Whose Truths do We Hold to Be Self Evident?

Yesterday afternoon, I received a telephone call from what is known locally as an “Old Ag.”  An Old Ag is a former student of Texas A&M, and more especially a former student of riper years who is troubled by what he sees happening at his dear old alma mater.  This particular Old Ag was troubled by the recent ruction over the statue of Sol Ross, for which he feels affection, and by the simultaneous enthusiasm for the proposed statue of Matthew Gaines, of whom he had never heard.  In an effort to learn something about Gaines, this Old Ag did some reading and stumbled upon my recent post about the short and colorful career of the former Texas Senator and slave.

He called to ask me why the story I told was so very different than the official narrative.

As I explained in my recent post, Gaines was a Black member of the Texas Senate during Reconstruction, and it is now being claimed that he was “instrumental in the . . . passage of Senate Bill 276, which created the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas.”  This quote is from the webpage of the “Matthew Gaines-12th Legislature Commemoration Fund,” and it is true only if we are not over particular about the meaning of the word instrumental.

On the same webpage, a student leader is quoted as saying “the legacy of Matthew Gaines is intertwined with the founding of Texas A&M University.”  I shudder to think of the things with which I am “intertwined” if that word can be used to describe the very slight connection Senator Gaines had with SB 276.  Finally, on that same webpage, the text from Student Senate Bill 70-10, which endorses the proposed statue, tells us that Gaines “worked tirelessly to pass legislation that enabled Texas to take advantage of the Morrill Land-Grant Act.”

From this I can only infer that student senators have a very low standard for what counts as tireless work.

The truth is that Matthew Gaines voted for SB 276 as part of a very large (21-4) Republican majority.  The bill was written in a committee of which Senator Gaines was not a member, and which would have had no reason to consult him.*  The committee was dominated by members of Gaines’ radical Republican faction, and the bill it wrote was in line with Gaines’ vision of Reconstruction, but I have yet to see any evidence that Gaines did anything more than vote for SB 276. Indeed, I have yet to see any evidence that passing this bill required tireless work on the part of anyone, since it was a simple piece of legislation that allowed Texas to scoop up free Federal money.

Here are the basic facts.

In January of 1871, Texas Governor Edmund Davis urged Texas legislators to establish an agricultural and mechanical college, warning that failure to do this before the end of the year would cause Texas to forfeit the Federal aid provided by the Morrill Act of 1862.**  Under this act (as amended in 1866), Texas was entitled to proceeds from the sale of 180,000 acres of Federal land if it established a college that taught agriculture, mechanics and military science.

But this offer was going to expire at the end of 1871, so Davis told his legislators to get a move on.

The Governor’s recommendation was thus forwarded to the Senate Committee on Finance, and in March, 1871, this committee reported Senate Bill 276.***  This was called “An Act for the Establishment of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas,” and its principal author was most likely the chairman of that committee, W. A. Saylor, a carpetbagger from Iowa who briefly represented Brazos county (where the A&M College was eventually located).  Matthew Gaines was on other committees, and on these committees he was no doubt tirelessly instrumental, but he was not on the committee that wrote this bill.  On April 17, the Texas Senate passed this bill on its third reading by a vote of 21 to 4, Matthew Gaines voting with the majority.†

If Gaines was “intertwined” with this initial stage in the founding of Texas A&M, it was only because he was (briefly) “intertwined” with the radical Republicans and their attempt to reconstruct Texas after the Civil War.  If the radical Republicans had not passed SB 276 in 1871, the deadline of the Morrill Act would have passed, Texas would have forfeited the script for 180,000 acres of Federal land, and there would have been no agricultural and mechanical college.  But Gaines did not have a speaking role in this little drama, and he was out of office, penniless and powerless, by the time the little college opened its doors in 1876.

As it happens, this is implicitly recognized on the webpage that I quoted earlier.  It is the webpage of “The Matthew Gaines-12th Legislature Commemoration Fund,” the 12th Legislature being the radical Republican legislature of 1871.  The statue that will be paid for by this fund may therefore be a likeness of Senator Matthew Gaines, but it will also honor and commemorate the hoard of scalawags and carpetbaggers who looted and terrorized Texas for four very dark years.

