PICTURESQUE as this period
is, it lacks unity. Since the American element, however, once introduced,
was of steady growth and ultimately became dominant, attention must be
centred upon what led to its introduction and upon the causes of its final
success in directing the fortunes of the province.
Texas as a part of Mexico
had variable boundaries. In Humboldt's time the province of New Mexico was
wholly independent of Texas, El Paso being its southernmost garrison. In
the first decade of the Nineteenth century, when Humboldt wrote his
account of New Spain, the province of Texas belonged to the intendency of
San Luis Potosi. The nearest presidio or military post was that at
Nacogdoches, some sixty-eight leagues, says Humboldt, from Fort Claiborne,
the farthest settlement in Louisiana westward. Against the claim of
Louisiana to the land east of the Lavaca stood that of Spain to the land
eastward as far as the Rio Mermentas, which flows into the Gulf beyond the
On the west the Mexican
authorities gave Texas the Nueces and the Medina as her boundaries. The
Marqués de Aguayo in the account of his Wtrada in 1721 names the Medina as
the boundary dividing her from Coahuila. The Nueces divided her from
Tamaulipas. It was not until the Fredonian "War that any Texan claimed the
Rio Grande as the western boundary. After San Jacinto the Republic
reiterated this claim.
Spain was engaged from the time of her great
period of colonization in European struggles, which kept her from making
full use of her splendid opportunities in America. Hence two centuries
elapsed after the first great voyage of Columbus before Texas even
received a name. Legends such as those of the Seven Cities of Cibola,
wanderings such as those narrated by the shipwrecked Cabeza de Vaca,
authorized explorations such as that of the friar Niza, armed expeditions
such as that of Coronado, entradas or official visits such as that of
Captains Martin and del Castillo show the gradual growth from story-filled
ignorance to actual occupation.
These marches led, naturally, to a claim on
the part of Spain to territory northward and eastward of Mexico. The land
east of the Rio Grande, however, was not really occupied until the claims
of France, based on the last voyage of La Salle, threatened the validity
of those of Spain.
Early French Explorations.
Spain had failed to push the advantage given
her by the wonderful westward raid of De Soto; and France, moving up the
St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes, had floated in the person of La Salle
down the Mississippi and repeated the discovery of De Soto. Winning thus
the favor of his great king, La Salle sailed once more at the head of a
royal expedition to plant a fortified post near the mouth of the mighty
river. Sailing beyond it, he reached what is now Matagorda Bay. Taking
this for one of the mouths of the Mississippi, he landed and encamped.
Further misfortunes and losses, along with recognition of the fact that he
was not on the Mississippi, led him to build a fort and then try to make
his way to his proposed destination. The fort, called St. Louis, was
erected on a river named by La Salle La Vache, later the La Vaca of the
Spaniards. The banner of the lilies now floated over the soil of Texas.
The summer of 1685 swept most of the garrison
away. La Salle made two trips eastward to no avail, and in a third attempt
to reach the desired region he was assassinated by one of his own men. The
settlement on the Lavaca did not long survive him. When the Spaniards
reached it in 1689 they found it deserted.
Settlement by the Spaniards.
Once aware of its existence the authorities in
Mexico had sought for it by sea and land in vain, until at last Capt.
Alonso de Leon, accompanied by Manzanet, a Franciscan friar, marched from
Monclova and reached the deserted fort. The viceroy of New Spain now
resolved to forestall any future occupation by the French, and planned a
permanent Spanish settlement. Four survivors of the French garrison had
been found among the Tejas near the fort, and through them Padre Manzanet
held communications with the Indians, which encouraged him to hope for
their conversion. Consultation between the ecclesiastical and military
authorities ended in the decision to go back with a larger force, Leon to
destroy the fortifications and Manzanet and three other Franciscans to
Christianize the natives. After destroying Fort St. Louis they set out for
the country of the Tejas and there established the mission of San
Francisco de los Tejas. The flag of the lions and the castles now
fluttered in the breeze far to the eastward of the spot on which that of
the lilies had waved.
Leaving there three padres and three soldiers,
the others returned. Drought, overflow, famine, pestilence and mutiny soon
brought an end to this first mission. It was formally abandoned in 1693.
Revived in 1716 under another name, it was finally transferred to the San
Antonio and again renamed. The buildings of the original mission being of
wood, there remain no traces. It is only known that it was near the
present town of Nacogdoches.
In 1691 an entrada made by Capt. Domingo Terán
reached the country of the Cadodachos on Red River after great suffering
from cold and famine. Their return route was largely by sea.
These earlier marches and settlements giving
prominence to the tribal name of Tejas or Texas— a mere variety in
spelling, not in the Spanish pronunciation—gave the land its most abiding
name. Nuevas Filipinas long remained the official designation, but failed
to take firm root among the people.
The Indians were thinly scattered. On the
authority of one of the missionaries, Tejas was the name of a confederacy
of nearly thirty tribes in the south and east. The Apaches, Comanches and
Kiowas were rovers who wandered through the north and northwest. On the
coast and along the Colorado and Brazos were the fisher tribes, the Lipans
and the Carancahuas. The Hasinai or Cenis, who occupied the lands about
Buffalo Bayou, the San Jacinto and the Trinity, were dwellers in
beehive-shaped cabins. They raised corn and traded through the Comanches
with the Spaniards for articles of luxury. The Nassonis lived between the
Trinity and the Sabine. In the interior roamed the Toncahuas, the Huecos
and the Tehuacanos.
The War of the Palatinate and that of the Spanish Succession kept France
so busy that, except planting the outpost mission of San Juan Bautista in
1700, the Spanish authorities grew sluggish again and did little to
strengthen their hold on the Bio Grande and the country east of it. "With
Louis XIV. too much engaged in Europe to dream of pushing the claim based
on La Salle's settlement at Fort St. Louis, and then again with a grandson
of Louis XIV. accepted by the Spanish people as their king, there could be
no fear of French occupation, no jealousy of French intrigue.
French, in Texas; Saint Denis.
Yet at this very time France was making good
her claim on the Mississippi region. In 1699, the year before the death of
the last Spanish Hapsburg, the Sieur d'Iberville founded that colony at
Biloxi which was the precursor of New Orleans. Trade with the Indians was
the life of this new colony, and in 1712, six years before its transfer
from the shore of Mississippi Sound to the bank of the great river,
Antoine Crozat received from the king the grant of a monopoly of the
Louisiana trade for fifteen years. Crozat and the governor, Lamotte
Cadillac, were eager for commerce with the Spanish colonies. The way was
at last opened by the religious zeal of Fray Francisco Hidalgo. This
missionary, longing to re-occupy the country of the Tejas and appealing in
vain to the home authorities, made up his mind to take advantage of the
commercial cupidity of the French. Cadillac responded with alacrity to his
proposition. The Church was to be aided by the establishment of a mission
among the Hasinai or Asenais, and the French were to get commercial access
to the Rio Grande.
The leader chosen for the expedition was the brilliant chevalier Louis
Juchereau de Saint-Denis. Already a seasoned explorer and a companion of
Bienville, with Canadian hunters and trappers attached to his person and
fortunes, he had twice ascended Red River. He agreed to carry goods of
Crozat's to the value of 10,000 livres and sell them in Mexico. Ostensibly
his business was to buy horses for the Louisiana colony. From Mobile to
Biloxi, from Biloxi up the Mississippi and the Red rivers to the land of
the Natchitoches, in five canoes he led his party. Here the overland
travel began. With thirty Natchitoches as guides he marched westward to
the Asenais and traded with them for six months of the year 1714, himself
going back to the Natchez to report to Cadillac and bring more goods. The
Asenais urging him to bring them Hidalgo and other missionaries, he took
guides with him and set out for the Rio Grande. A march of six weeks
brought him to the presidio attached to the mission of San Juan Bautista,
two leagues across the river, a few miles below the site of the present
commandant, Don Pedro de Villescas, received him hospitably, but reported
the situation to the viceroy. The interval between report and official
action Saint-Denis employed in courting Donna Maria Ramon, the
granddaughter of Villescas. She soon loved him devotedly and they were
married before his return to Louisiana, but not until he had suffered much
at the hands of his rival, the governor of Coahuila.
Saint-Denis had been removed under guard to
the city of Mexico, and the viceroy, already informed by the Spaniards at
Pensacola of his march through Texas, required him to make a written
statement of his aims. This document drew from the fiscal the
recommendation that the French be kept out and that the decayed missions
New Spanish Settlements.
An expedition led by Donna Maria's uncle,
Capt. Domingo Ramon, set out to establish missions among the Tejas.
Saint-Denis went with Ramon, and as there were only twenty-two soldiers,
it is manifest that no real dread of armed French encroachment was
entertained. Besides the friars and lay brothers there were married men
with their families, a better augury for permanence than the earlier
Following the route already traced by Saint-Denis, famous in later days as
the Old San Antonio Road, the expedition after a march of some two months
reached Tejas. The old mission was reestablished about four leagues
farther inland and renamed. Five others were founded in the region
dominated later by Nacogdoches.
While this work was going on Eam6n visited the
French post among the Natchitoches, and Saint-Denis went back to Mobile.
Again imprisoned on his return and deported to Guatemala, he escaped to
Louisiana and reentered the French service. Whatever may be said of his
motives, he secured Texas to Spain by his faithful fulfilment of the
compact of Cadillac with Hidalgo at a time when the mother country was
very feeble in Europe.
In 1721 another French expedition sent by
Bienville with La Harpe in command, and a shipwrecked officer, Monsieur de
Belleisle, whom Saint-Denis found among the Indians and rescued, as his
coadjutor, met with complete failure. It was meant to reestablish Fort St.
In 1727 Texas
was formed into a separate province with the Medina for its western
Spanish colonization, though partly
agricultural and commercial, was also predominantly ecclesiastical and
military. Unfortunately for its permanence in Texas, the pueblo was wholly
subordinate to the mission and the presidio.
The object of the mission was to Christianize
the natives. A group of Franciscan friars, coming generally from Querétaro
and Zacatecas, instructed in . the creed and ritual of the Church and in
the arts such Indians as they could induce to submit to their rule. The
buildings were arranged around a square, the chief of them being the
church. Strong walls protected the mission against the Indios Bravos. Huts
for the Indios Reducidos made up the pueblo outside of the mission walls.
Sometimes the pueblo also was surrounded by a wall. Unmarried Indians,
male and female, occupied separate huts, locked at night by the friars.
The missions of importance had attached to each of them a presidio,
containing soldiers with a commandant at their head. The stone houses, the
planted fields, the irrigation ditch with its stone dam, the hundreds of
mares, hogs, cattle, goats and sheep, the granary with its stores of corn
and beans: these give an idea of industry and plenty such as Andalusia
knew in the days when the Moors gave Spain her civilization.
But taxes, tithes and priests' fees burdened
the "reduced Indians" greatly. The converts were practically peons, and
they often ran away, and the soldiers did not like the task of capturing
them and bringing them back to be flogged. The missions were really a
failure, the numbers under the sway of the friars dwindling continually.
Yet in their stately churches they have left picturesque monuments of the
energy and the architectural skill of the Franciscans. Artists were
imported for the finer work. The beautifully carved images adorning the
San Jose Mission on the right bank of the San Antonio were the work of
Juan Huicar, a sculptor sent from Spain for that purpose.
The civil settlement was not always the pueblo
attached to a mission. It was sometimes a settlement of immigrants, became
self-governing and attained the dignity of a ciudad or city. It was
governed by a council called the cabildo or ayuntamiento. This was
composed of alcaldes, regidores and other officials. Nominally they were
elected, but virtually their appointment came from the Council of the
Indies in Spain. There was really no such thing as local self-government.
Even when justice was done, it was tardy and niggardly.
In the villa of San Fernando, settled by
Canary Islanders, there was an effort made on May 1, 1789— significant
date—to establish and foster a school system, an effort which lasted
fitfully but hopefully to the time of the revolution of 1835. Neither
soldiers nor priests, these old Spaniards valued education.
But the strength of Spanish effort was
expended on the ecclesiastical and military features of colonial
occupation, hence the failure to plant vital and growing colonies. There
were no fewer than twenty-five missions and presidios founded, and yet at
the time of colonization from the United States there were but three
centres of population in all that vast territory. These were San Antonio
de Béjar, La Bahia—later called Goliad—and Nacogdoches. Even at these
points official reports show that years before the Texan revolution the
missions were in a ruinous condition. One of these reports attributes the
decay to the increasing hostility of the savage tribes and the
recklessness and violence of the Spanish troops. The historian Brown
estimates the population of Texas in 1820 as not exceeding 5,000 souls.
Beginnings of San Antonio.
