Affairs in Texas: 1825-1830

 

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The History of Texas: 1825-1830

(Previous Section: Hayden Edwards and the Fredonian Revolution)

Colonel Green Dewitt's Texas Colony

WHILE the war was progressing in Edwards's colony, the pioneers in Austin's grant were prospering greatly. Settlers also had been coming into other colonies. Colonel Green Dewitt, of Missouri, commenced the settlement of his colony in 1825. His surveyor, James Kerr, arrived on the Brazos in April, 1825. After losing his own family, he, with six other single men, settled with that of Mr. Berry, near the town of Gonzales, in the autumn of the above year. Among these single men was Erastus Smith, afterward so distinguished as a spy in the Texan wars.*

* Deaf Smith

Erastus Smith (known as Deaf Smith, because he was hard of hearing) was the son of Chiliab and Mary Smith, and was horn in New York, on the 19th of April, 1787. At the age of eleven years he emigrated with his parents to the Mississippi territory, and settled near Natchez. His parents were exemplary members of the Baptist church, and gave him such moral and intellectual training as the circumstances around them would permit. He first came to Texas in 1817, perhaps with some of the patriot forces that were constantly arriving at that time in the province. He soon, however, returned home; but, in 1821, he came again to Texas, for the purpose of making it his home. This he did, never leaving it. He was in the country before Austin, but in what section is not known. His nature was to ramble alone, and to be by himself, when Dewitt's settlement commenced at Gonzales, Smith went with the first company; but it appears he did not remain there long, but proceeded to San Antonio, where he married a Mexican lady, by whom he had several children. He had a fine property at Grand Gulf, Mississippi, but he did not attend to it. One of his sons, Trinidad Travis Smith, was educated by K. A. Martin, Esq., of Baldwin, Mississippi. Deaf Smith died at Fort Bend, November 30, 1837. He was a man of remarkable gravity and few words. In fact, he seldom answered at all except in monosyllables. When he did speak, it was said to be to the point. His coolness in danger and battle was affirmed to be unsurpassed. The Texan army was greatly favored in having his services as a spy. His actions at the Battle of San Jacinto- Destroying a bridge to eliminate Santa Anna's escape route, was a brave and important act in this pivotal battle. -The country had no truer friend. — Letter of Alexander Calder, Esq., August 2, 1852; and Letter of K. A. Martin, 1840, MSS.

Colony Attacked by Indians

They raised some cabins and settled themselves, preparatory to the work of surveying. The settlement was increased that fall by the arrival of Edward Morehouse, Henry S. Brown, Elijah Stapp, and some others. In 1826, while a portion of the colonists had gone to join in celebrating the 4th of July at Beason's on the Colorado, and others were out on a buffalo-hunt, an attack was made by the Indians. John Wightman was killed, Durbin wounded, and part of the settlement robbed and burnt. The survivors fled to the settlements on the Colorado; and afterward, when Dewitt came on, with other families, he built a fort ten miles above Texana, where he remained a year or two.

Martin De Leon Colony

The settlement at Victoria, under Martin De Leon, commenced also in 1825. After the revocation of Edwards's grant, the territory embraced in it was divided between David G. Burnett and Joseph Vehlin, and immigrants from the United States continued to flow into it. Being the nearest colony to the American Union, many settlers stopped there that had, at first, intended to proceed farther.

First Texas Constitution and Government Organization

The congress of the state of Coahuila and Texas at last agreed upon a constitution. It was published on the 11th of March, 1827. Every officer and citizen was required to take an oath to sustain it, and a program of the ceremony of its installation was duly prepared.

Of the twelve deputies of which the constitutional congress was to be composed, Texas was to have two. These representatives were not to be elected directly by the people; but on the first Sunday in August preceding the meeting of the new congress, the people met in primitive assemblies, and voted viva voce, or in writing, for eleven electors (if they had only one representative to elect, or twenty-one electors if they had two). The election closed on Monday evening.

Fifteen days after the fourth Sunday in August, these electors met at the towns of their respective districts, and elected their representatives. The same electors who met to choose representatives, voted for electors to repair to the capital of the state, to elect representatives to the general Congress. The same district electors voted for a governor, vice-governor, and council.

The ayuntamientos, embracing the alcaldes, sindicos, and regidores, were elected by the people, on the first Sunday in every December, and entered on the discharge of their duties the Sunday following. The alcalde combined the duties of our mayors and justices of the peace, with larger powers; the regidore may be assimilated to an alderman, and the sindico to a recorder. The whole together formed the ayuntamiento, having jurisdiction over the entire municipality. Every town of a thousand or more inhabitants was entitled to an ayuntamiento. These town councils were strictly popular bodies, and with their great power protected Texas from oppression until the troops were introduced.

In looking over the constitution of the state of Coahuila and Texas, we see at once that it was framed by novices—men who were not only ignorant of the fundamental laws of free states, but were afraid to entrust power to the people. For instance; "Article 3. The sovereignty of the state resides originally and essentially in the general mass of the individuals that compose it; but they shall not, of themselves, exercise any other acts of sovereignty than those pointed out in this constitution, and in the form which it prescribes." Again; "Article 27. The government of the state is popular representative, federal." The makers of the instrument, no doubt, did the best they could, and were actuated by genuine patriotism. Whatever puerilities may be found in the constitution, and in the laws enacted under it, the people of Texas were indifferent and heeded them not, so long as they were left to themselves, and did not feel the weight of strange systems and unmeaning ceremonies. And it is due to the truth of history to declare that the Texans did not feel themselves at home under the Mexican laws. They kept aloof from Mexican politics. They brought with them here, as household gods, their own first lessons in politics, morals, religion, and business, and they wished not to unlearn those lessons to learn others. They did not blend or assimilate with the opposite race, but kept themselves apart—justly reasoning that, if their own institutions were not superior, they were as good as they wished. The Mexicans were aware of this, and endeavored to change by force, when it was too late, what they could not otherwise direct.

Mexican Troops in Texas

Some account of the Mexican regular troops destined for Texas at this period may not be uninteresting. By the decree of the federal Congress, of the 24th of August, 1826, provision was made for raising a permanent cavalry force for the defense of the frontiers. The state of Coahuila and Texas was required to raise seven companies, of one hundred and twenty-four men, rank and file, each. One company was to be stationed at La Bahia, and another at Bexar. By the decree of the state, of the 29th of April, 1826, the ayuntamientos were authorized to proceed with an armed force, if necessary, to make levies, and take thence a sufficient number of individuals to fill the list. Out of the levies, vagrants and disorderly persons were to be preferred for military service; then single men; finally, recruits might be raised by entrapment and decoy! Such were to be the troops for the defense of the frontiers.

But soldiers were little needed during the year 1827, except to overawe the Indians, and that duty devolved upon the colonists. Austin's settlement had so far progressed, that, in the spring of 1826, Gaspar Flores came to Texas as commissioner to issue titles to the five hundred families provided for in the second contract. And, in November, 1827, Austin obtained another contract for a colony of a hundred families east of the Colorado and north of the Bexar road.

Early Days of the Independent Mexican Nation

Affairs being thus prosperous with the colonies, the progress of the Mexican nation, in its new career of independence, may be noticed. Liberal governments were not slow in acknowledging the independence of the republic, and in forming commercial treaties with her. Having adopted her constitution, the first Congress assembled under it in the beginning of 1825, and Guadalupe Victoria, her first constitutional president, entered upon his duties, as did also the vice-president, Nicholas Bravo, on the 1st day of April of that year.

The antagonism between the republicans and the aristocracy soon made its appearance. It required only a nucleus, or rallying-point. It found two. Soon after the inauguration of John Quincy Adams to the presidency of the United States, he dispatched Joel R. Poinsett, of South Carolina, as minister of our country to Mexico. Poinsett was a stern republican, a man of strong intellect, and an earnest well-wisher of the new republic to which he had been accredited. As the Mexican nation had taken our federal constitution as a model for the construction of their own, the republicans of that country naturally looked to our minister for countenance and advice in their political labors. Though he refrained from interfering in their internal concerns, he could hardly avoid making suggestions in his private conversations. This exasperated the anti-republican party. At that time the masonic lodges in Mexico were working under the Scotch rite; but, as a greater antiquity and correctness of masonic usage attached to the York rite, they requested Poinsett to procure for them charters authorizing them to work under the latter. Accordingly, as he was informed by two members of President Victoria's cabinet that the government did not disapprove of it, he sent for the proper warrant, and installed them at his own house. The leading members of the Scotch lodges, being the old Spaniards and aristocracy of Mexico, immediately connected this affair with the politics of the country. Bravo, the vice-president, being of the anti-republican party, and perceiving the influence of the American minister thus thrown in the scale against his party, employed in his turn whatever influence he possessed against him. He succeeded in procuring from the legislatures of Puebla and Vera Cruz petitions to the general government for the dismissal of the American ambassador from the country. Further to aid him, a papal bull was issued against the masonic lodges; and a bill was introduced into the national Congress, and finally passed, for their suppression.

