The Secret of My Secession

Rick Perry is not the first Lone Star politician to embrace the myth of Texan autonomy. Let’s hope he’s the last.

From the moment Sam Houston’s army defeated Santa Anna, at San Jacinto in 1836, two distinct and incompatible visions have competed for the future of Texas. On the one side there was Houston, the first president of the new republic, who believed that his fledgling country, bereft of hard currency and still threatened with invasion by its defeated foe to the south, could not survive on its own; he sought recognition of Texas by his friend Andrew Jackson, the president of the United States, to be followed by annexation (which would not occur until 1845). On the other side was Mirabeau B. Lamar, who succeeded Houston in 1838. Lamar felt that the destiny of the Republic of Texas lay not in a union with the U.S. but in its sovereignty; he looked west rather than east, to territory he wished to conquer, all the way into what is now New Mexico and beyond.

Echoes of this distant feud were unmistakable as recently as mid-April, when Governor Rick Perry, while attending an Austin “tea party” organized by antitax activists, hinted that Texas might one day secede from the Union and reestablish itself as an independent nation. “There’s a lot of different scenarios,” Perry said, in response to a reporter’s question about secession. “We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that? But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.” He subsequently elaborated, “We are very proud of our Texas history; people discuss and debate the issues of ‘Can we break ourselves into five states, can we secede’—a lot of interesting things that I’m sure Oklahoma and Pennsylvania would love to be able to say about their states, but the fact is, they can’t, because they’re not Texas.”

Lamar would have appreciated Perry’s bravado. He believed that Texas didn’t need the United States. “Like many of his contemporaries, Lamar dreamed of a Republic of Texas extending westward to the Pacific,” wrote historian Rupert Richardson in a textbook that was inflicted on generations of the state’s schoolchildren. Lamar was a reckless adventurer whose dreams of transcontinental glory plunged the state into fiscal ruin and cost many of the Texans who had the misfortune to take part in his schemes their freedom or their lives. In

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