Page images
PDF
EPUB

The fall of Hidalgo had not ended the struggle for independence. Another priest, Morelos by name, had rebelled, had raised an army in the southwestern provinces, had won a great battle at Tixtla, and had summoned a congress to meet at Chilpanzingo, which in 1812 published a declaration of independence, and sent Don José Manuel Herrera to represent the Mexican republic in the United States. But with the death of Morelos, while on his way to join Toledo at El Puente del Rey, the cause of the Republicans languished, and the duty of reviving it fell on Herrera.

For three years his efforts were fruitless; but in December, 1815, Don Luis Aury, with three small vessels, broke through the Spanish fleet which then besieged Cartagena and escaped. Gathering about him, as commodore of the joint fleet of Mexico, Venezuela, La Plata, and New Granada, some fifteen vessels, Aury was about to scour the gulf when Herrera persuaded him to co-operate in another attempt to conquer Texas. Learning from the former pirates of Barataria of the splendid harbor afforded by Galveston Bay, the commodore and the Minister decided to occupy it, and in September, 1816, landed on its beach, raised the flag of the republic, established a government, and chose Aury civil and military Governor of Texas and Galveston Island, which were declared part of the Republic of Mexico.

Success now seemed near. Men joined him from the United States. The pirates of Barataria, glad of a place of refuge, took service under his flag. A great slave-trade which he opened with New Orleans brought money, and, what was equally important, his army was increased by the unexpected arrival of Xavier Mina, a gallant soldier of Navarre, with arms, ammunition, military stores, and two hundred wellofficered troops. By the spring of 1817 there were thus gathered at Galveston some six hundred fighting men under three commanders-Aury, Xavier Mina, and Colonel Perry-all ready and eager to act. Just at this time some letters taken by a privateer from a Spanish ship made known the defenceless state of the town of Soto la Marina-sixty miles up the Santander river-and against this, in April, the three commanders set out. It fell without opposition, and with its

fall the expedition ended and the leaders parted. Aury, in a fit of jealousy, went back to Galveston. Mina, eager for more conquests, announced his determination to march farther inland. Perry, protesting that such a march was madness, led his troops toward the United States. Ill fortune attended them all. Mina was captured by the royal troops and put to death; Perry, after a desperate fight at La Bahia, in which every man who followed him was slain, blew out his brains on the field of battle; Aury, on his return to Galveston, found the place in the hands of the pirates, with Lafitte in command, and, after a vain effort to establish himself at Matagorda, he sailed away to join McGregor at Amelia Island, whence the United States drove him out.

With 1819 came the Spanish treaty, the adoption of the Sabine as part of the boundary, and the relinquishment of the claims of the United States to Texas. All over the southwest that treaty awakened profound indignation, but nowhere did it rise so high as in the town of Natchez. From it had gone out each of the expeditions which since the days of Philip Nolan had invaded Texas. To it had come for refuge every leader who, after his discomfiture, had escaped death. In it as a great river town enjoying a fine trade with the interior of Tennessee was gathered the most reckless, lawless, enterprising population-flatboatmen, steamboatmen, frontiersmen—to be found on the river. To them an appeal was made by the leaders of the new attempt, and at a public meeting a company of seventy-five volunteers was raised for the invasion of Texas. Dr. James Long, who, after serving as a surgeon at the battle of New Orleans, had settled at Natchez, was chosen to command, and early in June the little band set out for Nacogdoches. As they passed across Louisiana and crossed the Sabine and entered the old neutral ground, every survivor of former bands hurried to join them, so that when Nacogdoches was reached Long had with him some three hundred men. Among them was Bernardo Gutierres.

At Nacogdoches the “patriots”--so they called themselves—established a provisional government, appointed a supreme council of nine, and issued a proclamation declaring Texas to be a free and independent republic. The citizens

of Texas, so the document reads: have long indulged the hope that when the boundaries of the Spanish possessions in America were drawn, Texas would be brought within the United States. An expectation so flattering has prevented any serious effort to throw off the yoke of Spain. But the recent treaty has dispelled the illusion so long and so fondly cherished, and roused the citizens of Texas from the torpor into which a fancied security lulled them. Spurning the fetters of colonial vassalage, scorning to submit to an atrocious despotism, they have therefore resolved, under the blessing of God, to be free, and are prepared unshrinkingly to meet and firmly to sustain any conflict in which this declaration may involve them.*

The supreme council then proceeded to make laws for raising revenue and disposing of the public lands, established a printing office, and despatched Colonel Gaines to Galveston to ask aid of Lafitte. The old pirate chief assured the officer that Long had his best wishes for success, but told him that the fate of Perry, Mina, and a host of others ought to show how idle it was to wage war by land with a small force of men. Long, however, would not profit by the advice, and, thinking that a personal visit to Lafitte might bring success, he set off for Galveston, and got back to find the Royalist army close at hand, his own forces scattered, and with difficulty made his escape to the United States.

