HowBallinger’s Life as a Professional, Slaveholder, Whig Nationalist,and Anti-Secessionist was Atypical for his Time
Withoutany doubt, the life of Galvestonian William Pitt Ballinger, as aprofessional, slaveholder, Whig nationalist, and anti-secessionistwas atypical for his time. This is despite the fact that he was “Anineteenth-century man who shared many of the same experiences,disappointments, and tribulations of his contemporaries” (Moretta,261). Galveston is remembered as being a major urban center at thetime, with great potential for commerce and a major natural harbor inthe United States (Schmidt, 20). A look at history reveals thatBallinger, born in Kentucky on September 25, 1825, and died onJanuary 20, 1888, was an influential statesman, and a respectedlawyer in Texas (King, 154). According to the writings of Moretta,the input of Ballinger was instrumental in the establishment of theTexas railroad law and reality. Important to note is that, this inputby the statesman served to aid in the reconstruction of Texas afterthe civil war, promoted industrialization of Southern parts of theUnited States, and endorsed emancipation of slaves in the region.
Afterliving in in Kentucky for a while, Ballinger went on to study law inGalveston in 1843, with the aid of his uncle, James Love. By the year1847, he was admitted to the bar under “Jones and Butler,” aleading Galveston law firm during that time. He soon became anassociate judge (Haley, 89). Ballinger was also enlisted as a soldierin the course of the Mexican War he managed to move the ranks, froma private to becoming an adjutant in the regiment of Albert SidneyJohnston. During the time in 1850, Ballinger got married to Hallie P.Jack of the county of Brazoria. In the same year, the young lawyerwas appointed to serve as the Texas district attorney a positionthat he held for about four years, until 1854. After that, Ballingerformed a law firm in Galveston with partners Mott M. L. and Thomas J.McKinney, while he was only forty-eight years old (Haley, 90). Withthe arising of the civil war and The Secession, Ballinger wasappointed by JudgeD.G. Hill to serve as the Confederate receiver at the ConfederateDistrict Court. A keen look at the life and predisposition ofBallinger during the earlier years of his career indicates that hisfamily and background had a huge influence on his persona. Importantto note is that, his grandfather had been a legislator in Kentucky,and he had previously served as a County Clerk in Knox. Afterattending Kentucky’s St. Mary’s College, Ballinger continued withprofessional training at his father’s offices.
Itis safe to say that, Ballinger played a key role in the event and theoutcomes of the Civil War. A particular point of interest worthmentioning is that he evaluated the motives of the people for thewar. In the end, he stood out as an anti-secessionist, and asupporter of the union. Even so, one could argue that the input ofBallinger in the community of the day had both positive and negativeimpacts in as far as nationalistic ideals are concerned. Despitethat, his lifestyle, or way of life remains nothing short of atypicalfor his time. Looking at his input, (in supporting the reconstructionof Texas, and industrial development of the South) it is clear thatBallinger aided in promoting the existence, or rather an expansion ofthe Confederacy. Nevertheless, a detailed look into the work ofMoretta indicates that Ballinger bore rational cause for thismentioned role that he played. Possibly, he seemed displeased aboutthe tyrannical leadership style of the then government of the UnitedStates. For this reason, a reader of the work of Moretta is imploredto ponder about the real reasons behind the Civil War.
Amatter of great importance that is worth remembrance is thatBallinger was a determined unionist – an opponent of secession inadvance of the Civil War. What is more is that he was a successfullawyer at the time, and what this implies is that Ballinger was anindividual that could be considered as one who was already living theAmerican dream. He seemed to have ideas that were associated with aneed for equality of opportunity for all citizens of the country. The author Moretta goes ahead to imply that the subject matter ofsecession formed a most challenging experience in Ballinger’s life.Owing to this, albeit Ballinger had a strong predisposition towardsthe maintenance of the union, he only supported, and even worked forthe Confederate due to peer pressure. He had no choice other than torespect the decision of the majority to secede in 1863. Indeed,Ballinger’s moments of transformation from a union supporter tobeing a secessionist and vice versa imply that he bore the thinkingof loyal modern-day Americans. He simply indicates that changing oftimes and the law requires changing of attitude by people.Apparently, Ballinger demonstrates a sense of charisma that was not acommon thing during his time.