Of the three surviving Spanish settlements the
most important was San Antonio, in this period usually styled Béjar. Even
before presidio and mission were planted there Saint-Denis, crossing the
San Antonio at an Indian village on his way to the Presidio del Rio
Grande, was struck with its fitness for an outpost. Later, when Ramon was
marching eastward and encamped at the San Pedro Springs, he observed that
it was a fine site for a city. The presidio and the mission came together
in 1718, but the villa did not come until 1731. The villa, the presidio
and the mission, occupying sites closely adjacent, hardly made up a city,
but rather an aggregation of settlements, civil, military and
constant call of the padres for more settlers, after the refounding and.
extension of the eastern group of missions in 1716, at last induced the
governor of Coahuila and Texas, Martin de Alarcon, to move in the matter.
Under the escort of fifty soldiers he brought in carpenters, blacksmiths
and masons, who were to have annual salaries. He founded the presidio of
San Antonio de Béjar, and under its shelter established the mission of San
Antonio de Valero, transferring padres and converts from the mission of
San Francisco Solano on the Rio Grande. In 1720 and 1722 were added the
missions of San Jose de Aguayo and San Xavier de Náxera. The abandonment
of the presidio defending the three eastern missions was followed in 1731
by their transfer to the less exposed region of Béjar. With changed names
they took their new places as the missions of San Francisco de la Espada—so
styled from its sword-shaped tower—La Purisima Concepcion de Acuna, and
San Juan Capistrano. The famous Alamo is stated to have been the chapel of
the mission of San Antonio de Valero.
By royal decree settlers were to be brought by
way of Havana to Texas from the Canaries. In 1730 fifteen or sixteen
families were brought over by way of Vera Cruz, entailing upon them a
wearisome march overland. The government paid the cost of the trip and
maintained the settlers for the first year after arrival. They were to be
furnished with stock and assigned lots, and they and their descendants
were all to be hidalgos. This may have had something to do with their
desire for education. These colonists built homes of yellow adobe, soon to
be covered with vines, around the square now called Constitution, naming
it in their homesick longing Plaza de las Islas. Thus was founded the
villa of San Fernando.
But they were not the only inhabitants. Before
they came there were a few settlers around the presidio, besides some
families of Tlascalan Indians. Between these and the hidalgos there was
perpetual wrangling, which, when added to the discord kept up by the
authorities of villa, presidio and mission, made progress at least
of the Missions.
The ecclesiastical element in the bowl of bitterness at last disappeared,
and something like harmony became possible. In 1793 the Franciscans of San
Antonio de Valero surrendered the charge of their pueblo to the parish of
San Fernando. The four neighboring missions survived a little longer, but
they had never had much share in the corporate life of the city proper.
The planting and growth of the other
communities was somewhat similar. The mission of La Bahia (the Bay) was
established on the San Antonio under the protection of the garrison
stationed at a presidio on the bay of San Bernardo. At a later date the
garrison itself was removed to La Bahia. Nacogdoches also began as mission
and presidio, but had Anglo-American settlers before the time of the
the death of Louis XIV. the attitude of France to Spain became hostile,
and the colonies felt the result. In 1719 the Spanish soldiers and
missionaries on the eastern frontier of Texas fled to Béjar. The Marqué's
de San Miguel de Aguayo, appointed governor of Nueva Estremadura and
Nuevas Filipinas, raised and equipped a force of 500 dragoons and two
companies of cavalry and set out in May, 1721, to recover the lost
territory. The French were willing enough to have the missions
reestablished. Saint-Denis met Aguayo on the Neches, and all was well
between them. Aguayo restored the presidio of Texas and against the
protest of Bienville built another near Adaes over against the French fort
at Natchitoches, and beside it the mission of Nuestra Senora del Pilar. He
also planted a presidio on the bay of San Bernard. In 1734 began the long
controversy between Sandoval and Franquis. Sandoval, on account of the
increasing danger from the Apaches, made Béjar his headquarters. The
French fort was moved a trifle westward. This was Franquis' opportunity.
He became governor in the place of Sandoval and for years persecuted him
affair checked for a time, but for a time only, the illicit commerce on
the border in which even the padres engaged, for Franquis had perforce to
lay great stress on non-intercourse with the French.
Experience had stamped with failure the system
of colonization by missions and presidios. But the friars were still
persistent, and at last in 1757 a presidio was founded among the Apaches
on the San Saba, to guard the mission established a league and a half
away. The Comanches fell upon the mission and massacred most of the
inmates. A force of Spaniards and Apaches, marching into the Comanche
country to avenge this outrage, met with complete defeat.
