Why Our Legislature Is As Memorable As It Is, Part 1

September 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

A friend of mine, who at the time was state political director of a certain famous American political party, told me many years ago, “You have to be nuts to run for public office,” or words to that effect.

I think the current legislature and its recent accomplishments bespeak my friend’s pronouncement; exemplifying Mr. Churchill’s observation, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” But Mr. Churchill was referring to Russia, not Tomball’s finest.

Such a distinguished reputation and legislative record is nothing new for the Texas lege. It is the culmination of well over a century of breeding and education, as chronicled for several years in the annals of Texas Siftings, the leading humorous publication of its time in the United States

June 1881

A man might be justified in running for the legislature if he didn’t have brains enough to teach in a country school, or if he lacked the physical ability to handle a hoe, but we doubt whether, even then, the circumstances would justify the act. There are poorhouses and asylums in the state, and imbeciles taking advantage of their charity are well cared for.

A typical session of the Texas Legislature
                                A typical session of the Texas Legislature

July 1881

The stage robbers often find in the mail bags letters addressed to themselves, letters from ex-members of the legislature, asking to be received into the organization. This will not cause the public to think more favorably of the stage robbers. In fact it is calculated to create a prejudice against them in the minds of all right-thinking people.

August 1881

As long as the stage robbers can make more than five dollars a day, men of real talent will refuse to serve in the legislature. They can do better on the outside.

March 1882

A State Library Not Wanted

When Texas had her old public debt paid and had five million dollars in her treasury, an appropriation of five thousand dollars for the purchase of a State Library was smuggled through the legislature, and books to that amount were bought accordingly. No other or further appropriation for the purpose was ever made. The broken sets of volumes that constituted this large, costly and unnecessary State Library were all consumed by the fire which destroyed the capitol building in November last. It is well that they were burned.

Texas has no need or use for a State Library. Her public officers know everything intuitively. Books, if read by them, which they would be, would only embarrass and annoy them. Besides, young men might read some of them and get to thinking. In that very probable case, they would lose confidence in, and even question, the knowledge, as well as the wisdom, of our old politicians. Such an anticipated result ought to cause the purchase of a State Library to be, if possible, defeated, or at least postponed. The fact that other States — new States — not only have bought and have made ample provision for additions to, as well as for the maintenance of State Libraries, has no bearing on this matter. They have no such public officers as Texas has had for years past, and will continue to have for years to come.

Gov. Roberts’ administration should follow out the precedent given by the Caliph Omar. When the Alexandrian library was burned, he judiciously forbore to purchase another. Great men do not need books, though sometimes, as a matter of recreation, they make them. The present administration will be noted in history for two leading events: the burning of our State Library, such as it was, and the publication of “Governor Roberts’ Texas,” such as it is. Those events will make a proper record for us.

Texas must not purchase a new State Library. Her public men don’t need one, as they continually demonstrate. If a pressure is brought to bear upon them to make such a useless purchase, they must postpone action. They must take the ground that there exists no place in which to put it where it will be secure from fire, and even suggest that the Library of the State University will be sufficient. People at a distance will see nothing ludicrous in the latter suggestion. If the Library of the State University is relied on, Texas will be safe for a generation at least.

The Truest and Best Defence of Texas

It is charged against Texas that she must be a rude and semi-barbarous State, or else she would not have the highest offices in her gift filled by such men as represent her both at home and in Washington. This charge can be easily disposed of by merely stating what everybody who lives here knows to be true: that our people as a general thing are closely occupied in attending to their own affairs; and that in consequence they suffer men of little culture, indifferent morals, but of great self-assertion to procure themselves to be elected. There is no denying that.

February 1883

We do not know how much good or bad the legislature has thus far accomplished. They are still grinding away, but the grinding is like unto the turning of the crank on a peanut roaster. A countryman from Onion creek watched a man who was turning the handle on a peanut roaster steadily for half an hour and then he asked:

When are you going to play a tune?

He had taken the peanut roaster for a hand organ. The legislators are still turning the crank, but we are unable to determine just yet whether it is a hand organ for the amusement of the people or a peanut roaster for their own private profit.

February 1884

James B. Davis, representative to the Legislature from Lamar county, while crazy from excessive drinking, wandered from the Junction hotel at Whitesboro Thursday and was found next morning dead about a mile from the depot.


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