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A Poem by Mirabeau B. Lamar

 

 

 

THE

    

Modest Petition 

  

Of a 

  

Newspaper Editor. 

  

To  Samuel Houston, President  1841.

*= EXPLANATIONS PROVIDED AT THE END  

 

  

Chieftain, Statesman, Patriot, Sage! 

Thou bright effulgence of this age, 

Recalled once more by public voice, 

To guide the State against my choice; *

  

 

 

 

  

Against my hope and expectation, 

Of rising to some lofty station, 

Which would no doubt have been the case, 

Had Burnet beat you in the race. 

  

 

 

 

  

I come great Chief of sanjacinto, 

A disappointed, ruined printer,**

And humbly beg to lay before ye, 

A very sad, but honest story. 

  

 

 

 

  

No case presented to your Highness 

Is half so sorrowful as mine is; 

And you will see, when facts are stated, 

How wrong’d I’ve been and underrated. 

  

 

 

 

  

Within the town that bears your name, 

And borrows thence its greatest fame, 

I’ve published long, a weekly paper, 

As great as any man’s or greater. 

  

 

 

 

  

You may, perhaps, have read its pages, 

Fraught with the learning of all ages, 

And just as free from base traduction, 

As if it were your own production. 

  

 

  

I am not of that class of men, 

Who scribble with a venal pen, 

And turning from the truly great, 

Court favor from the knaves of State. 

  

 

 

 

  

An honest instinct never lies; 

It leads me to the good and wise, 

And teaches how to shun the base 

And selfish portion of our race. 

  

 

 

 

  

Hence, mighty Chieftain, tis to you 

I now appeal for justice due, 

And humbly hope, by this petition, 

To mitigate my sad condition. 

  

 

 

 

  

There is a man whose name is Whiting,***

Eternally some  nonsense writing, 

Who hopes by sly insinuation, 

To sink me in your estimation. 

  

 

 

 

  

He fain would make you think that I am, 

The fore to nature’s master Lion, 

And would, for twenty silver pieces 

Defame or laud you, as the case is. 

  

 

 

 

  

But Sir, I pray your better sense, 

Will turn aside his impudence, 

And not allow his mere assertions  

To stand against my past exertions. 

  

 

 

 

  

I am no Judas, or Iago; 

I follow friends wherever they go; 

And when they meet with sad disaster, 

I always stick to them the faster. 

  

 

 

 

  

‘Tis true great Chief, that I have written, 

Some few pieces, unbefitting 

One like me, so pure in morals, 

And so averse to public quarrels. 

  

 

 

 

  

But then remember, all are liable 

To utter things unjustifiable; 

And if I have at times traduced you, 

And without cause, of crimes accused you. 

  

 

 

 

  

I hope you’ll bear in mind the fact Sir, 

That I am now on the right track Sir; 

And mean to travel straight as plummet, 

Provided you let me come it. 

  

 

 

 

  

What tho’ I’ve said you were no hero, 

And hold you up a modern Nero, 

Have I not dealt still harder blows 

Upon the folks I deem’d your foes; 

  

 

 

 

  

Which goes to prove as plain as Euclid, 

I hated them as much as you did, 

And likewise proves as clear as day, 

You were a favorite more than they. 

  

 

 

 

  

Have I not lashed Lamar by name, 

Denounced his acts, denied his fame, 

And left him scorned, without a friend 

To mourn his fate, or cause defend?****

  

 

 

 

  

And as for Burleson and Burnet- 

My coat, you know, -- I could not turn it – 

But if you’ve read the Telegraph, 

You’ll see I went the hog but half; 

  

 

 

 

  

For lo! The affiliated Star! 

Has that not borne your name afar; 

And is it not, now daily puffing 

Your life, by Tompkins and Tom Stuffing? 

  

 

 

 

  

Then mighty Chieftain! Hear my prayer; 

Let all the past, be given to air, 

And ever keep in fancy’s view, 

The honest things I mean to do. 

