Friday, April 15, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 17

Littleton Fowler Tours Washington and Baltimore on His Way to General Conference, April 1844

Littleton Fowler and John Clark were elected delegates from the Texas Conference to the 1844 General Conference of the MEC. The Littleton Fowler Collection at Bridwell Library contains letters which Fowler wrote home to Missouri Fowler about his travels to New York City, the site of General Conference.

Fowler left home and proceeded to Natchitoches, Louisiana, arriving on March 27. From there he secured steamboat passage down the Red River and Mississippi River to New Orleans (April 2). By April 8 he was almost to Memphis. By April 15 he was in Cincinnati, Ohio. The route continued by river to Wheeling, (West) Virginia, and then by stage to Cumberland, Maryland. Fowler boarded the train at Cumberland, and 10 hours later was in Baltimore. He was amazed at the speed. He had travelled 170 miles in 10 hours, sometimes achieving a speed of 25 miles per hour.

Since he was so close to Washington, D. C., he took another train to see the sights there. Texas was very much on the national political agenda in April 1844. President Tyler was trying to annex Texas via a treaty. That measure, of course failed, and Texas annexation was later accomplished via a joint resolution rather than treaty. While Fowler was in the Capitol, he witnessed a scuffle between George Rathbun (1803-1870 D NY) and John White (1802-1845 W KY) which resulted in a gunshot fired by a non-member. Here is the way the Congressional Record reported the result of the committee appointed to look into the incident.

The House proceeded to the consideration of the report of the select committee upon the subject of the rencounter between Mr. White and Mr. Rathbun, upon the floor of the House, on the 23d of April last, and which was, on the 6th instant, postponed until this day; the question being upon the motion of Mr. White to recommit the said report to the select committee, and the following instructions moved thereto by Mr. Hale, on the 6th instant, viz: "With instructions to report a resolution declaring that, in view of the facts disclosed by them in their report, Messrs. White and Rathbun did fight willingly on this floor, a public place; that, in doing so, they have violate the order of the House, have been guilty of an affray, and deserve, therefore, the censure of this House; and that John White, a member of this House from the State of Kentucky, in applying to George Rathbun, a member of this House from the State of New York, language imputing falsehood to said Rathbun, while the House was in session in Committee of the Whole, merits and should receive the severest censure of the House."
And, after debate,
Mr. White withdrew his motion, made on the 6th instant, to recommit; (and the said instructions fell.)
Mr. Elmer moved the following resolution:
Whereas it appears, by the reports of the select committee appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the case, and by the testimony taken by the committee, and reported to this House, that, on the 23d day of April last, (the House being in Committee of the Whole,) John White, one of the members of this House from the State of Kentucky, did, in violation of the rules of the House, use opprobrious language to George Rathbun, one of the members of this House from the State of New York, imputing to him, personally, falsehood; and that the said George Rathbun thereupon made an attack upon the said John White, and they then engaged in a personal conflict on the floor of the House; and that great disorder and confusion was thereby created, and the public business interrupted: Therefore,
Resolved, That the said reports be laid on the table; and that the said John White and George Rathbun are hereby declared guilty of violating the rules of the House, and deserving of its censure; and are therefore censured accordingly.
A motion was then made by Mr. Weller that the whole subject be laid upon the table.
And the question being put,
• It was decided in the affirmative,
• Yeas, ... 82
• Nays, ... 73

Here is how Littleton Fowler reported the incident in his letter to Mrs. Fowler:

The Senate is a grave dignified boddy[sic] but the House is the most disorderly and uproarous parlamentary[sic] boddy[sic] I ever saw. Just as we reached the door of the house a pistol went off within. Two members had a fight and a man not a member was in the house at the time who was pushed out by two other members. The expelled man felt his dignity encro[a]ched. As he passed the door he turned and fired his pistol at the members and shot another man in the thigh but [it is] said the wound is not dangerous. The proceedings of the House was a disgrace to the nation. I saw more disorder in a few hours there than I ever [p. 3] saw in both Houses in Texas all the time I served them in the Chaplaincy.


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