David G. Burnet
Overview
 
David Gouverneur Burnet (April 14, 1788 – December 5, 1870) was an early politician within the Republic of Texas
Republic of Texas
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

, serving as interim President of Texas (1836 and again in 1841), second Vice President of the Republic of Texas
Republic of Texas
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

 (1839–41), and Secretary of State (1846) for the new state of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 after it was annexed to the United States of America.

Burnet was born in Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

, and attended law school in Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio. Cincinnati is the county seat of Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located to north of the Ohio River at the Ohio-Kentucky border, near Indiana. The population within city limits is 296,943 according to the 2010 census, making it Ohio's...

.
Encyclopedia
David Gouverneur Burnet (April 14, 1788 – December 5, 1870) was an early politician within the Republic of Texas
Republic of Texas
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

, serving as interim President of Texas (1836 and again in 1841), second Vice President of the Republic of Texas
Republic of Texas
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

 (1839–41), and Secretary of State (1846) for the new state of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 after it was annexed to the United States of America.

Burnet was born in Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

, and attended law school in Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio. Cincinnati is the county seat of Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located to north of the Ohio River at the Ohio-Kentucky border, near Indiana. The population within city limits is 296,943 according to the 2010 census, making it Ohio's...

. As a young man, he lived with a Comanche
Comanche
The Comanche are a Native American ethnic group whose historic range consisted of present-day eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado, northeastern Arizona, southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas. Historically, the Comanches were hunter-gatherers, with a typical Plains Indian...

 tribe for a year before returning to Ohio. In 1826, he moved to Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin
Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Virginia and raised in southeastern Missouri. He was known as the Father of Texas, led the second, but first legal and ultimately successful colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States. The capital of Texas, Austin in Travis County,...

's colony in Mexican Texas
Mexican Texas
Mexican Texas is the name given by Texas history scholars to the period between 1821 and 1836, when Texas was an integral part of Mexico. The period began with Mexico's victory over Spain in its war of independence in 1821. For the first several years of its existence, Mexican Texas operated very...

. He received a land grant as an empresario but was forced to sell the land after failing to attract enough settlers to his colony, and later lost his right to operate a sawmill after he refused to convert to Roman Catholicism.

On hearing of William Barret Travis's
William B. Travis
William Barret Travis was a 19th-century American lawyer and soldier. At the age of 26, he was a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army...

 plea for help
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World is an open letter written on February 24, 1836, by William B. Travis, commander of the Texian forces at the Battle of the Alamo, to settlers in Mexican Texas...

 at the Alamo
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

, Burnet traveled to Washington-on-the-Brazos to recruit help from the Convention of 1836
Convention of 1836
The Convention of 1836 was the meeting of elected delegates in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas in March 1836. The Texas Revolution had begun five months previously, and the interim government, known as the Consultation, had wavered over whether to declare independence from Mexico or pledge to...

. He remained at the convention and was elected interim president on March 17, 1836. On his orders, the government fled Washington-on-the-Brazos for Harrisburg, thus inspiring the Runaway Scrape
Runaway Scrape
The Runaway Scrape was the name given to the flight and subsequent hostilities that occurred, as Texan, Tejano, and American settlers and militia encountered the pursuing Mexican army in early 1836....

. Burnet narrowly avoided capture by Mexican troops the following month. After Sam Houston
Sam Houston
Samuel Houston, known as Sam Houston , was a 19th-century American statesman, politician, and soldier. He was born in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. Houston became a key figure in the history of Texas and was elected as the first and third President of...

's victory at the Battle of San Jacinto
Battle of San Jacinto
The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texian Army engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican forces in a fight that lasted just eighteen...

, Burnet took custody of Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

 and negotiated the Treaties of Velasco
Treaties of Velasco
The Treaties of Velasco were two documents signed at Velasco, Texas, on May 14, 1836, between Antonio López de Santa Anna of Mexico and the Republic of Texas, in the aftermath of the Battle of San Jacinto ....

. Many Texians were infuriated that the treaty allowed Santa Anna to escape execution, and some people called for Burnet's arrest for treason. Burnet declined to run for president and resigned as interim president on October 22, 1836.

