Sam Houston was a larger-than-life personality, and such people are not usually known for being adaptable. Not so Sam.
As these excerpts from his letters show, Houston was able to adapt his writing voice to his audience, sometimes in surprising ways. Here are some examples.
There’s defiant, belittling Sam:
Letter to Santa Anna – 1844
I regret, sir, extremely, that it has been my duty thus to advert to circumstances which must be as disagreeable to you as to myself. But you have invoked it.You have denounced war, and intend to prosecute it. Do it presently. We will abide the result.
Present yourself with a force that indicates a desire of conquest, and with all the appendages of your power, and I may respect your effort. But the marauding incursions which have heretofore characterized your molestation, will only deserve the contempt of honorable minds.
I have the honor, etc., etc.
[signed] Sam Houston
There’s Houston the Statesman and grateful protege:
Letter to Andrew Jackson – 1843
To you, General, I find myself vastly indebted for many principles which I have never abandoned through life. One is, a holy love of country, and a willingness to make every sacrifice to its honor and safety, next a sacred regard for its Constitution and laws, with an eternal hostility and opposition to all banks.
Now, sir, I beseech you to feel assured that no policy, expediency, fear, or whim shall ever cause a departure from these principles, but that I will cherish them while life endures, as I am capable of feeling one grateful emotion from your many acts of affectionate kindness to me, under all circumstances, and in every vicissitude of life in which you have known me.
I will not close this long letter without assuring you that I entertain confidence in the speedy success of Texas, if I am sustained in carrying out a wise policy, to live within our means, act defensively, cultivate our rich land, raise a revenue from import duties, make and keep peace with the Indians, and, if possible, get peace with Mexico, in the meantime watch her, be prepared, and if an army invades us, never to let them return.
[signed] Sam Houston
Then there’s the peculiar and poetic manner in which he wrote to the Indians, of which this is the best example:
To Flaco the Elder, Chief of the Lipans, on the Death of his son, Flaco the Younger – 1842
My Brother! My heart is sad! A dark cloud rests upon your nation. Grief has sounded in your camp. The voice of Flaco is silent. His words are not heard in council. The chief is no more. His life has fled to the Great Spirit.
His eyes are closed. His heart no longer leaps at the sight of the buffalo. The voices of your camp are no longer heard to cry, “Flaco has returned from the chase!”
Your chiefs look down on the earth and groan in trouble. Your warriors weep. The loud voices of grief are heard from your women and children. The song of birds is silent. The ears of your people hear no pleasant sound. Sorrow whispers in the winds. The noise of the tempest passes. It is not heard. Your hearts are heavy.
The name of Flaco brought joy to all hearts. Joy was on every face. Your people were happy. Flaco is no longer seen in the fight. His voice is no longer heard in battle. The enemy no longer make a path for his glory. His valor is no longer a guard for your people. The right of your nation is broken.
Flaco was a friend to his white brothers. They will not forget him. They will remember the red warrior. His father will not be forgotten. We will be kind to the Lipans. Grass shall not grow in the path between us.
Let your wise men give the counsel of peace. Let your young men walk in the white (peace) path. The gray-headed men of your nation will teach wisdom. I will hold my red brothers by the hand.
[signed] Thy brother, Sam Houston
And finally…we have Houston the lover:
Sam to Margaret – 1845
Ever Dearest Margaret,
On the 6th I came to this place (Galveston) hoping to meet you. Think dear of the painful anxiety which I must endure until your arrival. Oh my love, you cannot have the least idea of my feelings.
I am told I am to speak at the Presbyterian church where I made my temperance speech last May. Speaking of temperance, my dear, I think you may give me full credit, for in truth I have not drank even cider since we parted, nor will I ever forget myself, so far as to drink any thing which can intoxicate any one.
But my dear, I am now intoxicated and have been for some time past. You will, I hope excuse me for my intemperance? It is no less than the intoxication of love and you are the dear object!
My Dearest, I only wish that you were here, for I have many things to say to you. One is, I love you more than all created beings.
[signed] Thy devoted & faithful Husband,Sam Houston