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A portrait of Sam Houston

Summary of Sam Houston (Chapter V) from Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy

Sam Houston earned his place in Profiles in Courage by his refusal to support the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This bill repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and would have allowed the residents of territories from Iowa to the Rocky Mountains to decide the slavery issue themselves. A Southerner by birth and one of the first two senators from Texas, Houston felt that the act would further divide the Union. Throughout the 1840s, Houston had upset many Southern Democrats by tangling with the powerful John C. Calhoun, saying that Calhoun was trying to destroy the Union by introducing his "hands off" slavery legislation. The "last straw" was Houston's vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He was the only Southern Democrat to vote no. Houston's constituents were furious and rumors of his political demise were rampant. Not one to engage in a defensive fight, Houston announced his plan to run for governor of Texas as an independent while he was still in the Senate. Despite his oratorical gifts and sheer physical presence, the citizens of Texas did not forget his "anti-Southern" vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Houston was defeated for the governorship and was dismissed from the Senate by the Texas legislature in 1857. However, two years later he was asked to come out of retirement to again run for governor of Texas, and his election was a major setback to Southern pro-slavery extremists. In February 1861, despite Houston's valiant attempts to stop it, the Texas legislature voted to secede from the Union. His refusal to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy led to his ouster as governor in March 1861.

Profiles in Courage is one of many featured books about the U.S. Senate or the people who have served as members of the Senate.