First Revolutionary Movement in Texas: 1834-1835

 

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The History of Texas: The First Revolutionary Movement

(Previous Section: Texas Legislative Actions in 1834)

First Revolutionary Meeting in Texas: 1834

THE first strictly revolutionary meeting in Texas was held at Bexar, on the 13th of October, 1834, in pursuance of the recommendation of the representatives and superior judge of the department. At this assembly, on motion of Erasmo Seguin, the call for a convention, to meet at Bexar, on the 15th of November following, was approved. The proceedings were sent to the other municipalities; but, as previously stated, the movement did not succeed. A meeting followed on the 20th of October, at San Felipe, under the auspices of the political chief of Brazos, which went further than was at first recommended, by proposing a perpetual dissolution of the connection between Coahuila and Texas. But it appears that the convention of April, 1833, previous to its adjournment, had appointed a grand central committee to look after the public interests. This committee, considering that the movement was premature —that Austin was still in confinement, and his safety jeoparded by such action—and following his advice, as transmitted from Mexico—replied to these proceedings, and recommended acquiescence for the present.

Mexican Congress Orders the Citizenry Be Disarmed

The Mexican national Congress met on the first of January, 1835, in pursuance of the plan of Cuernavaca. The centralists had triumphed, everywhere, except in the two states of Zacatecas and Coahuila and Texas. Zacatecas resolved that she would adhere to the constitution of 1824, and so instructed her representatives. Among the first acts of Congress was the banishment of Gomez Farias, the vice-president, who, though a rough believer, was at the head of republicanism in Mexico. Another act was to declare Zacatecas in a state of rebellion; and yet another, reducing the number of the militia to one soldier for each five hundred inhabitants, and disarming the remainder. This arbitrary decree was a sufficient justification of Texas for her subsequent acts. Every one who knows the Texans, or who had heard of them, would naturally conclude that they never would submit to be disarmed. Any government that would attempt to disarm its people is despotic; and any people that would submit to it deserve to be slaves!

1835 Elections in Texas

In the meantime, in pursuance of the award of Santa Anna, the state of Coahuila and Texas proceeded to hold elections for governor, vice-governor, and members of the legislature. Augustin Viesca was elected governor, and Ramon Musquiz vice-governor. They were both republicans; the legislature was of the same political character. It may be stated in advance, that, however patriotic these gentlemen assumed to be, they were men of easy virtue; and, in escaping from under the ruins of a falling government, they managed to carry off more plunder than belonged to them. The first evidence of legislative corruption appeared in a decree, passed on the 14th of March, 1835, authorizing the governor to sell four hundred leagues of land, without being subject to the provisions of the general colonization law of 1825. The lands were shortly disposed of to speculators; but the law itself was abrogated by the general Congress on the 25th of April following. The town of Saltillo, devoted to Santa Anna, and ever ready, since the removal of the seat of government from that place, to take advantage of any errors committed at Monclova, seized this occasion to revolt. Her deputies retired from the legislature, leaving their protest. On their return home, the people of Saltillo pronounced General Martin Perfecto de Cos, commandant-general of the eastern states, gave them aid and countenance, by a letter to Governor Viesca, supporting their views: and not only this, but he set out, with a body of troops, for the capitol of the state, to enforce the points laid down in his letter!

The legislature, being informed of these facts, passed a decree, dated the 7th of April, authorizing the governor to raise such force as he might deem necessary to secure the public tranquility, and to protect the civil authorities in the exercise of their functions. That body further declared that no portion of the standing army should be stationed in the capitol, except by the express orders of the president of the nation.

At the time Santa Anna determined against the admission of Texas as a state, he held out some hope that he would organize it into a territory. The Texans did not desire this, any more than their union with Coahuila. However, the idea had become general in the state; and Governor Viesca, on taking his seat, published an address, advising union between all sections: and in a note appended to the address it was stated that Santa Anna wished to reduce Texas to the condition of a territory—"to separate her from Coahuila, in order that the people might be considered as foreigners." This address was dated on the 15th of April, 1835—for Viesca did not in fact assume the executive functions until that day; but Austin, writing from Mexico, under date of the 15th of March, said: " The territorial question is dead. The advocates of that measure are now strongly in favor of a state government; and that measure is now before Congress. A call has been made upon the president for information on the subject; and I am assured the president will make his communication in a few days, and that it will be decidedly in favor of Texas and the state."

