union Col. Frederick W. Lander, offered Sam Houston 50,000 Union troops to prevent Texas from joining the Confederacy.

Houston refused, stating: “Allow me to most respectfully decline any such assistance of the United States Government.”

When asked why he did not join the Confederacy, Houston told a crowd outside his Galveston hotel window, April 19, 1861:

“Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it.

I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates.

But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.”

The city of Houston, Texas, the 4th largest city in the United States, is named for Sam Houston.

Also named for him are:

  • a university;
  • a U.S. Army base;
  • five U.S. naval vessels;
  • a national forest;
  • a historical park,
  • a memorial museum,
  • an elementary school in Lebanon, TN;
  • a prominent roadside
  • statue outside of Huntsville.

In defense of rights of conscience, Democrat Presidential Candidate John F. Kennedy addressed the Houston Ministerial Association, September 12, 1960:

“I believe in an America … where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For, while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew – or a Quaker – or a Unitarian – or a Baptist.

It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers … that led to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom …

I believe in an America … where all men and all churches are treated as equal …

I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty.”

Religious liberty has it roots in the Judeo-Christian belief that men are created equal in God’s image, as Franklin Roosevelt stated, January 6, 1942:

“We are inspired by a faith that goes back through all the years to the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: ‘God created man in His own image.'”

Religious liberty includes “freedom of conscience,” based on the concept that God is love and that He desires men and women to love Him back, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.”

But in order for love back to be actually be “love” it must be voluntary and not forced submission, therefore the God of the Bible respects freedom of conscience.

In Houston, Texas, August 17, 1992, Ronald Reagan stated at the Republican National Convention:

“Whether we come from poverty or wealth; whether we are Afro-American or Irish-American; Christian or Jewish, from big cities or small towns, we are all equal in the eyes of God …

May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism …

My fellow Americans … God bless each and every one of you, and God bless this country we love.”


Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet.

Check out all of Bill’s books here.