Webster Flanagan

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David Webster Flanagan
Hornaday 1975 1312 (15876901105).jpg
Former president pro tempore of the Texas Senate
From: November 13, 1871 – ???
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Former State Senator from Texas's 5th District
From: February 10, 1870 – April 18, 1876
Predecessor John G. Brown
Successor Francis M. Henry
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Graham (died 1872)
Sallie Phillip Ware
Religion Baptist
Military Service
Allegiance Confederate States of America
Service/branch Confederate Army
Battles/wars American Civil War

David Webster Flanagan (January 9, 1832 – May 5, 1924), known as Webster Flanagan or Web Flanagan, was a prominent Republican in Texas known for his participation in state politics during the Reconstruction Era and gained the national spotlight at the 1880 Republican National Convention.

Early life, career, and Confederate Army service

Flanagan was born on January 9, 1832, in Cloverport, Kentucky (located in Breckinridge County), to James W. Flanagan and the former Polly Miller.[1] At the age of eleven, the Flanagans moved to Henderson, Texas, where the youthful Webster enrolled at local private schools and later Henderson College. The family also resided in Virginia at some point.[2]

"Under special act of the legislature," Flanagan at the age of nineteen was admitted to the state bar, practicing law up until the outbreak of the Civil War.[2] Despite his personal allegiance to the Union cause and opposition to secession, Flanagan took part in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.[1] However, due to tuberculosis, he was discharged, subsequently serving as Panola County's chief justice instead.[2]

Political career

In the postbellum era, Flanagan and his father were active in the Moderate wing of the Republican Party,[1] and were popular in their district despite pro-Union viewpoints.[2] They attended the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1868–69 as delegates, where they dissented from the final draft of the document, joining Radical Republicans in supporting the division of Texas into three separate states to resolve regional divides.[2]

From 1870–76, he served in the Texas state Senate from the 5th district and temporarily was elected pro tempore for mid-November 1871 until the end of the Adjourned Session of the 12th Legislature.[3] During Flanagan's tenure, he opposed Governor Edmund J. Davis's anti-railroad actions and utilized his chairmanship of the Committee on Internal Improvements to push railroad legislation.[2]

Flanagan was a member of the state's Constitutional Convention of 1875.[1][2]

Stalwart faction

Stalwart Republicans



Other members:

Related topics:

According to former U.S. senator Thomas C. Platt in his 1910 published autobiography, Flanagan was a Stalwart Republican delegate among the "Old Guard" 306 who supported the nomination of Ulysses S. Grant to a nonconsecutive third term in the 1880 U.S. presidential election.[4] During the Republican National Convention that year, when a Massachusetts delegate advocated a plank in support of "thorough, radical, and complete" civil service reform, Flanagan famously declared:[5][6][7]

Texas has had quite enough of civil service reform under the present Administration. Out of 1,340-odd Federal positions, only about 140 are held down by Republicans. We will nominate and elect a Stalwart Republican, who, when elected, will give the hewers of wood and drawers of water the rations they are entitled to...

There is one plank in the Democratic Party, and has ever been, that I admire. It is: 'To the victors belong the spoils.' After we have won the race as we will, we will give those who are entitled to positions office. What are we up here for if not the offices? I mean that members of the Republican Party are entitled to office, and if we are victorious we will have office. [emphasis added]

—Webster Flanagan, June 1880

Flanagan's remarks elicited laughter at the convention, as the majority of delegates sympathetically concurred with his message. Stalwart leader Roscoe Conkling commented to a group around him:[5]

I think Flanagan had the courage to do that which most of us were too cowardly to do.

—Roscoe Conkling, June 1880

In 1883, when Flanagan traveled to Washington, D.C., The New York Times humorous commented, "the inquiry arises, 'What is he there for?'"[8] The following year, the Times, again noting his famous 1880 speech, reported that Flanagan received a patronage appointment by President Chester A. Arthur for Collector of Internal Revenue for the Fourth District of Texas.[9]

Two decades following the 1880 Republican National Convention, U.S. Supreme Court justice David Brewer listed Flanagan's "What are we here for" speech among "The World's Best Orations."[10]

Later life and death

From 1897–1913, Flanagan was the collector of internal revenue. In his civic activities, he bolstered the construction of the Henderson and Overton Branch Railroad,[1] in addition to contributing towards an improvement of livestock breeding in Rusk County, Texas.[1] He died on May 5, 1924, at Henderson, and is interred at a family cemetery. The San Antonio Express eulogized with an editorial comment and tribute:[5]

His famous oft-quoted speech (here recalled in full) serves to puncture as much hypocrisy of today—civil service or no civil service—as obtained when he, "Web" Flanagan, took it upon himself to speak the 1880 convention's mind against the policy of Rutherford B. Hayes.

Constitution-framer, judge, senator, lieutenant-governor, railroad builder, "lawyer and stockman," as he styled himself—that was General Flanagan's service to Texas. ... In the national service he gave nearly twenty years' capable attention administering an internal revenue collectorship.

Webster Flanagan well-deserved ninety-two years of life. He was a courageous, kindly, greatly useful Texan.

San Antonio Express, May 7, 1924


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Watkins, Myrtis (1975). Flanagan, David Webster (1832–1924). Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Spaw, Patsy McDonald (1990). The Texas Senate: Civil War to the Eve of Reform, 1861-1889, pp. 97–100. Google Books. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  3. Lieutenant Governors of Texas, 1846 - present. Legislative Library Reference of Texas. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  4. Platt, Thomas C. (1910). The Autobiography of Thomas Collier Platt, p. 122. Google Books. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 National Civil Service League (1924). Good Government: Volume 41, p. 103–04. Google Books. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  6. Reeves, Thomas C. (1975). Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur, p. 173. Internet Archive. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  7. Peskin, Allan (1984). Who Were the Stalwarts? Who Were Their Rivals? Republican Factions in the Gilded Age, p. 709. JSTOR. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  8. December 18, 1883. What Mr. Flanagan Is Said To Be For. The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  9. July 24, 1884. Flanagan Rewarded. The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  10. Brewer, David J. (1900). The World's Best Orations, p. 4,004. Google Books. Retrieved May 25, 2023.

External links