31 May 2011--Went to see the Texas Capitol building and the Texas History Museum today, starting at the Capitol. These pics show the Capitol from the front, and then the back of it. It is actually prettier in the back, if for no other reason than you can see the whole thing.
Along the walkway leading up to the front of the Capitol, titled "Monuments of the Great Walk", are 4 prominently displayed statues. Two are fairly inocuous; the 1st is a monument to the defenders of the Alamo, while the 2nd is a monument to those Volunteer Firefighters who have died in the service of Texas.
The last 2, however, are really monuments to a denial of history. This one, with Jefferson Davis atop it (the only president of the Confederacy), is a monument to the Confederacy Dead. Now that would not be a problem, I guess, until you read the inscription at the bottom. Here they claim that all the dead died for "States Rights", which were guaranteed in the constitution, to preserve their rights, and that the north resorted to coersion. No mention of slavery, of course. How can we expect our country to be "one nation, indivisible" if we can't even admit to a common reading of history?
The 2nd is another monument to Confederate soldiers...so 2 of only 4 statues prominently displayed on the grounds are to the Confederacy! No wonder the current governor throws around the "secession" word with impunity here.
The inside of the Capitol is very pretty, but fairly hard to capture on camera because it is so big. In the middle of the rotunda, centered on the floor, is a display of the 6 flags that have flown over Texas during its history. Starting with Spain and followed by France, they then had Mexico as their rulers.
When they broke away from Mexico in 1836, they declared their independence and became their own country...the only state in the Union to ever be a country unto themselves! The Republic of Texas was in existence until 1845, when they joined the United States. This Republic flag has the star of "Lone Star" state, and then an "oak branch" symbolizing strength, and an "olive branch" symbolizing peace. By the way, in the constitution they wrote for their new country, they put in there that all "free blacks" had to the leave the country. I guess that was one one of the "states rights" they would later fight for when they seceded!!!
When Texas then seceded from the US during the Civil War, this flag became the Texas flag of the Confederacy...they put the likeness of George Washington between the oak and olive branches. A little unseamly? Or is it just me?
As you look up past the 4 floors to the dome, you see the pics of all the Texas Governors and then this rather pretty staircase that leads to the dome itself. It is much more impressive in person than I am able to convey here...haha.
The star at the top of the dome is 218 ft from the ground, and 8 ft across the ceiling...doesn't look that big as you look at it.
There are really only 3 pictures very prominently displayed in the building. This is Sam Houston, the 1st and 3rd president of the Republic of Texas, and the Governor of the state of Texas right before the Civil War. He advocated against seceding from the Union, and was actually removed from office for doing so. He died 2 years into the Civil War as a private citizen. Also noteworthy, prior to coming to Texas, Houston was once the Governor of Tennesee, the only man to serve as governor of 2 different states. Pretty impressive fellow!!! (The Army base Cathy and I are staying at is named after him.)
This painting depicts the surrender of General Santa Ana, the president of Mexico, to Sam Houston, after the Battle of San Jacinto. This brought an end to the war and independence for what was then the new country of Texas. Interestingly, Santa Ana had just 6 weeks prior to this crushed the defenders of the Alamo, leading the soldiers to shout "remember the Alamo" as they attacked the Mexican soldiers.
Finally we have Davy Crocket. Like Sam Houston, he was actually also from Tenessee, and had only come to Texas in February of 1836...a month before he died with all the others in March of 1836 at the Alamo. The guide we had thru the building told us he had come to Texas in the hopes of getting one of the land grants the state/country was handing out in their quest to settle the land and create a tax base. I thought it was interesting that he spent so much time as a politician, a fact I don't think was every mentioned in the tv show I saw repeatedly as a kid! haha
Finally, we have a picture of the Texas House of Representatives, almost identical to the Senate, except the number of chairs/desks. Texas has 31 state Senators and 150 House members who meet for 140 days a year, every other year. Like most of the other western states we have visited, I am amazed at how seldom these politicians are in session.
From the Capitol we walked down to the State History Museum. This is the only pic I have because they didn't allow pics, even without a flash, inside the building. That is unfortunate because it was a really well layed out display. On the 1st floor they covered the early history from the Indians to the Spanish and French colonization, while on the 2nd floor was a good synopsis of the revolution against the Mexicans, the time as an individual country, and then secession and the Civil War/Reconstruction. The 3rd floor covered industries in Texas with an emphasis on cattle, oil and even sheep herding. It was a good series of exhibits and we enjoyed it.
On to the LBJ Library and Museum tomorrow. Again, stay tuned!