“In Disregard and Defiance” The Cotton-Trade Controversy
Looking back upon the political conflict within the Confederacy, Texas senator Williamson S. Oldham, an ardent states' right advocate who opposed the efforts to form a centralized Confederate government, reflected on the root of Southern discontent. “There was a total want of adaptation, ” he remarked. “We must take men as they are, and not as we would have them. If we would legislate for them as freeman, we must adapt our laws to their sentiments in order to command their support—if we legislate in disregard and defiance of their sentiments, they will feel, that they are treated as slaves, and will rebel against our measures.” Born in Franklin County, Tennessee, on June 19, 1813, Williamson S. Oldham grew up on a farm and studied law under Judge Nathan Green before moving to Arkansas in 1836. There he practiced law and represented Arkansas in its House of Representatives. In 1844, the Arkansas legislature elected him associate judge of the Supreme Court, a position he held until moving to Austin, Texas, for health reasons. In Austin, he continued his law practice with Judge James Webb. Oldham's astute observation reflected the prevailing problem of the Confederate government: it passed legislation contrary to the interests of the general population. In return, citizens withheld their loyalty, and state governments countered with measures to protect private property and individual liberty. Such “rebellion, ” Oldham remarked, appeared especially pronounced in Texas. 1.
The political conflict within the Confederacy emerged most significantly in the wrangling over cotton and the Confederate government's attempt to regulate private property and free trade. Richmond's pattern of neglecting western interests contributed to Texas seeking its own economic interests.____________________