Thus was Santa Anna temporizing with Texas, through Stephen F. Austin, until he could get the country occupied with his troops. Coahuila, at the same time, was courting her regards, and urging her to remain as part of the state, while she was heartily tired of them both.

The state government, finding that the transfer of so large a body of the public lands of Texas into the hands of speculators had produced quite an excitement in the mind of the general community, undertook an apology, which was published in "La Gaceta del Gobierno Supremo del Estado" of the 1st of April. Therein it was stated that, by the defection of Saltillo, the treasury of the state was exhausted, and that the government must have means. Still, this hardly justified the private sale of four hundred leagues of excellent lands at less than two cents per acre! But much was promised to Texas.

La Gaceta del Gobierno Supremo del Estado

"For the satisfaction of the people of Texas," says 'La Gaceta,' " and the friends of freedom generally, we will state that bills are now presented to the legislature, and others will soon be presented, which will greatly promote, the advancement and prosperity of that fair portion of our country—such as the regulation of the colonization system upon a liberal and practicable basis; the regulation and termination of Indian claims and Indian wars; the appropriation of sufficient sums of money out of the proceeds of public lands to establish in Texas a state college and good rudimental schools; the settlement of all the loose families in Texas; the decision of all land claims and disputes; and to put an end to many abuses practiced upon the people, and ultimately many other projects highly favorable to the state in general, and to Texas in particular."

Texas Reaffirms Support of the Mexican Constitution of 1824

Thus were the hopes of the Texans flattered, while they were robbed of their fair domain; and thus did this legislature render itself worthy to be driven from its halls by the minions of Santa Anna. The federal Congress had under consideration a decree of conciliation and amnesty. It proposed only to extend the act of oblivion to a time limited, and to include none but natives of Mexico. The state legislature very properly recommended that the provisions of the amnesty should be enlarged, so as to cover the entire past, and also include naturalized foreigners. This suggestion, had it been adopted, might have postponed the impending political crisis somewhat longer: for Texas, composed almost entirely of foreigners, would not otherwise obtain any benefit from the decree. The legislature, forgetting awhile its selfish ends, and being witness to the scandalous and bloody scenes enacting in the city of Mexico, declared, in an address to the federal Congress, that notwithstanding plans were formed, and pronunciamentos, accompanied by appeals to arms, constantly occurred, and the principles of the constitution and the rights of the people were as constantly proclaimed, yet, unfortunately, action had never corresponded with declaration; but that, on the contrary, distrust, discord, and a disposition to persecution and revenge, constituted their settled course of procedure. That body further declared that it represented a people who were proud of having always sustained the constitution of 1824, and that they would firmly continue to sustain it. It warned the federal Congress that "reforms," at all times and in all places dangerous, would then be still more so in Coahuila and Texas; that it was bordering on a flourishing sister-republic, and was settled by thousands of inhabitants with whom the changes contemplated would not agree, as they could not conform to them; and that such changes would highly compromit, not only the internal peace of the country, but the very integrity of the nation.

Santa Anna Murders Citizens of Zacatecas

Santa Anna and his pliant Congress disregarded these prophetic warnings. That body, after declaring its own almost unlimited powers, proceeded gradually in its work of destroying what little of republican liberty yet remained in the Mexican confederacy. In April, the president-dictator set out, at the head of three thousand four hundred troops, to chastise the people of Zacatecas; and, about the same time, he ordered his brother-in-law, General Cos, then stationed at Matamoras, to proceed, at the head of a suitable force, to disperse the legislature at Monclova.

Don Francisco Garcia, governor of Zacatecas, had assembled, on the plains of Guadalupe, not far from the city, a force of five thousand men, with several pieces of artillery. On the 10th of May, Santa Anna approached with his army, and sent a demand to the governor to surrender. The latter refused with spirit. On the next morning, at five o'clock, the battle commenced, and, after a bloody engagement of two hours, the Zacatecans were entirely routed. Two thousand of them were killed, and twenty-seven hundred more were made prisoners. All their arms and ammunition fell into the hands of the victors. Santa Anna, with his troops—of whom, according to his own bulletins, he had scarcely lost a hundred in the battle —marched into the capital of the state, where for two days they were engaged in the butchery of the unfortunate inhabitants and the plunder of their city! Zacatecas was one of the wealthiest mining-districts in Mexico. It had likewise been one of the earliest and most constant friends of the national revolution, in which it had suffered greatly. The spirit of liberty had taken deep root in the state; but this great blow had utterly prostrated her, and submission to the dictator was the only alternative. The intelligence of this disaster produced a painful sensation in Texas.