Scarcely had Long and his troops been scattered when Moses and Stephen Austin, the final conquerors of Texas; made their appearance. Moses Austin was a native of Dur ham, in Connecticut, but, after a series of migrations, had taken up his abode about 1800 at the lead mines of Missouri, then a part of Spanish Louisiana. Whether it was the restless spirit which had driven him half across a continent, or the treaty of 1819, or the rapid settlement of Missouri

, that turned his attention to Texas is uncertain, but it is known that in that year he began to make inquiries as to the best way of bringing a plan for the settlement of Texas before the au

* Issued at Nacogdoches, June 23, 1819. Printed in full in Nile's Register, vol. xvii, p. 81.

thorities of Old Spain. He was advised to apply to the authorities of New Spain, and in 1820 set out for Bexar to do 80. The story is related that Governor Martinez, to whom he applied, treated him as an intruder, bade him quit the province, and that he was actually on his way out when he fell in with the Baron de Bastrop, whose name is forever associated with that of Aaron Burr. Bastrop, it is certain, took up his cause, explained his purposes to the Governor, and obtained leave to draw up a memorial asking permission to colonize three hundred American families in the northeastern inland provinces. While the paper was on its way to the Commandant-General Don Joaquin Arredondo at Monterey, Austin started back to the United States. But between Bexar and the Sabine he was robbed and left to find his way as best he could to the Louisiana settlements. The exposure and suffering were too much for him, and in June, 1821, he died, laying a solemn injunction on his son, Stephen F. Austin, to go on with the scheme.

The injunction, it is needless to say, was obeyed; indeed, no sooner was the father buried than the son hastened to San Antonio, conferred with the Governor, selected his tract, and drew up the plan for distribution of the land among the settlers. The tract selected stretched along the coast from Galveston Bay to Matagorda Bay, and ran inland to the great highway connecting Nacogdoches and Bexar.

The terms of the grant required four things. Three hundred families must be brought in from Louisiana; each settler must be a Roman Catholic or become so before he put foot on the soil of Texas; must give evidence of good character and good habits; must take the oath of allegiance to the King of Spain, and swear to uphold the government and constitution of the Spanish monarchy. All who came on those conditions were to be assigned tracts of lands proportionate to the size of the family, and were to pay twelve and a half cents an acre.*

To find settlers ready to go on such terms was an easy

Each man, 640 acres ; a wife, 320 acres ; each child, 160 acres ; for each slave the owner was to have 80 acres.

matter, and in November, 1821, the schooner Lively, with eighteen emigrants, sailed for Matagorda Bay, while Austin with fourteen more went on by land to the Brazos, down which he hurried to the coast to meet the Lively. But of the schooner and her company no tidings of any kind ever reached him. For three months he waited and searched the coast, and then in despair went on to San Antonio to report his loss to the Governor.

It was March, 1822, when Austin reached the city and heard with amazement that Mexico was in rebellion against Spain. In 1816, when Apodaca succeeded Calleja as Viceroy of Mexico, he found the Republicans dispersed but far from conquered, and, in the hope of winning them back, adopted a mild policy of forgiveness. This proved successful. Leader after leader threw down his arms, till between Mexico city and Acapulco there was but one band of Republicans under arms. Their stronghold was a mountain on the road between the two cities, and was most difficult of access; their leaders were Guerrero, Asensio, and Bradburn, a native of Virginia, who had gone to Mexico with Mina, and their number about fifteen hundred.

In the hope of overcoming this last remnant of the Republicans, the viceroy appointed Augustine Iturbide to the command of the Department of the South, gave him some three thousand troops, sent him to Iguala, on the road to Acapulco, and bade him disperse the rebels. But before Iturbide had time to act news came of the revolution in Old Spain, of the re-establishment of the constitution, and of the introduction of reforms which aroused and alarmed the clergy. A cry for independence of the mother country was immediately raised, which Iturbide was not slow to turn to his own profit, and from his camp at Iguala he issued his pronunciamento in February, 1821. This famous plan proposed that Mexico should be turned into a limited constitutional monarchy; that the Crown should be offered to each member (if necessary) of the Bourbon family, beginning with Ferdinand Seventh; and that, if all refused it, the Mexican Cortes should select the king. A field-marshal with an army was at once sent against Iturbide. But the clergy, the soldiers, the

« PreviousContinue »