Thelma Jennings

NASHVILLE CONVENTION. When the Mexican War resulted in the acquisition of new territory in the Southwest, a sectional crisis developed between the minority South and an increasingly determined North. Realizing the importance of unity more than ever before, sixty-nine southern congressmen, representing every slave state except Delaware, launched the southern movement for unity on December 22, 1848. A few months later a bipartisan convention met at Jackson, Mississippi, and issued the call for a southern convention to meet at Nashville in June 1850 "to devise and adopt some mode of resistance to northern aggression." Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina played a major role in these activities. At first southerners in general responded favorably, but events in Washington pointing toward compromise lessened support for the convention around March 1, 1850. During the entire period Democrats supported the convention proposal more than Whigs.

In Texas both senators, Sam Houston, a devoted Unionist, and Thomas J. Rusk, as well as a large majority of the state's newspapers, opposed the convention. Nevertheless, the southern rights movement had strong support in the state. The Texas legislature passed a joint resolution recommending that the people choose representatives to the convention on the same day they would select a permanent state capital. Legislative members and interested citizens of the two congressional districts met and nominated four delegates for each district. According to the press, very few votes were cast for the nominees because the people distrusted the plan, if not the purpose. J. Pinckney Henderson, the most prominent person chosen, was the sole Texas delegate to attend the convention. Like most Texans, he was concerned about the boundary dispute with New Mexico.

A total of 175 delegates from nine southern states met at the McKendree Methodist Church from June 3 to 12, 1850. The delegates, whose views ranged from extreme radicalism to Unionism, set forth a platform based on the extension of the 36°30' line and adopted a series of twenty-eight resolutions and a more radical address directed to the people of the slaveholding states, exclusive of Delaware. In this address Robert Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina argued the unacceptability of the compromise being debated in Congress. The Texas boundary bill would transfer from the South to the North territory sufficient for two states. The convention's adjournment was conditional. Should Congress fail to meet their demands, the delegates were to reassemble at Nashville.

The passage of the compromise measures took away much of the momentum generated by the first session of the Nashville Convention. When Congress passed the bill giving Texas $10 million and New Mexico most of the disputed land, all the Texas congressmen voted for it. A majority of Texans accepted the new law, and the legislature approved an act of acceptance on November 25, 1850. Therefore, it is not surprising that Texas was not represented at the second session of the Nashville Convention, which included fifty-nine delegates from seven southern states, who met from November 11 to 18, 1850. Though the delegates rejected South Carolina's resolution advocating united secession, they approved measures affirming the right of secession, denounced the compromise, and recommended a southern congress. The convention paved the way for the southern Confederacy.


Randolph B. Campbell, "Texas and the Nashville Convention of 1850," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 76 (July 1972). Thelma Jennings, The Nashville Convention (Memphis State University Press, 1980).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Thelma Jennings, "NASHVILLE CONVENTION," accessed February 23, 2020,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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