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CHAPTER VI

THE TEXAN QUESTION
(1819-1841)

THE Anglo-American colonists of Texas came mainly from the slave-holding states; but there was a considerable element from free states—especially New York—including a large number of those who became prominent as promoters of the revolution and officials of the republic. Some of the representatives of this element were David G. Burnett, provisional president in 1836; Timothy Pilsbury and David S. Kaufman, the first two United States congressmen from Texas; Royal T. Wheeler, one of the first judges of the Texas supreme court; Ashbel Smith, minister to England and France; E. M. Pease, at one time governor of the state, etc.1 The great majority, however, of the colonists were from the South; and therefore tradition combined with economic tendencies to foster slavery among them.2 This at first appeared little more important than the colonial chroniclers of the seventeenth century thought the beginning of slavery in Virginia; but with the growth of opposition to the system, the progress of sectionalization in the United States, and the efforts at annexation the fact took on greater significance.

1 Fulmore, in Texas State Hist. Assoc, Quarterly, V., 31-34. 'See p. 29, above.

The growth of the Anglo-American colonies in Texas and their troubles with the Mexican government forced the question of the relations of the United States with that province on the attention of the authorities at Washington and of the people of the Union. During the earlier stages of the colonization the southwestward movement was backed by the unquestioning sympathy of the people of the United States. No one had been so bitterly opposed to the surrender of the claims of the United States to Texas in 1819 as John Quincy Adams;1 and no presidential administration was more completely possessed by the spirit of westward expansion without regard to latitude than his. He boasted of having been first to assert the claim of the United States as far west as the Pacific coast;2 and he must be credited with the inauguration of the policy which, under changed conditions in later years, brought about, against his own opposition, the annexation of Texas and the acquisition of California.

As soon as Adams became president he began a series of energetic efforts to recover the ground he had been forced to yield in 1819. Poinsett, the United States minister to Mexico, was instructed to negotiate for the cession of Texas, and if he could not get the whole to accept a part. The negotiations failed; but Adams used the occasion to suggest to the Mexican government that its colonizing policy was preparing the way for the loss of the province.1 During Jackson's administration efforts to purchase Texas were made in 1829 and again in 1835, but they were fruitless.2

1 NUes' Register, LXIL, 138. 2 Adams, Memoirs, IV., 273.

Meanwhile had arisen the friction between Texas and the Mexican authorities which resulted in the revolution of 1835-1836. In the course of this movement much feeling was aroused in Mexico by the evident sympathy of the government and most of the people of the United States for the Texans, and by the assistance that came to the revolutionists from that quarter. A letter dated April 4, 1836, from the Mexican minister at Washington, Gorostiza, to Secretary of State Forsyth,3 furnished information as to certain violations of neutrality that were in progress in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky, but indicated satisfaction with the efforts the Federal government was making to prevent such violations. A little later in the same month orders were given to General Gaines, in command of the United States forces on the Sabine, authorizing him to advance to Nacogdoches if he thought it necessary in order to prevent or meet Indian attacks on the people of Texas.1 This called forth a protest from Gorostiza;2 and when Nacogdoches was actually occupied by Gaines in July, subsequent to the expulsion of the Mexican troops from Texas by the revolutionists, he repeated his protest; getting no satisfactory answer from the United States, on October 15 he demanded his passports. Before leaving Washington he complicated matters still further by sending to the members of the diplomatic corps a pamphlet reflecting seriously on the conduct of the administration in dealing with Texas.3

1 Adams, Speech on the Right of Petition, June 16-July 7, 1838, pp. 106-108; Adams, Memoirs, VII., 239, 240; cf. Von Hoist, United States, II., 534; Turner, New West (Am. Nation, XIV.), chap. xvi.

1 MacDonald, Jacksonian Democracy (Am. Nation, XV.), 213.

3 House Exec. Docs., 24 Cong., 1 Sess., VI., No. 256, pp. 12-15.

Considering the state of affairs on the border as reported to the United States government,4 the original order of April 25, 1836, to Gaines, authorizing him to advance to Nacogdoches if necessary, while not technically in accordance with international law, appears to have been dictated by humanity and justified by the emergency. In a further order of May 12, Gaines was warned to be very cautious in the exercise of the discretion confided to him;5 and, though he subsequently sent a detachment of troops to Xacogd>±!es which occupied the place for a r—*». this was because ot an actual outbreak anvmg the Indians in which the Caddoes from east of the Sabine were credibly reported to have taken part.1 Gorostira claimed that the occupation was part of a deliberate scheme to rob Mexico of a part of her territory, and adduced evidence which gave color to his accusation but did not prove it. Had it n:>t been for the strained relations of the United States and Mexico, the event would probably have caused no more disturbance than did a similar invasion of the United States by Texan troops some two years later.1 As to furnishing assistance to the Texans during the revolution, while the authorities at Washington were careful to observe the obligations of neutrality, local officials and communities in most cases did not feel any such diffidence.

1 House Exec. Docs., 24 Cong., 1 Sess., VI., No. 2561 p. 43; Bancroft, North Mex. States and Texas, II., 286.

2 House Exec. Docs., 24 Cong., 1 Sess., VI., No. 256, p. 25. * Ibid., 25 Cong., 2 Sess., VII., No. 190.

4 Green to the president, March 11, and Many to Jones, March 12, 1836, in ibid., 24 Cong., 1 Sess., VI., No. 256, pp. 58, 59. lIbid., p. 54.

While the Texan revolution was still in progress a movement was begun to secure the recognition of the republic and its annexation to the United States.3 As soon as the Mexicans were expelled and a permanent government for Texas organized, the effort was pushed on with renewed energy. In September, 1836, the question of annexation was submitted, along with the constitution of the re

1 House Exec. Docs., 2$ Cong., 3 Sess., XII., No. 351, pp. 79a794. 'Ibid., 35 Cong., 3 Sess., II., No. 71.

'Garrison, "The First Stage of the Movement for the Annexation of Texas" (Am. Hist. Review, X., 73-96).

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