“Without exception, every Mexican in the county was implicated…” (Scraps of Newspaper, Olmsted)

Contemplated Servile Rising in Texas.

The Galveston News publishes the following in relation to the late contemplated negro insurrection in Colorado county:

Columbus, Colorado Co., Sept. 9, 1856

The object of this communication is to state to you all the facts of any importance connected with a recent intended insurrection.

Our suspicions were aroused about two weeks ago, when a meeting of the citizens of the county was called, and a committee of investigation appointed to ferret out the whole matter, and lay the facts before the people of the county for their consideration. The committee entered upon their duties, and in a short time, they were in full possession of the facts of a well-organized and systematized plan for the murder of our entire white population, with the exception of the young ladies, who were to be taken captives, and made the wives of the diabolical murderers of their parents and friends. The committee found in their possession a number of pistols, bowie-knives, guns, and ammunition. Their passwords of organization were adopted, and their motto, “Leave not a shadow behind.”

Last Saturday, the 6th inst., was the time agreed upon for the execution of their damning designs. At a late hour at night, all were to make one simultaneous, desperate effort, with from two to ten apportioned to nearly every house in the county, kill all the whites, save the above exception, plunder their homes, take their horses and arms, and fight their way on to a “free State” (Mexico).

[504] Notwithstanding the intense excitement which moved every member of our community, and the desperate measures to which men are liable to be led on by such impending danger to which we have been exposed by our indulgence and lenity to our slaves, we must say the people acted with more caution and deliberation than ever before characterized the action of any people under similar circumstances.

More than two hundred negroes had violated the law, the penalty of which is death. But, by unanimous consent, the law was withheld, and their lives spared, with the exception of three of the ringleaders, who were, on last Friday, the 5th inst., at 2 o’clock P.M., hung, in compliance with the unanimous voice of the citizens of the county.

Without exception, every Mexican in the county was implicated. They were arrested, and ordered to leave the county within five days, and never again to return, under the penalty of death. There is one, however, by the name of Frank, who is proven to be one of the prime movers of the affair, that was not arrested; but we hope that he may yet be, and have meted out to him such reward as his black deed demands.

We are satisfied that the lower class of the Mexican population are incendiaries in any country where slaves are held, and should be dealt with accordingly. And for the benefit of the Mexican population, we would here state, that a resolution was passed by the unanimous voice of the county, forever forbidding any Mexican from coming within the limits of the county.

Peace, quiet, and good order are again restored, and, by the watchful care of our Vigilance Committee, a well-organized patrol, and good discipline among our planters, we are persuaded that there will never again occur the necessity of a communication of the character of this.

Yours respectfully,

John H. Robson,
H.A. Tatum,
J.H. Hicks.
} Cor. Com.

The Galveston News, of the 11th nst. has also the following paragraph:

“We learn, from the Columbian Planter, of the 9th, that two of the negroes engaged in the insurrection at Columbus were whipped to death; three more were hung last Friday, and the Mexicans who were implicated were ordered to leave the country. There was no proof against these last beyond surmises. The band had a deposit of arms and ammunition in the bottom. They had quite a number of guns, and a large lot of knives, manufactured by one of their number. It was their intention to fight their way to Mexico.”

[From the True Issue, Sept. 5]

We noticed last week the rumor that a large number of slaves, of Colorado county, had combined and armed themselves for the purpose of fighting their way into Mexico. Developments have since been made of a much more serious nature than our information then indicated. It is ascertained that a secret combination had been formed, embracing most of the negroes of the county, for the purpose of not fleeing to Mexico, but of murdering the inhabitants–men, women, and children promiscuously. To carry out their hellish purposes, they had organized into companies of various sizes, had adopted secret signs and passwords, sworn never to divulge the plot under the penalty of death, and had elected captains and subordinate officers to command the respective companies. They had provided themselves with some fire-arms and home-made bowie-knives, and had appointed the time for a simultaneous movement. Some two hundred, we learn, have been severely punished under the lash, and several are now in jail awaiting the more serious punishment of death, which is to be inflicted to-day. One of the principal instigators of the movement is a free negro, or one who had been permitted to control his own time as a free man.

Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through Texas; or, a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier (New York: Dix, Edwards & Co, 1857), 503-504.

 

“free white inhabitants,” etc. in mid-1850s city incorporation acts (Gammel’s Laws of Texas)

Galveston, August 1856.

Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That all free white inhabitants of the city of Galveston shall continue to be a body politic and corporate by the name of the Mayor, Aldermen and inhabitants of the city of Galveston, and by that name they and their successors shall have exercise and enjoy all the rights immunities, powers privileges and franchises and shall be subject to all the duties and obligations now appertaining and incumbent on said city as a corporate, or incumbent upon the inhabitants or officers thereof, and may ordain and establish such acts, laws, ordinances and regulations, not inconsistent with the constitution or laws of this State as shall be needful to the good order of said body politic, and under the shall be known in law …

“An Act to consolidate in one act and to amend the several acts incorporating the city of Galveston” (August 27, 1856), in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 142/688 (link).

Sec. 33. That every free white male inhabitant of said city who shall have attained the age of twenty-one years, and who shall have rented at least twelve months previous to the day of election, within the limits of the city of Galveston, and who shall have paid all taxes which shall have been assessed against him by or under the authority of the city council, shall have and possess the right to vote at the election of Mayor and Aldermen, and other elective officers of said city.

“An Act to consolidate in one act and to amend the several acts incorporating the city of Galveston” (August 27, 1856), in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 154/700 (link).

San Antonio, July 1856.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That the inhabitants of the city of San Antonio, as the same is hereby and hereafter laid out, and their successors, are hereby constituted a corporation and body politic in fact and in law, by the name and title of the city of San Antonio …

Sec. 3. The city of San Antonio shall be divided into four wards, the boundaries thereof shall be fixed by the City Council hereinafter created, and may be by said Council changed from time to time, as they shall see fit, having regard to the number of free white male inhabitants, so that each ward shall contain, as near as may be, the same number of qualified electors for city elections, and the Mayor and board of Aldermen may establish new wards when they may deem it necessary or expedient.

“An Act to incorporate the City of San Antonio” (July 17, 1856), Article 1, in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 4-5/550-551 (link).

Section 1. The Mayor and City Council shall have power by ordinance, and for municipal purposes:

1st. To levy and collect taxes upon all property made taxable by law for State purposes; … also a poll tax of one dollar each on all free white male inhabitants, over the age of twenty-one years, who do not pay a tax to at least that amount on property ….

27th. To regulate the conduct of slaves and free persons of color.

“An Act to incorporate the City of San Antonio” (July 17, 1856), Article 3, in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 9/556 (link). and ibid. 11/557.

Sec. 6. Every free male white person, over the age of 21 years, who shall have resided six months within the city limits, and one month within the ward where he offers to vote, shall be entitled to vote at all city elections.

“An Act to incorporate the City of San Antonio” (July 17, 1856), Article 5, in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 19/565 (link).

Sec. 7. The present Mayor and City Council shall exercise all the powers and functions vested in the Mayor and Council by this act, until superseded by the officers elected under the same, and they shall, also, as soon as practicable, after this act goes into effect, proceed to take an enumeration of the free, white, male inhabitants of the city, and to divide said city into wards as herein before prescribed, so that the next city election, to be holden, on the fourth Monday in December next, may be held according to the provisions of this charter.

“An Act to incorporate the City of San Antonio” (July 17, 1856), Article 7, in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 21/567 (link).

Indianola (September 1, 1856)

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That the following described limits, to wit: beginning at the mouth of Powder Horn Bayou in Matagorda Bay, … thence with said Bayou to the place of beginning, be and the same, with the inhabitants therein, is hereby created a body politic and corporate, under the name and style of the town of Indianola …

Sec. 3. … No person shall be eligible to any town office unless he be a free white male citizen, over twenty-one years of age, and who shall be a free holder or householder within the corporate limits, and resident therein for at least six months preceding the election. No person shall be allowed to vote for town officers unless he be a free white male resident, over twenty one years of age, and shall have resided at least three months within the corporate limits, and shall have paid a town tax on real estate, or a town poll tax of fifty cents; …

Sec. 4. The Mayor and Alderman shall constitute the Town Council … the council shall have the power to pass all ordinances necessary for the government and well-being of the town … they may also collect an annual poll tax on every white male resident of the town over twenty-one years of age, who shall have resided three months within the corporation, provided, that such person shall not have paid a tax on real estate, and provided further, that no such person shall be compelled to pay said poll tax, unless he desires to vote in the town election.

“An Act to incorporate the Town of Indianola” (September 1, 1856), in in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 303/849 (link).

Ibid. 304/850.

Ibid. 305/851.