This was the deathblow to missionary activity.
In 1772 the remaining eastern missions were suppressed and that at San
Saba was removed to Coa-huila. Matters went from bad to worse with the
missions, until in 1794 came the order for their secularization.
United States a Factor.
When the Peace of Paris in 1763 gave Spain
possession of Louisiana, all danger of French encroachment upon Texas
seemed unthinkable. But in 1800 came the secret treaty by which Louisiana
was to be returned to France. This retrocession was not even formally
carried out in full when the expansion of the United States westward and
the needs of Napoleon led to Jefferson's purchase of Louisiana in 1803.
Again the claims of Spain to Texas were disputed, and the old French
claims revived in favor of the purchaser. But the treaty of 1819, by which
Spain ceded Florida to the United States, quieted this contention and left
Texas definitely a Spanish possession. Two years later, however, under
Riego and Quiroga Mexico won her independence, and the mixed population of
Texas remained willingly under the rule of the Mexican authorities.
Yet these were troublous years for Texas. The
struggle against Spanish rule, beginning with the rising of Hidalgo in
1810 during the French occupation of Spain, produced in Texas a series of
filibustering expeditions. These were just ending when the true colonies
from the United States began. Their effect upon both Mexican and American
sentiment makes them important.
The Neutral Ground played no small part in
these affairs. This was the strip thirty-three miles wide lying between
the Arroyo Hondo and the Sabine, a part of that region so long debatable
between Spain and Louisiana. It was expressly left in that unsatisfactory
condition by a treaty between Wilkinson and Herrera at the time when Aaron
Burr was regarded with suspicion by both governments and Spanish troops
were on the frontier to meet the dreaded invasion. It became a nest of
buccaneers, until in 1819 it was formally made a part of Louisiana.
Meantime it furnished both a place for organizing private invasions and
desperadoes as recruits for such enterprises.
Even before this deliberate sanction by
authority of a portion of the lawless region, the first American
filibuster invaded Texas. This was Philip Nolan, an American of Irish
extraction, protege and tool of the wily Wilkinson, and ostensibly a horse
trader. In 1797 he went to Texas with a passport from Carondelet to buy
horses for a Louisiana regiment. Getting permission from Nava, commandant
at Chihuahua, he purchased over 1,200 and took them to Louisiana.
Subsequently a new governor of Louisiana, Lemos, warned Nava strongly
against Nolan. Later still, repeated warnings came from a Spanish official
in Louisiana that Nolan, under pretext of hunting wild horses, was, in
fact, organizing an invasion. But nothing definite was done by either
Spanish or United States authorities, and Nolan, setting out with
twenty-one men from Natchez in October, 1800, pushed on to the Brazos,
camped, and gathered 300 wild horses. Here he was attacked March 21, 1801,
by a force of 100 men sent against him from Nacogdoches. Nolan was killed
after a fight of three hours and the survivors of his band were captured.
One of these prisoners, Ellis Bean, subsequently took a place of some note
in the affairs of Texas.
The Gutierrez-Magee invasion came next.
Bernardo Gutierrez was a Mexican refugee; August Magee was an
ex-lieutenant of the United States army. Gathering a band of 158
adventurers in the Neutral Ground, Gutierrez, in July, 1812, moved into
Texas and drove the Spanish troops out of Nacogdoches. The Spaniards fled
to Spanish Bluff, a fort at the crossing of the Trinity. Gutierrez pursued
and the Spaniards again fell back. Magee had been recruiting and sending
on reenforcements to such purpose that at Spanish Bluff the command
numbered 800. They now organized with Gutierrez as leader, Magee second in
command, Kemper major, and other Americans captains. It was fall when they
reached La Bahia. Salcedo had here a garrison of 1,500. He sallied forth
to meet the enemy on the Guadalupe, but they crossed the river elsewhere,
seized the deserted town and strengthened the fortifications. After a
fruitless siege of four months Salcedo retired, and the filibusters
marched on towards Bejar. Magee had died in La Bahia, his rank devolving
on Kemper. Recruits had arrived from Nacogdoches and from certain Indian
tribes. Next year the battle of Bosillo, not far from Béjar, was fought,
and the Spaniards were beaten. Béjar now fell into the hands of the
invaders. Success was stained, however, by a deed of treacherous cruelty
—the butchery of Salcedo and his staff by the guard sent with them to
Matagorda Bay. The complicity of Gutierrez in this atrocity induced the
Anglo-American officers to depose him. Many Americans went home in
disgust. The filibusters and their republican allies, commanded by the
Spaniard Toledo, the Mexican Manchaca, and the American Perry, were now
disastrously defeated on Aug. 17, 1813, in the battle of the Medina by
Arredondo, the general in command of the royalists. The fighting was done
by the Anglo-Americans and the Cooshat-tee Indians, Toledo having ordered
a retreat on perceiving that they had fallen into an ambuscade, and the
Mexican republicans having speedily run away. This defeat was ruinous for
the republican cause in Texas. Many families fled from Béjar and
Nacogdoches and took refuge in Louisiana. The town of Trinidad at Spanish
Bluff was wholly destroyed.