  

 

 

 

  

The boon I prize above all prize, 

The highest wishes of my life, 

Is that you will the printing take 

From old Sam Whiting, for my sake;*****

  

 

 

 

  

‘Tis mine by right – I’ve had it long, 

And Congress acted very wrong, 

In cutting short my yearly profits, 

When I supposed them in my pockets. 

  

 

 

 

  

Restore great Chief! The boon I crave, 

To me and Harrison the brave; 

For he’s my partner and my minion, 

Well worthy of your good opinion.

  

 

 

  

But if thou canst not grant the boon, 

Some other gift I’ll take as soon, 

An office – or a pair of breeches – 

Humility, my Bible teaches! 

  

 

 

 

  

O, grant my prayer, and I’ll aspire, 

To do whatever you require; 

Do anything that’s done by writing, 

But Harrison must do the fighting.******

  

 

 

 

  

There is no character so bright, 

That cunning falsehood cannot blight, 

And if you have a foe – just name him— 

My pen, as dark as hell, shall stain him. 

  

 

 

 

  

Or if  your foes should prove hot-headed, 

My partner is a man that’s dreaded, 

And if you say so, he shall draw 

His burnished sword – then plead the law -- 

  

 

 

 

  

Whene’er I pledge to do a thing, 

I never stickle at the sin; 

My word is true as Mark or Luke, 

The Apocalypse or Pentateuch. 

  

 

 

 

  

Then if to favor, you’ll restore me, 

I will revive the love I bore thee, 

And prove myself, henceforth your brother, 

By sparing you, to stab some other. 

  

                                     

                               Faddle 

 

Austin, 

            December 3rd 1841.

 

Notes  

 

              In the 1841 Presidential election, although Mirabeau B. Lamar was not running for political office, the newspapers were harsh in their criticisms of his leadership – before the election, during the election, and after he left office. The Houston and Austin newspapers feuded over the issues and the handling of them on behalf of the citizenry. The Houston Telegraph and Texas Register was extremely critical of Lamar in his last days in office, including his farewell address ( Telegraph &Texas Register, December  1, 1841, page 2, column 3). Likewise, Lamar, felt the Austin City Gazette was in Houston’s pocket.  Lamar, known as The Poet President, wrote this clever poem. It is in Lamar’s handwriting, found in his papers in the May, 2009 Accession, and was an attempt to shroud his contempt for Sam Houston, while pretending to be a printer in Houston. He evidently did not feel he could carry off the ruse, and the poem was never published.  His pen name, “Faddle,” was found on other poems in his papers and left readers to guess his identity. Some items of history of 1841 are explained below.

*         Refers to David G. Burnet, who ran against Houston in the 1841 election.

**       Lamar had been a printer in Georgia prior to his first trip to Texas in 1835; further, he had an interest in investing in a newspaper in Texas after he arrived here, but that business relationship did not materialize. Here, he attempts to assume the role of a defeated printer whose Republic printing contract has been taken from him in favor of the Austin City Gazette . Lamar here was playing on the scenario of the several pro and con-newspapers for public figures and the rate at which ownership changed hands in the later Republic era.

***         Samuel Whiting was the owner/editor/publisherof the Austin City Gazette from July 29, 1840 – March 23, 1842.

****     This stanza is Lamar’s attempt to lead the reader away from his identity as the author of the poem.

*****   The line referencing Sam Whiting affirms Lamar’s belief that the newspaper had been compromised under the influence of Houston, to be a pro-Houston paper. After Lamar’s farewell address to the Senate, Whiting’s paper was particularly flattering of the piece, while the Telegraph and Texas Register referred to it as rubbish, even criticizing Lamar’s use of grammar and his writing style.

******   Harrison is a fictious name, created by Lamar.

 

Notes by Donna Beth Shaw

  

Texas Heritge Society