General Cos Invades Texas: 1835

Meantime, General Cos with his force was slowly approaching the capital of the state of Coahuila and Texas. The legislature prepared to meet this invasion of its rights, not by force of arms, but by the enactment of laws for extending land-titles. It found time, during its last days, to create a bank, to be organized, under the auspices of an empresario, in Texas. Governor Viesca called out the militia, to defend the legislature; but the public mind of the state, especially in Texas, was so thoroughly convinced of the selfishness and corruption of that body, that the stirring appeals of his excellency could not arouse them. They declared that it was too much to risk their blood to sustain those who had wantonly squandered their lands. The legislature, therefore, after passing a decree authorizing the provisional location of the seat of government at such point as the governor might select, hastily adjourned. Thus closed for ever, on the 21st day of April, 1835, the legislature of Coahuila and Texas. It fell by the hands of a tyrant, but unpitied by the people.

The governor, having selected Bexar as the future temporary capital of the state, collected the archives, and set out on his journey thither, with an escort of one hundred and fifty of the militia, and some few Texans. After proceeding as far as Hermanos, he returned to Monclova, with a view to surrender and make terms with Santa Anna; but subsequently, apprehending that he would be safer in Texas, he set out on his way to that department, in company with Colonel Milam and John Cameron. The party were, however, captured in the mountains by the forces under Cos, and started to Vera Cruz. Milan escaped at Monterey, and the others at Saltillo, and finally all reached Texas. Such of the legislators as did not escape were imprisoned and banished. The federal Congress afterward deposed the state authorities, and annulled all the decrees of the late session.

Indian Battle Near Gonzales, Texas, 1836

We will return to the occurrences in Texas. The people of that department were now without a government; and it devolved on them, either to establish a system of their own, or submit to the will of Santa Anna. From their character, the latter could not be expected. The national decree, dissolving the civic militia, exposed the country to the constant depredations of the Indians, who had already become very troublesome and dangerous. As an instance of this, early in 1835, an Italian and several Mexicans, engaged in transporting goods, were attacked in the morning by about seventy Indians, on the road, fifteen miles west of Gonzales. The merchants, forming a breastwork of their goods, continued the fight till evening. But gradually their numbers were thinned by the fire of their adversaries, till they were no longer able to defend their position. An assault was then made on the survivors by the savages, and every one was butchered and scalped. Such a scene, on the great thoroughfare of the country, was sufficient to prove the necessity of an organized militia, and that militia well armed.

Formation of the First Texas "Committees of Safety" in 1835

The first step toward an independent organization in Texas was through committees of safety. The first committee of safety was appointed at Mina (now Bastrop), on the 17th day of May, 1835. It was chosen, not in reference to a rupture with Mexico, but in consequence of repeated outrages committed by the Indians. The people assembled on that day, to make some arrangement for their protection. Samuel Wolfenbarger was called to the chair, and J. W. Bunton appointed secretary. A previous meeting of the ayuntamiento and a few citizens had convened on the 8th of the month, and nominated D. C. Barrett, John McGehee, and B. Manlove, as a committee of safety. The meeting of the 17th confirmed it, and added to it the names of Samuel Wolfenbarger and Edward Burleson. This example was soon followed by all the municipalities; so that in a short time they were found in the active discharge of their functions, laboring with a zeal and constancy worthy of the noble cause in which they were engaged.

William Travis Attacks Mexican Troops near Galveston

Early in 1835, Captain Tenorio, with twenty Mexican troops, was stationed at Anahuac, to guard and protect the port of Galveston. Some of the Texans, headed by William B. Travis, determined that taxes should not thus be collected from them to support a standing army in their own country, attacked and drove them off. They retired to San Felipe, where they were hospitably received, and assisted on their way to Bexar.

