George Washington Paschal, son of George and Agnes (Brewer) Paschal, was born at Skull Shoals, Greene County, Georgia, on November 23, 1812. He earned his way through the State Academy at Athens by teaching and keeping books. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1832. Soon afterward he went as an aide to Gen. John E. Wool to remove the Cherokees to Indian Territory. While on that expedition he married a full-blood Cherokee named Sarah, daughter of Chief John Ridge (seePIX, SARAH RIDGE). In 1837 Paschal moved to Van Buren, Arkansas, opened a law office, and, before he was thirty years old, was appointed by the Arkansas legislature as associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He resigned the office within a year to return to Van Buren, where he took charge of Cherokee claims against the United States. He probably moved to Texas in 1847, for he was admitted to practice before the Texas Supreme Court on December 28, 1847. He lived in Galveston in 1848 and then moved to Austin. He ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 1850. As editor of the Austin Southern Intelligencer, established with the financial backing of Swante Magnus Swenson in 1856, he was known as an intense Union man. He feuded with John F. Marshall, editor of the Texas State Gazette, over the matter of reopening the slave trade in Texas, a measure that Paschal opposed. He was also opposed to Know-Nothingism, Free Soilism, Black Republicanism, and the abolition of slavery. In 1860 he was prominent in the Constitutional Union party in Texas and supported Stephen A. Douglas for the presidency. He was one of Sam Houston's supporters in opposition to secession and during the Civil War was jailed, threatened by a mob, and held for trial by a court-martial because of reports of his Unionist sympathies. During the war he retired to his home and devoted his time to writing. The books that brought him fame were A Digest of the Laws of Texas (1866) and The Constitution of the United States Defined and Carefully Annotated (1868).
Impoverished by the war and saddened by the loss of friends, Paschal left Texas to seek a new start. In 1869 he opened a law office in partnership with his sons, George, Jr., and Ridge, in Washington, D.C. He became identified with the Republican party and worked diligently for the Fourteenth Amendment but supported Horace Greeley for the presidency in 1872. During the last years of his life he reported and edited Texas Reports 28 through 31, and compiled A Digest of Decisions Comprising Decisions of the Supreme Court of Texas and of the United States upon Texas Law, a monumental three-volume work. Paschal was married three times. By his Indian wife, Sarah, he had two sons and a daughter. His second wife, Marcia (Duval) Price, was the daughter of William P. Duval, governor of Florida. They had two daughters, one of whom was Elizabeth Paschal O'Connor. His third marriage was to Mrs. Mary Scoville Harper, a woman of considerable literary ability who assisted him in his later writings. Paschal lectured in the law school at Georgetown University and spent his spare time writing political pamphlets and magazine articles. He died in Washington on February 16, 1878, and was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery.
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Sam Hanna Acheson, 35,000 Days in Texas: A History of the Dallas "News" and Its Forbears (New York: Macmillan, 1938). George L. Crocket, Two Centuries in East Texas (Dallas: Southwest, 1932; facsimile reprod. 1962). Jane Lynn Scarborough, George W. Paschal: Texas Unionist and Scalawag Jurisprudent (Ph.D. dissertation, Rice University, 1972). Marilyn M. Sibley, Lone Stars and State Gazettes: Texas Newspapers before the Civil War (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1983).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Amelia W. Williams,
“Paschal, George Washington,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 29, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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