EDWARDS, MONROE (ca. 1808–1847). Monroe Edwards, early Texas slave smuggler and forger, son of a once wealthy plantation owner, Moses Edwards, was born in Danville, Kentucky, about 1808. He moved to the Galveston Bay area of Texas about 1825 as a clerk for a prosperous merchant, James Morgan. Soon after his arrival, however, he found more lucrative, if less respectable, pursuits. He became involved in smuggling slaves to Brazil from Africa and soon made a profit of $50,000. Through his mistress's husband, a Mexican official, he obtained a large land grant in Brazoria County. He called his property Chenango Plantation (see CHENANGO, TEXAS) and used it as a base for continued slave smuggling to Texas from Cuba. His only claim to favorable historical recognition was his arrest and brief imprisonment, with others, by the Mexican garrison at Anahuac in 1832 (see ANAHUAC DISTURBANCES).
Christopher Dart, who later bought a half interest in Chenango, also joined Edwards in financing the smuggling of slaves. On March 2, 1836, Edwards took about 171 slaves up the Brazos River and drove them overland to Chenango, where they were to be kept for sale after the Texas Revolution ended. When Dart began pressuring him to sell the slaves and split the profits as they had agreed, Edwards conceived a different plan. He altered a letter signed by Dart so that it seemed to be a bill of sale to himself. Dart, of course, cried foul, and filed a civil suit. Although Edwards retained two distinguished lawyers, John C. Watrous and John W. Harris,qqv the forgery was discovered during the trial in Brazoria. Dart obtained judgment on April 2, 1840, for more than $89,000 plus interest and court costs. In addition, Edwards was indicted and jailed.
After making bond on the criminal charge, Edwards fled to Europe, where he posed as a wealthy veteran of San Jacinto and an abolitionist. He left Europe after a threat of exposure by the Texas envoy to England and returned to the United States, where he engaged in several large-scale forgeries. He was finally arrested and placed in the Tombs prison in New York. His trial was a celebrated one, with lengthy reports of each day's testimony printed in the New York Daily Tribune and other newspapers. Edwards again retained celebrated lawyers but was found guilty. He was sentenced to Sing Sing prison. After an escape attempt in 1847 he was severely beaten by prison authorities and died.
Image Use Disclaimer
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Marie Beth Jones, "Edwards, Monroe," accessed April 30, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fed07.
Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Get Texas history every day,
with day by day
Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles