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Alexander Watkins Terrell

Alexander Watkins Terrell

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    Alexander Watkins Terrell
    Book Description:

    Alexander Terrell's career placed him at the center of some of the most pivotal events in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history, ranging from the Civil War to Emperor Maximilian's reign over Mexico and an Armenian genocide under the Ottoman Empire. Alexander Watkins Terrell at last provides the first complete biographical portrait of this complex figure.

    Born in Virginia in 1827, Terrell moved to Texas in 1852, rising to the rank of Confederate brigadier general when the Civil War erupted. Afterwards, he briefly served in Maximilian's army before returning to Texas, where he was elected to four terms in the state Senate and three terms in the House. President Grover Cleveland appointed him minister to the Ottoman Empire, dispatching him to Turkey and the Middle East for four years while the issues surrounding the existence of Christians in a Muslim empire stoked violent confrontations there. His other accomplishments included writing legislation that created the Texas Railroad Commission and what became the Permanent University Fund (the cornerstone of the University of Texas's multibillion-dollar endowment).

    In this balanced exploration of Terrell's life, Gould also examines Terrell's views on race, the impact of the charges of cowardice in the Civil War that dogged him, and his spiritual searching beyond the established religions of his time. In his rich and varied life, Alexander Watkins Terrell experienced aspects of nineteenth-century Texas and American history whose effects have continued down to the present day.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79728-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
    Lewis L. Gould
  5. Chapter One From Missouri to Texas
    (pp. 3-16)

    Alexander Watkins Terrell never really knew his father. In August 1833, Dr. Christopher Johnson Terrell, his wife Susan, their three young sons, and their seven slaves lived in the frontier community of Boonville, Missouri. Alex, the oldest boy, was still three months short of his sixth birthday. The family had resided in Boonville for about eighteen months, and their economic prospects seemed good. But life on the frontier was always uncertain, and death could be very close.

    The Missouri River flowed by the small town named in honor of the famous woodsman Daniel Boone. Laid out in 1817, Boonville had...

  6. Chapter Two The District Judge
    (pp. 17-36)

    During his first eleven years in Austin, Texas, from 1852 to 1863, Alexander W. Terrell established the political reputation and standing in the community that he would retain for sixty years. Within three years he played a decisive role in revitalizing the Democratic Party to meet the challenge of the Know-Nothings. Two years later he won election as a district judge. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Terrell was a leading politician in Central Texas with ambitions for higher office. But the hostilities with the North disrupted his public career and personal life during the rest of the...

  7. Chapter Three Civil War, Mexico, and Reconstruction
    (pp. 37-55)

    It was one of those small, apparently unimportant moments in the fog of war. At the Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9, 1864, Alexander Terrell and the men of his Company H rode ahead of the others in their regiment as the unit moved toward the Union lines. The Confederates were proceeding down a small road where pine forests loomed on either side. Terrell and his men passed out of sight of their comrades as the colonel commanding Terrell’s regiment and two others ordered the main body to move leftward. In the confusion of the moment, Terrell and his...

  8. Chapter Four The Senator from Austin
    (pp. 56-71)

    Alexander W. Terrell and his family returned to a more vibrant and expansive Austin than the one he had left nine years earlier. The city’s population was booming, from 4, 400 in 1870 to 10, 400 by 1875. A steam railroad, the Houston and Texas Central line, had arrived on Christmas Day of 1871. The major streets were still unpaved, and a pontoon bridge connected the two sides of the Colorado River. But a general sense of optimism pervaded the town.¹

    Economic expansion and political turmoil provided ample business opportunities for Austin’s lawyers. In his partnership with Alexander S. Walker,...

  9. Chapter Five More Laws for Texas
    (pp. 72-88)

    Although the racial issues that dominated Texas politics during Reconstruction remained a key element in Terrell’s career through the late 1870s and beyond, newer economic concerns were reshaping the policy debates for the state’s Democrats. The hard times growing out of the Panic of 1873 caused by overexpansion of railroads—low prices for cotton and a shortage of cash and credit across the state—along with resentment against railroads spurred the emergence of a new political force, the Greenback Party. Drawing inspiration from the agrarian organization the Grange, that party opposed the retirement of paper money (with its green-backed paper)...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 89-100)
  11. Chapter Six The Foe of Railroads
    (pp. 101-123)

    In the winter of 1884, Alexander W. Terrell wrote his brother Joe in Fort Worth, “State politics is a dirty business. If ever I start again it will be in Washington City.” Colleagues in the Texas Senate had told him of their support for a United States Senate bid, but he added, “That is a long way off & I don’t suffer myself to think of it.” In fact, the next U.S. Senate election was three years away. The incumbent, Samuel Bell Maxey, would be up for a third term. A somewhat colorless figure, Maxey was likely to face strong...

  12. Chapter Seven At the Court of the Red Sultan
    (pp. 124-144)

    Alexander W. Terrell’s chances for a diplomatic appointment in the second Cleveland administration were much better than they had been six years earlier. As one of the larger southern states in its electoral votes, Texas merited recognition in early 1893. A cabinet selection from the Lone Star State was unlikely, but the state’s Democrats could reasonably expect at least one overseas post of some prominence. The major foreign prizes in Great Britain, France, and Germany were upgraded to ambassadorships in 1893, but these prestigious and expensive slots were outside the reach of any Texas applicant. An appointment to the next...

  13. Chapter Eight The Elder Statesman
    (pp. 145-168)

    When he returned from Turkey in the summer of 1897, Alexander W. Terrell was a few months short of his seventieth birthday. He was still vigorous, and his health had even improved during his stay in Constantinople. During the next five years, he and his wife traveled to spas and cooler climates during the summers. Otherwise, Terrell spent time at his home in Del Valle, where he began the writing he had long wanted to do. Poetry, articles about the famous men he had known, and his own memoirs, all were written during this period of relative quiet and reflection....

  14. Notes
    (pp. 169-200)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-216)
  16. Index
    (pp. 217-224)