The Republic of Texas
The Beginning of the End
By Ira Kennedy

 

Rumors, gossip, lies and dreams. Conspiracies, intrigues, plots, and counter plots. This must be the Republic of Texas. From 1830 to 1845, the eyes of the world turned toward Texas. Stretching from the Rio Grande to Wyoming, and from Louisiana to Santa Fe (New Mexico), Texas was enormous, and her potential to expand all the way to the Pacific Ocean was under serious discussion.

In 1844 General Duff Green, President Tyler’s ambassador-at-large, began lobbying for a scheme to conquer California and northern Mexico for Texas with the aid of the United States Indians. According to the plan, Texas would then be annexed by the United States. With slight modifications to accommodate the shifting political winds, this plan was born as early as 1830.

That year, according to Dr. Robert Mayo, Sam Houston confided to him that the general was preparing an expedition to establish an independent Republic in Texas. Although Mayo was offered a position as surgeon in Houston’s army the doctor declined. Mayo then contacted the president Andrew Jackson in November and again in December of 1830 to warn the president that such action would be a breach of neutrality laws with Mexico.

DEC. 10, 1830: FROM PRESIDENT ANDREW JACKSON TO WILLIAM FULTON, SECRETARY OF THE TERRITORY OF ARKANSAS:

"It has been stated to me that an extensive expedition against Texas is organizing in the United States, with a view to the establishment of an independent providence in that Providence and that Genl Houston is to be at the head of it… It is said that enlistments have been made for the enterprise in various parts of the Union—That the confederates are to repair as travellers to different points of the Mississippi, where they have already chartered steam Boats on which to embark—That the point of rendezvous is to be in the Arkansas Territory, and that the cooperation of the Indians is looked to by those engaged in the contemplated expedition."

Although Jackson denied any knowledge of the plan in his letter of December 10, he also declined to take any action against Houston. "No movements have been made, nor have any facts been established which would require, or would justify the adoption of official proceedings against individuals implicated…" Ironically, two years later Jackson sent his friend and protégé, Sam Houston, on a mission to Texas that would, at least on its surface, correspond to the alleged plot to enlist the aid of the Indians, and others to overthrow the Mexican government.

In 1832Sam Houston was issued a passport by President Andrew Jackson and, as his emissary, traveled to Texas to assess the strength. Etc. of the Comanche and other tribes of the southern Plains. Houston was either on a fact-finding mission, a peace-treaty mission, or, as a Louisiana newspaper claimed, Sam Houston had gone to Texas to incite rebellion.

Enroute to Nacogdoches, a hotbed of political rebellion against Mexico, Houston visited the Texas Cherokee who had settled in northeast Texas in 1810. Members of the band were involved in the ill-fated Fredonian Rebellion which sought to overthrow the Mexican government with an alliance of Indian and whites in Texas.

Arriving in Nacogdoches, Houston called on the Mexican commandant to whom he presented his credentials. And then renewed his friendship with old acquaintance, Aldolpus Sterne, a Texan revolutionary who had supplied arms and ammunition to members of the Fredonian Rebellion. Sterne was arrested and sentenced to death by the Mexican government for his involvement in the revolt. Later his sentence was commuted, but Sterne was still under suspicion and his movements carefully watched. When Houston was baptized a Catholic, Adolphus and his wife Eva Stern acted as his godfather and godmother.

When Houston went to San Antonio, in 1833, to meet with the Indians he was greeted with suspicion by the Mexican government. Exactly what was Houston’s mission on behalf of the U. S. government with the Indians of Texas? Was Houston trying to rally their support in a war against Mexico? President Jackson had more than a passing interest in Texas. Apart from receiving regular dispatches from Houston on the possibilities of annexation; Jackson sent Anthony Butler on a secret mission to Mexico. Butler was authorized by Jackson to offer Mexico $5 million for their Texas colony. The offer was turned down; thereafter Butler started using the purchase money to bribe officials into selling Texas. Butler suggested to Jackson they call the bribes "gifts," but his recommendation fell on deaf ears and he was recalled.

On April 1, 1833 the Texans held a Constitutional Convention, apart from petitioning for a resumption of immigration from the U. S. which had been forbidden by the decree of April 6, 1830, the convention elected President Andrew Jackson’s protégé Sam Houston as chairman of the constitutional committee. Needless-to-say, everything the Texans did appeared to be an effort, by increments, to establish total independence. When Stephen F. Austin went to Mexico to present the plan to the authorities he was given accommodations in the Prison of Inquisition.

While Stephen F. Austin cooled his heels in a Mexican prison, Sam Houston dropped out of sight. Suddenly he turned up in Cincinnati, then Nashville, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York before heading back to Texas. In his wake, militias were formed and trained before heading west. Arms and munitions were being shipped and warehoused along the Texas border.

In December, 1834, G. W. Featherstonhaugh, author of Excursion Through the Slave States was in the village of Washington, near the Texas border in Arkansas Territory – the very region which in 1830 Mayo said Houston was organizing a revolutionary force to enter Texas.

"I was not desirous of remaining long at this place." Featherstonhaugh wrote, "General Houston was here, leading a mysterious sort of life, shut up in a small tavern, seeing nobody by day and sitting up all night… I had seen too much passing before my eyes, to be ignorant that this little place was the rendezvous where a much deeper game that faro… was playing. There were many persons at this time in the village from the States lying adjacent to the Mississippi, under the pretence of purchasing government lands, but whose real object was to encourage the settlers in Texas to throw off their allegiance to the Mexican government."

Despite the 1830 decree to halt immigration, between 1830 and 1835 as many as 10,000 U. S. citizens entered Texas illegally, and more than a few were spoiling for a fight. Even Austin, the go-along to get-along empresario, had a change of heart and mind in Mexico. After his release from prison in July, 1835, Austin penned a letter in New Orleans to a cousin:

"A great immigration from Kentucky, Tennessee, etc., each man with his rifle… would be of great use to us—very great indeed… I wish a great immigration this fall and winter from Kentucky, Tennessee, everywhere; passports or no passports, anyhow. For fourteen years I have had a hard time of it, but nothing shall daunt my courage or abate my exertitions to complete the main object of my labors to Americanize Texas. This fall and winter will fix our fate—a great immigration will settle the question."

Although Austin was five years behind the invasion plan, he was, at last, on board and the Texas Revolution had begun.

For a continuation of this story see 1845: The Twilight Year /  Part One