Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE ANNEXATION OF TEXAS.

WHE

HEN the United States, by the treaty of 1803, acquired the

Louisiana territory, its extent was vaguely defined as the territory which Spain had ceded to France in the treaty of San Ildefonso. In consequence, Spain claimed the Sabine river as her eastern boundary and the United States claimed the Rio Grande river as her western boundary, thus overlapping in a double claim the Texan territory, which lay between them. The controversy was apparently settled by the cession of the Texan territory to Spain in 1819, when Florida was ceded to the United States; but each nation was on the alert and colonization was encouraged from both sides, emigrants from the United States being principally from the south, and carrying, as a matter of course, their slaves with them.

In 1821 Mexico declared herself free from all allegiance to Spain, and two years later the first large colony of American settlers was led into Texas by Stephen F. Austin. At this time the Mexican government, in a burst of political sagacity, united Coahuila, a purely Mexican province, and Texas, largely settled by Americans, into ono province, to be governed by Mexican officers. This proved a most unwise arrangement; the Texan colonists were subjected to continual annoyance by the Mexican officials and their dastardly agents, the outlaws and criminals who called themselves “Regulators." In 1830 Bustamante, the Mexican president, passed an act excluding American colonists from the Texas territory. But one step remained to the American settlers, who now numbered over twenty thousandseparation from Coahuila and from the Mexican government altogether. In 1833 Stephen Austin was sent to Mexico to effect the separation of Texas and Coahuila, but finding his efforts fruitless, he

while ringing. An effort was made to restore its tone by sawing the crack wider, but it was unsuccessful. A new steeple and a new bell were put up in 1828. For many years the old bell remained in silent dignity in the tower, when it was taken down and placed on a platform in Independence hall. In 1887 it was loaned to the great exposition of New Orleans, and made the journey to and from that city in safety, and amid the patriotic plaudits of the people of north and south.

THE ANNEXATION OF TEXAS.

W

HEN the United States, by the treaty of 1803, acquired the

Louisiana territory, its extent was vaguely defined as the territory which Spain had ceded to France in the treaty of San Ildefonso. In consequence, Spain claimed the Sabine river as her eastern boundary and the United States claimed the Rio Grande river as her western boundary, thus overlapping in a double claim the Texan territory, which lay between them. The controversy was apparently settled by the cession of the Texan territory to Spain in 1819, when Florida was ceded to the United States; but each nation was on the alert and colonization was encouraged from both sides, emigrants from the United States being principally from the south, and carrying, as a matter of course, their slaves with them.

In 1821 Mexico declared herself free from all allegiance to Spain, and two years later the first large colony of American settlers was led into Texas by Stephen F. Austin. At this time the Mexican govern

in a burst of political sagacity, united Coahuila, a purely Mexican province, and Texas, largely settled by Americans, into one province, to be governed by Mexican officers. This proved a most unwise arrangement; the Texan colonists were subjected to continual annoyance by the Mexican officials and their dastardly agents, the Outlaws and criminals who called themselves “Regulators.” In 1830 Bustamante, the Mexican president, passed an act excluding American colonists from the Texas territory. But one step remained to the American settlers, who now numbered over twenty thousandseparation from Coahuila and from the Mexican government altogether. In 1833 Stephen Austin was sent to Mexico to effect the separation of Texas and Coahuila, but finding his efforts fruitless, he

ment,

wrote back to Texas to advise a forcible separation. In consequence of this letter, he was put under arrest by the Mexican government, and imprisoned for several months at Saltillo. All things began to look toward a revolution; but the crafty Santa Anna, seeing what the outcome of events must be, beguiled the colonists with promises of better things, and delayed their action until he had quietly gathered his troops into the state, and then offered them the alternative of peaceful submission or open war. The latter was their choice. Committees of safety were at once appointed, and with Colonel Stephen Austin, who was now released from prison, as their commander-in-chief, preparations were made for war. The first engagement took place at Gonzales, October 2, 1835. On October 9 the Texans captured Goliad; then followed the action at Concepcion, and on November 12 a provisional government was formed, Henry Smith being chosen governor and General Sam Houston succeeding Austin, who saw fit to resign his commission as commander-in-chief. General Houston's first great success was the capture of San Antonio de Bexar, with the surrender of fourteen hundred Mexicans, who were sent to Mexico, thereby freeing Texas from an armed Mexican force.

But Santa Anna, determined to punish General Houston for his success at San Antonio, gathered a force of seventy-five hundred Mexicans, and commanding it in person, started for San Antonio. Not far from San Antonio stood the Alamo, a strong fort, formerly a Spanish mission, now in command of Colonel W. B. Travis and James Bowie, with one hundred and fifty-six men, among whom was the famous David Crockett. To this Santa Anna laid siege with a force of from four to six thousand men. For eleven days he bombarded it, and the final assault was made on March 6. It was resolved by Santa Anna that the assault should be made in the early dawn. It was a horrible butchery. The struggle was made up of a series of separate and desperate combats, often hand to hand, between squads of the garrison and bodies of the invaders. There was no retreat from point to point; each group of defenders had to fight and die in the den in which it was brought to bay. Out of the entire garrison but three persons were spared-one woman, a child and a servant. The terrors of the Alamo were followed by the still more brutal butchery of Colonel Fannin and his men at Goliad, after they had surrendered to Santa Anna.

While these atrocities were being committed in the cause of freedom, the Texans had held a convention, and on the seventeenth of March,

1836, had solemnly declared "that our political connection with the Mexican nation has forever ended, and that the people of Texas do now constitute a free, sovereign and independent republic, and are fully invested with all the rights and attributes which properly belong to independent nations.” The convention also elected David G. Burnett president ad interim of the republic, and Lorenzo de Zavala, a patriot Mexican exile, vice-president, together with a cabinet of five members. But a still more severe and decisive struggle awaited the new-born republic before it could maintain its independence. After the massacre of the Alamo, General Houston, in order to scatter and divide the Mexican troops, had retreated with eight hundred men, little by little, to San Jacinto, Santa Anna following closely with fifteen hundred men. Here was fought, on April 21, the decisive battle of the war. In spite of the large number of their forces, the Mexicans were utterly defeated, half of their army being taken prisoners, among whom was Santa Anna himself. General Houston, who was himself wounded in this battle, resigned his command, and in the following September was elected president of the republic. In May, 1836, while Burnett was still president, commissioners had been sent to Washington to effect the recognition of the independence of Texas by the United States, and at the same time to ask consideration of a proposition from the new republic to be admitted into the Union. Calhoun had already expressed himself asin favor of both propositions. During the entire summer these questions were widely and openly discussed both in the United States and in Texas. There was little objection to recognizing the independence of Texas, providing it was in a condition to fulfill the duties of an independent state. Strangely enough, however, President Jackson urged caution even in this measure. It was not the province of the United States, he said, to pass judgment in this manner on the controversy between Mexico and Texas, and he advised that recognition be delayed at least until such time as Texas had displayed, in the most undoubted manner, its ability to insist upon its independence. But congress professed to recognize that Texas had already given sufficient evidence of her capacity to do so, and on the first of March, 1837, adopted a formal resolution of recognition. During the period of discussion as to the expediency of her annexation, Texas was maintaining but a feeble and troubled existence. She was deeply in debt and could no longer borrow. Her paper was almost worthless; her taxes were unpaid; she had no army, no navy, and not

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »