Mexican Hostility Towards Texas Colonies


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The History of Texas: Mexican Hostility Towards the Texas Colonies

(Previous Section: Texas: 1825-1830)

US Citizens Continue to Colonize Texas

THE year 1831 found the American population of Texas still increasing. They now numbered about twenty thousand; and, notwithstanding the general law of April 6,1830, prohibited natives of the United States from immigrating, they still continued to come. They had friends and relatives in Texas, and wished to be with them. Others, attracted by the generous nature of the soil and the fine climate, were induced to come in order to find homes in the new state. The greater part of these prohibited immigrants had settled east of the Trinity. They had fixed upon their homes, designated their lands, and desired titles. They had come under the control of no empresario, but under the general provisions of the law, on their own account. They made repeated applications for titles to their lands.

As early as 1829, the state of Coahuila and Texas had dispatched Juan Antonio Padilla as commissioner-general to eastern Texas, to extend titles to the colonists; and with him came Thomas J. Chambers as surveyor-general of the state, but the jealousy of those opposed to the settlement of eastern Texas caused Padilla to be arrested upon a false accusation, and thus broke up the commission.

The colonists in eastern Texas, not to be outdone in this way, held public meetings, and sent their petitions to the state government, asking the appointment of another commissioner. In the meantime, the state legislature had assembled at Saltillo, and Licentiate Jose Maria Letona was declared duly elected governor, and Juan Martin de Veramendi vice-governor, of the state, The latter, a resident in San Antonio, indicated a favorable disposition toward Texas. The applications for a commissioner to extend titles was attended to; and Francisco Madero was dispatched to the Trinity, with Jose Maria Carbajal, his surveyor, for that purpose. Madero was a gentleman of popular manners, and much esteemed by the colonists. He proceeded with energy in the discharge of his duties, but was suddenly arrested by order of General Manuel Mier y Teran, commandant-general of the eastern states, and, with Carbajal, confined in the prison of Anahuac. Teran was a genuine monarchist, and a fit instrument to carry out the designs Of Bustamante. The alleged excuse or ground of their arrest was, that they were extending titles to natives of the United States who had immigrated since the decree of the 6th of April, 1830. It is probable that such titles had been extended; but this was an affair of the state, appertaining to the civil authorities; and, although they had the authority of Bustamente for their proceedings, it was as clearly illegal as was the decree of the 6th of April. Though these officers were acting under the law, and the authority of the state, nothing could be done by the latter toward their release without drawing upon it the vengeance of Bustamente.

Among the acts of Commissioner Madero was the erection of the municipality of Liberty. The ayuntamiento was duly elected and organized, holding its sessions at the town of Liberty, some thirty miles above Anahuac. As the design of the military was obviously to bring the country under their subjection, Colonel Bradburn, commandant at Anahuac, dissolved the ayuntamiento of Liberty, and ordered one for the same municipality at Anahuac. Such was the tyranny of Bradburn, however, his ayuntamiento fled from him, and took refuge in Austin's colony.

The sudden change in the policy of Mexico in regard to her Texan colonies can not be attributed altogether to a mere tyrannical disposition on the part of the acting president, Bustamente. The introduction of so many troops, the usurpation of the military, the interference of the supreme government in preventing the state from extending titles to the colonists, the imposition of taxes, the prohibition of merchandise on the part of the colonists, and numerous other grievances, and hindrances to their prosperity, had their origin mainly in an apprehension on the part of Mexico that the United States would, in some way or other—through their citizens domiciliated in Texas —set up a claim to the country. Reference to some facts will place this matter in a clear light.

The retrograde movement commenced in the latter part of 1829. We have referred to the repeated applications of the United States to purchase Texas of Mexico. The boundary-line between Louisiana and Texas, as established by the treaty of 1819, had not been run previous to the treaty of Cordova in 1821. Mexico, acquiring her independence, became a party to the former treaty instead of Spain. In the instructions to Mr. Poinsett, our first minister to Mexico, dated March 26, 1825, he was directed to sound that government upon the question of making a new line. The proposition was made, but Mexico insisted on the treaty-line. In 1827, he was instructed to propose to the Mexican government the purchase of Texas, and to offer for the country as far as the Rio Grande a million of dollars; or, if that should not be accepted, half a million for the part lying east of the Colorado. These propositions were rejected; and, although the United States had repeatedly acknowledged the validity of the boundary as agreed to with Spain in 1819, yet such was the uneasiness of Mexico, that her chamber of deputies passed a resolution that they would not take into consideration the treaty which the two governments had agreed on, until an article was inserted recognizing the boundary named in the treaty with Spain. The government of Mexico also dispatched General Teran, in 1828, to run the line agreed on by that treaty. This was on its own account, the convention for running the line not having been concluded. Again, in 1829, Mr. Van Buren, secretary of state, instructed Mr. Poinsett to make another proposition to purchase Texas. He proposed to give four millions of dollars for the territory east of the line dividing the waters of the Rio Grande and the Nueces. If that could not be obtained, then the minister was to offer a sum in proportion for the territory east of the Lavaca; or, if that could not be acquired, then the line of the Colorado, and lastly that of the Brazos, was to be proposed.