Santa Anna to Move Troops to Texas

Santa Anna, having deposed the governor of the state, filled the office by the appointment of Don Miguel Falcon, a creature of his own; but Falcon shortly afterward proving impracticable, he removed him, and invested the commandant-general Cos with the civil as well as the military power. This, added to the rumored approach of a standing army, increased the public alarm. Colonel Ugartachea, the Mexican commandant, was stationed at Bexar. He was a man of courage, and of many amiable qualities; in fact, he was personally popular with the Texans. He saw the approaching storm, and did what he could to avert it, but he was a soldier, and acted under orders. Cos was a different man; yet he was capable of as much hypocrisy as he deemed necessary to conceal his designs and ensnare the Texan patriots. He did not, however, deceive them long. He sent them a circular, dated the 12th of June, 1835, full of the paternal views of the national government. At the same time he dispatched a message to the commandant at Anahuac, informing him that the two companies of New Leon and the battalion of Morales would sail immediately for Texas; and that they would be followed by another strong force, which he had solicited the government to send. With this dispatch also went another, from Ugartachea, giving the information that the force which had conquered Zacatecas, and which was then at Saltillo, had likewise been ordered to Texas, and would soon regulate matters! The courier bearing these documents was arrested by a party at San Felipe, and the papers opened and read.

The intelligence thus received served only to increase the public excitement. There were two parties in San Felipe, and, in fact, throughout Texas. The war-party, on receipt of the news of the flight of Governor Viesca, and his subsequent arrest, held a meeting, and resolved to rescue the governor, and drive the Mexican troops from San Antonio. Notwithstanding this, the peace-party did not cooperate, but urged the bad faith of the governor and legislature as a reason why they should not interpose in their behalf. " But," rejoined the war-party, " the sale of the four hundred leagues of land has nothing to do with the subject. You are justly indignant at that sale—so also are we; but that can and ought to have no weight with the public mind at this time. It is too inconsiderable to be noticed when compared to the importance of our country, our property, our liberty, and our lives, which are all involved in the present contest between the states and the military." Thus, while the peace-party were engaged in making apologies, and in soothing Cos and Ugartachea, the war-party were publishing flaming documents, full of the wrongs of Texas, and of her threatened ruin.

The meeting of the war-party, on the 22d of June, was followed by an address from the chairman, R. M. Williamson, which produced a powerful effect on the public mind. As Ramon Musquiz, the vice-governor, was in Bexar, and was willing to act as governor if the colonists would sustain him, it was proposed to take that place, install him in the executive office, and have him appoint commissioners to extend to the colonists the titles to their lands. The legislature, before its flight, had authorized such appointments, but the governor was arrested before he could make them.

Liberty Denounces Travis's Action Near Galveston

These views were supported by several of the municipalities, but others rejected them. The ayuntamiento of Liberty, on the 1st of June, issued an address, denouncing the conduct of the party that had expelled the troops from Anahuac, declared them a mob, and threatened to punish all such offenders against the laws of Mexico. John A. Williams, a considerable personage in the jurisdiction of Liberty, published a circular, denouncing the meeting at San Felipe of the 22d of June. "We are told," says he, "much about extravagant reforms, dangerous innovations, and extraordinary prerogatives assumed by the general Congress, yet not one word is said about the public fraud committed by the governor and legislature in the illegal sale of four hundred leagues of land to their favorite speculators I fear," he continues, " the people are now ready to plunge headlong into the yawning jaws of a hopeless civil war. It seems to me that I never heard of an attack so daring, so ungrateful and unprovoked, as that held forth by the people of San Felipe. To capture and occupy San Antonio, to make treaties with the Indians, to send forces and rescue the governor, to protect the frontiers, and sustain our position against the combined forces of the Mexican United States, are what we are urged to do! O vanity! O ignorance! what have ye done? Will my countrymen ever be the prey of political jugglers?"