He served as the vice president under Mirabeau B. Lamar
Mirabeau B. Lamar
Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar was a Texas politician, diplomat and soldier who was a leading Texas political figure during the Texas Republic era. He was the second President of the Republic of Texas, after David G. Burnet and Sam Houston.-Early years:Lamar grew up at Fairfield, his father's...

 and participated in the Battle of Neches
Battle of Neches
The Battle of the Neches, the main engagement of the Cherokee War of 1838–1839 , took place on the 15th and 16 July in 1839 in what is now the Redland community...

. He was defeated in the next presidential election by Houston. When Texas was annexed into the United States, Burnet served as the state's first Secretary of State. The first Reconstruction state legislature appointed him to the U.S. Senate, but he was unable to take his seat due to the Ironclad oath
Ironclad oath
The Ironclad Oath was a key factor in the removing of ex-Confederates from the political arena during the Reconstruction of the United States in the 1860s...

. Burnet County, Texas
Burnet County, Texas
Burnet County is a county located on the Edwards Plateau in the U.S. state of Texas. As of 2000, the population was 34,147. The 2008 Census Bureau Estimate was 44,488. Its county seat is Burnet. Burnet is named for David Gouverneur Burnet, the first president of the Republic of Texas...

, is named for him.

Early life and career

Burnet was born to Dr. William Burnet
William Burnet (1730-1791)
William Burnet was an American political leader and physician from New Jersey. He served in the Continental Army and the Continental Congress....

 and his second wife, Gertrude Gouverneur Rutgers, widow of Anthony Rutgers (a brother of Henry Rutgers
Henry Rutgers
Henry Rutgers was a United States Revolutionary War hero and philanthropist from New York City, New York.-Biography:...

 who founded Rutgers University
Rutgers University
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey , is the largest institution for higher education in New Jersey, United States. It was originally chartered as Queen's College in 1766. It is the eighth-oldest college in the United States and one of the nine Colonial colleges founded before the American...

). His father had served in the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

. Both of his parents died when Burnet was a child.

In 1805, Burnet became a clerk for a New York counting house, Robinson and Hartshorne. When the firm suffered financial difficulty, Burnet gave his entire personal inheritance, $1,200, to try to save the company. The firm went bankrupt, and Burnet lost all of the money.

Burnet volunteered to serve the unsuccessful revolt led by Francisco de Miranda
Francisco de Miranda
Sebastián Francisco de Miranda Ravelo y Rodríguez de Espinoza , commonly known as Francisco de Miranda , was a Venezuelan revolutionary...

 for the independence of Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

 from Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. He fought in Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 in 1806 and in Venezuela in 1808. After Miranda broke with Simon Bolivar
Simón Bolívar
Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Yeiter, commonly known as Simón Bolívar was a Venezuelan military and political leader...

, Burnet returned to the United States. On his return Burnet moved to Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio. Cincinnati is the county seat of Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located to north of the Ohio River at the Ohio-Kentucky border, near Indiana. The population within city limits is 296,943 according to the 2010 census, making it Ohio's...

, to study law. He lived with his two older brothers, Jacob
Jacob Burnet
Jacob Burnet was an American jurist and statesman from Ohio.He was born in Newark, New Jersey on February 22, 1770, the son of Dr. William Burnet. He studied law, moved to the Northwest Territory and settled in Cincinnati in 1796. His half-brother David G...

, who later became a U.S. Senator, and Isaac, who later served as mayor of Cincinnati.

Early Texas years

In 1817, Burnet moved to Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Natchitoches is a city in and the parish seat of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, United States. Established in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis as part of French Louisiana, the community was named after the Natchitoches Indian tribe. The City of Natchitoches was first incorporated on February...

 and set up a mercantile business. After several months he developed a bloody cough. A doctor diagnosed him with tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 and suggested he move to Texas
Mexican Texas
Mexican Texas is the name given by Texas history scholars to the period between 1821 and 1836, when Texas was an integral part of Mexico. The period began with Mexico's victory over Spain in its war of independence in 1821. For the first several years of its existence, Mexican Texas operated very...