Here is how a knowledgeable Texas writer described the radical Republican regime of Governor Davis and the 12thlegislature.

“His administration was the most oppressive, tyrannical, and iniquitous ever visited upon a free people.”††

Now that is a government whose monument a university can host with pride.

The words were written by Norman G. Kittrell, a Texas lawyer, judge, author and politician, for whom the nearby town of Normangee is named.  Kittrell was no bigot, and he allowed that Governor Davis possessed admirable qualities, but he nevertheless maintained that the dark days of Reconstruction would be remembered with horror so long as there were free Texans in Texas

“As I said, he was esteemed to be personally an honest man, and doubtless possessed other personal virtues, but his administration will never be forgotten, and most likely never be forgiven, at least not for many a day to come.”†††

And now after many a day, it seems that day has come.

As it happens, Kittrell also had things to say about Lawrence Sullivan Ross, a man he knew personally, and whose baleful statue now offends and scandalizes a growing number of influential students.

“I recall no gubernatorial administration in Texas that was so free from friction, or that was so little subjected to criticism as was that of Governor Ross . . . . He was a man of culture and courage, and of an order of integrity so high, that even suspicion of infidelity concerning him was impossible . . .”*†

Or, worse yet.

“He was one of those plain, simple, unpretentious, yet forceful and efficient men, who arrived at every goal he set for himself, and measured up to the demands of every situation . . . . He always led.  He said, ‘boys, come on.’  He never said ‘go on.’”**†





*) The Membership of the Finance Committee printed in the 1871 Senate Journal does not agree with Texas government records now online, but neither record show Senator Matthew Gaines as a member of the Finance Committee.  See Senate Journal of the Twelfth Legislature of the State of Texas (Austin: State Printer, 1871), p 42.

**) Senate Journal (1871), p. 29.

***) Senate Journal (1871), p. 490.

†) Senate Journal (1871), pp. 631, 845.

††) Norman G. Kittrell, Governors Who Have Been, and Other Public Men of Texas (Houston, Tex.: Dealy-Adey-Elgin Company, 1921), p. 52.

†††) Kittrell, Governors Who Have Been, p. 54.

*†) Kittrell, Governors Who Have Been, p. 97.

**†) Kittrell, Governors Who Have Been, p. 98.

12 thoughts on “Whose Truths do We Hold to Be Self Evident?

  1. The Radical Republicans were the BLM movement of their day. They set back any possibility of racial reconciliation — I was going to write, by a century — but, really, forever. The John-Brown faction of Abolition was no better and set the pattern for the Radical Republicans.

    • The modern movements have learned how to break the spirit of people they seek to dominate. The Confederates were defeated militarily but not psychologically, and that’s why they were damn sure that they had done nothing to deserve what the RR tried to do to them. They had Yankees in their statehouses, but they didn’t have Yankees in their brains.

      • Rather, contemporary movements work with broken contemporary people. To switch images, today’s crop has had very little nourishment or care while developing. Rocky and poor soil, little water, no proper cultivation. Then, they’re often uprooted from their native patch. Rootless, groundless, they become weak weeds easy to finish off.

        That said, Screwtape and pals certainly have developed some clever methods. Over dinner this evening, I was admiring (in a perverted sense) BLM’s methods. Even the name is marvelously manipulative. The proposition “black lives matter” is nearly universally believed, and the organization uses that to its advantage, slyly erasing the distinction between that proposition and their Bolshevism in blackface. How dare you not think that Black Lives Matter! They use a similar tactic with “taking the knee.” They have used multiple meanings of taking the knee to mystify the herd. Originally a sign of defiance and disrespect (to the flag and consequently to the American people), BLM has used it in a religious way to get gullible Christians (not wise as serpents) to take the knee — in submission to their godless movement — by tricking them into an act of supplication before the Lord. Of course, God knows the heart of man, and these well-intentioned souls aren’t guilty of idolatry — but their acts serve wicked ends for BLM — a public example of incense offered before new alien gods. Impressively devious. Certainly demonic. Steve Sailer (PBUH) writes that the leadership of the leftist insurrection now has a much lower IQ than the Jewish radicals of the 1960s, but they’re getting jaw-dropping results (horrible for America, but desired by the perps.).

