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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Samuel Houston

HOUSTON, Samuel, president of Texas. born in Rockbridge county, Virginia, 2 March, 1793; died in Huntsville, Walker County, Texas, 26 July, 1863. He was of Scotch-Irish descent. On the death of his father, the family removed to a place in Tennessee near the Cherokee territory. He received but little education, and spent much of his time with the Indians, by one of whom he was adopted. In 1813 he enlisted in the 7th United States infantry, and soon became a sergeant. He was present at the battle of the Horseshoe Bend (Tohopeka), where he attracted the attention of General Jackson by his desperate bravery, and was several times wounded. He was made ensign in the 39th infantry, 29 July, 1813, and in the following May became 2d lieutenant. For a time he acted as sub-agent for the Cherokees, at Jackson's request. He became 1st lieutenant in March, 1818, but resigned in the following May on account of criticism emanating from the war department, of which John C. Calhoun was secretary, touching the smuggling of negroes from Florida into the United States. This he had tried to prevent, and, being accused of complicity, he demanded an investigation and was fully exonerated. He began the study of law at Nashville, in June, 1818, obtained his license in a few months, and commenced practice at Lebanon. In 1819 he was elected district attorney of the Davidson district, whereupon he removed to Nashville. He was also appointed adjutant-general of the state. In 1821 he was elected major-general, and within a year resigned the district attorneyship. In 1823 he was elected to congress, and in 1825 was re-elected. In the last year of his term, he fought a duel with General White, whom he wounded. In 1827 he was a candidate for governor, and was elected by an overwhelming majority. In January, 1829, he married a Miss Allen, of Sumner county, Tennessee, but a few weeks after the marriage Houston suddenly separated from his wife without a word of explanation, he always protested that the cause of separation in no manner affected his wife's character. He left the state amid a storm of vituperation, and made his way up the Arkansas to the mouth of the Illinois, where lived his former Cherokee father-by-adoption. Here he remained about three years. In 1832 he made a trip to Washington in the interest of the Indians. He wore the Indian garb, and was warmly received by President Jackson. While in Washington he was accused by William Stansberry, of Ohio, a member of congress, of attempting to obtain a fraudulent contract for furnishing the Indians supplies. In retaliation, he attacked Stansberry, and beat him severely. He received a mild reprimand at the bar of the house, and was fined $500, but Jackson remitted the fine. This year he made a trip to Texas. He was elected a member of the convention called to meet at San Felipe de Austin, 1 April, 1833, where a constitution was adopted, in which Houston had inserted a clause, forbidding the legislature to establish banks. Shortly afterward, Houston was elected general of Texas, east of Trinity river. He was also a member of the so-called "General Consultation" that met in October, 1835, for the purpose of establishing a provisional government, he successfully opposed a declaration of absolute independence as premature. He was here elected commander-in-chief of the army of Texas, and at once proceeded to perfect the military organization of the scattered population, though constantly hampered by the bickerings and jealousies of those in control of the law-making power, who soon deprived him of his office. He was elected a member of the convention that met at New Washington, and adopted a declaration of absolute independence, 2 March, 1836, which also re-elected him commander-in-chief. The Mexicans, under Santa Anna, began the invasion of Texas, about 5,000 strong, in three columns. On 6 March the Alamo fell, and 185 men were put to death, Bowie, David Crockett, and Travis among the number. A few days later, Goliad was captured by the Mexicans, and 500 men were put to death. After some manoeuvring, Houston, on 21 April, 1836, with 750 men, met the main division of the Mexicans, 1, S00 strong, under Santa Anna, on the banks of the San Jacinto, near the mouth of Buffalo bayou. The American battle cry was "Remember the Alamo!" The fight lasted less than an hour, and the Mexicans were totally routed, losing 630 killed and 730 prisoners, among them Santa Anna. Houston, wounded in the ankle, was treated with great indignity by the civil authorities immediately after the battle, and retired to New Orleans. In the autumn of 1836, when he returned to Nacogdoches, Mirabeau B. Lamar had been made commander-in-chief. An election for president of the republic had been ordered by the March convention, and Houston announced himself a candidate twelve days before the day of election. In a total vote of 5,104, he received 4,874, and on 22 October, 1836, he became first president of the republic of Texas. His term expired 12 December, 1838. He left the country in a healthy condition, its treasury notes at par, at peace with the Indians, and on a friendly footing with Mexico, although a permanent peace had not yet been negotiated. Houston had been in the Texan congress for the two terms 1839-'41. In April, lS40, he married Margaret Moffette, having been divorced from his first wife. His second wife, who exercised an ennobling and restraining influence over him, was from Alabama. In 1841 he was re-elected to the presidency. From 12 December, 1841, till 9 December, 1844, Houston's work was to undo the mischief of his predecessor, Lamar. He probably saved the government from disbanding. Congress, in June, 1842, passed a bill making him dictator, and 10,000,000 acres of land were voted to resist the threatened Mexican invasion. Houston vetoed these measures, and the danger of invasion soon passed away. In 1838 he had taken the first step toward securing the annexation of Texas to the United States. Van Buren hesitated, when Houston began to coquette, as he afterward said, with Spain, France, and England, knowing that the United States dreaded the intrusion of a European power upon American soil. On 29 December. 1845, Texas entered the Union, and in March, 1846, Houston entered the United States senate, and served till 1859. He was a pronounced Unionist, voted against and strenuously opposed the repeal of the Missouri compromise, and voted for all compromise measures during the slavery agitation. He opposed the Kansas and Nebraska bill, and in 1858 voted against the Lecompton constitution of Kansas. He refused to sign the Southern address. Constantly, during his term of service, he earnestly advocated the cause of the Indians. A favorite and oft-quoted maxim of his was that no treaty, made and carried out in good faith, had ever been violated by the Indians. His availability as a presidential candidate became patent, and at one time his nomination was regarded as a foregone conclusion. In 1852 he received eight votes on the first ballot in the convention that nominated Franklin Pierce. His popularity was somewhat impaired in the Democratic party by his sympathetic course toward the Know-Nothings. On 11 October, 1854, a meeting of Democrats at Concord, New Hampshire, had put Houston forward as the people's candidate, in opposition to caucus or convention nomination. In the American convention that met, 22 February, 1856, and nominated Millard Fillmore, Houston received three votes. The convention of the Constitutional Union party met at Baltimore, 9 May, 1860, and on the first ballot John Bell, of Tennessee, received 684, and Houston 57 votes. On the next ballot Bell was nominated. In November, 1857, Houston had been defeated for governor of Texas by Harrison R. Runnels, the regular nominee of the Democratic party. In 1859, as an independent candidate, he defeated Runnels. In the presidential election of 1860 his preference was for any Union man that could defeat Lincoln, and in his message to the legislature he deeply deplored Lincoln's election, but saw in this no grounds for secession. At the election, 23 February, 1861, the state was carried for secession, and all state officers were required to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederate states. This Houston refused to do, and on 18 March he was deposed. United States troops were offered him, but he refused their aid. On 10 May, 1861, he made a speech at Independence, Texas, in which he defined the position of southern Unionists. He said: "The voice of hope was weak, since drowned by the guns of Fort Sumter.... The time has come when a man's section is his country. I stand by mine.... Whether we have opposed this secession movement or favored it, we must alike meet the consequences .... It is no time to turn back now." He took no part in public life after this. See his life, anonymous (New York, 1855).

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