Dr. Miller Organizes Texas Militia at Brasos

Dr. James B. Miller, the political chief of Brazos, while he dispatched a letter of peace to General Cos, proceeded to organize the militia of his jurisdiction—though this he might well do to oppose the Indians, for they had become troublesome. In pursuance of previous notice, however, there was held on the 17th of July, at San Felipe, a meeting of the representatives sent from the jurisdictions of Austin, Columbia, and Mina, to take into consideration the state of the country, and the alleged outrages against Mexico. Wylie Martin was chosen president, Charles B. Stewart secretary, and the meeting duly organized. After a session of four days, but little was accomplished. A reply was made to the letter of Ugartachea, in which he had assured the Texans of the good will of the central government. The reply represented the existence of a like conciliatory spirit on the part of Texas, and expressed regret for the recent outrages, requesting Ugartachea to interpose with Santa Anna and Cos. Captain Tenorio, who was present at this meeting, was mollified, by sending to Harrisburg for his arms, and to Patrick H. Jack for his private papers that had been taken from him at Anahuac. On the second day of the convention, John A. Wharton moved for a call of a general council of the people of Texas, but the proposition was voted down. A committee of five was then appointed, to draw up a statement of facts in regard to the late disturbances, but the next day it was discharged, for want of the necessary information as to what constituted the facts. A commission, however, consisting of two persons (D. C. Barrett and Edward Gritton), was appointed, to proceed to Matamoras, and explain to General Cos the recent occurrences, and to assure him of the adherence of Texas to the general government and its institutions. The meeting, having left all unfinished business in the hands of the political chief at his request, adjourned to meet again on the first of August following.

The proceedings of this convention had the effect to calm the feelings of the war-party, and place them in the minority. In the letter of Ugartachea, referred to on the previous page, he stated to the Texans that they had nothing to fear from the introduction of troops into Texas; that they would be placed in detachments at the commercial points to prevent smuggling, and also on the frontiers to repress the incursions of the Indians. Nevertheless, it was the object of the peace-party to prevent, if possible, the introduction of troops into Texas; and they declared to Colonel Ugartachea, in their reply of the 17th of July, that if troops were dispatched to attack the colonists, or were sent in great numbers for any purpose, it would cause the reunion of all parties, and a fearful civil war would be the result.

Navidad Meeting in Favor of War with Mexico

The people on the Navidad took a warlike view of public occurrences. They held a meeting at the house of William Millican, on the 19th of July, and, after appointing James Kerr chairman and Samuel Rogers secretary, declared their belief that Santa Anna was hostile to state sovereignty and the state constitution; that they would oppose any force that might be introduced into Texas for other than constitutional purposes; that, whereas there were then at Goliad two hundred infantry, on their march to Bexar, they recommended the chief of the department to intercept them; and they further advised the taking of Bexar. They concluded their proceedings by calling on the militia, and directing them to be ready to march at a moment's warning. An account of these spirited proceedings was speedily sent to San Felipe, but a change of feeling had occurred there since the meeting of the 22d of June, and the people were awaiting the result of the mission of Messrs. Barrett and Gritton.

Feelings at Nacagdoches

The people of Nacogdoches, though farther removed from the seat of disquiet, had already chosen a committee of safety and vigilance. Henry Rueg,* the political chief of that department, was friendly to the war-party, and aided the committee in its labors. Among the leaders of the war-party, the most prominent at that time were Travis, Bowie, Williamson, and Johnson. A letter from Travis, at San Felipe, to Bowie, at Nacogdoches, dated July 30, 1835, will give some idea of the views of his party at that date. " The truth is," says Travis, " the people are much divided here. The peace party, as they style themselves, I believe are the strongest, and make much the most noise. Unless we could be united, had we not better be quiet, and settle down for a while? There is now no doubt but that a central government will be established. What will Texas do in that case? Dr. J. H. C. Miller, and Chambers, from Gonzales, are, I believe, for unqualified submission. I do not know the minds of the people upon the subject; but if they had a bold and determined leader, I am inclined to think they would kick against it General Cos writes that he wants to be at peace with us; and he appears to be disposed to cajole and soothe us. Ugartachea does the same. . . . God knows what we are to do! I am determined, for one, to go with my countrymen : right or wrong, ' sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish,' I am with them!"

*Henry Rueg was a native of Switzerland. He came to the United States in 1818, and, with his partner Norgelle, brought a number of Dutch families to a tract of land near Compte, on Red river; but the colony, not prospering, was abandoned, and Rueg proceeded to Texas in 1821. After engaging for a while in the mule-trade, he set up a small store in Nacogdoches. Here an intimacy sprang up between him and Piedras the commandant, which, when that town was erected into a separate chieftaincy, resulted in his appointment to that office. He was the first and last political chief of the department. 

On the 12th of July, General Cos addressed a letter to the political chief of Brazos, inquiring as to the late proceedings, and directing him to take measures for the suppression of disturbances. J. B. Miller was absent and sick at the time this paper reached San Felipe, and it was answered by Wylie Martin, the chief pro tem. He assured General Cos that he had already taken steps to allay the disturbances, and had made known to the people the friendly assurances of his excellency. He further informed him of the appointment of commissioners to visit him at Matamoras, and make explanations.

In the meantime, early in July, Lorenzo de Zavala, late governor of the state and city of Mexico, and ambassador to France, had fled from the tyranny of Santa Anna, and sought refuge on the shores of Texas. No sooner had the Mexican authorities learned this fact, than an order was dispatched to have him arrested. Captain Antonio Tenorio, late of Anahuac, made the application for arrest to Wylie Martin, acting political chief, on the 24th of July. On the 26th the chief replied that be could not, in his civil capacity, proceed to arrest Zavala, because he had received no order to that effect from the government; and therefore he refused.

Mexican Spies in Austin's Colony

But there were spies at San Felipe, watching and reporting to Ugartachea the movements of the war-party. Dr. James H. C. Miller, of Gonzales, who was then at San Felipe as a delegate to the approaching convention of the first of August, thus wrote to John W. Smith, of Bexar, under date of July 25, 1835: " All here is in a train for peace. The war and speculating parties are entirely put down, and are preparing to leave the country. They should now be demanded of their respective chiefs—a few at a time. First, Johnson, Williamson, Travis, and Williams; and perhaps that is enough. Captain Martin, once so revolutionary, is now, thank God, where he should be, in favor of peace, and his duty; and by his influence, in a good degree, has peace been restored. But now they should be demanded. The moment is auspicious. The people are up. Say so, and oblige one who will never forget his true allegiance to the supreme authorities of the nation, and who knows that, till they are dealt with, Texas will never be quiet. Travis is in a peck of troubles. Dr. J. B. Miller disclaims his act in taking Anahuac, and he feels the breach. Don Lorenzo de Zavala is now in Columbia, attempting to arouse, &c. Have him called for, and he also will be delivered up. Williams, Baker, and Johnson, are now on a visit to him, and no doubt conspiring against the government. Fail not to move in this matter, and that quickly, as now is the time."

Smith immediately exhibited this letter to Ugartachea, who, being misled by it, and supposing the people of Texas would surrender their leading men, issued an order to each of the alcaldes, ordering them to take every possible means to arrest Zavala, Johnson, Williamson, Travis, Williams, and Baker; and, when in safe custody, to deliver them to Captain Tenorio at San Felipe. He further stated in the order, that, should they not do so, they would not only be compromitted themselves, but he would send a respectable force to arrest those persons.

The commissioners to General Cos reported their proceedings to the committee of safety at Mina, and they were approved on the 29th of July. Having made the necessary preparations, the commissioners set out. Their correspondence is long and pointless. They left Bastrop on the 30th of July, and arrived at Gonzales on the night of the 1st of August, where they met the order of Ugartachea for the arrest of Zavala and the other suspected persons. They succeeded in detaining the express until Gritton could hasten to Bexar, and endeavor to effect the revocation of the order. He succeeded only so far as to have rescinded that portion which required the prisoners, when arrested, to be delivered to Captain Tenorio.

The commissioners reached Bexar on the 5th of August, and had several interviews with Colonel Ugartachea. He could not understand what was meant by conventions, commissioners, and committees of safety, but looked upon them with jealousy as a sort of pronunciamentos, and of rebellious tendency. But they were operating, as they supposed, favorably upon the kind-hearted Mexican commandant of Texas, when—" Lo! at this auspicious moment," say the commissioners, " a courier from General Cos arrived, interdicting all communication with the colonies, leaving them to go to the devil in their own way!"

Cos had received a copy of the 4th-of-July address of R. M. Williamson: hence the interdict. That night the commissioners went to bed—not to sleep, but "haunted by visions of broken heads, mangled limbs, and an ill-natured and unnatural conflict, unnecessarily provoked, and for the want of time to effect a proper understanding among all the parties concerned." But the next morning another courier arrived from Cos, countermanding the order of the preceding evening. He had received the account of the proceedings of the peace-convention of July 17-21, which changed the face of things, and consequently his own feelings. In his last dispatch, however, General Cos still required, as a condition of peace, that the disturbers of public order should be given up. Nor did he act without the authority of Santa Anna. In a letter from Tornel, the minister of war and marine, to Cos, dated the 1st of August, he stated that it was Santa Anna's " will that the delinquents be chastised that those who had attempted to disturb order should be given up, to be placed at the disposal of the tribunals." The order was also repeated on the 8th, so that General Cos had no discretion in the matter; and, while he was determined to obey these commands, as far as he could, he took care to make them public. As the Texan commissioners were not authorized to surrender any one to the Mexican authorities, or to agree that it should be done, it was concluded to send back Mr. Gritton for further instructions, thus intimating pretty clearly that the surrenders should be made.