The last of the filibusters was Dr. James
Long, then a merchant at Natchez, like Magee an ex-officer in the United
States army, and like Nolan connected with Wilkinson whose niece he had
married. The force which had chosen him as leader left Natchez in June,
1819, seventy-five strong, but numbered 300 by the time it had reached
Nacogdoches. Declaring Texas an independent republic, they organized a
provisional government in which Gutierrez had a place. They proposed to
dispose of the public lands for the double purpose of attracting
immigrants and raising revenue. Five of the leaders were then sent to
different points to influence opinion and raise recruits. Long sent Gaines
to Galveston Island to confer with Lafitte. This island had previously
been made the base of operations by sea against the Spaniards by Mina,
Perry and Aury. After their gallant but unavailing efforts—Perry and Mina
shot and Aury departed for a campaign with McGregor to seize
Florida—Lafitte, who knew the island well, occupied it, on leaving
Barataria, as a base for his privateering or piratical enterprises. He
also professed to be in some sort the civil head of the republicans in
those parts, though chiefly busy in planning at the Red House in his town
of Campeachy the capture of Spanish ships, or else at Rollover putting
smuggled bales and barrels on the shallow waters of Galveston Bay out of
reach of the revenue cutters.
Gaines, however, and later Long himself,
failed to induce Lafitte to join them. During the absence of Long and the
other leaders the Spanish troops had captured or scattered their
followers. Escaping to Louisiana, Long came back later and threw himself
with the remnant of his force into a mud fort erected by them on Bolivar
Point. With Col. Ben Milam, Don Felix Trespalacios, and other republican
chiefs who had joined him from New Orleans, he sailed over to Campeachy
and dined with Lafitte a few hours before the pirate sailed away from the
island forever. Having planned a new invasion, Long and his fellows now
sailed to La Bahia and captured it on Oct. 4, 1821. Milam and Trespalacios
went on to Mexico to raise funds. Besieged in La Bahia by a strong
royalist force, Long allowed himself to be betrayed into a surrender. The
prisoners reached the city of Mexico just as the government of Iturbide
was organized and were welcomed as friends. Here they met Trespalacios and
Milam. Soon after Long was shot dead by a Mexican sentinel.
The Slave Trade in Texas.
It was at this time that the slave trade,
never long discontinued on the coasts and among the islands of the Gulf,
was carried on most vigorously in Texas. The captures made by Lafitte and
his men often included slaveships, and the slaves landed on Galveston
Island were taken over into Louisiana and transferred to merchants in New
Orleans who acted as his factors. Louis de Aury, as governor, commodore
and admiralty judge, had preceded him in this business. The three Bowie
brothers were Lafitte's most successful salesmen. The price of negroes at
Lafitte's headquarters being only a dollar a pound and the slave sold in
the Mississippi Valley fetching an average price of $1,000, the trade was,
of course, a highly lucrative one. When, in 1821, Lafitte was forced by
the United States to evacuate Galveston Island, the business came for a
time to a standstill. However, on the establishment of the Mexican
republic, since the authorities, though they favored peonage, condemned
slavery, the immigrants hit upon the ingenious device of converting their
blacks into servants indentured for life.
The rich river bottoms, it was well known,
could only be cultivated by negro labor, and even Austin, personally
opposed to slavery, recognized its necessity in those malarial regions.
Yet the colonists as a whole, divided as they were on the rightfulness of
slavery, condemned the slave trade and publicly protested against its
continuance. Still the practice of importing slaves was kept up even
during the time of the republic.