, then a part of Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 to recuperate in the dry air. Later that year, Burnet traveled alone into Texas. A Comanche
Comanche
The Comanche are a Native American ethnic group whose historic range consisted of present-day eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado, northeastern Arizona, southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas. Historically, the Comanches were hunter-gatherers, with a typical Plains Indian...

 tribe came to his aid when he fell off of his horse by the Colorado River
Colorado River
The Colorado River , is a river in the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, approximately long, draining a part of the arid regions on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. The watershed of the Colorado River covers in parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states...

, and he lived with them for two years until he made a full recovery. Near the end of the year, he met Ben Milam, who had come to the village to trade with the tribe.

His cough improved, Burnet returned to Cincinnati. In his return to civilization, asked that the Mexican prisoners be released with him and allowed to return home as well. The Comanches agreed to this proposal and the Mexican families were surprised that there was no ransom or other agreement to the release of these prisoners.

In Cincinnati, Burnet wrote a series of articles for the Literary Gazette detailing his time spent with the Indians. Burnet practiced law for several years, but returned to Texas after hearing of Stephen F. Austin's
Stephen F. Austin
Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Virginia and raised in southeastern Missouri. He was known as the Father of Texas, led the second, but first legal and ultimately successful colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States. The capital of Texas, Austin in Travis County,...

 successful colony for Anglos. Burnet settled in San Felipe
San Felipe, Texas
San Felipe, also known as San Felipe de Austin, is a town in Austin County, Texas, United States. The town was the social, economic, and political center of the early Stephen F. Austin colony. The population was 868 at the 2000 census.-History:...

, the headquarters of Austin's colony, in 1826. For the next 18 months he provided law advice to the 200 settlers in the town and organized the first Presbyterian Sunday School in Texas. A deeply religious man, Burnet neither drank nor swore and always carried a Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 in his pocket.

Texas empresario

After a failed venture with Milam, the Western Colonization and Mining Company, in 1827 Burnet traveled with Lorenzo de Zavala
Lorenzo de Zavala
Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala y Saenz was a 19th-century Mexican politician. He served as finance minister under President Vicente Guerrero. A colonizer and statesman, he was also the interim Vice President of the Republic of Texas, serving under interim President David G...

 and Joseph Vehlein to the Coahuila y Tejas
Coahuila y Tejas
Coahuila y Tejas was one of the constituent states of the newly established United Mexican States under its 1824 Constitution.It had two capitals: first Saltillo, and then Monclova...

 state capitol, Saltillo
Saltillo
Saltillo is the capital city of the northeastern Mexican state of Coahuila and the municipal seat of the municipality of the same name. The city is located about 400 km south of the U.S. state of Texas, and 90 km west of Monterrey, Nuevo León....

. The men applied for grants as empresarios under the General Colonization Law
General Colonization Law
The Colonization Law of August 18, 1824 was a Mexican statute allowing foreigners to immigrate to the country.-Background:Under Spanish rule, New Spain was populated almost solely with native peoples or Spanish settlers. Foreign immigration was forbidden for much of the country...

 of 1824. Burnet received authorization to settle 300 families in East Texas
East Texas
East Texas is a distinct geographic and ecological area in the U.S. state of Texas.According to the Handbook of Texas, the East Texas area "may be separated from the rest of Texas roughly by a line extending from the Red River in north central Lamar County southwestward to east central Limestone...

, northwest of Nacogdoches, an area that had already been settled by the Cherokee
Cherokee
The Cherokee are a Native American people historically settled in the Southeastern United States . Linguistically, they are part of the Iroquoian language family...

. Under the terms of his grant, a married settler could purchase a league of land 4428 acres (17.9 km²)) for $200.

Burnet returned to Ohio to recruit settlers, but was unable to entice the required number of families. In 1828, he sold his land grant to the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company for $12,000. Burnet remained in the United States for several years, and on December 8, 1830 married Hannah Estey of Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown, New Jersey
Morristown is a town in Morris County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the town population was 18,411. It is the county seat of Morris County. Morristown became characterized as "the military capital of the American Revolution" because of its strategic role in the...