Nevertheless, Bravo was unable to succeed in the overthrow of the republican party. He next attempted a revolution; and for this end he raised a small army, and, after making some approaches toward the capital, returned to Tulancingo, whence he was dislodged and taken prisoner, but was afterward released. During all this contest, the French and English ministers, Morier and Ward, were throwing their influence on the side of the aristocratic party.

In this affair the Mexican republicans were right; but not so on the other point which they raised. The revolution had left, among its ill effects, a general hatred against the natives of Old Spain still residing in Mexico. The nation had long felt a desire to expel them. Several of the states set the example; and the general Congress finally, on the 8th of December, 1827, adopted a law for their expulsion. The congress of Coahuila and Texas did not go so far, but merely decreed that they should hold no office in church or state until Spain should acknowledge the independence of the Mexican republic. These were barbarous laws, violative of the constitution, the claims of hospitality and humanity, and unworthy of the high stand Mexico had assumed as a free country. In addition to this, she thus banished from her society those who possessed nearly all the intelligence and refinement in the nation. Miserable indeed is the condition of that country which supposes that its safety requires the banishment of its most accomplished and useful citizens!

At the period of which we write, the state of Coahuila and Texas was very poor. The local congress had employed all its efforts to raise funds; it had even leased out the cock pits, in order to increase the revenue; but still the treasury was empty. The colonists in Texas were pretty much exempt from taxation, and the Mexicans seldom paid any. The latter had no energy; they made nothing. In fact, they had been stationary for three centuries. What little they possessed went to pay their priests and decorate their festivals. A tortilla, a roasted squash, a little boiled milk, and now and then a curdled cheese, and string-beef dried in the sun, formed their common diet. The skins of animals furnished their chief clothing. Such was the condition of the public funds in the spring of 1828, that, on the 17th of April of that year, the state suspended some of her constitutional officers, for want of funds to pay them; and the establishment of the state treasury was also suspended for a like reason. The days of her poverty were the days of her virtue. The new governor, Jose Maria Viesca, seemed to conduct himself with great propriety, and to watch zealously over the interests of his constituents. Neither he or his congress appeared to have any temptation to do wrong, or to prolong the legislative sessions beyond the time required for the more important and necessary business. Yet, even in the first constitutional congress, monopolies were creeping in. Leon R. Alemy obtained the exclusive right, for six years, of boring Artesian wells; John L. Woodbury and John Cameron had a like privilege, for twenty-three years, of working iron and coal wines in the state; and John Davis Bradburn and Stephen Staples obtained a similar contract, for fifteen years, for navigating the Rio Grande with steam or horse power.

By a provision of the state constitution, the congress should close its sessions with the month of April, unless prolonged for urgent business. The condition of the treasury required this to be done. Accordingly, it was prolonged to the middle of May, during which time the state authorities succeeded in borrowing funds from the church.

Dewitt's Colony Grows

Colonists in the meantime continued to emigrate to Texas. In 1827 and 1828 there was quite an addition to Dewitt's colony. The town of Gonzales had been laid off, and named after Rafael Gonzales, the provisional governor of the state. On the 29th of July, 1828, Austin obtained another contract, to colonize three hundred families on the reserved lands on the coast. But most of the immigrants that now began to settle in Texas came on their own account—some locating in one colony, and some in others, or on lands not included in any grant. Few of the empresarios had taken any steps to fulfill their contracts. Zavalla, Burnett, and Vehlin, had sold out to a New York company on speculation. The contract of Leftwich fell into the hands of the Nashville company. The grant of Milam, lying between the Guadalupe and Colorado rivers, and north of the Bexar road, could not well be settled because of hostile Indians.

