John McCain never tires of reminding us that he is a "maverick," a dissenter "who marches to his own drum," he said in his acceptance speech. We know the common dictionary meaning of the word that referred originally to wayward cattle and later to a public figure with an independent mind. The owner of the maverick cattle herd who gave us the word in its current form was Sam Maverick, a South Carolinian turned Texan. Maverick fought in the Texas Revolution, spent time in a Mexican prison, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, served as a state legislator and the mayor of San Antonio.
Columnist Rick Casey writes in the Houston Chronicle that there were other Mavericks before and after Sam, the lousy Texas cattleman and some of them too were mavericks.
[the] original American Maverick, also named Sam, came much earlier — around 1630. He was probably an ancestor, or at least a relative.
He was, in some senses of the word, the prototype for a succession of Mavericks, who might be considered rogue members of the Establishment.
The original Maverick was the son of a minister, and a landowner of means and education on Noddle Island (now East Boston) near what is now Boston's Logan Airport. He was esteemed enough that a square was named after him, and later a subway stop at the square.
But he not infrequently found himself in trouble with the local Puritan powers, whose intolerance bothered him. He was fined 150 pounds once for vigorously protesting Puritanical oppression. One source says he was jailed twice: once for failing to faithfully attend church services and once for offering hospitality to a husband and wife who were not each other's husband and wife.
Part of his problem was that he was Episcopalian and loyal to the Crown, which was not welcome among the Puritans. In 1661, Maverick wrote a letter to Lord Clarendon suggesting that an area then known as New Amsterdam under the control of the Dutch would "prove very advantageous to ye Crowne of England if regained, and prejudicial if not."
He argued that the Dutch and a few English living there, poorly protected and under heavy tax burdens, would likely appreciate an English takeover if they were guaranteed low taxes, and civil and religious freedom. King Charles II responded by appointing three colonels and Maverick to a royal commission, which plotted and schemed until 1664, when they entered the city and, as Maverick predicted, met with no opposition. Maverick was rewarded with a grant of New York City land at what is now 50 Broadway, one of the few acts of the king appreciated by the Puritans because Maverick left Boston.
Some of this history comes from a book by Maury Maverick Sr., grandson of the original Texas Maverick. He himself was a true maverick, a New Deal congressman and a mayor of San Antonio.
Maury was nearly lynched after placing such faith in the Constitution and its guarantee of freedom of speech and assembly that he allowed a union with Communist connections to hold a rally at a municipal auditorium. He escaped with his life but not with his political career.
Based on his service in Washington, he gave us another word: Gobbledygook. Webster defines it as "talk or writing that is wordy, pompous, etc. and largely incomprehensible or meaningless."
For the record, Maury Maverick resented any interpretation of the word "maverick" that suggested that his grandfather was a heroic cowboy.
No hat, no boots, no gun
"To lay all the mythical ghosts of Maverick forever, I hereby declare to all men by these presents, and to him who hath ears to listen, greetings: nobody in my family ever wore a ten-gallon hat, high-heeled boots, spurs, or packed a gun," he wrote. "Nobody in my family ever yelled yippee! whoopie! or sang a cowboy song – at least, not as cowboys. The only Mavericks ever to wear boots are my daughter, Terrelita Fontaine, age 11, and my son, Maury Jr., age 16, and some of my nephews and nieces, and I think they ought all to be spanked for being drug store cowboys."