. At the time of their wedding he was 43 and she was 30 years old.

Eager to return to Texas, Burnet and his new wife chartered the ship Call and brought with them a steam engine to operate a saw mill. A storm grounded the ship along Bolivar Point
Port Bolivar, Texas
Port Bolivar is an unincorporated area located in the Bolivar Peninsula census-designated place, in Galveston County, Texas, United States state of Texas within Galveston County and part of the metropolitan area., Port Bolivar had a population of 1,200...

, and, to lighten the load, they were forced to discard all of Hannah's furniture and her hope chest. The steam engine was the only piece of cargo that was able to be saved.

Burnet established his saw mill on 17 acres (6.9 ha) of land along the San Jacinto River, in an area that came to be known as Burnet's Bay. Under Mexican law, Burnet was entitled to an extra land grant because his saw mill provided a needed public service. At that time, however, the law also required settlers to convert to Roman Catholicism to receive the extra land grant. The devout Burnet refused, angering the Mexican authorities to the point that they cancelled his grant for operating the saw mill. The mill was finally sold to Dr. Branch T. Archer at a large loss.

Early public service

Burnet was a delegate to the Convention of 1833
Convention of 1833
The Convention of 1833 , a political gathering of settlers in Mexican Texas, was a successor to the Convention of 1832, whose requests had not been addressed by the Mexican government...

, where he was elected the chairman of a committee which created a petition arguing that the Mexican Congress approve separate statehood for Texas. Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin
Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Virginia and raised in southeastern Missouri. He was known as the Father of Texas, led the second, but first legal and ultimately successful colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States. The capital of Texas, Austin in Travis County,...

 carried the petition to Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

 and was promptly jailed.

Shortly after the Convention of 1833 disbanded, Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

 became the new president of Mexico. Over the next two years Santa Anna began consolidating his political control over the country by dissolving the Mexican congress, and disbanding state legislatures. In October 1835 Santa Anna declared himself military dictator and marched north to "reassert control over Texas".

During this time, Burnet had been appointed the first judge of the Austin district and organized a court at San Felipe. From then on he was known as Judge Burnet. He and other Texians were determined that Texas should be an independent state within Mexico. In November 1835, the Consultation of 1835 was held at San Felipe. At the consultation, Burnet took the lead in forming a provisional state government based on the 1824 Constitution of Mexico
1824 Constitution of Mexico
The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824 was enacted on October 4 of 1824, after the overthrow of the Mexican Empire of Agustin de Iturbide. In the new constitution, the republic took the name of United Mexican States, and was defined as a representative federal republic, with...

, which Santa Anna had already repudiated.

Birth of the nation

On March 1, 1836, a constitutional convention, the Convention of 1836
Convention of 1836
The Convention of 1836 was the meeting of elected delegates in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas in March 1836. The Texas Revolution had begun five months previously, and the interim government, known as the Consultation, had wavered over whether to declare independence from Mexico or pledge to...

, was held at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Burnet was not chosen as a delegate to the convention. On hearing of William Barret Travis's
William B. Travis
William Barret Travis was a 19th-century American lawyer and soldier. At the age of 26, he was a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army...

 plea for help
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World is an open letter written on February 24, 1836, by William B. Travis, commander of the Texian forces at the Battle of the Alamo, to settlers in Mexican Texas...

 at the Alamo
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

, Burnet immediately set out to offer his assistance. He stopped at the convention to try to recruit others to join the fight, but soon became so "inspired by their deliberations" that he remained as a visitor. Speaking privately with many of the delegates, Burnet professed that he would be willing to serve as president of a new republic, even if that made him a target of Santa Anna.

After hearing of the fall of the Alamo, the chairman of the convention, Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis (politician)
Richard Ellis was an American plantation owner, politician, and judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Alabama. He was president of the Convention of 1836 that declared Texas' independence from Mexico, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, and later served in the Republic of Texas...

