Edward, David Barnett (1797–1870)

By: Stephen L. Hardin

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1995

David Barnett Edward, early Texas settler, teacher, and writer, was born in November 1797 in Forfarshire, Scotland. He emigrated from Scotland and lived in the West Indies and in Colombia for several years before moving to the United States in 1819. He taught at an academy in Alexandria, Louisiana, and in 1830, with a party of five persons, toured Texas. He subsequently moved his wife, Eliza, and three children to Gonzales, in Green DeWitt's colony, where he served as principal of a local academy, Gonzales Seminary. In 1834 he applied for a copyright for a book entitled Observations on Texas, Embracing the Past, the Present, and the Future, as having been published by the firm of Smith and McCoy in Alexandria, Louisiana. No copies, however, exist, and Texas bibliophile Thomas W. Streeter stated that it was unlikely that the book was ever published. While a citizen of Gonzales, Edward wrote The History of Texas; or, the Emigrant's, Farmer's, and Politician's Guide to the Character, Climate, Soil, and Productions of That Country; Geographically Arranged from Personal Observation and Experience, which was published in Cincinnati in 1836. Although Edward claimed to be objective, he was clearly pro-Mexican and anti-Texan in his reporting and was the subject of heated criticism. Stephen F. Austin branded the book "a slander on the people of Texas." Edward was also excoriated for plagiarizing entire passages from Mary Austin Holley's Texas (1833). He also made liberal use of several other published sources without giving credit to the authors.

Edward's book managed to offend almost everyone in Texas. Texas boosters, eager to present their country as a place of limitless opportunity, were aghast when Edward asserted, for instance, "There are no poor people here, if land makes rich; and none rich, if money is wealth." He alienated Houston and other supporters of President Andrew Jackson by proclaiming that the Mexican dictator was "a `Jackson' of a fellow." Material for Edward's bitter condemnation of "shouting and howling" Texas Methodists may have come from experiences at Gonzales Seminary, which was operated by the Methodist Episcopal Church. He not only related scandalous anecdotes about several Methodist ministers, but also printed their names. As a leading spokesman for the Tory position, Edward maintained that American settlers had "by their perverse conduct, forfeited every claim to protection from the civil law; and therefore must either come under military control, or altogether be expelled from the [Mexican] Republic." Edward's suggestion that the martyrs of the Alamo and Goliad had been driven by the "wrong motives" and his praise of "enlightened" Mexican immigration policies was more than most Texans could abide.

Even so, Edward provided a valuable service in that he quoted the full texts or significant extracts from Mexican regulations relating to colonization, justice, and trade. Also reprinted are one of the first English translations of the Constitution of 1824, the full text of the proposed Constitution of 1833, and a note reporting the death of Benjamin R. Milam during the siege of Bexar.

The book's perspective generated such intense enmity in Texas that Edward found it advisable to take his family permanently out of the fledgling republic during or soon after the Texas Revolution. Thereafter, little is known about his activities. He died in Wheelersburg, Ohio, on March 18, 1870.

John H. Jenkins, Basic Texas Books: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works for a Research Library (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1983; rpt. 1988).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Stephen L. Hardin, “Edward, David Barnett,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/edward-david-barnett.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995