In pursuance of the foregoing arrangement, Mr. Gritton returned to San Felipe, while Mr. Barrett remained at Bexar; both, however, were to meet at Goliad on their way to Matamoras. But to return to more important events.

Santa Anna was extremely solicitous to obtain possession of the person of Zavala. The latter had been his friend, and had sustained him in a trying hour. But the aid was given for the cause of liberty! Santa Anna had deserted that cause, and now wished to sacrifice an ancient friend, who might live to reproach him for his perfidy. "I give this supreme order," says Tornel to Cos, " having the honor to direct it to you, requiring you to provide and bring into action all your ingenuity and activity in arranging energetic plans for success in the apprehension of Don Lorenzo Zavala, which person, in the actual circumstances of Texas, must be very pernicious. To this end I particularly recommend that you spare no means to secure his person, and place it at the disposition of the supreme government."

Cos, in transmitting this order to Ugartachea, on the 8th of August, directed him, if Zavala was not given up, to proceed at the head of all his cavalry to execute the command, and to give to the local authorities on the route information as to his sole object. General Cos also approved of Colonel Ugartachea's requisition upon the alcaldes for the other obnoxious individuals previously mentioned, and especially Travis, whose arrest he ordered, that he might be conducted to Bexar, to be tried by a military court.

The next point was to execute this "supreme order." Zavala was needed by the Texans in organizing their defense; and the time had not yet arrived when Travis should be shot at Bexar. But efforts to execute the order were postponed, to await the result of the application for new instructions to be furnished Mr. Gritton. The points on which the Texan commissioners wished instructions were-1. What disposition they should make of the individuals demanded for punishment. 2. As to the modification of the Mexican tariff, the general Congress being then in session. 3. With respect to a direct mail communication from Mexico, through Texas, to the United States. 4. As to the right of carrying on a coasting-trade in foreign bottoms. 5. In regard to citizenship. 6. The appointment of commissioners to extend land-titles to those Texans unprovided, and three fourths of them were in that condition. 7. As to the sending of troops into Texas. 8. With regard to the practice of sentencing convicts to Texas, making it a sanctuary for rogues. Thus it will be seen that the simple embassy of peace, long before it reached its destination, had grown to one of plenipotentiary powers.

It will be remembered that the meeting that had appointed these commissioners had adjourned to meet again on the 1st of August. On that day but three municipalities were represented. After waiting till the 3d of the month, the political chief dissolved the council, saying that, if anything should occur, he would call another meeting; so that, when Mr. Gritton presented himself, he found no one able to furnish him with instructions. The acting political chief, Wylie Martin, in reply, however, stated that the body that had appointed the commissioners had ceased to exist; and that a new election and convocation would require four weeks, and that would defeat the object of the mission—which was simply one of pacification. He regretted their delay, believing their powers sufficient for the main object; and concluded by informing them that those persons proscribed had left the department of Brazos, and that the balance of the war-party were still urging Texas to ruin, by attempting to bring about a general convention of the department.

The report that the proscribed persons were on their way to the United States was eagerly seized by Ugartachea as an excuse for not marching in pursuit, at the risk of losing all his cavalry. General Cos wrote to him on the 20th of August, stating that it was useless for the commissioners to come to see him, for the purpose of making explanations, unless the disturbers of public order were first given up. But, in order to make matters easier, Ugartachea procured Barrett to write to the political chief of Brazos on the subject, and request of him affidavits of the fact that Zavala had left the country. The affidavits, however, were not made. In the meantime, the news of the demand made for these men had been extensively circulated in Texas, and excited a thorough war-spirit. The war-party was in the ascendency.

Rueg, the political chief of Nacogdoches, had become fully aroused on the subject. He addressed a circular letter to his department, declaring his adherence to the federal form of government. It was published in the "New Orleans Bulletin" of the 7th of August, and met the eye of General Cos. "You are made responsible," said Cos to him in his letter of the 17th of the month, "for the consequences which such a document may produce; for it is your duty to give to your subordinates an example of submission and respect to the laws of the country. You have invited and conducted them toward rebellion and open resistance to its superior dispositions. The plans of the revolutionists of Texas are well known to this commandancy; and it is quite useless and vain to cover them with a hypocritical adherence to the federal constitution. The constitution by which all Mexicans may be governed is the constitution which the colonists of Texas must obey, no matter on what principles it may be formed."

It is clear enough that the Texans could not subscribe to this military dogma of General Cos, without a total abandonment of their rights.

The people of the "Red Lands" had also organized. In a series of resolutions introduced by Sam Houston, at a meeting in San Augustine, they declared their adherence to the Acta Constitutiva, and the constitution of 1824; that the arrest of Governor Viesca and the members of the legislature, and the intended introduction of an army into Texas, were evidences of tyranny, dangerous to liberty, and a violation of the terms on which the colonists had been invited hither; and that there was no legitimate head to the state government, the governor being imprisoned, and a creature of Santa Anna's being placed in his stead—in the exercise of powers unknown to the constitution. The resolutions further provided for negotiations with the Indian tribes, for raising and organizing the militia, and for appointing a committee of safety. They also declared that those who should fly the country should forfeit their lands.

In the meantime, Santa Anna was engaged in Mexico in the consolidation of a despotism. There were in that nation many genuine friends of liberty, ardent supporters of the constitution of 1824; but the terrors of banishment and death restrained them. Those who dared to oppose him were pursued and hunted down like wild beasts! Of this number were Zavala and Mexia. The Congress was completely in his hands. With the clergy and the army he fulminated his spiritual and military thunders. Over a timid and superstitious people his power had become nearly omnipotent. All but Texas had bowed the neck to the imperious tyrant. To him she was like " Mordecai sitting in the king's gate." His plan for her subjugation was, however, skillfully laid. It was, to fill the country gradually with military forces, under different pretences. In fact, five hundred troops were embarked for Texas in April of the present year (1835), but the disturbances in Zacatecas caused them to be recalled. The time which the dictator had fixed for the overthrow of the constitution was in the following October. Events had, however, hurried him on so rapidly, that he was compelled to change his plan, and dispatch troops to Texas more rapidly. In July, he accordingly sent two hundred and fifty; in the first days of August, three hundred more; and there were a thousand more on the route.

Under these threatening circumstances, the peaceful mission of Messrs. Barrett and Gritton died a natural death. So much was the public mind directed to the impending danger, that the diplomatic functions of the commissioners expired like an exhausted taper, and no record was left to inform us of the closing scene. It is certain, however, that they never reached the court to which they were accredited.

The western and middle colonies of Texas, during the summer of 1835, prepared and sent out an expedition against the Indians. The four small companies of Captains Robert M. Williamson, John H. Moore, George W. Barnett, and Philip Coe, assembled on the last days of July at Tenoxtitlan whence, on the 31st of that month, they marched to Parker's fort, on the Navasoto, to the relief of Captain Coleman. Here they organized by the election of John H. Moore as major of the command. Thence they proceeded to Twowokana. The Indians, however, getting news of their approach, abandoned the town. The expedition returned after a campaign of some weeks, in which they had a number of adventures with the retreating savages. This seasonable display of force on the frontier was of great service, as it overawed the Indians, and also tended to discipline the volunteers, and prepare them for the toils and triumphs that awaited them at home.

By the month of August it was clearly understood that the federal constitution was to be destroyed. The plan of Toluca —countenanced and perhaps started by Santa Anna—proposed a central government. The doctrine had already gone forth that the authority of the national Congress was unlimited—that it could do anything which Santa Anna desired. It was further understood that the president was to hold his office for eight years, and was to have some sort of advisory body, a council or Congress, but this body was to be dependent on him.

In regard to the Mexican policy toward Texas, it had been manifestly hostile since 1832. The troops were to be in that department by the time of the change in the form of government, fixed for October. Customhouses were to be established and defended. All those who had immigrated into Texas from the United States, since the law of April 6, 1830, were to be driven from the country. A number of proscribed, of which a long list was preserved, were to be arrested and tried by a drum-head court! The slaves were to be freed, and introduced to citizenship. The empresarios were to be dismissed from their functions, and future immigrants supplied from Mexico. This appears to have been the future designed for Texas, and digested, no doubt, from the notes of Almonte.

[Next Section of Texas History: Texas Independence Movement: 1835]

 

 

 

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