A Civil War Biography

Andrew Jackson Hamilton

Hamilton was born 28 January 1815. After attending the common schools he studied the law and in 1841 was admitted to the bar. He practiced in Talladega, Alabama until late 1846 when he joined his older brother, Morgan, in Texas. Morgan Calvin Hamilton had taken part in the founding of the Republic of Texas and served as Secretary of War and Marine in the new republic. Andrew Hamilton practiced law in La Grange, Fayette County, Texas for three years, then moved to Austin, Texas. In 1849 Texas governor Peter H. Bell appointed Hamilton acting attorney general beginning the latter's political career.

Hamilton represented Travis County in the state house of representatives for a single term from 1851 until 1853. He aligned himself with what became known as the "Opposition Clique", a faction of the Democratic party that opposed secession, reopening the slave trade, and other Southern extremist demands. In 1859 he was elected from the 2nd district to the US House of Representatives. He was the last representative from Texas to leave Congress, preferring to remain in his seat even after his state officially left the Union.

When he returned to Texas in the spring of 1861 he won a special election to the state senate but his anti-slavery and anti-Confederacy stance led to plots against his life and he fled to Mexico. After making his way to the North he spoke in many Northern cities aiming his rhetoric at disunionists and the "slave power" that he believed was trying to subvert democracy and the rights of non-slave owners.

In November of 1862 Hamilton met with Abraham Lincoln and was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers in the Union army on 14 November 1862. He was appointed military governor of Texas. Operating out of New Orleans Hamilton pushed the army and navy to mount an effort to take Galveston, Texas. In an attempt to satisfy his creditors he allowed them to accompany the expedition with the understanding that they would be free to speculate with Texas cotton once it was captured. The expedition, led by Nathaniel P. Banks, failed. Considering the cotton speculation scheme Banks considered Hamilton to be "without force of character". Hamilton did manage to retain his brigadier star even after his initial appointment expired without being approved by the Senate. He was reappointed by Lincoln on 18 September 1863. Hamilton spent the remainder of the war in New Orleans serving no real purpose.

Following the death of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson reappointed Hamilton military governor of Texas. As a provisional governor Hamilton tried to limit those that could hold office to former Unionists, pushed for ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, and granted economic and legal right, not including the right to vote, to the former slaves. After a civilian government was restored and James W. Throckmorton, a former Confederate general, was elected governor, Hamilton adopted the more radical approach to Reconstruction and pushed for black suffrage. He helped organize the Southern Loyalists' Convention in Philadelphia in September 1866. After serving as a bankruptcy judge in New Orleans he returned to Texas and served as an associate justice on the state supreme court. He played a major role in Texas's 1868-69 Constitutional Convention and on the Republican National Executive Committee. His views again shifted back to the less radical side and he opposed establishing West Texas as a separate Unionist state. He even withdrew his support for black suffrage. He became one of Texas's leading moderate Republicans, even opposing his brother Morgan who by then was a leading radical Republican spokesman in the US Senate. The younger Hamilton ran for governor in 1869 but was defeated by radical Republican Edmund J. Davis. Hamilton never sought public office again. He returned to the practice of law and was involved in litigation against anti-Reconstruction Democrats. He was one of the leaders of the 1871 Taxpayer's Convention. He also spent time tending his farm near Austin . Hamilton died in Austin 11 April 1875 from tuberculosis.

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