The Personal Correspondence of Sam Houston

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The Personal Correspondence of Sam Houston. Volume III: 1848-1852. Edited by Madge Thornall Roberts. (Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press, c. 1999. Pp. viii, 508. $32.50, ISBN 1-57441-063-6.)

Sam Houston usually appears in history dressed in Indian costume, wandering aimlessly from place to place, never satisfied with the here and now, holding true to some American myth of the frontier. Houston the big drunk, the military hero, and the sly politician dominate the popular imagination. Madge Thornall Roberts persistently shows us another side of the man in her third volume of the personal correspondence of Houston and his wife Margaret. These letters speak of home, family, business matters, the love between husband and wife, and Houston's love of the Union. Houston displayed constancy and purpose, not wild swings of affection and interest. As he wrote in December 1849: "You may rely upon it my Love, that I am and will ever be for the Union. Yes, and for our Union!" (p. 116). True to his word, Houston vigorously worked for compromise and reconciliation between North and South as early as 1848 and envisioned his role in the Senate as conserving and protecting the nation he inherited from earlier generations. Instead of the wild and erratic adventurer Randolph Campbell displayed in Sam Houston and the American Southwest (New York, 1993), Roberts shows Houston as a man with steady common sense.

But, beyond giving us a more realistic Houston, this volume adds information on his role in the Compromise of 1850, his attempts to gain the 1852 presidential nomination, and his trials as a public figure in the 1850s. …