Indian Troubles in Texas

Indeed, during the years 1828 and 1829 the Indians had become troublesome and dangerous to the settlers on the Colorado and Brazos. Numerous cases of murder and theft had occurred, and it became necessary to apply a remedy. During the winter of 1828-'9, Thomas Thompson had opened a small farm near the present town of Bastrop, and occasionally visited it to cultivate it and take care of his crops. On going there in July, 1829, he found the Indians in possession. He returned below for assistance, and obtained ten men, with whom he approached the Indian camp in the night. At daylight they killed four of them, and the others fled.

This opened the war. Colonel Austin raised two companies of volunteers, of fifty men each, under the command of Captains Oliver Jones and Bartlett Simms; the whole being under the orders of Colonel Abner Kuykendall. About the same time, the depredations and murders by the Indians in the vicinity of Gonzales induced the raising of another company there, under the command of Captain Henry S. Brown.

Learning that a party of Wacoes and Twowakanies were encamped at the mouth of the San Saba, the two commands marched to that point. They halted when near enough, and sent out scouts to ascertain the localities. The Indian scouts discovered them, and gave notice to the others; so that, when the Texans charged into the camp of the enemy, they had fled, and they only succeeded in killing one. Captain Simms and fifteen others pursued them some miles farther, and took from them many of their horses. This expedition had a happy effect in alarming the Indians, and depriving them of many of their animals, together with their peltries and camp-equipage. The volunteers returned after an absence of thirty-two days, during which time they suffered greatly for want of provisions. They subsisted for three days of the time upon acorns and persimmons!

These annoyances from the Indians prevented a trade from springing up between Texas and northern Mexico. Their position was favorable to it. As it was, in 1824, a company of Bordeaux merchants landed at Copano, with a large quantity of goods for Santa Fe. They conveyed them some distance beyond San Antonio on packs, when their animals were stolen by the Comanches. They then obtained oxen and carts from San Antonio, and finally succeeded in reaching Santa Fe in safety. During the Mexican revolution, New Mexico, being remotely situated, wisely took no part in it. Her intercourse with the rest of the world was thus for many years cut off, and large sums of gold and silver accumulated within her limits. The manufactures of other countries were in great demand; and the venture of the Bordeaux merchants consequently met with extraordinary success.

The danger from the Indians, however, was too great to permit a continuance of the intercourse. The United States, shortly after, opened a route for traffic from St. Louis, and her merchants realized the benefits of that distant commerce.

The state congress, among its first acts, at the short session in September, 1828, decreed the removal of the capital from Saltillo, in the extreme southern corner of the state, to Monclova, some hundred miles farther to the north.

Trade Restrictions Enacted

Among the colonists in Texas were many who had left heavy debts against them in the country whence they came. These debts were, to some extent, sent against them, and generally placed in the hands of some one in the colony, who was made interested in their collection. To favor the colonists, it was decreed that they should not be sued for such debts for twelve years; and further, that their headright lands should never be subject to the payment of such debts. This was one of the first decrees of the first session of the local congress of 1829; but, shortly after, it prohibited merchants of foreign nations from retailing goods in the state. This gave great offence to the Texans, and for the reason that they were thus deprived of the cheapest market, and compelled to purchase their merchandise of Mexicans.

Peonage System (Indentured Servitude)

The subject of peonage, forming as it does an important item in the domestic relations of the state, and being regulated by statutory provisions, requires some notice. By the decree of the 30th of September, 1828, it was provided that the contract between the master and servant should be set down at the head of the account, in presence of witnesses. Articles furnished the servant for his labor should be at the market price; and the master was forbidden to credit him for more than a year's wages, except in case of sickness. The master must show his account to the servant on request; and servants could sue their masters before an alcalde. Masters or overseers were authorized to punish idle or disobedient servants by arrest or confinement with shackles for not more than four days; but the use of the whip was forbidden. The master was to furnish the servant with necessary medicines and sustenance during sickness, and charge the same to his account.