, wanted to adjourn the convention and begin again in Nacogdoches. Burnet leaped onto a bench and made a speech asking the delegates to stay and finish their business. They did so, and the new constitution was adopted that evening. The front–runners for the presidency of the new country, Austin, Sam Houston
Sam Houston
Samuel Houston, known as Sam Houston , was a 19th-century American statesman, politician, and soldier. He was born in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. Houston became a key figure in the history of Texas and was elected as the first and third President of...

, and William H. Wharton
William H. Wharton
William Harris Wharton was an early colonist, political leader and orator in Texas.Wharton was born in Virginia and was raised by an uncle following the deaths of his parents. He graduated from the University of Nashville and was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1826...

 were absent from the convention, so the nominees became Burnet and Samuel Price Carson
Samuel Price Carson
Samuel Price Carson was an American political leader and farmer in both North Carolina and Texas. He served as Congressional Representative from North Carolina...

. Burnet won, on a vote of 29–23, in the early hours of March 17, becoming the interim president of the new Republic of Texas
Republic of Texas
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

. De Zavala was elected vice-president.

Wartime

One of Burnet's first acts as president was to transfer the capital of the new state from Washington-on-the-Brazos to Harrisburg, which was located nearer the small Texas Navy at Galveston Island
Galveston Island
Galveston Island is a barrier island on the Texas Gulf coast in the United States, about 50 miles southeast of Houston. The entire island, with the exception of Jamaica Beach, is within the city limits of the City of Galveston....

. Harrisburg was also closer to the border with the United States and would allow easier communication with U.S. officials. The move took on a sense of urgency when the convention received word that Santa Anna was within 60 miles (96.6 km) of Washington-on-the-Brazos. Burnet quickly adjourned the proceedings and the government fled, inspiring a massive flight known as the Runaway Scrape
Runaway Scrape
The Runaway Scrape was the name given to the flight and subsequent hostilities that occurred, as Texan, Tejano, and American settlers and militia encountered the pursuing Mexican army in early 1836....

. Burnet personally carried the Texas Declaration of Independence
Texas Declaration of Independence
The Texas Declaration of Independence was the formal declaration of independence of the Republic of Texas from Mexico in the Texas Revolution. It was adopted at the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, 1836, and formally signed the following day after errors were noted in the...

 in his saddlebags.

Sam Houston, leading the Texan Army, decided to strategically retreat from Gonzales
Gonzales, Texas
Gonzales is a city in Gonzales County, Texas, United States. The population was 7,202 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Gonzales County.-Geography:Gonzales is located at...

 after learning of the defeat at the Alamo. On hearing of the government's flight, "Houston was pained and annoyed", maintaining it was a cowardly action that caused a great deal of unnecessary panic. Burnet was infuriated by Houston's criticism and accused Houston of staging his own retreat because he was afraid to fight. Within several days, Burnet had stationed a spy, Major James H. Perry, on Houston's staff. In an effort to discredit Houston, Perry initiated a groundless rumor that Houston had begun taking opium.

On March 25, Burnet declared martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

 and divided Texas into three military districts. All able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 55 were ordered to report for military duty. Four days later, Burnet issued a proclamation declaring that a man would lose his Texas citizenship and any future claim to land if he left Texas, refused to fight, or helped the Mexican army.

In the hopes of gaining assistance from the United States, Burnet sent Carson, now his secretary of state, to Louisiana to approach General Edmund P. Gaines
Edmund P. Gaines
Edmund Pendleton Gaines was a United States army officer who served with distinction during the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars and the Black Hawk War.-Early life:...

. Gaines had been given ordered by President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 not to cross the Sabine River into Texas. A small amount of relief did come on April 9, however, with the arrival of the "Twin Sisters," two six–pound cannons that had been sent as a gift from the people of Cincinnati to show their respect for the Burnet family (at that time Burnet's brother Isaac was mayor of Cincinnati). Burnet immediately sent the guns to Houston.

