Saturday, October 22, 2011

Houston Becomes the President of Texas

On October 22, 1836, Sam Houston became the first president of the Republic of Texas and Mirabeau Lamar became its first vice president, not counting the interim holders of those offices in the months since Texas won its independence from Mexico, David Burnet and Lorenzo de Zavala.

"At his inauguration in Columbia, Houston dramatically flourished, then gave up the sword he had used at the Battle of San Jacinto," says the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) in Triumph and Tragedy: Presidents of the Republic of Texas. "It was a symbolic gesture by which Houston hoped to signal to the people that it was time to turn away from war and to the business of building a new Texas."

Houston had a hard time of it during his first term in office. Among other problems, the United States refused to admit Texas as a state, most of the rest of the world refused to recognize it as a nation, and the Republic was deep in debt. Officers of the army that had won independence took to seizing citizens' cattle to feed their men, mutinies broke out in Galveston and Velasco, and Indians were a persistent threat.

The town of Houston was founded as the capital of Texas, but it wasn't a stately affair. "... there is evidence that this was not a happy time in [Sam Houston's] life," continues the TSLAC. "The muddy collection of tents and log buildings was known as the 'Bachelor Republic,' and Houston joined right in with the drinking, brawling, and carousing. During this time in his life, he was drinking very heavily and probably using opium as well."

Houston endured his troubles, however, holding another term as president and then becoming a U.S. Senator from Texas after annexation. He was elected governor of Texas in 1859, but forced from office in 1861 when he refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. "It is almost impossible to overstate the influence of Sam Houston on Texas history," says the TSLAC. "For thirty years, Sam Houston was the dominant star around which the Texas political constellations revolved."

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