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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"

Old Sam Houston Song

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
Here's a good television game show question: Name the only person who ever served as governor of two states.

The answer, of course, is Sam Houston. Before coming to Texas in 1832, following a boozy interlude living with the Cherokees in Indian Territory, he had been governor of Tennessee.

After making Texas his home and playing a decisive role in the revolution that brought Texas independence from Mexico, Houston got elected as the first president of the new Republic of Texas. When Texas joined the Union in 1845, Houston represented the new state as one of its U.S. Senators.

Five years later, some folks began to think Houston would make a pretty good President. The Oct. 12, 1850 issue of the Redland Herald, a newspaper published in San Augustine, proclaimed:
For President in Fifty-two
General Sam Houston
The Hero Of San Jacinto
In the same issue, the East Texas newspaper reprinted an assortment of snippets from other newspapers across the nation, all touting Houston as the Democratic choice for the White House.

The Lebanon County, PA. Advertiser was typical in its sentiments:

"From the papers we receive at our office we perceive that a number of them are already talking about the next presidency and proposing candidates. Who do you think is prominent this time? No less a person that Sam Houston of Texas, the hero of San Jacinto. Wouldn't he be a glorious leader? It would take the world and the rest of mankind to defeat him…We think the democracy of the whole Union could unite on him."

The Redlander also published a campaign song by one G.W. Pearce, sung to the tune of "Oh, Susannah!"

The song, reprinted in 1928 in a long-defunct Texas magazine called Bunker's Monthly, lies on the pages of the few surviving copies of that publication, long forgotten. It does not show up in a Web search or appear in the basic Houston biographies.

Sing along, pausing for a few explanatory notes:
"Come, all ye good Republicans [the author uses 'Republicans' as a synonym for Citizens, the Republican Party not yet in existence],
Come join the song with me,
Who want a man for President
To rule the brave and free.
Not too moving a start, but the chorus is catchier:
"Old Sam Houston, he's the boy for me,
He lives away in Texas, and a good old man is he.
[Born in 1792, "Old" Houston was 58 at the time.]

Old Sam Houston, he's the boy for me,
He lives away in Texas, and a good old man is he."
The song writer continued:
"He's of the Andrew Jackson school,
As true and tried as steel,
And loves the land of Freedom well,
Its glory and its weal.

[Chorus]

"Just listen to his sturdy voice,
Within the Nation's hall [the Capitol],
Proclaiming proudly to the world
The Union shall not fall.

[Chorus]

"At San Jacinto's bloody field,
Our Hero met the foe,
And Santa Anna there was fixed
For traveling very slow.

[Chorus]

"A statesman true and hero bold,
In him are both combined;
And with him we can whip the world,
'And the rest of (Whig) mankind.' [The Whigs and the Democrats were the dominant political parties at the time.]

[Chorus]

"We'll bring him out in fifty-two
And on our banners high,
His name shall float for President,
So, Whiggies, don't you cry.

[Chorus]

"And when we've placed him in the chair,
Where brave Old Hick-ry sat,
We'll say good-bye, old Uncle Sam,
Hang up that broad-rim'd hat!

"Old Sam Houston, he's the boy for me,
He does not live in Texas, for the President is he,
Old Sam Houston, a good old man is he;
The White House is his residence, Whiggies call and see."
On Jan. 8, 1852, the state Democratic Convention in Austin nominated Houston for the presidency, but the national convention did not see it that way. Democrat Franklin Pierce went on to defeat Whig candidate Gen. Winfield Scott. Four years later, Houston's name came up at the convention of the newly formed American Party in Baltimore, but he got only three votes.

By then, his strong pro-Union sentiments had killed his support in the slave-holding South. And that ended any ghost of a chance he had for national office. Democrat James Buchanan became the next president.

With no hope for the White House, the "good old man" resigned from the Senate and came home to Texas, where in 1859 the people elected Houston as their governor.
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" >

July 27, 2006 column
 
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