independence from Spain and the Mexican Constitution of 1824 brought a new wave
of American immigration to Texas. Not only did the
new settlers have to cope with the usual hardships of beginning life in a new
land, like building homes and planting crops, but they also had to adjust to living
in a country with a set of customs and laws that were alien to their own.
colonists did their best to accept the conditions of settlement established by
the original Spanish government and the more recent Mexican government, but many
refused to make sincere efforts to become loyal citizens of Mexico. Instead, they
kept their own religions, established their own schools, and even started their
own newspapers. Mexican officials began to worry that the colonists from the United
States were becoming too independent.
Tensions also began
to arise within Mexico itself over the balance of power between the state and
national governments. Like the United States, Mexico was organized into states,
and the Constitution of 1824 was based on the concept of states’ rights, where
the majority of power resided with the states. Prior to the Constitution, the
central government in Mexico City had held most of the power, and many Mexican
leaders felt that it should remain there. These Mexican nationalists feared that
too many American settlers were moving to Texas,
and that the combination of a growing population from the United States and a
strong government in the state of Coahuila y Tejas, might encourage the colonists
to seize the province of Texas and join the United States.
1825, problems arose in Texas over conflicting land
claims when Empresario Haden Edwards received a grant of land near Nacogdoches.
When the land was surveyed, Edwards found that many people were already living
in the area, including Cherokees and descendents of Mexicans who had settled there
many years before. All empresarios were required to honor existing land grants,
but unfortunately for Edwards, his was the only grant that had an appreciable
number of existing settlers.
Edwards posted notices that people would lose
their land unless they came forward with proof of legal ownership. Most of the
settlers had no such proof. Instead, they complained to Mexican officials in Saltillo,
the capital of Coahuila y Tejas, and Governor Blanco sided with them. Haden
Edwards’ brother, Benjamin, wrote angry letters to protest the decision.
problems escalated when he overturned the results of an election for the alcalde
of Nacogdoches. Most long-time
settlers voted for local resident, Samuel Norris, but Edwards handed the
election to his son-in-law. In response, a now angry Governor Blanco reversed
the election, cancelled Edwards’ land grant, and issued an order for Haden and
Benjamin to leave Texas.
The Edwards brothers
refused the order and signed an alliance with the Cherokees. Forming the Republic
of Fredonia, they declared independence on December 16, 1826. Mexican authorities
immediately dispatched soldiers to suppress the rebellion. Stephen F. Austin,
worried that that the actions of the Edwards brothers would reflect poorly on
all Texas colonists, joined his militia with the Mexican troops. The conflict
ended peacefully in January 1827, when Haden and Benjamin Edwards fled Texas before
the combined force reached Nacogdoches.
the Fredonian Rebellion was quickly stamped out, Mexican nationalists remained
concerned that the increasing number of American settlers pouring into Texas
would lead to an attempted takeover by the United States. This concern was fueled
when President John Quincy Adams sent Joel R. Poinsett to Mexico
City with an ill-fated and unsuccessful offer to purchase Texas.
Mexican officials, even those in favor of states’ rights, were offended by the
American belief that Mexico would be willing to sell part of its territory.
a result, in 1828, authorities sent General Mier y Teran to investigate
conditions in Texas. The General spent nearly a year
touring the province and filed a written report upon his return. In his report,
Teran expressed concern over the growing influence of the United States in Texas
affairs, stating that Anglo-American colonists now outnumbered Mexican settlers
by a ratio of 10 to 1. He further stated that many of the Anglos ignored Mexican
laws, especially the laws regulating trade with the United States, and he made
it clear that he felt Mexico must regain control of Texas
before it was too late. “I am warning you to take timely measures,” he reported.
“Texas could throw the whole nation into rebellion.”
Mier y Teran
report, nationalist officials persuaded President Vicente Guerrero to abolish
slavery in Mexico. Since Anglos owned the majority of the slaves, it was hoped
that this measure would tend to slow the flood of American immigration. However,
the nationalists realized that simply abolishing slavery would not be enough to
gain control of the situation.
they enacted the Law of April 6, 1830. The law banned all immigration from
the United States, while encouraging Mexican and European immigrants by offering
them free land and money for their passage. All empresarial grants not yet fulfilled
were also canceled. Other provisions banned the importation of slaves, established
new presidios manned in part by convict soldiers recently dredged from Mexico’s
prisons, and placed customs duties on all goods entering Texas
from the United States. In spite of their intent, these provisions only served
to anger the Anglo colonists, and they felt ill-treated by the Mexican government.
