Trees Planted by the Water: Early African American Legislators



Texas.--the political contest at Austin--gathering of the Democrats to oust the radicals--sounding the long roll at the cigar store in Congress Street.--sketched by Douglas E. Jerrold


The End of Radical Rule 
 "The vote polled was large and decisive; Coke received 85,549 votes, Davis 42,633. The Democratic candidates for the several state offices were successful, and a majority in each branch of the legislature also belonged to that party. The radicals made a last desperate effort to prolong minority rule. The validity of the law, under which the recent election had been held, was attacked because the voting had been limited to one day instead of four. The supreme court of Texas, on January 5, 1874, upheld this view and declared the law unconstitutional. Acting upon the assumption that under this decision the election, too, was void, and that the successful candidates were not entitled to administer the offices to which they had been elected, Governor Davis, on Janury 12, issued following proclamation.

The Texas contest.--radicals arresting the mayor of Austin.--sketched by Douglas E. Jerrold.


 After referring to the decision of the court, he said: " Whereas, Great public injury and further dangerous complications of public affairs are likely to result from any attempt on the part of those claiming to have been chosen as members of the legislature and other officers at said election, to assume the positions they claim, therefore, for these and other reasons which it is not necessary to incorporate herein, it is deemed advisable, and it is so ordered, that those who have been chosen as legislators and other officers shall not attempt to assume the positions they claim unless by further action of adequate authority." Knowing very well that his proclamation would be disregarded, the governor applied to the president of the United State for federal troops to prevent apprehended violence. On January 12th Grant replied that he could not furnish aid, and made following suggestion: "The act of the legislature of Texas providing for the recent election having received your approval, and both political parties having made nominations and having conducted a political campaign under its provisions, would it not be prudent, as well as right, to yield to the verdict of the people as expressed by their ballots ?'' Governor Davis, however, did not sit idly by awaiting Grant's decision; he believed in helping himself, and the president's reply did not change his program. The newly elected state officers and members of the legislature held a conference the evening preceding the day fixed for the meeting of the legislature, January 13, 1874. No one knew what Davis planned to do, but that opposition to the inauguration of the new administrations would be made was anticipated. It was decided to proceed in the most peaceable and prudent manner possible and to avoid any illegal action. It was discovered that Davis had filled the lower part of the capitol with armed men, mostly negroes, and that he planned to take possession of the legislative halls in the morning. The Democrats, therefore, secured the halls during the night and thus gained an important strategic point. Organization of the legislature was perfected without opposition. However, on the same day a portion of the thirteenth legislature met in the basement of the capitol. The governor informed the committees from the fourteenth legislature that he would not recognize it, as its validity was placed in doubt by the decision of the supreme court and was protested by its predecessor. For a time the secretary of state refused to deliver to the legislature the election returns, but later allowed them to be taken over his protest.


Democrats discussing the situation near the Raymond House.

The returns for governor and lieutenant-governor were canvassed, and Coke and Hubbard declared to be duly elected. Governor Davis issued an order to the local militia company, the Travis Rifles, to report at once for duty "fully armed and equipped." On their way to the capitol the sheriff summoned the captain and his men as a posse to keep the peace; they were marched to the second story of the capitol and stood guard during the inauguration of the new governor late at night of the 15th. The next day another appeal was made to Grant: The newly elected governor (Coke) was inaugurated last night. Armed men are guarding the approaches to the offices at the capitol. Other armed men have possession of the legislative halls. A conflict seems inevitable." Again aid was refused. But Davis still held on. "During the 16th and until late in the afternoon of the 17th there prevailed the most intense excitement, both in the lower and upper story of the capitol, and there were during that time several narrow escapes from hostile conflict, which was only prevented by the continual watchfulness and care of those who were relied upon to avoid a conflict if possible."

Radicals guarding the Secretary of State's office. 

In the afternoon of the 17th a third refusal of aid was received from the president, through the attorney general, saying that the president "is of the opinion your right to the office of governor at this time is at least so doubtful that he does not feel warranted in furnishing United States troops." Thereupon Davis quit the executive office without taking formal leave, and radical rule was at an end. "