The people of Texas, Sam Houston wrote, never would utter this man’s name “unaccompanied
by a prayer for his happiness and prosperity.” |
Texas’ first president
did not allude to Stephen F. Austin, Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, William B. Travis
or any other hero most Texans have ever heard of, much less prayed for. But the
man Houston referred to played a critical role in Texas’ fight for independence
from Mexico. All but forgotten today, the depth of this man’s contributions to
Texas have yet to be fully explored.
Houston singled this man out for
special recognition on Oct. 22, 1836 in his inaugural address to the Republic
of Texas’ first Congress. Standing in the new republic’s temporary capitol at
Columbia, Houston delivered a short, extemporaneous speech to the 43 men recently
elected to represent the nation’s 35,000 people.
After making his major
points amid the requisite false modesty, Houston turned to expressions of appreciation.
The president acknowledged the men in the room “who battled in the field
of San Jacinto, and whose chivalry and valor, have identified them with the glory
of the country, its name, its soil, and its liberty.” Referring to the United
States, he said “our friends in the land of our origin” had embraced the Texas
cause “with the warmest sympathies.”
So far, Houston had offered only
blanket praise, calling no names. Now the president pointed to one man.
“There sits a gentleman within my view,” Houston said, “whose personal and political
services to Texas have been invaluable. He was the first in the United States
to espouse our cause. His purse was ever open to our necessities. His hand was
extended to our aid. His presence among us, and his return to the embraces of
his friends will inspire new efforts in behalf of our cause.”
Christy surely took a bow amidst hearty applause.
With a flourish, Houston
drew his sword.
“It now, Sir, becomes my duty to make a presentation
of this sword – this emblem of my past office!” Houston said, looking at Christy.
“I have worn it with some humble pretensions in defense of my country; and should
the danger of my country again call for my services, I expect to resume it, and
respond to that call, if needful, with my blood and life.”
A native of
Kentucky, Christy knew how it felt to wield cold steel in support of national
interest. Orphaned at 14, he ran his parents’ estate for a while before joining
the Army when the War of 1812 began. That’s how he met Houston, then a young Army
lieutenant. Both men fought Indians allied with England, and Christy took part
in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. That’s where he became acquainted with Andrew
Jackson, mentor to his friend Houston.
After the war, Christy settled
in Louisiana, where New Orleans was the closest significant city to then Spanish-controlled
Texas. Christy’s participation in Dr. James Long’s 1819-20 filibustering expeditions
to Texas landed him in prison.
Back from Mexico City after his release
from custody, Christy gained admission to the bar in 1823. In addition to practicing
law, he took part in the governance of New Orleans as one of the city’s aldermen
Two years later, when a committee began meeting in New Orleans
to assist Texas in its effort to become independent of Mexico, Christy became
both its chairman and treasurer. When young men interested in the Texas cause
came to New Orleans, Christy was the man to see.
On Oct. 13, 1835, Christy
presided over a meeting called to raise money for Texas. The following January,
Christy used his influence to help Stephen F. Austin, Branch T. Archer and William
H. Wharton float two loans totaling $250,000 to support Texas’ revolutionary effort.
(In today’s dollars that would be about $5 million. Even in 1836, a quarter million
dollars bought a lot of guns, lead and powder.)
After San Jacinto, Houston
presented Christy with the saddle and bridle captured from Mexican Gen. Martin
Perfecto de Cos. Christy, in turn, put Houston up at his house on Girod Street
in New Orleans while he recovered from the bullet wound he suffered in the April
21, 1836 defeat of Santa Anna.
Christy lived to see Texas become the
28th state of the union in 1845. Five years later, he became surveyor of customs
at New Orleans, a post he held until 1854. He died on Nov. 7, 1865, a forgotten
© Mike Cox