Military Adventures Beyond the Mississippi

Brief History of the Lone Star

For many years Texas has been the chosen home of America's voluntary outlaws and exiles, and the scene of deed of daring and desperation, which in the Middle Ages would have been termed chivalric; but which in the nineteenth century, with truer Judgment, we characterize as barbaric. For years it was without any settled government. Both Mexico and the United States claimed it as their territory. The people acknowledged allegiance to neither, nor did they possess any stable government of their own. Their almost sole judiciary was Judge Lynch. Their chief reliance for government was in extemporized vigilance committees. Its condition was like that of the Israelites in the time of the Judges—“every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Its people were like those that gathered about David in the wilderness—"every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented" sought refuge in the wilds of Texas. Horse-thieves, counterfeiters, robbers, murderers—in short, all the vagabonds whose crimes had made the States a dangerous residence sought and found security in this territory.

Its condition was such as to invite thither such a population and exclude all others. When the United States bought Louisiana, in 1803, we bought into a quarrel. The boundary line between the French and the Spanish possessions was unsettled. The United States claimed under her purchase to have acquired all the country to the Rio Grande. Spain claimed rights even east of the Sabine River. Where thus each nation claimed the right to govern neither exercised it efficiently. Filibustering expeditions, organized often in the United States, though never by its sanction, entered from time to time this territory, and endeavored to expel the Mexicans and secure an independent government. Of these the most notorious in history is that of the celebrated Aaron Burr. At length, in 1810, by treaty between Spain and the United States, the much vexed question of boundary was apparently settled. Florida was ceded to the United States, and all territory west of the Sabine was guaranteed by the United States to Spain. We say apparently. The Southwest did not acquiesce in this treaty; nor did it prevent the continuation of individual revolutionary enterprises. Meanwhile the great fertility of the soil, salubriousness of the climate, and mineral wealth attracted thither a large emigration, in spite of the disadvantages to which we have referred. A French and German population sought and settled in Western Texas. Colonies, chiefly from the Southwestern States, settled in its eastern portion. Land speculations increased this emigration.

Under Colonel Austin a colony of eight hundred families settled in and about the county which now bears his name. Thus the residents of Texas had very little in common with the government under which they were placed. It treated them often with gross injustice. It proved itself quite incompetent for their adequate protection. At length, in 1835, after some unsuccessful attempts to secure a better government in the Mexican Republic, they proclaimed their independence, and in a brief but decisive campaign of a few short months secured it. In this campaign the Texan troops were commanded by General Sam Houston, then in the forty-third year of his age, and in the zenith of his fame and power.

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