Saturday, June 20, 2015

Beginning to Read about the Revolutionary Birth of Texas

I have started reading Lone Star Rising: The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic by William C. Davis. Author Davis begins the book early in the 19th century, putting the scramble for Texas in the context of the Napoleonic Wars which weakened Spain and thus Spain's hold on its colonies in the Americas, and resulted in the sale of the Louisiana territory by France to the United States. He also puts it in the context of the revolutionary fever that swept from the creation of the United States (and the French and Haitian revolutions) through the Spanish colonies in South America, and finally to Mexico.

Texas then was a region quite different than the State of Texas now. It was the agriculturally rich coastal plane that ended at the Balcones Escarpment (see map below). Far from Mexico City, this was a region under Spain with only a few thousand inhabitants owing allegiance to Spain, who were threatened by Comanches; that population actually decreased in the first decades of the 19th century. Not surprisingly, the region was attractive to filibusters, but none in the early part of the century managed to displace the Spanish rulers. With the success of the Mexican revolution, American settlers were invited into the region under conditions such as their accepting Mexican governance and the Catholic religion. Large amounts of land, cheap were a powerful attraction.

On page 13, Author Davis mentions José Gabriel Condorcanqui as starting the last major Indian uprising against the Spanish in 1781, an uprising that besieged Cusco. I think of Condorcanqui under the name he assumed, Túpac Amaru II. I also associate that uprising with Túpac Katari from Ayo Ayo, a village in Bolivia that I once visited.

The picture I get from the earliest part of the book is of adventurers with little capacity to achieve their wild ends failing again and again as they tried to steal a large and valuable piece of land from Spain. The Mexican government, in the years after the successful separation from Spain, was very weak and unable to exercise power over the very distant land of Texas. In this respect, Davis's book on Texas history also sheds some light on California history which was the subject of a recent meeting of the History Book Club to which I belong.

Texas Cities (Source)
Note that Galveston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and El Paso -- all Spanish city names -- are in the south of the state. Houston and Austin, named after the heroes of the Texian Revolution against Mexico, are in the small Texas described in the first paragraph above.

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