Friday, May 05, 2017

Mexico and Texas

Mexico and Texas have a long history spanning centuries and thousands of years. Many of my relatives visited many places in Texas before. There can be no discussion about the frontier west without discussing about Mexico and Texas. Back by the 17th and 18th centuries, Spanish imperialists conquered a large area of the Southwest from Mexico to Texas and New Mexico. New Mexico was a colony founded in 1598. Many settlers lived in New Mexico and Sante Fe. Some people were farmers and ranchers on the Rio Grande valley. Many Native Americans fought for their freedom too. Some settlers allied with the Pueblo Native Americans for protection, but their populations increasingly declined by the 1700’s. In the Great Plains and in Texas, the Apaches grew in power and readily fought against the Spanish people. The Apaches in New Mexico was called the Navajos. The Pueblo taught the Navajos about pottery, growing corn, and herding sheep. The Hispanic population in New Mexico grew to about 40,000 by 1821. Texas was different than New Mexico. The Spanish empire made Texas to be used as a buffer to protect Mexican towns in the south. Texas had farms, ranches, and military presidios. Texas’ population was small in the beginning. Many lived in San Antonio. Only 1,200 colonists lived in Texas centuries ago. Ranchers had to sell cattle in Mexico to get economic resources. By the early 1800’s, Mexico fought the Spanish Empire to gain its independence by 1821.

Afterwards, new events would come like the growth of the Sante Fe trail. After Mexican independence, Mexico controlled Texas. Texas was part of Mexico back then. Tejanos were the local Hispanic population in Texas. Texas had wide open spaces and fertile lands, so settlers during the early 19th century started to travel into Texas mightily. Only about 4,000 Tejanos lived in Texas back during the early 19th century. With more people coming into Texas, Mexico believed that it can cause the new Anglo settlers to benefit them economically. So, Mexico created a plan. Mexico allowed Americans to go into Texas. Yet, Mexico wanted the settlers to get cheap land grants as long as they accepted the Mexican constitution, become Mexican citizens, worship as Roman Catholics (as most Mexicans back then and today are Roman Catholics), and reject slavery. The Mexican Constitution banned slavery in 1829. They wanted to not cause tension in the region. By the early 1800’s, Stephen Austin led settlers to form the city of Austin, which is east of San Antonio. Many of the Anglo immigrants came from the South. They raised pigs, cattle, and corn. They grew cotton and other resources. 30,000 Americans were in Texas by 1835. They soon outnumbered Tejanos six to one. Tensions grew by the 1830’s. The problem was that the settlers didn’t agree with many of the demands from Mexico. Many of the white settlers refused to give up slavery. Many settlers forced slaves to live in Texas. Many remained Protestant. I believe in religious freedom (and the right of anyone to be a Protestant or a Baptist), but I reject slavery. The Mexican government had many coups. Another problem was that the new Mexican leader Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna grew more authoritarian. In 1835, the 1824 Constitution was overturned; state legislatures were dismissed, militias disbanded. So, Santa Anna enacted dictatorial policies. Santa Anna wanted soldiers to curtail new immigration into Texas, but immigration continued. Liberal Mexicans wanted a more democratic, decentralized government in Mexico. Tejanos and Anglo-Texans wanted more autonomy outside of Santa Anna’s rule. Yet, many Anglo-Texans loved slavery so much that they opposed Santa Anna’s beliefs. The problem with many of the Anglos is that many of them wanted slavery not true liberty. Austin at first just wanted autonomy in Mexico. Others American immigrants like William Travis desired total independence of Texas from Mexico.

