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The Republic of Texas

The history of modern Texas began in 1821. The Spaniards having failed really to settle the country, three abortive invasions between 1800 and 1821 by Anglo-Americans were shadows of coming events. In 1821 Mexico finished successfully her War of Independenrf begun with Spain in 1810; in 1821 the United States gave up a claim to Texas arising from the purchase of Louisiana from France in 1803. So in 1821 Moses Austin obtained permission to locate 300 American families but, dying, his Stephen established the first permanent American settlement at San Felipe de de Austin on the lower Brazos River in December 1823.

During the next 15 years probably 30,000 Americans came to Texas, settling; mainly along the rivers between San Antonio and Nacogdoches southward to the coast. They came, sometimes bringing their slaves with them, because a fertile and unoccupied land was calling to them, not because, as has sometimes been maintained without evidence, they specifically planned to extend the slave-holding area. Remote from real Mexico, they practically governed themselves and formed no close or genuine ties with their adopted country.

A federal Mexican republic resulting in 1824, Texas and Coahuila became one state divided into the departments of Saltillo, Monclova and Texas. Revolution and disorder prevailing continually in Mexico, when Santa Anna established there a dictatorship in 1835, the American Texans proclaimed a provisional government and declared in favor of a union with the Mexican liberals together with a restoration of the Federal Constitution of 1824.

Santa Anna sent troops into Texas and war began. The desperate defense of the Alamo at San Antonio by 183 Texans under W.B.Travis in which the defenders were killed to a man and the battle of San Jacinto in which Santa Anna was defeated and captured by a Texian army under San Houston were the outstanding events of the war.

Practical independence resulted and between 1836 and 1845 Texas was an independent republic, a unique experience for one of the States of the Union. A constitution was ratified in September, 1836, and Houston was elected President. Houston was the capital city from 1837 to 1839, when Austin became the capital. The great and pressing need of the Republic was money. With little taxable property, the government ran deeply in debt. By 1841 the amount reached $7,500,000. To the financial difficulties of the Republic was added the aggravation of invasions from Mexico, which had never abandoned her claims on the country. Three times Mexican forces reached San Antonio, but always retreated without attempting to hold the place.

Meantime the independence of Texas had been recognized by the United States, France, Holland, Belgium, and Great Britain, and the presence of the representatives of these powers lent zest to the interest with which the subject of the annexation of Texas to the Union was invested. The question of annexation was bound up with that of slavery, and the whole Union was agitated. The matter finally became a national issue, and James K. Polk was elected President on a platform favoring annexation; but before he took office a joint resolution was passed by Congress making an offer of statehood to Texas.

After a long conflict over slavery, in December, 1845, the State was formally admitted into the Union. Texas was annexed to the United States, retaining all her public lands and the right to subdivide into not more than five States. Claims to a portion of New Mexico were abandoned later for $10,000,000 which were used to pay the debts that the Republic of Texas had accumulated. The annexation of Texas brought on the war between the United States and Mexico which made the Rio Grande an international boundary.

After a decade of peaceful statehood Texas, abandoned the Union for the Southern Confederacy, furnishing probably 100,000 soldiers. The last battle of the Civil War was fought at Palmito, near Palo Alto, on the Rio Grande, 13 May 1865. Texas was not the scene of very active military operations; Federal troops attacked the coast but could not penetrate further.

Following out his plan of reconstruction, June 17, 1865, President Johnson appointed as provisional Governor A. J. Hamilton, a man conspicuous in antebellum Texas politics. A convention was called which adopted the constitution in force in the State prior to secession, with amendments recognizing the abolition of slavery, renouncing the right of secession, and conferring civil rights on freedmen.

The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 placed the State under the military authority, with General Sheridan in command. The carpetbaggers followed and the new reconstruction occupied the next three years. A constitution was submitted to the people in November, 1869, when Congressmen and State officers were elected, and on March 30, 1870, Texas was readmitted to the Union. At the election in November, 1872, the Democrats secured control of the State; and in December, 1873, a Democratic victory made Richard Coke Governor.

A reconstruction government of the usual type prevailed until 1874 when Gov. E.J.Davis was driven from office. Since 1874 Texas had been Democratic by large majorities. The carpetbag constitution of 1869 was replaced in 1876.

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