Society Disorganized Under Spanish Rule.
This evil and others, betraying the breaking
of all the ligaments that bind society together, made Texas, during the
period of the decay of Spanish rule, resemble some border province of the
Roman Empire in its last agony. Apaches and Comanches scourged the western
frontier, riding into Béjar, dismounting in the plaza and forcing the
soldiers of the garrison to guard their horses while they levied
contributions from the authorities or the citizens. The desperadoes of the
Neutral Ground and the invasions hatched in that region or at Natchez kept
the whole of eastern Texas in disorder, even shaking at times the strength
of the government at La Bahla and Béjar. Along the coast adventurers of
every kind fixed themselves from time to time and held control of the
waters. Lafitte held Galveston Island for some four years. In 1821
occurred the failure of generals Lallemand and Rigault to establish a
French colony on the Trinity. Spanish troops drove them away from their
Spanish authority, however, was in its death throes; the rising republic
of Mexico was a staggering infant; the time was ripe for the energy that
had sent the son of Kelt and Norseman across the Alleghanies and the
Mississippi to push him on into the fair lands of the far West.
The Anglo-American colonization of Texas led
directly to her separation from Mexico, this to annexation to the United
States, this to the war between the United States and Mexico, and this to
our acquisition of the vast territory between the Rio Grande and the
Pacific once claimed and partly settled by Spain.
The futile attempts to settle Texas made by
the Spanish authorities in Mexico, the ruin wrought by the filibustering
expeditions, the preoccupation of Spanish energies in the war against
Napoleon and then against the revolting colonies in America, left Texas,
in 1820, almost denuded of population. It was at this time that Moses
Austin petitioned to be allowed to settle 300 families from the United
States upon vacant lands in Texas. He had the advantage of having already
been a Spanish subject in the wide territory of Louisiana. Nevertheless
Governor Martinez ordered him to leave the province at once. But through
the intervention of the Baron de Bastrop, whom he had befriended and who
had great influence with the Spanish authorities, he was enabled to secure
the desired concession.
The success of the Mexican revolution in 1821
forced his son, Stephen F. Austin—the original grantee having died—to go
to the City of Mexico and seek a confirmation of the grant. A general
colonization law passed in 1823 seemed to give him all he wished. But the
overthrow of the emperor Itur-bide put him back where he was before. His
grant was, however, soon confirmed, and in 1824 a new colonization law
opened the way to other empresarios. The imperial government of Iturbide
having given place to a federal republic, the details were left for the
different states to settle as they chose. In 1825 the congress of the
state of Coahuila and Texas passed such a law. All lands in Texas were
opened to foreign settlers, except those within twenty leagues of the
United States and those within ten leagues of the coast.
Each immigrant was to prove his good character
and to swear to uphold the federal and state constitutions and to observe
the Roman Catholic religion. He was guaranteed security of person and
property, and was to be exempt from taxation for ten years except in case
of foreign invasion. Lands might be had by purchase, by special grant or
through an empresario. The empresario, that is, contractor, received a
large grant on condition that he would settle, at his own expense within
six years, a specified number of families, apportioning to each the amount
of land to which, under the law, it was entitled. The empresario, for
every hundred families he settled, was to receive a premium of five sitios
of grazing land and five labors of arable, half of them non-irrigable. The
sitio is a square league, that is 25,000,000 square varas. The labor is
the twenty-fifth of a sitio. The vara is 33 1/3 inches by our measure.
Each agricultural colonist was to have a labor
and each pastoral colonist was to have a sitio, while one engaging in both
agriculture and stock-raising was to have both a sitio and a labor.
Additional acres accrued to a family in virtue of wife, child and slave.
Austin settled his colony along the lower
courses of the Brazos and the Colorado. The colonists suffered much at
first, and Austin was often forced to be absent on the business of the
colony in the distant City of Mexico. With the official rank of
lieutenant-colonel and with judicial power over his colony, he became also
the general referee and umpire in all troubles that sprang up among the
other settlers. His own colonists were scattered from the Lavaca to the
San Jacinto and from the Old San Antonio Road to the coast. San Felipe de
Austin on the lower Brazos became their capital. In spite of their being
subjects of a government formed on the Spanish model, they kept in great
measure their own institutions, including slavery, and were practically
grants followed Austin's in rapid succession; Austin himself obtained
three additional concessions. Empresarios became as numerous as real
estate agents in a growing town. Few of them ever succeeded in carrying
out their contracts. The successful colonies after Austin's were those of
De Witt, Leon, Edwards, Robertson, and the Irish colony settled by
McMullen and McGloin along the Nueces and the Frio. The De Witt settlement
was in and around Gonzales. Leon's Mexican colony, which at one time
encroached much on that of De Witt, had Victoria for its capital. Edwards
settled the region around Nacogdoches. When his grant was annulled, Zavala
and Vehlein received concessions that covered the same territory.
