"Gone to Texas"-often written simply as the letters G.T.T.-was a shorthand forwarding address left by settlers hurriedly departing for Texas in the 19th century. There's now a "G.T.T." on the doors of Washington presidential campaign offices as they scour Texas for votes in our March 4 primary elections.

Early settlers came here for many reasons, noble and ignoble. Their experiences, blending opportunity with hardship, helped create the Texas mystique that still fascinates people around the globe.

"The story and idea of Texas appeal to millions of people, many of whom have never been anywhere near the state. Somehow their imaginations have 'Gone to Texas' and liked what they found there," writes Randolph B. Campbell in Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State.

Texas's population has increased in every decade since the days of the Republic. But the rapid growth in the years before the Civil War put an indelible stamp on our state. The people who were lured here then, and their experiences, created the foundation for the legend of Texas.

At the beginning of the 1800s, Native Americans outnumbered all others in Texas. When Texas achieved independence in 1836, the estimated population here exceeded 50,000, and the majority group was Anglos. That number quadrupled by the 1850 census, just after Texas became a state.

A decision to move to Texas in those days required a willingness to face danger, drudgery and deprivation. But all that paled when compared to the incredible promise Texas offered for a better life. That drew thousands of settlers who'd scrawled "G.T.T." on the doors or floors of their cabins in Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas and other places.

Most newcomers came by their own free choice. Economic opportunity-primarily cheap and plentiful land-topped the list of reasons for moving to Texas. Some settlers came to escape debt, a failed business, legal problems, or what one writer calls "rascality." For others, there was no choice at all-they came here as chattel. In 1850, there were an estimated 58,000 slaves in Texas.

The journey to Texas required determination and endurance during a weeks-long journey by wagon, horseback, ship or on foot. Virtually everyone came knowing they faced hard work and uncertain futures, and one writer described them as "toil-worn people."

The collective impact of these newcomers in the mid-1800s is well described by writer J. Frank Dobie: "The very qualities that made many of the Texas pioneers rebels to society and forced not a few of them to quit it between sun and sun without leaving cards engraved with their new addresses fitted them to conquer the wilderness-qualities of daring bravery, reckless abandon, heavy self-assertiveness."

Now, more than 170 years later, the unique combination of bravery, risk-taking and optimism is still embedded in the character of Texas. We are known and admired for that well beyond our borders.

A report from United Van Lines indicates that Texas continues to be among the nation's leaders in attracting new residents and creating new jobs. Now, as in the past, we are attracting freedom-loving people seeking an opportunity to be successful.

As the political campaigners travel our state - and watch as we celebrate Texas Independence Day March 2 - let's hope they absorb the distinctiveness of the Lone Star State, the reasons for it and our pride in being Texans. The entire country can learn from the values we cherish in Texas.

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Budget Committees. In addition, he is Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Border Security and Refugees subcommittee and the Armed Services Committee's Airland subcommittee. Cornyn served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice and Bexar County District Judge.

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