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The History of Texas: Growing Political and Military Power in Texas, 1832-1833

(Previous Section: Texas Colonists Revolt: 1831-1832)

Mexican Government Begins to Fear Power and Independent Nature of Texas

THE Texans early revolutionary movements of 1831-1832 had thus far triumphed; but, in so doing, they had the aid and countenance of one of the powerful factions which alternately sway the destinies of Mexico, and drench her fields with blood. Notwithstanding they were on the popular side, they had been unfortunate in exhibiting to the statesmen of Mexico their power. It had been seen that, unaided, they had swept their own department of the Mexican soldiery, and defied the officers of the customs. It was a lesson not to be forgotten.

The experience of the past few years had satisfied the Texans that they should be separated from Coahuila (a neighboring Mexican state). It will be remembered that, from 1727 to 1824, Texas was a separate province, and in nowise connected with Coahuila, more than with any other political division of Mexico.* The Constitutional Congress of the last-named year had temporarily united it with Coahuila; providing, however, by the second article of the Acta Constitutiva, that "so soon as Texas should be in a situation to figure as a state by itself alone, it should give notice of the same to the general Congress for its resolution."

* "Under the plan of Iguala and the treaties of Cordova, it [Texas] was entitled to one deputy in the cortes of the Mexican empire, which it was provided should be called. When the Constitutional Congress had determined to adopt the federal form of government, and provided for the election of the convention, or congreso constituyente, to form the constitution, Texas had continued in the same isolated situation, and was allowed one representative, whom it accordingly sent."— Thomas J. Chambers's Pamphlet, 1833.

The Texans had many just grounds of complaint against their union with Coahuila. The latter had three fourths of the representation in the state legislature; and its population, being composed almost wholly of Mexicans, would naturally be disposed to keep the former in subjection. Hence the administration of justice in Texas was neglected; the right of trial by jury was postponed; the laws were published in a language unknown to the colonists; and many other abuses and ills they suffered, which, with a state organization of their own, they might have remedied.

Texas Constitutional Convention, 1832

Having found themselves able to drive the Mexican soldiery out of their territory, the Texans believed their department was " in a situation to figure as a state," and took measures to call a convention to adopt a constitution, and lay it before the supreme Congress for its resolution. Accordingly, after a short notice, the convention met at San Felipe, in October, 1832, and entered upon the discussion of a separate state constitution. The work was one of delicacy. Two things we to be attained; the instrument was to be so framed as to pass the ordeal of the national Congress, and not come too much in conflict with Mexican prejudices; and it must contain all those elements of Anglo-Saxon liberty usual in such cases—such as trial by jury, the habeas corpus, the absence of restraints upon the rights of conscience, and opposition to a standing army. The shortness of the notice given for the assembling of the convention, and the absence of a number of the delegates, prevented a satisfactory conclusion of their labors. Accordingly, after sitting a week, they adjourned. What they had done, however, was important, inasmuch as the subject was brought before the public mind; and the convention which, in the April following, met for the same purpose, came together more fully instructed and prepared.

The civil war between Santa Anna and Bustamente continued to rage in Mexico; but after the death of his favorite general Teran, Bustamente proposed terms of peace, which were accepted by Santa Anna. It was agreed that Pedraza, the legally-elected president of 1828, should be reinstated in his office, and that both parties should unite in support of the constitution of 1824. The national Congress, however, refused to ratify this agreement. The two generals, notwithstanding, enforced it, and, on the 26th of December, 1832, placed Pedraza in the presidential chair. Having accomplished this object, Santa Anna retired to await the reward which he expected for his patriotic efforts in behalf of the constitution of 1824.

Thus, in the autumn of the year 1832, Texans seem to have been at peace; and, at the close of that year, the ship of state in Mexico appears to have got under way. But these were treacherous signs of peace. Already were some engaged in forging the chains of slavery, and others in storing up munitions of war.

On the 28th of April, 1832, the state legislature made an entire change in the colonization law. They repealed the general colonization law of 1825, known as Decree No. 16, and, instead thereof, limited the empresas to Mexicans; modifying the terms of sale to Mexican purchasers, extending the rights of colonists, and excluding natives of the United States. Yet they showed some liberality in recognizing existing contracts, and even in extending the time within which some of the empresarios were to introduce the requisite number of colonists. The legislature also, at the instance of the Texan delegation, introduced the practice of creating municipalities, and directing the election, by the people, of municipal officers. This was a point gained—a continuance of that decentralizing process by which the people were extracting power from the political chiefs. These municipal corporate bodies, elected by the people, sympathized with them, and two years afterward became nuclei around which they rallied and organized in defense of their rights.

In the midst of all these scenes, Colonel Austin was calm. His object was to consummate his great work. He desired that his colony should live, and grow, and prosper. At the same time he wished it to be free; and, although he foresaw, as did all men of discernment, that a people of the elevated and independent character of his colonists could not and would not long live in subjection to the changing, antiquated system of government followed by Mexican statesmen, yet, before the separation came, he wished to see his people in their manhood —able to grapple with an enemy who would not easily surrender so great a prize.

The statesmen of Mexico looked at these scenes with very different eyes. They would gladly have cherished Texas, and conferred upon her many favors; but they were afraid of her.

The Anglo-Saxon love of liberty—the lofty bearing of the humblest of the colonists—their enterprise, intelligence, and abhorrence of the bloody scenes of Mexico—and their general contempt for the Mexican rulers—made them an object of dread to the supreme government at the capitol. The active movements of the summer of 1832 began to attract the attention of the people of the United States, and the love of adventure drew to the colonies many enterprising and daring spirits. These, by the prominent stand they took in Texas, increased this dread.

[Next Section of Texas History: Sam Houston Moves to Texas: 1832]




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