The early history of Texas may be regarded as a step in the great struggle
between England, France and Spain for the possession of America. The earliest
explorations were made by the Spaniards, Cabeza de Vaca, 1528-36, and Francisco
Vasquez de Coronado, 1540-42, but the first colony was that planted on
Matagorda Bay in 1685 by the French under the Sieur de la Salle. This was,
however, soon abandoned, and the field left to the Spanish. Beginning in
1690 they established several ecclesiastical, military and civil settlements
known respectively as missions (Franciscan), presidios, and pueblos. In
or near the city of San Antonio are the ruins of five missions built of
stone; and missions were more numerous in east Texas, but they were built
of wood and nothing remains to mark their location.
In 1727 the territory, with vaguely defined limits, was formed into
a province and named Tejas, or Texas, after the tribe or the confederacy
of Tejas Indians. For more than a century the conditions were favorable
for colonization. The French in Louisiana proved to be peaceable neighbors,
and that province, both under French (to 1763) and under Spanish rule (1763-1803)
served as a protection against the English. Spain failed to take advantage
of the opportunity, however, and it was lost when the United States purchased
Louisiana in 1803.
Three abortive Anglo-American invasions during the first few years of
the century indicated the future trend of events. The first, under Philip
Nolan, in 1799-1801, was poorly supported, and was crushed without difficulty;
the second, under Bernardo Gutierrez and Augustus Magee, 1812-13, captured
San Antonio and defeated several Mexican armies, but was finally overpowered;
the third, under James Long, an ex-officer of the United States
army, 1819-21, was less formidable. The year 1821 marks a significant turning
point in the history.
By the Florida treaty, finally ratified at that time, the claims
of the United States to Texas, based on the Louisiana purchase, were
given up, and the eastern and northern boundaries of the province were
determined. They were to be, in general terms, the Sabine river, the 94th
meridian (approximately), the Red river, the tooth meridian, the Arkansas
river, and the 42nd parallel. So far as Spain was concerned this was only
a form, inasmuch as Mexico, of which Texas formed a part, was just completing
its long struggle for independence. In that year also (December 1821) Stephen
F. Austin established the first permanent Anglo-American settlement at
San Felipe de Austin on the Brazos river. This was followed by an extensive
immigration from the United States during the period of Mexican rule (1821-36).
It is estimated that the population, exclusive of Indians, increased from
four thousand in 1821 to ten thousand in 1827, and nearly twenty thousand
in 1830. Most of the settlers came from the southern section of the Union
and of course brought their slaves with them, but there is no evidence
to show that their object was the territorial extension of slavery,
or that the revolt against Mexico was the result of dissatisfaction with
that country's anti-slavery policy.
Texas was joined to Coahuila in 1824 to form a state of the Mexican
federation. Although the attempt to force the Roman Catholic religion
upon the people, the federal decree of 1830 forbidding further immigration
from the states, and the reckless grants of land to Mexican favorites aroused
some ill feeling, the government on the whole was fairly liberal. The peace
party, led by Stephen F. Austin, was able to restrain the more warlike
followers of William H. Wharton and Henry Smith (1794-1851)
until 1835, when Santa Anna overthrew the federal constitution of 1824
and established a dictatorship. A consultation of representatives from
the various settlements met at San Felipe de Austin, October to November
1835. Under Austin's influence the delegates rejected an independence
resolution arid recommended a union with the Mexican Liberals for the restoration
of the constitution of 1824. A provisional government was organized with
Henry Smith as governor and James W. Robinson (d. 1853) as lieutenant-governor,
Sam Houston as major-general of the armies of Texas; and Austin, Wharton
and Branch T. Archer (1790-1858) were elected commissioners
to seek aid in the United States.
Texas War of Independence and the Republic of Texas
Hostilities had already begun. The Texans routed the Mexicans near Gonzales
on the 2nd of October. About a hundred men under Colonel James Bowie and
Captain J. W. Fannin defeated a Mexican force near Mission Conception on
the 28th of October; and after a campaign of nearly two months Bejar was
surrendered to them in December. In the Matamoras expedition the
Texan forces were severely crippled on account of a quarrel between
Governor Smith, who desired independence, and the majority of his council,
who favored union with the Mexican Liberals. The command was divided between
Houston, who was supported by the governor, and two leaders, Frank
W. Johnson and J. W. Fannin, who were appointed by the council. The
Mexicans under Santa Anna captured the Alamo on the 6th of March 1836 and
slaughtered its garrison of 183 men; on the l0th of the same month
they captured Fannin and his force of 371 men, and a week later slaughtered
all except twenty who escaped.
