History of the War with Mexico - H. O. Ladd

Mexico and Texas

Straggles for freedom—The Mexican Declaration of Independence—Sympathy of the United States—Bonds of patriotism—Territory of Texas—Despotism and revolution—Invasion of Texas—"Remember the Alamo"—Independence of Texas.

Mexico acquired her independence of Spain in the year 1821. Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo, an Indian curate, and one of the purest patriots who ever roused a nation to shake off the chains of despotism, in 1810 led the first insurrection against the foreign power that for three centuries had crushed and enfeebled the people. For eleven years they struggled for freedom and life. Early in this revolution they avowed their purpose to establish a republic, the principles and conduct of which should accord with the Government of the United States. The first Mexican Congress in 1812 made declarations, by which the following principles were established:

The Mexican nation resumed its sovereignty, and exercised it by its representatives.

  • Slavery was abolished.
  • All privileges of birth and color were annulled.
  • Torture should no longer be inflicted.
  • The rights of property should be protected.
  • Foreign commerce should be permitted under moderate duties.

The laws should require patriotism and loyalty, limit alike the excesses of opulence and poverty, tend to increase the wages of the poor, and diminish popular ignorance, vice, and crime.

The people of the United States were in sympathy with such ideas of popular government, and with the people who espoused and fought for them. It was a new protest against the tyranny of European monarchies, from which they had not long escaped themselves. The citizens of the United States, therefore, long extended toward the Mexican the forbearance which the necessities and struggles of a neighboring nation required of the Great Republic whose example they were imitating.

But events soon proved that a people must be fitted by nature and intelligence for self-government on such exalted principles as were avowed in the Constitution and laws of Mexico. In framing these, the founders of the new government overestimated the character and stability of purpose of the Mexican race. Constantly embroiled by contending factions, petty jealousies, and personal ambitions of hot-headed leader's, the Government became the prey of military usurpers, made presidents by pronunciamientos, or proclamations without authority. With amazing disregard of justice and laid in these frequent changes, government at home became a terror to the people. In fact, there was no true constitutional government. These military usurpers seized public and private property to maintain the army, till superseded by others. It was difficult to unite the different sections of the Mexican Confederation upon laws for the national welfare. Conflicting interests asserted themselves where the bonds of patriotism were still weak. The territory held by this distracted nation was immense. Much of it was desert or uncultivated land, intersected by rugged mountain-ranges, from which stretched vast mesas, or plateaus, uncultivated, and to a great extent uninhabited. It had no communications by railroads, canals, or telegraphs, and but few post-roads and highways of travel between the secluded cities to foster common interests and opinions among the people, who had been alienated from all respect for governments by centuries of the misrule and selfish exactions of Spain.

The States of Mexico were rather provinces than States. Some of them were rich and populous, others settled by few people, but having a fertile soil, and the resources and territory for future empires. Of the latter was Texas on the south-east, reaching from the Rio Grande to the Mississippi, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the latitude of Missouri. The population was composed of a mixture of American, French, and Spanish blood with the native race, and was more fully in sympathy with the United States, from which many of the citizens had emigrated, than with the traditions and customs of Mexico.

In the year 1834, Santa Anna, President of the Confederation, with the support of the priesthood, dissolved by force the Mexican Congress, and with large bodies of troops overawed in his own favor the elections which were held for the next Congress. This usurper, who had in 1823 proclaimed himself the protector of the Federal Republic, now sought to establish a central government armed with dictatorial power. Aided again by the Roman Catholic clergy, he compelled Congress, in 1835, to abolish the Constitution of 1824, and with this also the State constitutions and officers. He thus took away from the States the power to regulate their own affairs by legislatures. Then a military despotism was established through governors appointed for the new provinces, the name of States having been annihilated. The people of the former States of Mexico, Oaxaca, Puebla, Jalisco, and Zacatecas opposed this overthrow of the Federal Government. There was an uprising in Zacatecas, but the inhabitants were crushed by Santa Anna, with a powerful army. With combined treachery and cruelty he butchered the citizens and spread terror through the land.

The citizens of Texas, however, still desiring the federal system of government, called a Congress to consult for their own province, to meet in October, 1835. General Cos, the military governor, before it assembled, brought on a conflict by attempting to disarm the people, who bravely resisted. The governor was defeated at Gonzales, Goliad, Conception, and Fort Lepanticlan on the west bank of the Nueces, and at San Antonio. He then capitulated, and the Texan Congress having assembled, declared Texas no longer bound morally or legally by the compact of the Union or the authority of the usurper. They also offered assistance to such members of the Mexican Confederacy as would take up arms against military despotism. Though the federal system was disorganized, they declared their purpose to continue faithful to the Mexican Government, so long as the nation should be ruled by the Constitution and laws that had been framed for the Union of States. A provisional government was organized in November of the same year, to continue in force till the following March, in order to wait the cooperation of the other States of the Confederacy. Henry Smith was chosen provisional governor, James W. Robinson, lieutenant-governor, and General Samuel Houston, commander-in-chief.

Fillibusters in Texas.


While a convention was in session at Washington, Texas, March 2nd, to provide for the new government after the expiration of the provisional one, intelligence reached them that Santa Anna, with an army of ten thousand of his choicest troops, had already invaded Texas, with the purpose of slaughtering all the inhabitants who offered resistance, and of ravaging the country. A declaration of independence was adopted immediately, and a constitution agreed upon by the convention, to be submitted to the people. General Houston issued a stirring appeal to arms. The invading force entered Texas in two divisions, the right led by General Urea, the left commanded by Santa Anna. The latter first besieged San Antonio de Bexar, which was heroically defended by Colonel Travis, who, with two hundred and fifty men, shut himself up in the Alamo. They fought till only one man was left. Santa Anna, enraged at the loss of one thousand troops in the assault, ordered the single prisoner to be shot and the bodies of the garrison to be burned. At Goliad, General Urea received the surrender of Colonel Fannin and hundred soldiers, under solemn assurances that their lives and property should be safe. Santa Anna, with inhuman cruelty, ordered them to be slaughtered. But at San Jacinto, General Houston, on April 21st, with eight hundred patriots, met the treacherous usurper, and signally defeated him. The Texans fought with the energy of despair and the ferocity of lions, aroused by the terrible war-cry, "Remember the Alamo!" Santa Anna had over sixteen hundred Mexican soldier. He lost six hundred and thirty killed, two hundred and eighty wounded, and seven hundred and thirty prisoners of war. Santa Anna and General Cos were both captured. As President of Mexico, he made a treaty with General Houston, in which he recognized the full independence of Texas, and engaged to withdraw his remaining troops, four thousand in number. Thus he escaped the punishment due to his cruelties and despotic acts.

Though the Mexican Congress refused to recognize the authority of Santa Anna in making this treaty, and ordered a new invasion, it was never attempted. The border skirmishes, which followed for several years, only fostered hatred between the citizens of each Government, without affecting their political relations. It was evident that Mexico would never recover this territory. Texas remained an independent State under a republican constitution and government for ten years. She was not formally acknowledged by Mexico as independent, but in a few months obtained the recognition of Great Britain, France, and a few other European Governments, and lastly that of the United States. Population flowed in from the United States, and with the development of her great agricultural resources and other industries, there was an increasing desire among her citizens to unite the destinies of Texas to those of the Great Republic.