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AUCTION 20

The “Union” Constitution Abolishing Slavery in Texas
In Rare Oversize Broadsheet Format

119. TEXAS. STATE. CONSTITUTION. Newspaper extra printing of the 1866 Texas State Constitution: Supplement to Flake’s Weekly Bulletin of May 16, 1866. | (Published by Authority.) Constitution of the State of Texas, As Amended. [Galveston, May 16, 1866]. Double folio (60 x 46 cm). 2 pp., printed in 7 columns on recto and verso, three ads at end. Moderate waterstaining at left affecting text, light foxing and overall uniform toning, creased where formerly folded, a few minor splits (no losses). More respectable than the condition report would seem to indicate.

     Rare newspaper extra of the Texas reconstruction constitution. Primary in the text is “An Ordinance, Declaring the Ordinance of Secession Null and Void”: “Be it ordained by the people of Texas in Convention assembled, That we acknowledge the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States, and the laws passed in pursuance thereof; and that an Ordinance adopted by a former Convention of the people of Texas on the 1st day of February, A.D. 1861, entitled An Ordinance to Dissolve the Union between the State of Texas and the other States, united under the compact styled 'Constitution of the United States of America,' be and the same is hereby declared null and void; and the right heretofore claimed by the State of Texas to secede from the Union, is hereby distinctly renounced. Passed 15th March, 1866.” Interestingly, when the Civil War ended in April 1865, Texas was still considered to be in revolt (the last battles of the Civil War were fought on Texas soil by Rip Ford well after the surrender at Appomattox). Although a state of peace was declared as existing between the U.S. and the other Southern States on April 2, 1866, President Andrew Johnson did not issue a similar proclamation of peace between the U.S. and Texas until August 20, 1866, even though the Constitutional Convention of 1866 here approves such on March 15, 1866.

     This “Union” constitution abolished slavery and made all men free and equal-with certain glaring reservations, e.g., only free “white” males were eligible for election to the legislature, specifically prohibiting “Indians not taxed, Africans and descendants of Africans”, etc. This constitution reflects the altered social, economic, governmental, and financial condition of the overwhelmed state after the Civil War. All debts for the “late war” are declared null and void, followed by robust tax measures to be paid to both the State and the Feds, along with a jarring increase in salaries and benefits for government officials. Of special interest is proposed funding to protect the frontier. Authorization is given for military expeditions and the establishment of forts to relieve the relentless rustling of cattle and horses and depredations and captivities by tribes against private citizens on the Northwest frontier of Texas and the Mexican border. The “Kickapo,” then camping in Mexico between Santa Rosa and Piedras Negras, are specifically mentioned.

     The first printing of the 1866 Texas constitution is generally considered to be the edition printed in pamphlet form in Austin in 1866 by the Southern Intelligencer (Winkler-Friend 1533). Texas legislator A. B. Norton, a Unionist, became editor the Southern Intelligencer in 1860, but the newspaper ceased publication when Norton fled north “under pressure” in 1861. Norton returned to Texas in 1865 and served on the 1866 Constitutional Convention (according to the Journals of the Constitutional Convention of 1866, on April 1, 1866, Norton was appointed to superintend the printing and distribution of the constitution). Another early edition (in book or pamphlet format) was printed in Austin at the Gazette Office by State Printer Jo. Walker in 1866 (Winkler-Friend 1534 & 1535, the latter with the General Laws added). It would be interesting to determine exactly when the Southern Intelligencer and Gazette Office editions appeared.

     The present imprint in oversize broadsheet format is dated May 16, 1866, and was published by Ferdinand Flake (?-1872), an emigrant to Texas from Göttingen, Germany, and the son of a Lutheran minister. That an early printing of the Texas constitution abolishing slavery and forever changing Texas was published by Flake’s Weekly Bulletin is not surprising, given editor Ferdinand Flake’s unbridled, bold opposition to secession and slavery. Printing this constitution must have been a satisfying, affirming experience for Flake.

     “In 1855 Flake bought Die Union, a German-language newspaper that F. Muhr had started in 1855. Flake, acting as both editor and publisher, brought out the paper three times a week, and soon it had the largest circulation in Galveston. But this success was undermined by Flake's unpopular strong criticism of secession and the slave trade; ‘the odor of the slave trade was too strong for my nostrils,’ he wrote. In 1860 he wrote an editorial condemning the secession of South Carolina, and in response a mob destroyed his offices. Undaunted by this violence, Flake used type that he had hidden at home to produce the next issue of the paper... Flake remained staunchly Unionist throughout the war, and only his strategic friendships with local Confederate leaders prevented further violence. After 1861 he discontinued his German-language paper in favor of a newspaper called Flake's Bulletin. It appeared in any color paper that Flake could obtain, white being unavailable due to the war, and was set on a small Washington hand press by an inexperienced compositor. Flake printed all the news he could receive from Shreveport by pony express and wire. After the war he produced the Bulletin with the aid of his son-in-law, Selim Rinker, and also restarted Die Union. Supported by the local businessmen, Flake's paper became increasingly popular in the late 1860s” (Handbook of Texas Online: Ferdinand Flake). See also: Earl W. Fornell, “Ferdinand Flake: German Pioneer Journalist of the Southwest” in American-German Review 21 (February-March, 1955).

     All issues of Flake’s newspaper are very rare, and even the Center for American History at the University of Texas does not have a complete run. Likely, this oversize broadsheet issue of the Texas Reconstruction constitution is more rare than the 1866 versions printed at the Southern Intelligencer and the Gazette Office. It certainly is more dramatic in appearance. ($750-1,500)

Sold. Hammer: $1,200.00; Price Realized: $1,410.00

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