In 1835, the Texans rebelled against Mexico. The settlers conquered Goliad and San Antonio, which were Mexican garrisons. In 1836, the settlers (many of whom were slaveholders) declared Texas an independent country. It was called the Lone Star Republic, because it had one star on its flag. This started the Texas Revolution. In Section 9 of the General Provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas, it is stated how the new republic would resolve their greatest problem under Mexican rule: “All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state of servitude ... Congress shall pass no laws to prohibit emigrants from bringing their slaves into the republic with them, and holding them by the same tenure by which such slaves were held in the United States; nor shall congress have power to emancipate slaves.” Santa Anna acted immediately in opposing the new Republic of Texas. He sent troops north into Texas to try to stop the rebellion. In March 1836, Anna’s military forces met in a Texas garrison called the Alamo. This was located in San Antonio, Texas. Mexican forces defeated the settlers in the Alamo. The battle was bloody. Anna refused to take prisoners. So, Anna’s forces used an offensive that killed Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and many Tejanos. Joe, or the personal slave of William Travis, was spared of his life. The Alamo historic event galvanized the Anglos and the Tejanos who wanted Texas independence. “Remember the Alamo” was the famous phrase that the settlers used to fight back. Sam Houston led Santa Anna eastward. He was using a war strategy and Houston’s forces defeated the Mexicans in the Battle of San Jacinto. Over 600 Mexicans were killed. Santa Anna was captured too. Santa Anna was forced to sign a treaty to recognize Texas independence. Texas’ boundaries expanded to the Rio Grande and to Sante Fe (in New Mexico). The problem is that the Mexican government refused to accept the treaty since Anna became a dictator. Progressive Mexicans wanted only acceptance of Texas within traditional boundaries, which no further south than the Nueces River. This border dispute was one large factor in causing the Mexican-American War. Now, Sam Houston was the President of Texas, but he wanted America to annex Texas. Many Northern representatives opposed this plan since they believed that Texas would cause a growth of slavery and expand pro-slavery political power in Congress. Some opposed annexation, because of fear of causing war with Mexico. President Polk supported the annexation and it came about. Polk also gained Oregon from Britain during this time (via compromise since he didn’t want war with Britain. America got Oregon, Washington State, and Idaho. The British owned British Columbia in the north). Texas was annexed to America as a slave state in December 1846. Republic of Texas policies changed the status of many living in the region. The constitution forbade free black people from living in Texas permanently. Individual slaves could only be freed by congressional order, and the newly emancipated person would then be forced to leave Texas. Women also lost significant legal rights under the new constitution, which substituted English common law practices for the traditional Spanish law system. Under common law, the idea of community property was eliminated, and women no longer had the ability to act for themselves legally – to sign contracts, own property, or sue. Some of these rights were restored in 1845, when Texas added them to the new state constitution During the Republic of Texas years, Tejanos likewise faced much discrimination.

Polk rejected the Mexican government’s claim that the border of Texas should be at the Nueces River. He believed that the border is at the Rio Grande. So, Polk sent General Zachary Taylor to occupy the lands between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers. In May 1846, a clash happened between American and Mexican forces. This started the Mexican American war. To Polk, it was a Mexican attack. To the Mexicans, this was an American invasion. Democrats in Congress supported the war heavily. The Whigs voted for the war mostly out of fear of losing their political power. The war was a total American victory. America had more resources, populations, and massive industries to cause a Mexican defeat. Mexico didn’t have massive factory industries during that time period. Americans had a larger navy and artillery too. Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott had extensive military experience. Junior officers in the war were Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grand, and William T. Sherman (who played a role in the later Civil War).  By the summer of 1846, American won a majority of the battles. John Fremont seized California. General Stephen W. Kearny conquered New Mexico. In September, Monterrey was conquered by Taylor’s forces. In February of 1847, Santa Anna tried to retake the city, he was defeated. Buena Vista was ruled by the Americans. Winfield Scott led the Navy to rule Veracruz. Scott marched to Mexico City from Veracruz. In September of 1847, Scott captured Mexico City. He then marched his 12,000 man force west to Mexico City, winning the final battle at Chapultepec. The American victory caused the Treaty of Guadalupe to exist. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in February of 1848. It forced Mexico to give up the northern third of their country. It added about 1.2 million square miles of territory to America. Mexico was paid $15 million. Also, America gained California and New Mexico. America made Rio Grande as the southern boundary of the state of Texas. Polk wanted more Mexican lands, but he was opposed by Northern Congress people. Also, there was an anti-war movement that opposed the imperialism of American forces involving Mexico. The Gadsden Purchase of 1853 caused America to gain more land from Mexico in southern Arizona and New Mexico.

The Mexican American war continued the debate about slavery. David Wilmot of Pennsylvania proposed the Wilmot Proviso which would ban slavery in any lands won from Mexico. This was debated and it represented tensions. The Proviso was passed in the House, but it failed in the Senate. Northern Democrats and northern Whigs supported the bill. Southern Democrats and southern Whigs opposed it. The war was a prelude to the Civil War. Ironically, Abraham Lincoln (who was a Whig Congressman back then) denounced the Mexican-American war. More migrants came to Texas after the Mexican-American war. Many German immigrants came there too. Texas is a symbol of the frontier West to this very day. It’s a Southern state with heroes and villains. On the eve of the Civil War, which Texas would enter as a part of the Confederacy, there were 182,566 slaves, nearly one-third of the state’s population. As more slaves came into the Republic of Texas, more escaped to Mexico. Matamoros in the 1840's had a large and flourishing colony of ex-slaves from Texas and the United States. Mexico encouraged escaped slaves to go into Mexico in finding freedom. It has its troubled past and it has heroic people who fought for justice too.

By Timothy


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