Friday, February 1, 1861
Against the strong protests of Governor Sam Houston, elected the previous November, the secessionists in Texas, headed by the lieutenant governor, had decided to hold their own Convention and vote their state out of the Union. Houston attempted to veto the act calling the Convention into session, but was ignored.
Though he was a slave owner, Houston was a Union man. He believed in States’ Rights, but knew that the Union would fight to keep itself together.
On this date, the Texas Secession Convention voted 166 to 7 in favor of leaving the Union. A vote of the people would have to be held. It was scheduled for February 23, but for all intents and purposes, Texas had become the 7th state to leave the Union.
Though eight other slave states remained in the Union, the immediate threat of their secession had passed. The remaining states would have to be swayed by the actions of the Federal government or the coaxing of the South.1
Lincoln Returns to Springfield
Abraham Lincoln’s visit with his step-mother, Sarah Bush Johnston, had come to an end. It was time for him to return to Springfield so that he could make the long journey to Washington DC. Sarah held Lincoln close to her and cried. She told him that she would never see him again and that he would be assassinated.
He lovingly consoled her, telling her that he would not be killed. “Trust in the Lord and all will be well. We will see each other again.”
Lincoln took the train home to Springfield, arriving in the afternoon, and got right back to work.
He first sat down and composed a letter to New York Senator, William Seward, who had recently accepted Lincoln’s offer to be his Secretary of State. Lincoln reaffirmed his position on slavery in the territories. Seward had been wavering a bit on this, hoping for some compromise that would keep the remaining slave states in the Union.
On this point Lincoln plainly stated: “I am inflexible.” He continued, “I am for no compromise which assists or permits the extension of the institution on soil owned by the nation. And any trick by which the nation is to acquire territory, and then allow some local authority to spread slavery over it, is as obnoxious as any other.”
He suspected that these compromises were just different ways to “put us again on the high-road to a slave empire.”
“I am against it.”2
A Heated Debate Turns Deadly
The Zanesville (Ohio) Courier, reported the murder of Southern sympathizer, William Wilkins. The murder, which took place “a few days previous” at Sewellsville in Belmont Country, occurred during a “heated discussion of the national troubles.” Wilkins brandished a pistol and exclaimed his willingness to fight in defense of the South.
One of Wilkins opponents in the discussion then asked if he would let him see the pistol. For some reason, Wilkins (allegedly) agreed and handed over the weapon. Once in possession of the firearm, the unnamed opponent remarked that if Wilkins really felt that way, “it was as good a time now as any other to make a commencement.”
With that, he placed the barrel of the gun on Wilkins’s chest, pulled the trigger and fired. The ball entered the Southern sympathizer’s heart and killed him instantly.
Weirdly, no arrests were made.3
- Sam Houston by George Sands Bryan, The Macmillan Company, 1917. [↩]
- Letter from Abraham Lincoln to William H. Seward, February 1, 1861. [↩]
- New York Times, February 9, 1861. [↩]