Out of safety concerns, the government was moved again on April 13, this time to Galveston. Two days later, Santa Anna's army reached Harrisburg, to find a deserted town. On April 17, Burnet received word that the Mexican Army was headed for his location. He and his family crowded into a rowboat immediately, leaving all of their personal effects behind. When they reached 30 yards (27.4 m) offshore, Colonel Juan Almonte
Juan Almonte
Juan Nepomuceno Almonte was a 19th century Mexican official, soldier and diplomat. He was a veteran of the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution...

 and a troop of Mexican cavalry rode into view. Burnet stood up in the rowboat so that the army would focus on him instead of his family. Almonte ordered the troops not to fire, as he had seen Hannah Burnet in the boat and did not want to put her in danger.

Peacetime

Burnet did not hear of Houston's victory at San Jacinto
Battle of San Jacinto
The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution. Led by General Sam Houston, the Texian Army engaged and defeated General Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican forces in a fight that lasted just eighteen...

 and subsequent capture of Santa Anna until several days after the fact. He hurried to the battlefield, where he complained often about Houston's use of profanity. Houston's staff "complained that the president grumbled ungraciously, was hard to please, and spent all of his time giving orders and collecting souvenirs." The two men also argued over the distribution of $18,000 in specie that had been found in Santa Anna's treasure chest. Burnet insisted that the money should go to the Texas treasury, but Houston had already given $3,000 to the Texas Navy and distributed the rest among his men.

Santa Anna, in his distrust of civil government, had requested that he be allowed to negotiate a treaty with Houston. His request was rejected, and Burnet took him into custody, first to Galveston Island and then to Velasco
Velasco, Texas
Velasco was a town in Texas, United States, that was later annexed by the city of Freeport. Founded in 1831, Velasco is situated on the east side of the Brazos River in southeast Texas. It is sixteen miles south of Angleton, Texas, and four miles from the Gulf of Mexico.The town's early history is...

. On May 14, 1836 the two men signed the Treaties of Velasco
Treaties of Velasco
The Treaties of Velasco were two documents signed at Velasco, Texas, on May 14, 1836, between Antonio López de Santa Anna of Mexico and the Republic of Texas, in the aftermath of the Battle of San Jacinto ....

. In a public treaty, Santa Anna agreed to immediately cease all hostilities and withdraw his troops south of the Rio Grande. Burnet pledged that Santa Anna would have safe passage home. Secretly, the men also agreed that Santa Anna would "use his influence with the Mexican government to secure the recognition of Texas Independence with its southern boundary as the Rio Grande." Mexico later repudiated the treaty.

The people of Texas were incensed at the terms of the treaty. The public, along with the Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy, wanted to see Santa Anna executed for his actions. Despite the criticism, Burnet made arrangements for Santa Anna to travel by boat to Mexico. His ship was delayed for several days by wind, and while it was docked 250 volunteers commanded by Thomas Green
Thomas Green (general)
Thomas Green was a lawyer, politician, soldier and officer of the Republic of Texas, and rose to the rank of Brigadier General of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Tom Green County, Texas was named after him....

 arrived. Green demanded that Burnet resign immediately. The ship captain, afraid for his own safety, refused to set sail unless Green approved. With few other options, Burnet ordered Santa Anna brought ashore and imprisoned at Quintana
Quintana, Texas
Quintana is a town in Brazoria County, Texas, United States. The population was 38 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Quintana is located at .According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of , of which, of it is land and of it is water.-Demographics:As of the census of 2000,...

. Many of the Texas army officers threatened to execute Santa Anna and try Burnet for treason.

The majority of Burnet's time was spent writing proclamations, orders, and letters appealing for funds and volunteers. As a system of taxation had yet to be implemented, the Texas treasury was empty. There was no money to pay Burnet a salary, and his family soon had trouble paying for their expenses. To make ends meet, they sold a Negro woman and boy. Filling the treasury would take more effort, and Burnet proposed that they sell land scrip in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. The bids dropped as low as one cent per acre, so the plan was shelved.

