People: Westward Expansion
John James Audubon was a member of the Hudson River School art movement. He was a naturalist specializing in painting the birds of America. As a young man, he travelled down the Ohio River to western Kentucky and set up a dry goods store. He was somewhat successful in business until hard times hit, and he was jailed for bankruptcy. He decided to continue his hobby of drawing birds as he floated down the Mississippi River. Through his observation of birds and nature, he became a conservationist. He illustrated a collection of 435 life size prints of America birds. Today the Audubon Society, founded by George Bird Grinnell, continues John James Audubon’s spirit of protecting birds and their habitats. John James Audubon’s illustrations and life story help to describe the spirit of young America.
Sam Houston was born in Virginia and moved to Tennessee in his teens. His courageous service in the War of 1812 caught the attention of General Andrew Jackson, and the two men became friends. After the war he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1818. He represented Tennessee in the House of Representatives from 1823-28 and later became governor of that state. He resigned the office in 1829 and lived among the Cherokee Indians for a time, even being made a member of the Cherokee Nation. He assisted the tribe with the relocations required by the Indian Removal Act. On various trips, he met Alexis de Tocqueville who is believed to have used Houston in composite examples of Americans. Houston soon moved to Texas, supporting its independence from Mexico. As Commander in Chief, he led the Texas Army in the defeat of Mexican General Santa Ana, and served as the first President of the Republic of Texas. The state joined the Union in 1845, and Houston served three terms in the US Senate. There, he often clashed with John C. Calhoun. He expressed support for the Union and favored the Compromise of 1850. He opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act because he believed it would contribute to increased sectionalism and lead to war. Though Houston owned slaves and opposed abolition, his desire to preserve the Union prevailed. Houston left the Senate and was elected governor of Texas in 1859. When President Abraham Lincoln was elected, Texas seceded from the Union. In what many saw as a sign of integrity, Houston refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, and was removed as governor. He died two years later.