Robertson's settlement lay to the northwest of Austin's.
The pioneer life of the early colonists and
the rough experiences of the hunters and the Indian fighters, bivouacking
on the open prairie or in the crosswoods—seldom in the river-swamps—must
not be allowed to shut from our view the fact that in the older
settlements there survived much of the culture and refinement appertaining
to Spanish society centuries old in the usages of polite intercourse. Many
of the incoming Americans, too, of both sexes were persons of good family
and the best education. The hardships undergone by settlers remote from
each other were such as can well be imagined. Wild fruit and nuts, as well
as game— fish, flesh and fowl—were indeed abundant; but these were at
first their only dependence, and the pursuit of game often brought
settlers into collision with hostile Indians. Yet even these scattered
settlers had their seasons of merrymaking, many coming from immense
distances to barbecue or ball. All visiting was done on horseback. Mrs.
Holly says that ladies rode sixty miles to a ball with their silk dresses
in their saddlebags. Hospitality was the unwritten law of the land.
Nor was social life confined to such
gatherings from afar. Besides the towns already mentioned, there were
others rapidly springing up. Brazoria, Columbia, Anahuac, San Patricio,
Bastrop, Bolivar, Matagorda, Washington, San Augustine, Harrisburg,
Velasco; these and others were fast becoming centres of population and
commerce, some of them old Mexican settlements rejuvenated by the advent
of American enterprise.
Steps to Independence.
In April, 1825, Hayden Edwards obtained a
concession from the state of Coahuila and Texas for colonizing the parts
about Nacogdoches, a land already sore with the mutual grievances of
Mexican and Anglo-American, and containing malcontent Cherokees recently
removed from the United States. Edwards soon made enemies. Mutual
recriminations went to the political chief, and he annulled the grant. On
Dec. 16, 1826, Benjamin Edwards, Hay-den's brother, rode into Nacogdoches
and proclaimed an independent republic, calling it Fredonia. The first
newspaper printed in Texas was started to herald the new state. The
Fredonians made a treaty with the Indians, agreeing to share Texas with
them, and invited the other colonists to join them. But Bean induced
Bowles, the Cherokee chief, to abandon them, and Austin used all his
influence against the insurrection and sent troops to aid the Mexican
authorities in putting it down. There was very little actual fighting; the
Fredonian republic was dissolved before the army sent to crush it reached
Nacogdoches. Austin now recommended mercy, and his advice was followed.
The second republic of Texas choked with its first cry. But what is
significant is that that cry claimed for Texas all between the Bio Grande
and the Sabine.
before the empresarios could fulfil the conditions required of them, a
feeling of jealousy and distrust grew in the minds of the Mexicans to such
a pitch that orders were issued and laws passed to prevent further
immigration. In 1829 Guerrero issued a decree abolishing slavery. This was
aimed at the American colonies in Texas, for elsewhere in Mexican lands
peonage took the place of slavery. Austin procured the exemption of Texas
from the operation of the decree. A stringent decree, however, against
further colonization in the border states was issued by Bustamente in
1830. This presaged fatal hostility on the part of the Mexican government
to its American citizens. After this troops were gradually introduced from
Mexico to overawe the American colonies.
In the years approaching the successful
revolution the government at Washington tried hard to get the federal
republic of Mexico to cede Texas to the United States, its minister being
authorized to "go as high as five millions," if the Rio Grande were
allowed to be the boundary line. These efforts alarmed and exasperated the
same years the coming into East Texas of Indians removed by the United
States government from the South alarmed the Anglo-American Texans and
caused them to appeal to the Mexican government for protection.
During this later period, too, Mexico was
convulsed by repeated revolutions which naturally brought confusion and
anarchy into Texas.
Thus many causes were combining to form an ever-widening breach between
the government at the City of Mexico and the distant province now chiefly
American in population. The time was ripe for revolution.
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