The decree of the 4th of April, 1829, modified these rules. It prohibited joint accounts against servants; required masters to retain one third of servants' wages, and apply the same as a credit on their accounts, except in case of serious sickness, or the absolute nakedness of the servant and his family; also required servants, wishing to be employed, to bring a statement from their former master of the indebtedness to him, and made the new master pay such debt; masters who charged their servants more than the market price for articles, were liable to be fined in five times the excess. So much of the former decree as prohibited the whipping of servants was repealed, and masters and overseers were permitted to chastise their servants in a parental manner; but they were responsible for excessive punishment. If the servant left his master's service, the alcalde could compel his return, and punish him according to the facts. When the servant wished to leave his master, he could compel the latter to furnish him a statement to show to his new master. Actions of servants against their masters were privileged suits. Masters were not required to bury their servants who died in their debt.

Such were the rules under which a majority of the Mexican population were held in perpetual servitude. Their wages were so extremely low, and their improvidence was so great, that it was a rare occurrence for one to be out of debt.

Slavery in Texas

The American portion of the population of Coahuila and Texas had, in lieu thereof, the institution of slavery, which occupied a peculiar position under the state and federal laws.

The constitution of Coahuila and Texas made it what is technically called "a free state." It provided specially, that "from and after the promulgation of the constitution in the capital of each district, no one should be born a slave in the state; and, after six months, the introduction of slaves, under any pretext, should not be permitted." The state congress, in pursuance of this provision, required the several ayuntamientos to take a list of the names, ages, and sex of the negroes in their municipalities, at the end of six months from the promulgation of the constitution; and also to keep a register of all slaves born in the state after its publication. The death of slaves was likewise to be noted in the register. The owners of slaves, dying without children, made the slaves free; and, when they had children, the tenth part of the slaves were to be free. This decree further required that free children born of slaves should receive the best education that could be given them.

It was provided by another decree, passed in 1827, that any slave who, for convenience, wished to change his master, could do so, provided the new master would pay the old one the amount he gave for him, as stated in the bill of sale.

Anarchy in Mexico

Meanwhile, in the capital of Mexico, the usual scenes of anarchy and bloodshed were transpiring. At the close of President Victoria's term there was a most excited contest between the two political parties in regard to his successor. The republican or federal party brought forward Vincent Guerrero, and the centralists or strong-government party placed in nomination Manuel Gomez Pedraza, as their respective candidates. Pedraza was at heart favorable to the aristocracy, but had occasionally acted with the republicans, which doubtful course gave him greatly the advantage over Guerrero, who was a consistent republican, and known to be such. The election came off in September, 1828; and, although Guerrero had a large majority of the popular vote, Pedraza received ten states in the electoral college, while his opponent obtained but eight. In the United States, the constitution would have taken its course, and such evils would have been corrected at the ballot-box. Not so in Mexico.

As the president elect was not to be installed until the following April, the liberal party determined to place Guerrero in the presidential chair. The movement was revolutionary, and Santa Anna and Zavalla were at the head of it. Santa Anna pronounced at Xalapa, and Zavalla raised an army in the capital. After a bloody battle of some days, the party of Guerrero triumphed, and he was installed as president. The state of Coahuila and Texas, had been favorable to Guerrero, and approved of the plan of Xalapa; but when the revolution was over, they recommended a perfect oblivion of passed political differences, declaring that they would not be parties to a system of revenge.

Unites States Interested in Acquiring Texas

The United States were not satisfied with the treaty of 1819, by which Texas had been ceded to Spain. On the 26th of March, 1825, directly after John Quincy Adams was installed in the presidential chair, Henry Clay, as secretary of state, gave special instructions to the American minister to endeavor to procure from Mexico the retransfer of Texas. The instructions were repeated on the 15th of March, 1827. Like instructions were given by Martin Van Buren, secretary of state, on the 25th of August, 1829. In the meantime, however, as good faith on the part of the United States required a confirmation of the treaty of limits of 1819, Joel R. Poinsett concluded such a treaty with the Mexican government on the 12th of January, 1828, with a provision that the line between the two countries should be run immediately.

James Powers Land Grant

The increase of colonists induced the granting, on the 11th of June, 1829, to James Powers, of a contract for settling two hundred families between the Coleto and the Nueces; and to McMullen and McGloire, on the 17th of August of the same year, a like contract on territory between the San Antonio and Nueces rivers. A considerable town had sprung up at La Bahia, and the state congress had honored it with the name of a ville, and called it Goliad.

