Book Review: Horne, Gerald, “The Counter Revolution of 816: Texas Slavery & Jim Crow and the Roots of U.S. Fascism.” International Publishers, 2022. Available through Amazon Books
University of Houston Professor Gerald Horne has created a book that must be read. I wholeheartedly recommend it, but that doesn’t make it an easy read.
I believe there is a long-awaited tendency toward truth in Texas history. Most of us have only seen the bleached and romanticized version. It makes great romantic heroes of all the “revolutionary” “founders” of the state. Everyone who can read knows it isn’t true. If they were really such wonderful people, why did they prominently feature slavery in their first constitution?
As far as I know, though, the new revisionist histories lead up gradually to the truth and don’t actually denounce any of the Texas “heroes” before their conclusions. Gerald Horne starts there. The “founders” of Texas are ratfink landgrabbers devoted to genocide for natives and enslavement for Africans from page one.
“Father of Texas” Austin wasn’t a saint trying to find homes for poor settlers. A slave owner himself, he worked constantly and consistently to overcome his host country’s ban against slavery. He was the slaveocracy’s front man. The ones who followed were no less committed to slavery and even more bloodthirsty in its pursuit.
As for the Natives, there were only two ideological trends in Texas: the few “liberals” wanted to put them all into bantusland reservations as in apartheid South African; the majority, including President Mirabeau Lamar, wanted to kill every last one of them. Mexican Americans received little more consideration. The Texas Rangers were an equestrian version of Murder, Inc.
From the first white settlers until modern times, Texas history is a story of lynching and genocide. For good measure, Horne throws in some little-known truths about Oklahoma and the states that were created after the greatest land grab — usually known as the Mexican War.
Most white Texans supported secession from Mexico. Many of them coveted even more Mexican land and only reluctantly joined the United States when forced by economic circumstances. Nearly all of them supported seceding from the union over the slavery issue in 1860. Their contributions to the Confederacy exceeded every state except, possibly, Virginia. After General Lee surrendered in 1865, many Texans moved to Mexico where they supported the French imperialist forces under “Emperor” Maximillian because they hoped to re-start the Civil War with France on their side.
The total destruction of previous Texas histories is one reason that “The Counter Revolution of 1836” is hard reading. Texas history as we have known it is deservedly turned inside-out! The other reason comes from Horne’s writing style. A few pages into the 575-page opus, the reader starts hoping that Horne will run out of obscure pejoratives to describe early Texans, but he doesn’t. He rarely employs a sentence that wouldn’t diagram as compound/complex. Because he has assembled so many quotes from so many sources, he hop-scotches from one to the other so quickly that it’s not always easy to remember what point he was making.
The book has a tremendous list of resources. Oddly, I did not find Randolph Campbell’s “An Empire for Slavery” among them. Possibly, Campbell may have been too easy on Texas.