      • Well put. I was thinking about the BLM equivocation as I drove past a big BLM protest a few weeks back. Were they chanting the proposition or the name? The leaders of this leftist insurrection may not be clever, but they have shrewd cunning and an instinct for good optics.

      • They had Yankees in their statehouses, but they didn’t have Yankees in their brains.

        The motto of Identity Dixie – officially a “hate group” according to the hate obsessed SPLC – is “Secede In Your MInd.”

  2. Pingback: Whose Truths do We Hold to Be Self Evident? | Reaction Times

  3. What will replace the statues and monuments and personages being destroyed? They are already scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for suitable candidates for immortalization.

    I propose a 555-foot peanut in honor of George Washington Carver to replace the current Washington Monument. We will still be able to call it the Washington Monument, and the rioters will finally be mollified.

    • Multicultural societies cannot have real monuments, since my memory is your nightmare. They can try to make common memories by declaring this to be Year Zero, but in ten years more recent arrivals will feel left out. They can try abstract monuments to vague ideas like liberty or discovery, but most people hate abstract art and are not moved by vague ideas. A multicultural society must live in the environmental equivalent of a motel room, all pubic art being perfectly neutral.

  4. From the O.P.:

    I have yet to see any evidence that passing this bill required tireless work on the part of anyone, since it was a simple piece of legislation that allowed Texas to scoop up free Federal money.

    Ha! Well, as I’ve been at pains (“tirelessly” even, since we’re apparently at liberty to use such terms mighty loosely) to point out for many years, “you don’t get away with sh*t in this world.” Which is to say, in a manner of speaking, ‘there ain’t nothin’ “free”; you’re going to pay for it one way or the other; there are always strings attached, most especially whenever bad actors are claiming there are no strings attached.’ But in truth I have no idea what is even meant by “federal money,” free or not. To my (seceded) mind, “federal money” is either (1) what is otherwise known as “unfunded liabilities,” or in more common lingo, “dollars created out of thin air” sort of like the so called “incorporation doctrine”; or (2) money confiscated (in various ways, both under and overhanded) from persons who actually create wealth and mostly against their will. I’ll grant that these people to whom I refer tacitly ‘go along’ with the program, but only because they deem it better than the alternative of being made an example of and going to prison for “tax evasion” or whatever the government likes to call it.

    BTW, I take slight issue with your use of the term “federal” in “free federal money.” As I’ve also been at pains to point out for years, one need only read President Johnson’s “Amnesty Proclamation” to understand that even he was under no delusion that the Confederates were ever disloyal to the federal government; their disloyalty was to the new national government bent on overthrowing the federal constitution and federalism itself. This is why Johnson’s “amnesty” for former Confederates stipulated explicitly that they were to swear loyalty – via the so called “ironclad oath” – to the national (Yankee) government, not the federal government. But anyway,…

    • If you go to the Wikipedia page on the Morrill Act, you’ll find that Native American activists have been at work to remind us that America’s “land grant” universities were built on the bones of dead Indians. We all know that Federal (or if you prefer, National) money is like the smallpox-infected blankets that George Washington allegedly gave the Indians: attractive at first glance, but later not so much. But, with these reservations, Texas did get a freebee here. Because it entered the Union as a state and not a territory, the Texas State government profited from the sale of expropriated Indian land. Everywhere else it was the Federal (National) government. It would not have been unreasonable to exclude Texas from the Morrill Act and say should have pay for its “land grant university” with 180,000 acres of its own land.

      American political nomenclature causes endless confusion. I have a Ph.D. student who his right now trying to wrap his head around the fact that, in Mexican history, Federalists favored decentralized government. You are right to say that the the word federal isn’t altogether accurate as a name for the central government after 1865, but most of my readers understand the word as the name of the central government.

      • …but most of my readers understand the word as the name of the central government.

        Yeah, I know – most of your readers and most everyone else’s on this side of the divide. It’s one of my pet peeves.

  5. Pingback: Well, That Was Interesting (But Not Much Fun) – The Orthosphere


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