Dorothy Sloan -- Books

Copyright 2000- by Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books Inc. for all materials on this site. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.



Excoriation of the “Hero” Sam Houston

First Pamphlet printed in Texas on a Horse-Powered Press

Click images or links labeled Enlarge to enlarge. Links labeled Zoom open zoomable images.

228.     [HOUSTON, SAMUEL]. Two imprints bound together: [1] Life of General Sam Houston [caption title]. [Washington, D.C.: J.T. Towers, 1852?]; [colophon on p. 15] Printed by J.T. Towers, Washington, D.C.—Price one dollar per 100 copies. Orders, accompanied by the cash, and forwarded either by mail, or by Express. [1]-15 [1, blank] pp., printed in double column. [2] BURNET, David G[ouverneur]. Review of the Life of Gen. Sam Houston, as Recently Published in Washington City by J.T. Towers, By D.G. Burnet, First President of Texas. Galveston: News Power Press Print, 1852 (preface dated Oakland, Texas, May 5, 1852). [1]-15 [1, blank] pp. 8vo (24.3 x 15.8 cm), contemporary plain tan paper wrappers, original blue stitching. Wrappers wrinkled, chipped with some losses, ink stained, creased where formerly folded; interior with light waterstaining at top (generally not affecting text), a few leaves of first work with moderate staining at lower right quadrant. Second work with scattered uniform light to moderate foxing; title foxed and stained. Some leaves in both works chipped and dog-eared. Upper wrapper has title and notes in contemporary ink: “The Life of Sam Houston and The Review by D.G. Burnet” (probably in Burnet’s hand), followed by signature of “John Chrisman [?] Lynchburg.” Lower wrap has two brief contemporary manuscript notes in ink on recto (“Saml Houston”) and verso (“Remarks D.G. Burnet”). In the second work, there is a manuscript correction on p. 11, probably in Burnet’s hand. The first work is uncommon. The second work is genuinely rare.

     First editions of both works. An example of the two works bound together, as here, is held by the Center for American History at the University of Texas. Winkler considers the second work to be the first pamphlet printed in Texas on a power press, albeit, in this case, a press powered by a horse.

     First work: Eberstadt, Texas 162:410. Sabin 33192. Raines, p. 226 (title omitting “General” and dated 184-). Basic Texas Books 126n (referring to the present work in the entry for Charles Edwards Lester’s, Sam Houston and His Republic, written in 1846):

In Texas, [Lester’s] book was a sensation. Houston’s enemies howled at the title, and the Senator seems overall to have lost rather than gained support as a result. Mirabeau B. Lamar wrote: “His Republic! That is true…. I can regard Texas as very little more than Big Drunk’s big ranch.” David G. Burnet began immediately to prepare a rebuttal; he wrote to a friend: “I have some idea of answering some of its misstatements and in order to do so am anxious to collect all the facts possible relating to the campaign of ‘36. The book is full of falsehood—every truth is turned upside down.” He bemoaned Houston as “the prince of Humbugs,” and detailed errors, exaggerations, and what he called outright lies. No one seems to have doubted that Houston had himself written the book. In 1851, Lester, who had become a sort of unofficial press agent for Houston, wrote Houston that the 1852 nomination would be “between you and Douglas…. It is necessary for you to shew yourself throughout the United States.” About the same time an anonymous pamphlet appeared, printed by J.T. Towers in Washington, entitled Life of General Sam Houston, obviously derived from the Lester volume. I reprinted this in 1964, dating it circa 1855. This was an error on my part, however, for in 1852 David G. Burnet published Review of the Life of Gen. Sam Houston, as Recently Published in Washington City by J.T. Towers (Galveston: News Power Press print, 1852), in which he details his objections to both the Towers pamphlet and the Lester book, saying that every long-time Texas resident knew that “the hero of the tale was virtually the author.” The Towers pamphlet, he said, is but a repetition of the same falsehoods and the same absurd distortions of character.

     The pamphlet amounts to a campaign biography. “Houston served in the Senate from February 21, 1846, until March 4, 1859. Beginning with the 1848 election, he was mentioned as a possible candidate for president. He even had a biography published in 1846 by Charles Edwards Lester entitled Sam Houston and His Republic, which amounted to campaign publicity” (Handbook of Texas Online: Samuel Houston).

     Second work: Eberstadt, Texas 162:104 (offered at $500 in 1963, but given to Thomas W. Streeter who gave the copy to Yale): “An important work in Texas history, and the first imprint of a power press in Texas” (see Winkler, p. xix). A revealing review of events that came under Burnet’s observation during the Texas Revolution, including hidden facts on the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto. The first President here handles the second President without gloves, then throws down the gauntlet in a tirade of animosity that had brewed for fifteen years. Texana, Statehood 4 hints at an earlier power-press imprint from Houston, and states: “The Galveston Power Press was not operated by steam, but by a horse driven by a Negro slave belonging to Willard Richardson, publisher of The Galveston News.” Graff 495: “Comprises a bitter attack on Sam Houston and his pretensions.” Raines, p. 37: “Harsh, but not without provocation.” Winkler 295 (locations MoSM, TX, TxU; Clint and Dorothy Josey also had a copy).

     Regarding the Alamo, Burnet accuses Houston of basically ignoring the situation. He goes into considerably more detail on events surrounding the Battle of San Jacinto, being careful to ensure that Houston receives practically no credit for the victory, and even blaming him for Fannin’s massacre. He repeatedly accuses Houston of being an unredeemed drunkard and skirt chaser. He writes: “That Gen. Houston is looking and straining for the presidential nomination, with all the anxiety that an intense selfishness and an unscrupulous avidity for office, acting on a weak and inflated vanity, can elicit, requires no labored effort to make manifest. That he is totally incompetent intellectually and morally, to the high office, a very slight acquaintance with his history and his heart, will abundantly discover to all…. I have written very hastily and from recollection only, not referring even to the documents in my possession…. As to comments, although there may appear some objectionable warmth, to the calmly dispassionate and uninterested, I do feel in my inmost conscience, that I have said nothing that the subject does not fully justify.”


Sold. Hammer: $1,600.00; Price Realized: $1,920.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

Click images or links labeled Enlarge to enlarge. Links labeled Zoom open zoomable images.

DSRB Home | e-mail: