Monday, October 24, 2011

Remember the Slave Masters! er, the ALAMO!


Actually, it would have been Mexico City in Spanish in 1836. It reminds me of the time, quite a few years ago when it was safer to stroll the streets of Ciudad Juarez, I was in the museum reading the interpretive signs on the exhibits about the settlement of "Tejas" by someone named Esteban Austin. As I was reading and thinking in Spanish (no English translation) my head was pronouncing it "ow-STEEN." And I stopped. And still in my head I said, "Wait a minute! That's Stephen Austin!" It was interesting to see a little of the history of Mexico from a different perspective.

And I got a little more of that just finishing a book, David Crockett: The Lion of the West,by Michael Wallis (W.W. Norton & Co., New York 2011). This wasn't some anti-Crockett or anti-Texan screed. The author is quite a fan of his childhood hero, Davy Crockett ("King of the Wild Frontier"). Yet it was serious history, warts and all, including the fact that the heroic trio of the Alamo, Crockett, Travis, and Bowie, were all slaveholders. In fact, Travis and Bowie had even been slave traders and slave smugglers.

The freedom loving Texan heroes were from the slave-holding southern states of the U.S. It wasn't just a coincidence. Texas was founded on the principle of the expansion of slavery. Here's ol' Esteban Austin himself:
The situation of Texas is daily becoming more and more interesting, so much so that I doubt whether the Government of the United States or that of Mexico can much longer look on with indifference, or inaction. It is very evident that Texas should be effectively, and fully Americanized,--that is--settled by a population that will harmonize with their neighbors on the East, in language, political principles, common origin, sympathy, and even interest. Texas must be a slave country. It is no longer a matter of doubt. The interest of Louisiana requires that it should be. A population of  fanatical abolitionists in Texas would have a very dangerous and pernicious influence on the overgrown slave population of that state. Texas must and ought to become an outwork on the west, as Alabama and Florida were on the east, to defend the key of the western world--the mouths of the Mississippi.
Eugene C. Baker, Stephen F. Austin and the Independence of Texas, Southwestern Historical Quarterly Online 13, no. 4 (1933):271, Quoted in Wallis at 281-82. [emphasis in Wallis - the referenced link seems to fail, somehow].

Now General/Dictator Santa Anna certainly had his share of many, many (many) faults. But the Mexican Republic had declared no slavery and was concerned about the increasing presence of illegal, white slaveholders in their Tejas before those Texians declared their independence for "freedom's" sake.

I don't mean to be hard on people by judging them out of context. Some of the founders of the United States, as well as Texas, were slaveholders. I think there is a difference, though, when the founders of the U.S. Constitution established sacred principles that allowed later generations to build upon freedom even at the cost of a horrible Civil War.

Texas has come a long way too. The state produced a U.S. President, Lyndon Johnson, who in spite of many, many faults of his own was able to move first his Senate colleagues (at some level of betrayal to his Southern Filibusterers) and then the whole nation to a better hope for Civil Rights. Although Texas has had other politicians who still talk secession as they prepare to run for President of the whole United States.

It does bother me when history is distorted into myth leaving out some of the most important aspects. Maybe I'm going to have to just quit the History Book Club. Life and American heroes could be a little easier that way.

Davy Crockett from life - his favorite portrait according to Wallis
(not exactly Fess Parker)


  1. Interesting post. I had always thought that Fess Parker had sorted all that stuff out.

  2. Sorry Mod but the Texas War of Independence was NOT about slavery. The Mexican government already arrive at a compromise with the slaveholders (few though there were) by granting 99 year indentures before it even began. It's also important to note where James Bowie got all his slaves before he smuggled them into the U.S.....Mexico! Funny how slavery IN ALL FORMS was going on in Mexico BEFORE the Anglo-Americans showed up. But it was only AFTER they showed up that Mexicans(including that mass-murdering, ethnic cleansing dictator Santa Anna) objected to the practice in Texas! Wow, what racist hypocracy! Oh and by the way Ol' Esteban was not illegally in Mexico he and many (if not most) of the Anglo-Americans had been invited in to MAKE something of Texas that Mexicans (apparently) could not.

    1. Sorry, MD, but I don't think your caps help your argument. "Methinks the friend of Texas doth protest too much!"

      And I'm not a big fan of Santa Anna as I indicated. Or Texas, as you rightly figured out.


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