During the, period of these negotiations, the growth of the colonies, the emeute of the "Fredonians," the general sturdy spirit of the settlers, and, above all, the reasons advanced by the United States in favor of a sale of Texas, had excited in the Mexican mind a general feeling of jealousy and uneasiness. This feeling soon found its way to the public. Lucas Alaman, secretary of state, in his report to the Mexican Congress in 1829, uses the following language; —

The North Americans commence by introducing themselves into the territory which they covet, on pretence of commercial negotiations, or of the establishment of colonies, with or without the assent of the government to which it belongs. These colonies grow, multiply, become the prominent part in the population; and as soon as a support is found in this manner, they begin to set up rights which it is impossible to sustain in a serious discussion, and to bring forward ridiculous pretensions, founded upon historical facts which are admitted by nobody, such as La Salle's voyages, now known to be a falsehood, but which, at this time, serve as a support for their claim to Texas. These extravagant opinions are, for the first time, presented to the world by unknown writers; and the labor which is employed by others in offering proofs and reasonings, is spent in repetitions and multiplied allegations, for the purpose of drawing the attention of their fellow-citizens, not to the justice of the proposition, but to the advantages and interests to be obtained or subverted by their admission.

Their machinations in the country they wish to acquire are then brought to light by the appearance of explorers, some of whom settle upon the soil, alleging that their presence does not affect the question of the right of sovereignty, or possession of the land. These pioneers, by degrees, excite movements which disturb the political state of the country in dispute; and then follow discontent and dissatisfaction calculated to fatigue the patience of the legitimate owner, and to diminish the usefulness of the administration and of the exercise of authority. When things have come to this pass—which is precisely the present state of things in Texas—the diplomatic management commences. The inquietude they have excited in the territory in dispute, the interests of the colonists therein established, the insurrections of adventurers and savages instigated by them, and the pertinacity with which the opinion is set up as to their right of possession, become the subjects of notes, full of expressions of justice and moderation, until, with the aid of other incidents, which are never wanting in the course of diplomatic relations, the desired end is attained of concluding an arrangement, onerous for one party, as it is advantageous to the other.

It has been said further, that, when the United States of the North have succeeded in giving the predominance to the colonists introduced into the countries they had in view, they set up rights, and bring forward pretensions, founded on disputed historical facts, availing themselves generally, for the purpose, of some critical conjuncture to which they suppose the attention of government must be directed. This policy, which has produced good results to them, they have commenced carrying into effect with Texas. The public prints in those states, including those which are more immediately under the influence of their government, are engaged in discussing the right they imagine they have to the country as far as the Rio Bravo. Handbills are printed on the same subject, and thrown into general circulation, whose object is to persuade and convince the people of the utility and expediency of the meditated project. Some of them have said that Providence had marked out the Rio Bravo as the natural boundary of those states; which has induced an English writer to reproach them with an attempt to make Providence the author of all their usurpations! But what is most remarkable is, that they have commenced that discussion precisely at the same time they saw us engaged in repelling the Spanish invasion, believing that our attention would, for a long time, be thereby withdrawn from other things.

In addition to the above causes of uneasiness, a report had been circulated in the newspapers of the United States that Texas would be invaded by American adventurers; and, although it had no foundation in fact, it found ready hearers in the jealous Mexicans. It was, then, clearly more through fear of the growing strength of the colonies, than the tyrannical disposition of Bustamente, that steps were taken against them by the supreme government. The tyranny consisted in the illegal mode of passing and enforcing its decrees. Their inexpediency was manifested in the result. All the misfortunes of Mexico in planting and rearing her colonies have arisen from her ignorance of the character of her colonists. She wished to nurse them when they did not ask it; she wished to correct them when they would not bear it.

Having taken her measures, she, sent troops to enforce them; and directed that these troops should be paid out of taxes to be raised from the colonists through the customhouses. To this the latter were not inclined to submit; especially when they saw that the military were to supersede the civil authorities. The better to enforce the collection of the customs duties, and prevent smuggling, orders were published by the commandants at Anahuac and Velasco, closing all the maritime ports except the port of Galveston at Anahuac. As this would draw the commerce of the greater part of Texas to these ports, the colonists resolved to have the decree rescinded.

Accordingly, a large meeting of the citizens was held in the town of Brasoria, on the 16th of December, 1831, to consider the matter. Branch T. Archer and George B. McKinstry were chosen by the meeting commissioners to proceed to Anahuac, and demand of Colonel Bradburn that he should rescind the obnoxious order, or they would attack the place. The commissioners discharged their duty faithfully. Bradburn asked time till he could communicate with General Teran; but they would not allow it, and drew from him the order of revocation. Thus did the colonists exhibit a specimen of their spirit.

As they increased in power, they received the more consideration from the state legislature. The department of Texas was divided into two districts, the line of division being the dividing ridge between the Trinity and the Brazos and San Jacinto rivers. Nacogdoches was made the residence of the political chief of the eastern district; while the chief of the western district continued to reside at Bexar. This decentralizing movement was democratic.

[Next Section of Texas History: Indian Battle in Texas]




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