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The United States of America: A History
Book 3: Chapter V - Texas


THE decaying energies of Spain were sorely wasted by the wars which Napoleon forced upon her. Invaded, conquered, OCCU1)ied, fought for during years by great armies, Spain issued from the struggle in a state of utter exhaustion. It was impossible that a country so enfeebled could maintain a great colonial dominion. Not long after the Battle of Waterloo all her American dependencies chose to be independent, and Spain could do nothing to prevent it. Among the rest, Mexico won for herself the privilege of self government, of which she has thus far proved herself so incapable.

Lying between the Mississippi and the Rio Grande was a vast wilderness of undefined extent and uncertain ownership, which America, with some hesitation, recognized as belonging to Mexico. It was called Texas. The climate was genial; the soil was of wondrous fertility. America coveted this fair region, and offered to buy it from Mexico. Her offer was declined.

The great natural wealth of Texas, combined with the almost total absence of government, were powerful attractions to the lawless adventurers who abounded in the South-western States. A tide of vagrant blackguardism streamed into Texas. Safe from the grasp of justice, the murderer, the thief, the fraudulent debtor, opened in Texas a new and wore hopeful career. Founded by these conscript fathers, Texan society grew apace.

In a few years Texas felt herself strong enough to be (1836) independent. Her connection with Mexico was declared to be at an end.

The leader in this revolution was Sam Houston, a Virginian of massive frame - energetic, audacious, unscrupulous —in no mean degree fitted to direct the storm he had helped to raise. For Houston was a Southerner, and it was his ambition to gain Texas for the purposes of the slave-owners. Mexico had abolished slavery. Texas could be no home for the possessor of slaves till she was severed from Mexico.

When independence was declared, Texas had to defend her newly-claimed liberties by the sword. General Houston (1836) headed the patriot forces, not quite 400 in number, and imperfectly armed. Santa Anna came against them with an army of 5000. The Texans retreated, and having nothing to carry, easily distanced their pursuers. At the San Jacinto, Houston was strengthened by the arrival of two field- pieces. He turned like a lion upon the unexpectant Mexicans, whom he caught in the very act of crossing the river. He fired grape-shot into their quaking ranks. his unconquerable Texans clubbed their muskets—they had no bayonets—and rushed upon the foe. The Mexicans fled in helpless rout, and Texas was free. The grateful Texans elected General Houston President of the republic which lie had thus saved.

No sooner was Texas independent than she offered to join (1837) herself to the United States. Her proposals were at A. first declined. But the South warmly espoused her cause and urged her claims. Once more North and South met in fiery debate. Slavery had already a sure footing in Texas. If Texas entered the Union it was as a Slave State. On that ground avowedly the South urged the annexation. On that ground the North resisted it. "We all see," said Daniel Webster, "that Texas will be a slave-holding country; and I frankly avow my unwillingness to do anything which shall extend the slavery of the African race on this continent, or add another Slave-holding State to the Union." "The South," said the Legislature of Mississippi, speaking of slavery, "does not possess a blessing with which the affections of her people are so closely entwined, and whose value is more highly appreciated. By the annexation of Texas an equipoise of influence in the halls of Congress will be secured, which will furnish us a permanent guarantee of protection."

It was the battle-ground on which all the recent great battles of American political history have been fought. It ended, as such battles at that time usually did, in Southern victory. In March 1845 Texas was received into the Union. The slave power gained new votes in Congress, and room for a vast extension of the slave-system.


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