town presents a different appearance from what it did formerly: chiefly from the disappearance of the large class of gentlemen loafers and blackguard loafers who infested it," some of whom, no doubt, were attracted by the spirit of adventure and the opportunities afforded by participation in the Federalist campaigns. During the latter part of July the Houston town council, re-enforced by a joint resolution passed by the Texas Congress in January 1839, effective March 1, 1839, providing for the arrest of vagrants and their punishment by imprisonment or whipping, was "busily engaged. . . . in disposing of the gamblers and loafers." Through the exertions of the peace officers and the cooperation of the good citizens, the council's efforts were attended with great success. No doubt, the ravages of yellow fever caused many to leave and reduced the number of those who remained. In late August 1839, the streets of Houston were deserted; all shops were closed; the city seemed dead. "The water of the bayou looked so lazy and dark-green, and the air was so oppressively sultry and ghastly," reported Gustav Dresel, that surely the Federal ranks benefited some from this local situation.
Present at the meeting between Ross and Canales at Victoria were
47. Ashbel Smith to Gen. [M. B.] Lamar, Houston, Dec. 31, 1839, in Ashbel Smith Papers, ms. Reported the Morning Star of July 11, 1839,
Our town is apparently quiet again, after the late disturbances. The city authorities have been well rewarded for their energy and vigilance, by complete success in restoring the city to order. . . . The proceedings of the last few days, in this city, may afford a lesson to those of the States who have looked upon our country as merely a place of refuge for crime, and a den of dishonor and licentiousness, and may force upon them the conviction, that although here, as in every other town of the known world, we are troubled with a certain proportion of bad and vagrant characters, there is sufficient dignity among our citizens to know what is their due, and sufficient energy to enforce its being paid.48. "A Joint Resolution for the Punishment of Vagrants," approved January 10, 1839, H. P. N. Gammel (ed.), Laws of Texas, II, 39-40. The law on vagrancy required all justices of the peace and other civil officers after March 1, 1839, "to arrest all vagrants and idle persons living within their respective jurisdictions, and examine into their mode and manner of living, and where no visible means" could be shown for their support or "no proper exertions" made by the party concerned "to obtain an honest livelihood, they shall be judged to work for the public, thirty days for the first offence, sixty days for the second, and one year for the third offence, or receive thirty-nine lashes on his bare back."
49. Telegraph and Texas Register, Aug. 7, 1839; Freund (trans. and ed.), Gustav Dresel's Houston Journal, pp 37, 78.
50. Freund (trans. and ed.), Gustav Dresel's Houston Journal, p. 78.