July 3, 2016
By Sen. Brandon Creighton
As I join my fellow Americans in celebrating Independence Day, I’m especially thankful to do so in the state of Texas. Now, I’m not saying other states don’t appreciate freedom as we do (Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in particular were Ground Zero in the battle to win independence from Britain), but our state’s culture is deeply marked by the sacrifices that led to our own independence from Mexico.
As the descendant of a man who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, I have a deeply personal connection to that era in our state’s history and to an especially colorful character.
His name was Martin Palmer, but he was known as “the Ringtail Panther from the Fork in the Creek.” He was the father-in-law of Alfred Morris, a man who not only was my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, but also held the Texas Senate seat I’m honored to occupy today. In a well-known photo of the signers, Palmer is the only one of a suit-wearing bunch wearing a buckskin vest. Although he was born in Virginia and lived in Missouri, he truly found his place in Texas.
In that regard, his story is a lot like that of the 27 million people who now call Texas home: “He wasn’t born here, but he got here in a hurry.” When he got here, he left his mark by standing up for essential Texas values: personal freedom, hard work and fighting for what’s right. Like those other signers of that Declaration, he took his life in his hands when he put pen to paper, but he believed it was worth it.
In this day and age, as our nation’s political conversation gets more animated and angry, it’s wise for us to consider history and an essential lesson: tyranny is an unseemly human tendency that often manifests itself in government bureaucracies. Fortunately, we don’t need to take up arms like my ancestor did. Instead, we can speak our mind and head to the ballot box, as we place our trust in essential documents such as the U.S. Constitution.
We can elect people who share our values and will poke the establishment in the eye as a way to preserve freedom. We can also become students of history, fully aware of that old adage, “those who forget history are destined to repeat it.” The lessons of principled men and women standing tall against oppression bear repeating, generation after generation.
As a means of helping my fellow Texans remember our history so we can hold tight to the values and not repeat the mistakes, I often like to share a few quotes from a letter written by the Ringtail Panther, sent to his wife as the War for Texas Independence raged.
Knowing they were written in bitter cold near the Brazos River, in a drafty cabin with no glass in the windows, with the threat of government retaliation likely for their publication, make these words especially relevant to today.
My ancestor’s letter, which can be read in its entirety at bit.ly/28MMZVC, contained the following timeless call to free-thinking people: “Texas has been declared free and independent, but unless we have a general turn out and every man lay his helping hand too, we are lost. Santa Anna and his vassals are now on our borders, and the declaration of our freedom, unless it is sealed with blood, is of no force. ”
My ancestor understood that freedom and independence are not the cherished values of tyrants. Instead, they are God-given gifts that must be defended at every turn.
So, as we celebrate Independence Day together, let’s strengthen our commitment to freedom, resolve to stand against those who would take it away and keep in mind and prayer the men and women of our armed forces willing to shed their blood in defense of our liberty.
Happy Independence Day.
• Brandon Creighton of Conroe represents District 4 in the Texas Senate.