With no money and little respect for Burnet, it was not surprising that "no one followed orders, and the government struggled to direct the state effectively." Burnet wished to replace Thomas Rusk
Thomas Jefferson Rusk
Thomas Jefferson Rusk was an early political and military leader of the Republic of Texas, serving as its first Secretary of War as well as a general at the Battle of San Jacinto. He was later a U.S. politician and served as a Senator from Texas from 1846 until his suicide...

 as commander of the army, and sent his Secretary of War Mirabeau B. Lamar
Mirabeau B. Lamar
Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar was a Texas politician, diplomat and soldier who was a leading Texas political figure during the Texas Republic era. He was the second President of the Republic of Texas, after David G. Burnet and Sam Houston.-Early years:Lamar grew up at Fairfield, his father's...

 to take Rusk's place. Rusk instead proposed that General Felix Huston
Felix Huston
Felix Huston was a lawyer, soldier and the first commanding general of the Army of the Republic of Texas.Huston was born in Kentucky. He was a slave trader, planter and Whig politician and attorney in Natchez, Mississippi...

 be named as his replacement. Lamar called a vote of the men in the army, who overwhelmingly voted for Huston, essentially a vote of no confidence in Burnet's decisions.

Resignation

The first Texas presidential election was held September 5, 1836. Burnet declined to run, and Houston was elected to become the first president. Houston was expected to take office in December. On October 3, Burnet called the first session of the Texas Congress to order in Columbia. Houston arrived at the session on October 9, and the Congress quickly began lobbying Burnet to resign so that Houston could begin his duties. Burnet finally agreed to resign on October 22, the day after de Zavala resigned as Vice-President.

During the transition of power, Burnet's son Jacob died at Velasco. The Burnets returned to their home, which had been looted, leaving them with no furniture or other household articles. To support his family, Burnet practiced law and farmed.

Vice-President

Houston's term as president expired in 1838. Burnet declined offers to run as his replacement, but instead agreed to run as the vice-president for his friend Mirabeau B. Lamar. Once the election returns were in, Burnet and Houston engaged in a shouting match, with Burnet calling Houston a "'half-Indian'" and Houston calling Burnet a "'hog thief'". Burnet challenged Houston to a duel, but Houston refused, saying "'the people are equally disgusted with both of us.'" Lamar and Burnet were inaugurated on December 10, 1838.

Burnet was an active Vice-President. In 1839, he briefly served as acting Secretary of State after Barnard Bee
Barnard E. Bee, Sr.
Barnard Elliot Bee, Sr. was an early settler and political leader in the Republic of Texas.Barnard Bee was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Thomas Bee who was a delegate to the Continental Congress. He studied law, and served on the staff of his brother-in-law, governor James...

 had been sent to Mexico. Burnet served as part of a five-man commission to negotiate with Chief Bowl for the peaceful removal of the Cherokee
Cherokee
The Cherokee are a Native American people historically settled in the Southeastern United States . Linguistically, they are part of the Iroquoian language family...

 tribe from their territory to the northwest of Nacogdoches. After a week of negotiations the group was not close to an agreement. On July 15, three regiments of Texas troops attacked the Cherokee at the Battle of Neches
Battle of Neches
The Battle of the Neches, the main engagement of the Cherokee War of 1838–1839 , took place on the 15th and 16 July in 1839 in what is now the Redland community...

. Chief Bowl and 100 Indians were killed; the survivors retreated into Arkansas Territory
Arkansas Territory
The Territory of Arkansas, initially organized as the Territory of Arkansaw, was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 4, 1819 until June 15, 1836, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Arkansas.-History:The...

. Burnet fought in the battle as a volunteer and suffered minor wounds.

In December 1841, Burnet became acting president when Lamar took a leave of absence to seek medical treatment in New Orleans for an intestinal disorder. His first official act, on December 16, was to deliver an address to Congress alleging that Mexican armies were preparing to invade Texas. Burnet wanted Congress to declare war on Mexico and attempt to push the Texas southern boundary to the Sierra Madre
Sierra Madre
Sierra Madre may refer to one of several mountain ranges:*In Mexico:**Sierra Madre Occidental, a mountain range in northwestern Mexico and southern Arizona...

s. His proposal was defeated by supporters of Houston, who was currently serving in the legislature.