Law of April 6, 1830, also raised serious political questions within Mexico between
the centralists who favored a strong national government and those who favored
the states’ rights approach. Mexicans who believed in states’ rights felt that
the central government had gone too far. Under the Mexican Constitution of 1824,
the provisions of the new law should have been enforced by each separate state
in its own way, not by the national government. This approach would have allowed
the state of Coahuila y Tejas to administer the law in a more evenhanded manner,
thus giving the Texas colonists more of a voice in
their own affairs. Therefore, instead of resolving the growing crisis, the 1830
law actually caused the level of tension to increase.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna took advantage of the unstable
environment within the Mexican government to pose as a proponent of states’ rights
and launch a revolution against centralist President Anastasio Bustamante.
During the revolutionary upheaval in Mexico, disturbances were also occurring
in Texas, and General Santa Anna sent Colonel
Jose Mexia to conduct an investigation. While he was in Texas,
Stephen F. Austin met with Mexia and convinced the Colonel that the Texans supported
Santa Anna’s efforts to preserve the Constitution of 1824. Unfortunately, the
Texans would soon find out that Santa Anna was, in fact, a centralist who desired
to become dictator of all Mexico.
foreign-born Mexican officials, George Fisher and Colonel John Davis
Bradburn, also caused serious unrest among the Texas
colonists. Fisher was appointed to collect customs duties and put a stop to the
smuggling that was so common in Texas. He required
that all ship captains had to receive clearance papers issued from the customs
house at Anahuac on Galveston
Bay, no matter which port of entry they used. This meant that many captains had
to sail past their intended port, or make a long overland journey to secure the
proper papers. Although most ship captains simply ignored the order, they still
perceived Fisher’s actions as unnecessary harassment.
Until 1830, the enforcement
of many Mexican laws in Texas had been overlooked
by the government in order to promote the growth of settlement. Now Colonel Bradburn
was given the unenviable task of enforcing all Mexican laws, including the provisions
of the new April 6 law. His haughty manner and strict enforcement methods angered
Bradburn even arrested Francisco Madero, a land
commissioner sent by the government of Coahuila y Tejas to issue land titles to
settlers living in Texas. This was a foolish mistake
because the April 6 law only prohibited granting titles to new settlers coming
in from the United States, not long-time residents of the province. Bradburn also
forced settlers to provide free materials and labor for the construction of a
new fort at Anahuac and
used the colonists’ slaves for public works programs.
May 1832, William Logan came to Anahuac
from the United States seeking two runaway slaves, but Bradburn refused to release
them without proof of ownership. Logan hired Attorney William Barrett Travis
to represent him and returned to Louisiana for the necessary papers. After Logan’s
departure, Travis attempted to trick Bradburn into releasing the slaves and was
thrown into jail along with his law partner Patrick Jack, when Jack protested
Travis’s arrest. More than 150 settlers gathered and demanded that Bradburn release
the prisoners. He agreed, but only if the Texans would disperse. The settlers
pulled back to Turtle Bayou, but Bradburn still refused to release Travis and
The settlers then sent John Austin to Brazoria
to bring back a cannon. While they awaited his return, the colonists drafted a
statement known as the Turtle Bayou resolutions. In the resolutions the colonists
pledged their loyalty to Mexico and stated their support for Santa Anna, who they
thought was in favor of the Constitution of 1824. Before Austin returned to Turtle
Bayou with the cannon, Colonel Piedras, the commander of the Mexican troops
at Nacogdoches, arrived in
Anahuac. After a brief investigation,
he released Travis and Jack and dismissed Bradburn from his command. Unfortunately,
Colonel Piedras’s actions came too late to prevent bloodshed.
his men had already loaded the cannon onto a small ship at Brazoria
and sailed down the Brazos River to Velasco.
Not knowing that Travis and Jack had been released, the colonists demanded passage,
but Colonel Ugartechea the Mexican Commander, refused. Fighting broke out, and
for the first time Texans and Mexican soldiers shot at each other. The Mexicans
soon ran out of ammunition and were forced to surrender, but ten Texans and five
Mexicans were killed at the Battle
of Velasco. Colonel Ugartechea and the remainder of the Mexican soldiers were
ordered to return to Mexico. The Texans continued on to Anahuac
where they learned that the crisis had already been resolved.
