Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 4 | Words: 1087
Reading Time: 5 Minutes

William Pitt Ballinger was a Texas lawyer and political activist. He was born on September 25, 1825 in Barboursville. Analysts say that his family background greatly affected his future life. This is because his grandfather was a settler in Kentucky and had served as Knox County Clerk as well as serving in the Kentucky legislature. He attended school at St. Mary’s College in Kentucky at Lebanon. This followed by training in his father’s office. It was not until 1843 that he went to study law at his uncle’s place in Galveston, Texas. After his law course, Ballinger played several key roles. He served in the War of Mexico as an adjutant in the regiment of Albert Sidney Johnson. In 1847, he was admitted to serve in the Bar with Jones and Butler, the most prominent law firm at the time in Galveston. This essay seeks to outline the role that Ballinger played in the Civil War by exploring the reasons of the Civil War in general as well as his influence. It also discusses how he, as a slave owner, treated slaves. Finally, it looks at the influence of southern life on him. The analysis is based on Ballinger’s biography as written by John Moretta. Ballinger was a great lawyer and statesman whose life impacted both positively and negatively in the society of the time.

Ballinger and Civil War

According to John Moretta, Ballinger was very instrumental in the reconstruction of Texas because he his role in furthering the Confederacy. He also influenced the Black Slaves’ emancipation and also the Industrialization of the South. Starting with his role in the Civil War, Moretta, in a very detailed way, documents his role. Moreover, there is a need to understand the wider context and the reasons that led to the commencement of the Civil War. This perhaps compliments what analysts say that Moretta wrote more than a biography but outlined the history of the South and Texas in particular with regard to the happenings of the time.

There was no doubt that the tyrannical leadership of the U.S. government was one of the major causes of the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War, Ballinger was not only a successful lawyer but also a unionist. Moretta records that the dissolution of the union was one of the most significant episodes in the life of Ballinger. Although Ballinger was a great respecter of the U.S. constitution, he had to accept people’s decision to secede from the union of the other states in 1863 and form the Confederate states. One of his most significant roles was serving as a special commissioner in negotiating the submission of Texas to the federal government. My historians have never understood how Ballinger underwent such an immense ideological transformation from a strong unionist to a secessionist then back to a supporter of the deferral government. In describing his transformation, Moretta quotes him thus; “Times have changed, my dear friend””the practice of law is going forward at such a rate that those who do not accept these changes will be left behind”. Moreover, through the Civil War, the federal government became conscious of the needs of people. After his death, he was described as “one of the most brilliant lights known to the present age of jurisprudence”.

Although he tried his best to make public proclamations and speeches to restrain Texans from seceding, he later got convinced that the ideas of Confederates were valid. Texans secession, according to him, was an American revolution. In justifying why Texans seceded, he says that they had the right, “the same right of Revolution our Forefathers believed incumbent upon them in order to free themselves from a tyrannical Government. We are doing no less than that at this moment in history”. Therefore, pursuit if this supposed right caused tensions that led to the commencement of the Civil War.

Ballinger and Slavery

Previously as unionist, the reason as to why Ballinger was initially opposed to secession was because he was convinced that slaves would be saver under the union as opposed to the Confederation. Moretta writes that “In short, Ballinger shared the hope of many Texas unionists that the Confederacy would be all the things the old Union was, and more. The new nation would protect individual liberties, guarantee law and stability, propagate the original American mission, and do so in harmony with slavery.” Ballinger was a small slave holder before the secessionist movement. This was perhaps based on his belief that African Americans were inferior. According to Moretta, Ballinger believed that African Americans lacked “the faculties of mind, the disposition, the character, to rise much above their present condition”. As a result, he did not treat them fairly and was initially afraid that Confederation would deprive him of the control he had over slaves. This appears to have contrasted dome of his legal stance as an advocate of people.

Ballinger and Southern Life

Ballinger was a typical statesman. He was always concerned about the affairs of Texas both internally and at the federal level. Perhaps one of his most important contributions was his role in post-war reconstruction of Texas. Specifically, he advocated for economic development that would be characterized by rise of private and public corporations, establishment of railway and how the state should actually industrialize. During the construction of the southern railway, Ballinger worked as a counsel and directed several departments involved in road construction. As a railroad consultant and legal advisor, many people did not understand his management style.

During the reconstruction period, Ballinger was opposed to any extreme southern positions because such positions would lead the state back to the periods of war and political tensions. According to Moretta (261), Ballinger was “a nineteenth-century man who shared many of the same experiences, disappointments, and tribulations of his contemporaries.” He could be described as a reformer. After the war, he declined many appointments into the Supreme Court claiming that he was just but a simple lawyer.


This essay was geared towards discussing important and significant episodes in the life of a renowned later and statesman of Texas. Born in Kentucky, Ballinger rose up to be one of the most influential unionists and lawyer in the annals of Texas, where he went to live. In a very detailed manner, Moretta outlines the life of a man who, although was somewhat racist as a salve owner, was intellectually torn between unity or secession. Although he may have fanned the Civil War in by his accusations of the federal government’s tyranny, he will be remembered as a true ambassador of common good.

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