Belleville (February 1856)

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of (the State of) Texas, That the citizens of the town of Belleville, in Austin county, be and they are hereby declared a body politic and corporate under the name and style of the town of Belleville. … (396)

Sec. 6. All free white males of and over the age of twenty years, who have been resident citizens within the limits of the corporation one month next preceding any election, and who are otherwise legal voters of the State of Texas, shall be entitled to vote for officers of said corporation. … (397)

Sec. 9. The council shall have power to enact such rules, ordinances and regulations as they may deem sufficient for the proper government and improvement of the town and preservation of good order within the corporate limits … They may compel all free white male citizens between eighteen and forty-five years of age, and all male slaves and other persons of color over sixteen and under sixty years of age, residents of said corporation, to work on the squares, roads and streets, provided such persons shall not be compelled to work more than six days in one year. … (398)

“An Act to incorporate the Town of Belleville” (February 7, 1856) in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 303/849 (link).

Austin (February 9, 1857)

Sec. 2. That the inhabitants of the City of Austin, as the same extends and is laid out above, be, and they and their successors are, hereby constituted a corporation and body politic, in fact, and in law, by the name and style of the City of Austin… (401)

Sec. 3. That the City of Austin shall be divided into eight wards, the boundaries thereof shall be fixed by the city council, and be by the council changed from time to time as they shall see fit, having regard  to the number of free white male inhabitants, so that each ward shall contain as near as may be, the same number of free white male inhabitants. (401)

Sec. 7. That the Mayor and City council shall have power within the City by ordinance. … 30th. To provide for the taking of an enumeration of the inhabitants of the City. … 37th. To lay and collect a poll tax not exceeding fifty cents upon every free white male person over 21 years of age, who shall have resided six months within the City. (403, 405)

… The present city Council shall exercise all of the powers and functions vested in the Council under this Act until superseded under the same, and they shall as soon as practicable after the passage of this Act, proceed to take an enumeration of the free white male inhabitants of the City, and to divide the City into wards as prescribed by the same, and provide for elections conformably to the same. (413)

“An Act to incorporate the City of Austin” (February 9, 1857), in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 102/400 (link).

Woodville (August 18, 1856)

Sec. 6. All free white males of, and over the age of twenty years, who may have been resident citizens within the limits of said corporation for one month next preceding any election, and who may in other respects be legal voters of the State of Texas, shall be entitled to vote for all officers of said corporation. (635)

Sec. 9. The common Council shall have power to enact such rules, ordinances and regulations as they may deem sufficient for the proper government and improvement of the town and preservation of good order within the corporate limits thereof … they may compel all free white male citizens between the age of sixteen and forty-five years, and all male slaves and free negroes over fifteen and under sixty years of age, who are residents of said corporation, to work on the public streets, squares and alleys of the same; provided, such persons shall not be compelled to work on any road beyond the limits of said corporation. (635, 636)

“An Act to incorporate the town of Woodville” (August 18, 1856) in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 88/634 (link).

LaGrange (February 13, 1854)

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That the people of the town of LaGrange, in the county of Fayette be, and they are hereby declared a body politic and corporate, under the name and style of the Town of LaGrange …. (146)

Sec. 7. Every free white male of twenty-one years of age, being a citizen of the United States, who may have resided for six months next preceding an election within the limits of said corporation, shall be deemed a qualified elector under this charter. (147, 148)

“An Act to Incorporate the Town of LaGrange in the County of Fayette” (February 13, 1854) in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 146 (link).

“… a southern State, … the most southern State” (Capmbell)

John Henry Brown, the rabidly proslavery spokesman from Galveston, issued a public letter claiming that [Lorenzo] Sherwood had called slavery “a moral evil, a fleeting and temporary institution destined to gradually give way to some other institution.” Resolutions of censure were introduced in the house, but some felt that verbal condemnation was hardly enough. The Dallas Herald commented, “A man, a Texan, a southerner who could get up in the legislature of a southern State, of the most southern State, and deliberately outrage the feelings of the whole people without distinction of party, on a question so directly affecting their most vital interests, by uttering sentiments [223] that strike at the foundation of their social and political rights, possesses a heart too callous to be reached by votes of ensure.” Eighty or ninety pairs of boots should have kicked him out of the state capital, the Herald said.[22]

Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 222-223.

  1. [22]Fornell, Galveston Era, 165-74; Dallas Herald, December 8, 1855.