October 1832, 56 delegates met in San
Felipe to draft a set of resolutions. After electing Stephen F. Austin president
of the convention and pledging support for the Mexican Constitution of 1824, the
delegates asked for the repeal of the Law of April 6, 1830. In addition, they
requested better protection from the Native Americans and the creation of a public
school system. Finally, the delegates asked that the state of Coahuila y Tejas
be divided, so that Texas would have its own government.
After the convention, Stephen F. Austin went to San
Antonio, but the right to petition the government was not guaranteed under
the Mexican system, and officials refused to send the resolutions to Mexico City.
While Austin was in San Antonio,
another convention was called on April 1, 1833, and William Wharton was
elected to lead the meeting. The delegates adopted much the same resolutions as
the earlier convention, but this time they also drafted a constitution for the
new Mexican state of Texas.
Drafting a constitution was a serious step
toward independence, and even some of the Mexicans who sympathized with the Texas
cause felt that the action was in direct defiance of the government. This time
Stephen F. Austin personally traveled to Mexico City to deliver the Texans’ resolutions.
The trip took nearly three months, and when Austin reached the capital in July
1833, he found the city in turmoil after a successful revolution by Santa Anna
and a widespread cholera epidemic.
Since Santa Anna
was temporarily out of the capital successfully concluding his revolution, Austin
presented the resolutions to Vice President Valentin Gomez Farias, who
was in charge during Santa Anna’s absence. However, Farias was unwilling to accept
responsibility for dealing with such an important issue, and he was slow to address
the Texans’ problems. After several weeks, Austin grew impatient, and in October
he wrote a letter to the Texas delegates, suggesting
that they go forward and establish a new state government that would make Texas
separate from Coahuila, but still remain loyal to Mexico.
month, Austin met with Santa Anna, who unexpectedly agreed to most of the Convention’s
resolutions, although he rejected the request for separate Texas
statehood. Austin left Mexico City on December 10, bound for home, but he was
arrested when he reached Saltillo. Mexican agents had intercepted the letter he
wrote to the Texas delegates, and Farias felt that
it challenged the authority of the Mexican government. Accused of treason, he
was either imprisoned or held under house arrest for much of the following two
remained calm during Stephen F. Austin’s long confinement, though tensions between
the Mexican Government and the Anglo-American settlers remained high. Then just
before Austin’s release in the summer of 1835, new events fanned the flames of
unrest. Finally showing his true colors, General Santa Anna dismissed the Mexican
congress and had a new constitution written that made him the virtual dictator
of Mexico. His first act was to send his brother-in-law, General Martin Perfecto
de Cos, north with sufficient troops and orders to deal harshly with any sign
of rebellion. The stage for total revolution was now set. All that was lacking
was the spark to ignite the powder keg.
November 1, 2011 Column
"A Glimpse of Texas Past"
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(The Rising Tide of Revolution) Barker,
Eugene Campbell (1985), The Life of Stephen F. Austin, Founder of Texas, 1793-1836,
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, ISBN 0-292-78421-x originally published
1926 by Lamar & BurtonCantrell,
Greg (1999), Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas, New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, ISBN 978-1-0-7884-1657-6Davis,
William C. (2006), Lone Star Rising, College Station, TX: Texas A7M University
Press, ISBN 9781585445325 originally published 2004 by New York: Free Press Edmondson,
J. R. (2000), The Alamo Story-From History to Current Conflicts, Plano,
TX: Republic of Texas Press, ISBN 1-55622-678-0 Ericson,
Joe E. (2000), The Nacogdoches Story: an informal history, Heritage Books,
ISBN 978-0-7884- 1657-6Fehrenbach,
T. R. (1968), Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans, Macmillan,
ISBN 0-20- 032170-8
Fowler, Will (2009), Santa Anna of Mexico, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska
Press, ISBN 9789803226388Henderson,
timothy J. (2007), A glorious defeat: Mexico and its war with the United States,
Macmillan, ISBN 9780809061204
Henson, Margaret Swett (1982), Juan Davis Bradburn: A Reappraisal of the Mexican
Commander of Anahuac, College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, ISBN
Ohland (July 1943), "Life of General Don Manuel de Mier y Teran," Southwestern
Historical Quarterly (Texas State Historical Association) 47 (1), retrieved
Edna (April 1903), "The Disturbances at Anahuac in 1832," Southwestern Historical
Quarterly (Texas State Historical Association) 6 (4): 265-299Weber,
David J. (1982), The Mexican Frontier, 1821-1846: The American Southwest Under
Mexico, University of New Mexico Press, ISBN 9780826306036
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by Jeffery Robenalt