Friday, December 19th, 2014

Rick Perry, Sam Houston, slavery--and the Boy Scouts

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks from the Governor's Mansion on May 6, 2013, against proposed changes to allow gays into the Boy Scouts of America; his video appearance was part of the Family Research Council’s “Stand With Scouts Sunday” webcast.

As the Texas-headquartered Boy Scouts of America moved closer to a vote on allowing openly gay members, Texas Gov. Rick Perry revisited his opposition to such a change, while calling for leadership that hews to principles even when they are unpopular.

Speaking May 6, 2013, via video as part of the national, conservative Family Research Council’s "Stand With Scouts Sunday" webcast, Perry cited the example of Sam Houston, Texas’ first president and seventh governor, whose portrait hung behind Perry on a wall in the Governor’s Mansion.

"From this library that I speak, he made a powerful decision that cost him his governorship," Perry said. "He was against slavery, and he stood up and very passionately said, you know, ‘Texas does not need to leave the Union over this issue of slavery. We need to stay. We’ve only been’ -- he thought, a terrible decision. He was right. But it cost him his governorship."

Perry’s comments touched off an Internet flurry of debate over whether opposing slavery could or should be equated with opposing gay admission, but we wondered about the underlying facts. Did Sam Houston, the leader of Texas’ military insurrection against Mexico, oppose slavery and say Texas shouldn’t split from the United States over it?

Half True, we concluded.

Houston’s personal views are unclear; politically, he took actions that were viewed as anti-slavery as well as actions that were pro-slavery. But he urged Southerners and his fellow Texans not to secede over slavery -- an unpopular stance he stuck to in hopes of preserving the Union.

History awaits, in the full fact check posted to the right.