|The Spanish Domain (1519-1685 ; 1690-1821)|
In 1519, just 27 years after Columbus discovered the New
World, Captain Alonso de Pineda sailed the Gulf Coast and reached the area later to
be called Texas. In 1528,Cabeza de Vaca, a
shipwrecked Spaniard, was the first European to walk across Texas and by 1542,
he published in his journal Los Naufragios a description of territory, plant and
animal life, and the numerous Indian tribes.
For the next 150 years Texas remained virtually ignored, until, in 1685, attempts made by France to establish settlements on the coast alerted Spaniards to the danger of a foreign intrusion.
In 1685 the French nobleman Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle
founded a colony, called Fort St.Louis, in eastern Texas near the Gulf Coast. But in just
five years the French settlement was mopped out by a series of calamities : shipwreak,
disease, famine, hostile Indians and internal uprest. La Salle was murdered by one of his
To further its claim to Texas, Spaniards then instituted the mission system. Between 1690 and 1793 36 missions were established in Texas.
The enormous territory was, however, virtually unpeopled because Mexicans were reluctant to go to Texas (central Mexico seemed more valuable and assisted emigration was too expensive in view of Spain's other defense needs). Texas in 1820 had only four thousand Mexican settlers, and Mexico, for many miles south of the Rio Grande, was not much more populated.
The Mexican settlers were concentrated in the town of San Antonio de Bexar (founded on May 5, 1718 by Franciscan father Antonio Olivares), at Goliad and at Nacogdoches (near the Louisiana border).
|The Independence of Mexico and the American settlements (1821-1836)|
Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821,
after a revolution led by Agýstin de Itýrbide, an officer in the Spanish army,
who proclaimed himself Emperor.
As the Mexican emigration was still almost inexistent, the new independendent government (in 1823 it became a republic after a pronunciamiento had overthrown the ambitious but inept Itýrbide) decided then to open the province of "Tejas" to foreign settlers with the main aim to create a buffer between Comancheria (Comanche territory in central and northern Texas) and the Mexicans.
The word of Mexico's liberal land policies spread like wildfire across the southern United States and through the Mississippi River valley and, shortly, thousands of colonists, led by Stephen F.Austin, Texas' first and most successful land agent (empresario), moved to the new territories.
During the next 15 years the population of colonists (often former frontiersmen, traders and adventurers) increased at a steady pace. In 1836 the foreign settlers outnumbered the Mexican population of Texas five to one (25,000 to 5,000).
The overall situation was, however, considered highly sensitive by many Mexicans inasmuch as :
So in 1830 Mexico called a halt to immigration and, in
spite of settlers' objections, combined Texas with the state of Coahuila,
with its capital in Saltillo, more than six hundred miles
from northeastern Texas.
During this period of unrest, a man emerged in Mexico as a leading political figure : Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna Perez de Lebron.
Santa Anna, an officer in the Spanish army, whose political career had started when he joined Itýrbide's revolution in 1821 and had continued with his help to the golpistas in getting rid of the same Itýrbide two years later, officially became president in 1833. Immediately after, he named himself dictator, declared Mexico not yet ready for democratic government and abolished the Constitution of 1824.
Then, in 1835, continuing with his policy against the federal system, Santa Anna decided to replace it with a centralized republic and, accordingly, dissolved local legislatures and imposed a strict central control.
Texans believed the new system interfered with their rights and, on October 2, 1835, the curtain on the Texas Revolution rose with the first shot fired at Gonzales.
|The Republic of Texas (1836-1845)|
The skirmish in Gonzales followed the strong answer (a cry : "Come and take
it!" and a volley) given by the citizens at the request of a Mexican garrison to
surrender the small cannon which had previously been issued for defense against Indians.
One month later, on November 3, 1835, the delegates from the 12 representative districts to the Consultation Convention, gathered at San Felipe de Austin, drafted the document, the Declaration of Causes, to explain their reasons for taking up arms against Mexico, while remaining a state.
Santa Anna, raged with anger with "those perfidious foreigners", ordered General Martin Perfecto de Cos, his brother-in-law who was the commander of the San Antonio garrison, to expel all Americans who had come to Texas since 1830, to disarm the Texans and to arrest all the opponents to his regime.
