A Walk Through Time
Affairs In Coahuila and Texas
The attachment of Texas to Coahuila was only a temporary arrangement. The coalition was inconvenient, unnatural, and, in many respects, disadvantageous to the former, which now had a population equal to that of the smaller States of Mexico, and was in harmony with the liberal party, which, under Santa Anna, had there gained the ascendancy. This was thought to be a favorable time for inaugurating a separate State government. As early as October, 1832, a number of leading citizens met at San Felipe, and recommended the election of delegates to a Convention to form a Constitution.
An election was held in the different municipalities in March, 1833, and in April the Convention met in San Felipe. A Constitution which was drafted by Sam Houston was adopted, and submitted to the national authorities for approval. Judge Burnet drew up an able memorial, showing the disadvantages under which Texas labored, and the necessity for a separate State government. Of the three Commissioners who were selected to proceed to the city of Mexico with the Constitution and memorial, Colonel Austin alone went.
In 1834, while Texas was comparatively quiet and prosperous, Coahuila was convuled with a revolution. The seat of government had been removed from Saltillo to Monclova. Saltillo, unwilling to lose the capital, organized a revolution, and elected a governor in opposition to the one at Monclova. Both parties prepared to fight, but before actual hostilities began, referred their difficulties to Santa Anna, who ordered a new election. This state of affairs, in which the Legislature was prevented from meeting, illustrated still more forcibly the necessity of separating Texas from Coahuila.
When Austin reached the Mexican capital, he found a strong prejudice had been awakened against the Anglo-Americans in Texas. He failed to obtain permission to organize a separate State government, but his mission was not without good results. He secured the repeal of laws which discriminated against the Americans- especially the decree of Bustemente, prohibiting immigration from the United States - and obtained some mail facilities. In December he started for Texas, and had reached Saltillo, where he was arrested by order of Farias, the acting President, carried back to Mexico and thrown into a dungeon, in which he languished nearly two years.
During the year 1834, Colonel Almonte, one of Santa Anna's most trusted lieutenants, was sent on a visit to Texas. He was everywhere cordially received, and on his return, published a glowing description of the country, giving a tolerably accurate estimate of its population and resources.
Through all parties, in 1834, wished to see the connection between Texas and Coahuila dissolved, there were differences of opinion as to the best mode of accomplishing this object. Some wanted a de facto local government organized at once. Others wished to await the action of the Federal authorities and the return of Austin. And still others, comparatively few in number, but very zealous, wished at once to proclaim the independence of Texas. But as all parties were agreed in desiring a local government, to be administered by its own citizens, Texas was comparatively quiet. It was, however, a delusive peace, the harbinger of a storm.
The first considerable stocks of cattle brought to Austin's Colony, were by Abner Kuykendall and Randal Jones, in 1822. Ten years later, Taylor White, on Turtle Bayou, had three thousand head, and Mr. Barrow, one of Mr. White's neighbors, had several hundred head of horses and mules. There were large heards of cattle and horses owned by Mexicans in Western Texas.
The first cotton-gin-house erected in Texas was in 1825, at the Groce plantation; the next, near the mouth of Cow Creek, in Brazoria County, by the Austin's; the third, by Robert H. Williams, in Matagorda County. Cotton was then packed in fifty and one hundred pound sacks, and transported to the Rio Grande on Mules, two hundred and fifty pounds constituting a mule load. The first cotton sent out of Texas by water was shipped from Velasco to Matamoras in 1831, and brought sixty-two and a half cents per pound. As early as 1830, Judge Williams, of Liberty County, made forty hagsheads of sugar in one year.