The neighborhood of Liberty had been settled as early as 1805, but scarcely possessed vitality until about this period, when settlers began to extend along the banks of the Trinity. About the same time a sparse settlement sprang up on the Texan side of Red river; but immigrants came and located there on their own account. Not knowing to what jurisdiction they belonged, they kept aloof from all municipal laws, except those of their own making, and lived as they best could. In complexion, however, they were greatly superior to their predecessors of the neutral ground.

Texas Education System Established

The legislature took some steps to establish a system of education. Two laws were enacted for this purpose. The first, in May, 1829, made provision for a school of mutual instruction, on the Lancastrian plan, in each department. It provided that the teachers should instruct the pupils in reading, writing, arithmetic, the dogma of the Roman catholic religion, and all Ackerman's catechisms of arts and sciences. In April following, the legislature passed another law, establishing temporary schools on a like plan. But all this effort resulted in nothing. The people did not second the views of the legislature. To give an idea of the state of education in Mexico, we can not do better than refer to the description of an intelligent eye-witness; — " Ihave just returned," says Mr. Poinsett, "from visiting a school, and have been much amused with the appearance of the pedagogue. In a large room, furnished with two or three cowhides spread on the floor, and half a dozen low benches, were ten or twelve little urchins, all repeating their lessons as loud as they could bawl. The master was stalking about the room, with a ferule in his hand, and dressed in a most grotesque manner. He had an old manta wrapped about his loins, from under which there appeared the ends of tattered leather breeches, hanging over his naked legs; sandals were bound round his ankles; a leather jerkin, the sleeves worn off, and a dirty handkerchief twisted round his head, above which his shaggy hair stood erect, completed his dress. He seemed perfectly unconscious of his uncouth appearance, but received me very courteously, dismissed his scholars immediately, and at once entered into conversation on the state of the country.

He told me that he was born in that house, and had never wandered beyond the precincts of the village. Several of the country-people came in while we were talking, and treated the pedagogue with great respect. He appeared to be their oracle."

Those Texan settlements that would justify it, established private schools for the instruction of their children. In cases where parents could afford it, their children were sent to the United States to be educated.

The Church in Early Texas

But little can be said of the religious progress of the Texans as early as 1830. They may have furnished certificates of their catholic leaning, but they employed very little of their time in its exhibition.

Father Henry Doyle, a catholic clergyman, and a native of Ireland, located himself in the Irish colony, early in 1830, and attended to the religious rites for that portion of Texas. In addition to the regular priests at San Antonio, Goliad, and Nacogdoches, there were occasional visits from other catholic ministers to the different settlements, for the purpose of attending to the ordinances of the church. Among these was Father Michael Muldoon, likewise from Ireland—a man of a warm heart, a social and generous spirit, who will be long held in grateful remembrance by the old settlers of Texas. Anterior to this, some protestant clergymen visited the eastern part of the state, and in one or two instances penetrated even as far as San Antonio; but this will be noticed hereafter.

Slavery Abolished in Texas

The first part of the year 1830 passed quietly in Texas. Mexico, however, was gradually encroaching upon the rights of the colonists. The subject of slavery was one cause of it. Spain, with a view to reestablish her authority in the republic, sent out from Havana, in July, 1829, an expedition of four thousand men, under General Barradas. These troops landed at Tampico, and produced such alarm in Mexico, that the federal Congress, overlooking the restrictions of the constitution, gave to President Guerrero unlimited powers. He determined to send a secret agent to Boyer, president of Hayti, to obtain his aid in exciting the slaves of Cuba to revolt. Preparatory to this step, Guerrero, acting under the decree appointing him dictator, proceeded, on the 29th of July, 1829, to abolish slavery in the Mexican republic.

This proceeding, though high-handed and in violation of vested rights, was acquiesced in by the Mexican people. Among the Mexican owners, it was only in the sugar-plantations that the negro was valuable. "One hundred free negroes," says Edwards, "though receiving double the wages of the Indian, are found to produce as much sugar as two hundred do in Cuba, without the owner supporting their wives and children These negroes are, however, over-paid, and in consequence become drunkards, vicious, and unruly. Indians, properly taught, would perform the same labor at half price." And so thought the Mexicans. They argued that the peons were more profitable, and that their employers were without the necessity of supporting their families.

Bustamante Makes Himself Dictator of Mexico

The American colonists, however, still continued the practice of introducing their slaves, under the appellation of servants. Austin, fearful of the effects of the decree of abolition on the prosperity of his colony, applied to President Guerrero, who agreed to modify it in favor of the American colonists. Guerrero's administration, however, was suddenly closed by his tragic death. Bustamente, the vice-president, who was a strong centralist, pronounced against him, drove him from the capital to the mountains, assumed the presidential chair, and exercised the functions of his office in a manner so sanguinary and proscriptive, that Guerrero, in again attempting to resume his station, was taken and shot. Bustamente, now undisputed master of Mexico, soon exhibited his narrow policy in regard to the Texan colonies. On the 6th of April, 1830, he issued a decree, substantially forbidding people of the United States from settling as colonists in Texas, and suspending all colony contracts conflicting with this prohibition. By the same decree, the further introduction of slaves was forbidden.

The congress of Coahuila and Texas, perplexed with the repeated revolutions in the national capital, and wishing to keep on good terms with the successful party, did not know what course to pursue. They ordered a bust of the illustrious Guerrero to be set up in their hall, but, when adversity came upon him, they repealed the order. They also named a town after Bustamente, and then, by another decree, struck out his name!

James Bowie comes to Texas

The September elections of 1830 showed that Jose Maria Letona was elected governor and Juan Martin Veramendi vice-governor of the state. This result was favorable to Texas, as the latter was a resident of San Antonio, and a man of liberal principles. At this time appeared before the state congress James Bowie. He had married a daughter of Veramendi, and under his auspices went to Saltillo to establish a cotton and woollen manufactory. With this view, the legislature naturalized him, and granted him a charter; but more important duties awaited him, and nothing was done.

Oppression of the Texas Colonists

Among the proceedings of the state congress at this period, as well as in other Mexican states, may be seen a gradual encroachment upon the alleged rights of the church. The state would exact loans from it, forbid it from dispatching its ecclesiastical orders without consent of the secular power, and withdrew the right of exacting forced contributions for festivals; in fact, the church was brought into subjection to the civil power. These were seeds sown in the Mexican republic, which, being well cultivated by the priests, and properly directed by ambitious leaders, brought forth that bitter fruit which, in a few years after, the Texans were required to eat.

It was a feeling of jealousy toward the American colonists in Texas that induced the decree of April 6, 1830. The privileges allowed them at first, in regard to importations, were about to cease, and they were to be subdued and made as submissive as the Mexicans themselves under Bustamente. With a view to this, customhouses were not only established at Nacogdoches and Bexar, but at Copano, Velasco, and Galveston, or rather at Anahuac, at the head of the bay. General M. Miery Teran, a stern and merciless monarchist, was appointed commandant-general of the eastern states. Colonel John Davis Bradburn, one of the heroes of Iguala, tired of navigating the Rio Grande with steam and horse power, had sought and obtained the position of commander of the forces at Anahuac. Colonel Dominic Ugartachea had command at Velasco, the port at the mouth of the Brazos; Colonel Piedras at Nacogdoches; while Don Ramon Musquiz presided as a political chief at Bexar.

In addition to these high officers, Ellis P. Bean, a colonel in the regular army of Mexico, had been stationed in eastern Texas, rather as agent for the central government to the different Indian tribes. In the contest which seemed to be now approaching, neither party appeared willing to trust him. He was assigned a position at Fort Teran, on the Neches, where was stationed a detachment of troops. The forces at the foregoing points were as follows; at Nacogdoches, three hundred and twenty; at Anahuac, one hundred and fifty; and at Velasco, one hundred and twenty-five. These, with the two presidial companies at Bexar and Goliad, constituted the Mexican power that was to overawe twenty thousand colonists, and bring them to submit to the arbitrary measures of Vice-President Bustamente. The state congress, among its last decrees, placed one hundred and fifty more troops at the disposal of General Teran. The character of these forces may be inferred from the description furnished by the law, and given on a previous page, of the kind of soldiers preferred.

Colonel Bradburn took the first step in carrying out the views of his superiors. He introduced martial law for the citizens; he took from them their property without their consent and without consideration; he had many of them arrested and imprisoned in the fort of Anahuac;  and his troops, who were guilty of robbery and stealing, were by him protected from punishment.

These were some of the grievances of which the colonists of Texas complained before the close of the year 1830. It was not the entertainment to which they had been invited!

[Next Section of Texas History: Mexican Hostilities Towards the Colonists]

 

 

 

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