The Mexican troops (1,200 men with 21 pieces of artillery), poorly equipped and trained and suffering from a shortage of supplies as well as morale decay, were severely defeated by 300 Texan volunteers, led by Benjamin R. Milam, at the Battle of Bexar - December 5-9, 1835.
A garrison of 104 Texans then moved into the Alamo mission.
During the next two months, the garrison was reinforced with the arrival in San Antonio of James Bowie (Jan.19, 1836), Davy Crockett (Febr. 8, 1836), William B.Travis (Febr.23, 1836) and their volunteers.
On Tuesday, February 23, 1836, Santa Anna's troops moved into the San Antonio main
plaza and El Jeneral demanded an immediate and unconditional surrender by the Alamo
Travis' answer followed the "Texan tradition" ...An 18-pounder shot!
After the fall of the Alamo Santa Anna, minimizing his losses,
said "It was but a small affair." and ordered the bodies of the Texans
burned. One of his officers then commented: "Another such victory and we are
Three week later, while General Sam Houston was moving his troops and gathering reinforcements in the eastern part of Texas, Col. James W. Fannin and his nearly 400 men, captured at the Battle of Coleto Creek were all massacrated at Goliad by order of Santa Anna.
But the Napoleon of the West, as he used to call himself, was to face his "Waterloo" in less than one month.
On April 21, 1836 near the San Jacinto ferry crossing the Mexican army (1,500 strong), was disrupted by the Houston's force (some 8-900 men) at the cry : "Remember Alamo ! Remember Goliad !".
Independence from Mexico was declared on March 2, 1836 at
the Washington-on-the-Brazos Convention.
In September,1836 the first election was called and Sam Houston was elected the first president of the Republic. He served as President for two terms and later, after annexation to the United States, became a U.S. Senator for Texas.
The annexation to the Union, strongly requested by the Texans and supported by the southern and western states, was, however, shelved by the U.S. Presidents Jackson (1828-36) and Van Buren (1836-40), who feared, under pressure of the northern states, the potentially excessive influence of that vast slave territory. The request was then recalled by the Texas government who asked for recognition, loans and trade agreements from France and Great Britain. The European countries, eager for slowing down the United States expansion and interested in improving market penetration of their products, were more than ready to fulfil Texan requests.
The increasing British influence over Texas worried Washington more than the slave question and the issue of admitting Texas into the Union was then taken up again by U.S. Presidents Tyler (1840-44) and Polk (1844-48).
On December 29, 1845 U.S. President J. Polk signed legislation making Texas the 28th state of the United States.
On February 1, 1861, sixteen years after its annexation, Texas
seceeded from the Federal Union following a 171 to 6 vote by the Secession
Convention. Governor Sam Houston, a unionist, was unable to block the secession
movement and later, having refused to swear allegiance to the Confederate
States of America, he was driven from office.
The last battle of the Civil War was fought in Texas, at Palmito Hill on May 13, 1865, one month after Gen. Lee's surrender at Appomattox.
|Texas, the 28th state of the USA (1845-1861) ; (1865- Present)|
The statehood did not, however, solve the problems which had grieved the former
republic : financial crises, Indian intrusions and continuing clashes with Mexico.
The already critical relationship between the two countries was further deteriorated by the American expansionist policy. Thousands of settlers, traders, fur gatherers, traders and adventurers started moving on Mexican territories west and northwest of Texas.
On April 25, 1846 the Mexican-American War ignition was the inevitable outcome of the dispute.
War lasted about three years and was concluded with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo which, in 1848, set the border from the mouth of Rio Grande to the Pacific.
The 1850's represented a period of relative prosperity in Texas, although on November 25, 1850 Texas had to relinquish, in exchange of $ 10,000,000 from the United States, about one-third of her territories to settle boundary disputes and raise funds to pay her public debt.
After the flames of the Civil War were extinguished and the reconstruction initiated (thank also to the abundance of longhorn cattle, a real Texan wealth), the quality of life in Texas steadily improved for the rest of the 19th Century.
Then, on January 10, 1901, a small Texan location broke into History : at Spindletop, an oil field near Beaumont, black gold erupting from a derrick rocketed Texas towards the Future....
I'd be glad to receive your comments
Reverse of the Texas State Seal, adopted in 1961. It is
based on a design proposed by
the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the Custodians of the Alamo.
from November 20, 1996
Page established on : November 13, 1996
Last update : November 14, 1996