In 1834, Almonte estimated the commerce of Texas as follows:
Department of Brazos: exports $600,000, imports $325,000
Department of Nacogdoches: exports $470,000, imports $265,000
Department of Bexar: exports $10,000
The Constitution of Coahuila and Texas (1827) declared "that in all the towns of the State a suitable number of primary schools shall be established, wherein shall be taught reading, writing, arithmetic, the Catechism of the Christian religion, a brief and simple explanation of this Constitution and that of the Republic, the rights and duties of men in society, and whatever else may conduce to the better education of youth." This was a dead letter upon the statute book. There were, however, a few private schools in Texas. In 1824, S. Richardson taught in San Felipe; Henry Smith taught in Brazoria County in 1827, and thos. J. Pilgrim in 1828. Pilgrim afterward taught in San Felipe, where he organized the first Sunday-school in Texas. Miss Trask taught in Cole's Settlement (Independence), and other schools were opened for short periods in various neighborhoods. In 1832, the Bexar memorialists stated "that there was but one school in San Antonio, the teacher of which was paid twenty-five dollars per month by his patrons."
Under the colonization laws, all colonists professed the Roman Catholic faith. There were, generally, regular priests at San Antonio, Goliad, and Nacogdoches. The American population had, however, no churches, and only occasional visits from priests. In 1830, Father Michael Muldoon, an Irishman, visited most of the settlements, administering baptism and marrying such as desired these rites. In the absence of a priest, parties were married by a bond. Father Henry Doyle was the regular priest at San Patricio. "In 1833," says Almonte, "the only vicar in San Antonio died of cholera, leaving but one curate to the department."
Texas was also occasionally visited by Protestant ministers. In 1822, Rev. Henry Stevenson (Methodist) preached in various neighborhoods. He did the same in 1824. In 1826, Rev. Joseph Bays (Baptist) preached at the house of Moses Shipman, on the Brazos. In 1832, Sumner Bacon (Cumberland Presbyterian) passed through the various settlements, acting as agent for a Bible and Tract society of Natchez. In 1833, a Baptist church was organized in Austin's Colony; a Methodist church in East Texas, near San Augustine; and a Cumberland Presbyterian church in North Texas, on Red River - this last by Rev. M. Estel. In 1834, a Methodist camp-meeting was held in Austin County, near the residence of the Rev. John W. Kinney, and a protracted meeting with the church in East Texas.
Not withstanding the scarcity of schools and churches, society in Texas was unexceptionably good at the close of this period. Austin had required of all colonists a certificate of good character, and had taken great pains to keep out criminals and persons of vicious morals. As a general rule, the colonists lived in great peace among themselves, were honest in their dealings, and practiced a generous hospitality toward strangers.
The study of the colonial period of our history is well calculated to impress us with a sense of the undaunted courage, the indefatigable energy, and unconquerable spirit of the men who found Texas a wilderness and converted it into a garden, introducing and establishing, upon a permanent basis, our civil institutions. To avoid the appearance of self-glorification, the testimony of two intelligent foreigners is appended.
Kennedy, in the "History of Texas," speaking of these pioneers, says: "They are the only people who, in defiance of all obstacles, have struck the roots of civilization deep into the soil of Texas. Even as I trace these lines, I reflect upon their progress with renewed wonder and admiration. They are, indeed, the original conquerors of the wild, uniting in themselves the threefold attributes of husbandmen, lawgivers, and soldiers."
M. De Tocqueville, at a still earlier period, in his work on America, uses the following language: "It is not to be imagined that the impulse of the Anglo-American race can be arrested. Their constant progress towards the Rocky Mountains has the solemnity of a providential event. Tyrannical government and consequent hostilities may retard this impulse, but cannot prevent it from ultimately fulfilling the destiny to which that race is reserved. No power upon earth can close upon the emigrant the fertile wilderness which offers resources to all industry and a refuge from all want. Future events, of whatever nature they may be, will not deprive the Texans of their climate, their bays and rivers or their exuberant soil. Nor will bad law, revolutions, or anarchy be able to obliterate that love of posterity and that spirit of enterprise which seem to be the distinctive characteristics of their race; or to extinguish that knowledge which guides them on their way. Thus, in the uncertain future, one event is sure: At a period, which may be said to be near, the Anglo-Americans will, alone, cover the immense space contained between the polar regions and the tropics, and extending from the coast of the Atlantic to the shores of the Pacific."