Texas Raises War Revenue


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Raising Revenue for the War

[Happened After: Texans Capture the Alamo]

With the Texan's successful capture of San Antonio and the Alamo in December 1835, we return to the stirring events in the civil department of the provisional government of Texas, following the adjournment of the consultation. Governor Smith, with the council, his advisers, had much to do, and with but slender means. Texas was poor; and the truth of history is only vindicated in saying that, but for the means supplied by the generosity of individuals in the United States, she could hardly have sustained herself against the power of Mexico. True, her own people were heroes, and able and willing to do all that men ever did or could do; yet they must have food and raiment, arms and munitions. The ravages of war had called them from their fields and shops, and they were producing nothing. What her wealthier citizens could give, was given freely. The people of San Augustine and Nacogdoches subscribed several thousand dollars in money, besides provisions, horses, clothing, and whatever else they had. D. H. Vail, treasurer of the people of Natchitoches, sent on in wagons the large subscriptions of that place. Such was the enthusiasm there, that the Mexican consul tore down his sign, placed his foot upon it, and declared for Texas. Mobile sent at one time two thousand dollars.

The committee at New Orleans were also sending forward repeated supplies. The receivers of public moneys in Texas promptly delivered over the funds to the provisional government. On the 15th of November, Governor Smith sent in to the council his message. He talked very plainly to the members of that body. He told them to commence by summoning to their assistance moral courage, and to throw around them the shield of honesty. He advised them to adopt the most prompt and energetic measures in behalf of the army ; to furnish the necessary provisions ; to provide for fortifying the unprotected seaport and frontier towns, to which end he recommended the formation of a corps of engineers. He also advised the granting of letters of marquee and reprisal, to blockade the ports of the enemy : this he believed could be done with foreign capital and enterprise. He recommended the raising of a company of rangers, to overawe the Indians, and prevent them from becoming the allies of the Mexicans ; also the protection of the civilized Indians in the "just and equitable title" which they were generally understood to have in their lands ; he recommended the appointment of foreign agents, to be clothed with special powers to procure aid for Texas; also the establishment of a tariff, and the appointment of revenue-officers ; also the regulation of the post office, and approving the appointment of John Rice Jones as postmaster-general, made by the council previous to the meeting of the consultation; also the organization of the militia ; the appointment of a treasurer ; and, finally, the location of the seat of government.

The council proceeded to distribute their labors by the appointment of committees on the army, navy, finances, Indian and state affairs. They appointed Charles B. Stewart secretary to the governor, John W. Moore army-contractor, and Thomas F. McKinney special agent to borrow one hundred thousand dollars on account of Texas. In this last act of the council, of the 24th of November, appeared the first germ of discord between Governor Smith and that body. It will be remembered that the consultation, previous to its adjournment, had appointed Messrs. S. F. Austin, W. H. Wharton, and B. T. Archer, agents of Texas to proceed to the United States, and transact such business in her behalf as might be deemed necessary. These agents were shortly to set out on their mission. Governor Smith deemed it improper in the council to anticipate the action of these agents by the appointment of a special agent to do in part what they could better effect. Nevertheless, the council unanimously passed the act over his Excellency's veto.

For the further organization of the government, the council elected two judges for each municipality, and also commissioners to organize the militia. It likewise elected Joshua Fletcher treasurer. On the 26th of November, P. B. Dexter, the secretary of the council, resigned, and that body chose E. M. Pease his successor. On the 27th of November, the financial committee made an able report, exhibiting the resources of Texas. They saw plainly enough that money, as well as patriotism, was necessary to sustain the war. They estimated the territory of the province at a quarter of a million of square miles, and the population at fifty thousand souls. They stated that only ten millions of acres of this vast domain was appropriated. They recommended a tax on this land ; also a tax of one dollar per head on slaves. As a more speedy and available source of revenue, they recommended a duty on foreign tonnage. The export of cotton was estimated at sixty thousand bales : the tonnage, they supposed, would amount to the same. They proposed a duty of two and one eighth dollars per ton ; also an export duty on cotton of one quarter of a cent per pound. They also recommended a duty of fifteen to thirty per centum on imports. These sources of revenue would, in due time, have answered every legitimate want. But, at that moment, the wants of Texas were pressing, and could not be postponed : hence a loan presented the most obvious, nay, the only plan of relief.

Stephen F. Austin reached San Felipe on the 29th of November. On the following day he presented his respects to the governor and council, and awaited only his instructions to depart for the United States. The subject of his instructions had some time before been brought to the notice of the council by Governor Smith, but still they were not prepared. On the 4th of December, he again reminded them that everything depended on the dispatch of these agents, and urged them to suspend other business till the instructions were made out. At length, on the 6th of December, the council, by an ordinance, authorized the governor to give the necessary instructions. In the meantime, William H. Wharton declined the appointment of commissioner, preferring a position in the army ; but his services as an agent were deemed too important, and he was finally induced to go. The commissioners shortly afterward set out for the United States. Before leaving, however, they made an application to General Houston to appoint two agents to proceed to New Orleans, to procure provisions, ammunition, &c. ; they being subject to the direction of the commissioners. They recommended the names of A. Huston and John A. Wharton for this trust. Accordingly, on the 8th of December, General Houston appointed the agents named. [See Next: Tampico Expedition]




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