Presidential candidate

During his time as acting president, Burnet dismissed several of Lamar's appointees, angering the president. At the conclusion of Lamar's term, Burnet agreed to run for president. Lamar and his cronies only reluctantly supported Burnet after they could not entice Rusk to run. Burnet's primary competition was Houston, and the campaign was dominated by insults and name–calling. Houston questioned Burnet's honesty, accusing him of taking a $250,000 bribe from Santa Anna and calling him a 'political brawler' and a 'canting hypocrite.' Houston also accused Burnet of being a drunk. Burnet again challenged Houston to a duel, and, again, Houston refused. Houston won the election, with 7,915 votes to Burnet's 3,619.

Later life

After losing the presidential election, Burnet returned to his farm. When Texas was annexed into the United States, Burnet served as the state's first Secretary of State under Governor
Governor of Texas
The governor of Texas is the head of the executive branch of Texas's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Texas Legislature, and to convene the legislature...

 James Pinckney Henderson
James Pinckney Henderson
James Pinckney Henderson was a United States and Republic of Texas lawyer, politician, soldier, and the first Governor of the State of Texas....

. His feud with Houston continued, and in 1852 Burnet wrote a pamphlet titled "Review of the Life of General Sam Houston" which recounted many rumors and allegations of Houston's improper behavior. Houston retaliated in February 1859 by giving a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate that disparaged Burnet.

Burnet's health deteriorated so that he needed help with his farm work. He and his wife purchased an African American Slave and his sick wife for $1400. The man robbed them and ran away. Unable to make ends meet on their own, Burnet and his wife rented their 300 acres (1.2 km²) to another family in 1857, but continued to live in their house.

Hannah Burnet died on October 30, 1858. Their only surviving child, William Estey Burnet, took a leave of absence from his military service and helped Burnet move to Galveston, where he lived with an old friend, Sidney Sherman
Sidney Sherman
Sidney Sherman was a Texan general and a key leader in the Texas Army during the Texas Revolution and afterwards.-Early life:...

. Burnet opposed secession, and was saddened when his son joined the Confederate States Army
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

, but later supported his efforts. Col. William Burnet was killed on March 31, 1865 at Spanish Fort, Alabama, leaving Burnet the only surviving member of his family.

In 1865, Sherman's wife died, and Burnet left his home to live with Preston Perry. The following year the first Reconstruction state legislature appointed Burnet and Oran Roberts to be senators
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 from Texas. Neither man was able to take the Ironclad oath
Ironclad oath
The Ironclad Oath was a key factor in the removing of ex-Confederates from the political arena during the Reconstruction of the United States in the 1860s...

, so they were not permitted to take their Senate seats.

Burnet's last public service came in 1868, when he was appointed as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention
1868 Democratic National Convention
The 1868 Democratic National Convention was held at Tammany Hall in New York City. Although former Governor from New York Horatio Seymour was nominated as the unanimous candidate for President, he stood virtually no chance of defeating the hero of the Civil War, Republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant...

 which nominated Horatio Seymour
Horatio Seymour
Horatio Seymour was an American politician. He was the 18th Governor of New York from 1853 to 1854 and from 1863 to 1864. He was the Democratic Party nominee for president of the United States in the presidential election of 1868, but lost the election to Republican and former Union General of...

 for president. In his later years, Burnet suffered from senility, and before his death he carried a trunk of his private papers into an empty lot and burned them all. He died on December 5, 1870, aged 82, in Galveston. He was first buried in Magnolia Cemetery, but in 1894 his remains were moved to Galveston's Lakeview cemetery, where he was buried next to the grave of Sidney Sherman.

The county of Burnet
Burnet County, Texas
Burnet County is a county located on the Edwards Plateau in the U.S. state of Texas. As of 2000, the population was 34,147. The 2008 Census Bureau Estimate was 44,488. Its county seat is Burnet. Burnet is named for David Gouverneur Burnet, the first president of the Republic of Texas...

 was named in his honor when it was formed in 1852, as was the county seat. In 1936, the state of Texas erected a statue of Burnet in Clarksville
Clarksville, Texas
Clarksville is a city in Red River County, Texas, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 3,883. It is the county seat of Red River County.-Geography:Clarksville is located at ....

.

External links

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