Podcast: David G. Burnett and the Birth of the Republic of Texas

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Podcast Transcript

David G. Burnet, a speculator, lawyer, and the first interim president of the Republic of Texas. He was born to a large family in Newark, New Jersey, on April 14th, 1788. David Burnet grew up religious and straight-edge. He didn't drink, curse, or chew tobacco. After years of trade missions and traveling from Louisiana to South America, Texas began to look appealing to Burnet. He came to Texas under a grant from the government of Mexico. After giving up attempting to colonize Nacodotius, he arrived in Galveston Bay in April of 1831. Like many Americans in the 1830s, Burnet sought prosperity in Mexican Texas. Shortly after he had purchased 17 acres on the San Jacinto River, the Mexican government backed out of Burnet's original land grant. Around the time of Burnet's arrival, tensions between the Mexican government and the Anglo-Texans were rising. Burnet was articulate, so he was chosen to represent his neighborhood at the Convention of San Felipe in 1833. He helped draft a plea to sever Texas from the then-adjoined Coahuila and made a statement against the African slave trade.

Burnet rose in the ranks in politics in Mexican Texas. He even spoke against Texas independence. As tensions with Mexico reached a boiling point, Burnet was elected as president of Texas at the Convention of 1836, officially beginning the revolution against Mexico. Throughout the revolution, Burnet and Sam Houston butted heads. Burnet would send letters to Sam Houston criticizing him for his lack of aggression on the battlefield, although Sam Houston ended up strategically defeating the Mexican army and officially winning independence. Among countless arguments and near fistfights after the battle of San Jacinto, Burnet refused to authorize a Texas Navy vessel to carry Houston to New Orleans after he was shot in the leg during the battle, Sam Houston had to charter his own vessel.

After Texas gained its independence, David G. Burnet called for an election so the people of Texas could vote for their own officials. To Burnet's dismay, Sam Houston defeated Burnet and became the first official president of the Republic of Texas elected by the people of Texas. He became vice president under Mirabeau Lamar in 1838. After Texas was annexed by the United States, he was named Secretary of State in 1846 and served one term. After this, he served a very dull political career. In 1849, he applied for a position as the Galveston Customs Collector and failed.

He lived in Galveston through the 1850s and 60s and outlived most of his family, while on Galveston Island, he was a Mason and a Presbyterian. Unfortunately, although he was a Texas hero, he lived the last days with almost no money and died in Galveston in 1870. Since he had no family, he was buried by his friends. His body was moved from the Episcopal Cemetery to the Magnolia Cemetery and finally, in 1894, to Lakeview Cemetery in Galveston, where the daughters of the Republic of Texas erected a monument to him, as well as his lifelong friend Sidney Sherman. His gravestone can be seen at Lakeview Cemetery while driving on Avenue T 1/2. David G. Burnet, the first interim president of the Republic of Texas.

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J.R. Shaw Creator & Host of Galveston Unscripted

J.R. Shaw is the creator and host of Galveston Unscripted Podcast & audio tour. Shaw recognizes that history is nuanced and learning it can be powerful. He's made it his mission to reduce the friction between true history and anyone who is willing to listen! J.R. Shaw focuses on telling the full story through podcasting and social media with the goal of making learning accurate history easy and entertaining for all who seek it.

J.R. grew up along the Texas Gulf Coast, where he learned to love talking with anyone about anything! He started Galveston Unscripted after he realized how much he loved talking to people about their stories related to Galveston Island and Texas History. "So much of our history is lost when we don't have the opportunity to hear from those who lived it or have second-hand knowledge."