Inthe years that followed, Ballinger found himself in an interestingposition once again. He served as a special commissioner innegotiations leading to the submissiveness of Texas once again, tothe federal government of the United States. Earlier, the publicofficial had made a series of public statements and speeches thataimed to implore the people of Texas not to secede from the union. Inhis opinion, Ballinger saw the action of forming the Confederate asan event of American Revolution. After the secession, he showed hisbrilliance as a devout statesman when he indicated that the people ofTexas had a constitutional right to revolt against the government. Heassociated the event with that of earlier founders of the country whorevolted, and or rebelled against the Monarch governments back inEurope to form a democratic and independent nation of the UnitedStates. As such, Ballinger believed that pursuit for the fundamentalrights of the citizens formed the core reason for the revolt by thepeople in the South.
Onthe other hand, and looking at the issue of slavery, as indicated byMoretta, Ballinger thought that the plight of the slaves would onlybe done away by provisions of the Constitution of the United States,which the people of the south were against. He was adamant that “TheConstitution was perfect” (Spaulding, 204). In some way, one mightsay that the statesman had thoughts and opinions that resembled thoseof Abraham Lincoln. Even so, it is important to note that racism washighly prevalent in the South at the time. For this reason, Ballingerseems to uphold ideologies of equality of the world of today and notthose of his time. At the time, Blacks in the South were highlymistreated, and even often lynched by the white people. They lackedany meaningful rights and freedoms. Besides, they were not recognizedas citizens of the United States. For instance, the Blacks were notallowed to vote or even be enlisted in civil service, or the army forthat matter. Apparently, this aspect disturbed Ballinger as adedicated lawman, and statesman at the same time.
Morettaindicates to his readers that Ballinger somehow thought that theConfederate would operate in a manner similar to that of the union,wherein people of all kinds or backgrounds were given opportunitiesof developing themselves by their will and preferences. As a thrivingpartner in a thriving law firm, Ballinger is observed as anindividual who supported capitalism. Today, almost all the greatnations of the world thrive in capitalism, as opposed to the past,wherein governments, or the state administrations controlled theindustrial sectors, and so the economies of regions. In particular,Ballinger’s thoughts resonate with those of Americans of today, whohave high regard for individual liberties, and freedoms that areguaranteed by the law of the land. Still, this does little to disputethe element that Ballinger might have thought that African Americanswere inferior to the white people in many spheres. As indicatedbefore, he was a trivial slaveholder himself, even before theSecession times. Moretta is adamant that Ballinger had the opinionthat African Americans had limited faculties and capabilities of themind, character, and personality in comparison to the whites. Forthis reason, he believed, they were unable to improve the conditionsof their lives as expected, as the whites were able to do. For thisreason, Ballinger did treat the slaves in a very fair or humanemanner. When he accepted the ideology of secession, Ballingerdemonstrated a character of a rabid Confederate nationalist. Evenafter the war, he refused a series of appointments to join theSupreme Court of the United States on the grounds that he was only amere lawyer. This paper recognized that this sense of metamorphosisin the statesman was likely, because of his personal feelings ofdisavowal to his country. He felt a sense of responsibility foradverse impacts of some of his actions and contributions in society,especially regarding development and expansion of the South. In factand at some point, he was concerned about the issue of whites beingdeprivedof their control over the black slaves. Even so, the statesmanremained antagonistic regarding laws that did not promote justice andequality among the people in general.
Asa lawyer, Ballinger advocated for legal measures that facilitated thedevelopment of both the public and private sectors in Texas. He evenoffered services of a legal advisor or counsel,consultant,and a management officer for different departments, and or organsinvolved in the development of the Southern rail line. During thattime, his style of the Directorate stood out from those of the restit could besaidthat his professionalism was also ahead of his time.He was constantly in opposition to forms of southern extremism duringthe period of reconstruction of the region. Indeed, Ballinger will beremembered as one of the most notable statesmen and unionists in thehistory of the South of the United States, who lived at a mostchallenging time (King, 155). The author Moretta offers a detailedand reliable account of the life, activities, and initiatives of therenowned intellectual lawyer of Texas, who was significantly tornbetween the unity of the United States, and the Secession.
Haley,James L. TheTexas Supreme Court: A Narrative History, 1836–1986.University of Texas Press, 2013. Print.
Moretta,John. WilliamPitt Ballinger: Texas Lawyer, Southern Statesman, 1825-1888.No. 7. Center for American History, 2000. Print.
King,C. Richard. "William Pitt Ballinger: Texas Bibliophile." TexasLibraries31(1969): 154-61. Print
Schmidt,James M. Galveston,and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom.The History Press, 2012. Print.
SpauldingW. Norman. TheDiscourse of Law in Time of War: Politics and Professionalism Duringthe Civil War and Reconstruction. William & Mary Law Review. 2005