Houston now assumed active command and, surprising Santa Anna near the
San Jacinto, on the 21st of April, he dealt the enemy a crushing blow and
brought the war to an end; nearly all of Santa Anna's army were killed,
wounded or taken prisoners, and even Santa Anna himself was captured the
next day, while the Texans lost only two killed and twenty-three
wounded. The weakness of the Mexican Liberals and the necessity of securing
aid in the States led the Austin party to abandon their opposition to independence.
A convention, assembled in the town of Washington on the 1st of March,
adopted a declaration of independence on the 2nd and a republican constitution
on the 17th. Houston was elected president in September 1836, and the independence
of the republic was recognized in 1837 by the United States, Great
Britain, France and Belgium.
After a long conflict over the slavery question, the state was admitted
into the Union under a joint resolution of Congress adopted on the
1st of March 1845, on
condition that the United States should settle all questions
of boundary with foreign governments, that Texas should retain all of its
vacant and unappropriated public lands, and that new states, not exceeding
four in number, might be formed within its limits. The western boundary
claimed by the republic was the Rio Grande to its source and the meridian
of longitude from that point to the forty-second parallel, although
as a political division of Mexico its limits never extended farther west
than the Nueces and the Medina.
Some claim to this day that Texas was never legally acquired by the
United States as Congress does not have the power to acquire territory
via a joint resolution. However, Texas is not a unique case of the
use of a joint resolution of Congress to annex foreign land. Hawaii
was also annexed legally in this manner in 1898. International law
fully recognizes American ownership of Texas and arguments to the contrary
are false, are not supported by any nation or international governing body
such as the United Nations or the World Court, or by the vast majority
of the citizens of Texas.
The United States government asserted the Rio Grande claim and prepared
to enforce it at the cost of war; at the same time the Mexican government
considered annexation, regardless of the boundary question, a declaration
of war by the United States. An army of 2000 men under Zachary Taylor
(q.v.) arrived on the north bank of the Rio Grande, opposite Matamoras,
on the 28th of March 1846. The Mexican commander, Pedro de Ampudia,
demanded Taylor's withdrawal beyond the Nueces within twenty-four
hours. He did not obey, and Mariana Arista, Ampudia's successor, opened
hostilities. The Americans, out-numbered three to one, defeated the Mexicans
in the battles of Palo Alto (May 8th) and Resaca de la Palma
(May 9th). The war terminated in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (February
2, 1848) by which Mexico accepted the Rio Grande boundary.
American Civil War and Reconstruction
In the crisis of 1860-61 Texas sided with the other Southern States
in spite of the strong Unionist influence exerted by the German settlers
and by Governor Sam Houston. An ordinance of secession was adopted February
1, 1861, and Governor Houston was deposed from office on March 16th.
The state was never the scene of active military operations during the
Civil War (1861-65), although it is interesting to note that the last
battle of the conflict was fought on its soil, at Palmito, near Palo Alto,
on the 13th of May 1865, more than a month after the surrender at Appomattox.
In conformity with President Johnson's plan of reconstruction, a constitution
recognizing the abolition of slavery, renouncing the right of secession,
and repudiating the war debt was adopted in 1866, and J. W. Throckmorton,
Unionist Democrat, was elected governor. When, in 1867, the Congressional
plan of reconstruction was substituted, Texas was joined to Louisiana to
constitute the fifth military district, and the first commander, General
P. H. Sheridan, removed Throckmorton from office as " an impediment
to reconstruction " and appointed E. M. Pease in his place. Delegates to
a new constitutional convention were elected in 1868, the constitution
framed by this body was ratified in November 1869, state officers
and congressmen were elected the same day, the new legislature ratified
the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, and on the 30th of March 1870
Texas was readmitted to the Union.
Modern Day Texas
From the end of Reconstruction in the 1870s until the 1980s, politics
in Texas was dominated by the Democratic Party. The Republican Party had
hardly any influence on the state's politics. Some of the most important
American political figures of the 20th Century, such as President Lyndon
B. Johnson, Vice-President John Nance Garner, Speaker of the House Sam
Rayburn and Senator Ralph Yarborough were Texas Democrats. However, the
Texas Democrats were rarely united, being divided into conservative and
moderate factions that vied with one another for power.
Beginnings in the 1960s, Republican strength increased in Texas. Nationally,
Democrats became increasingly liberal and Republicans became increasingly
conservative, resulting in many conservative Democrats leaving the party
and joining the Republicans.
In 1994, popular Democratic Governor Ann Richards lost her bid for re-election
against Republican George W. Bush. In 1998, Bush won re-election in a landslide
victory, which saw all statewide Democratic office-holders thrown out of
office. In 2002, Texas Republicans gained control of the Texas House of
Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction; investigations
into possible illegal campaign fundraising by the Republicans are ongoing.
The Texas state legislature engaged in a mid-decade redistricting warrant
plan, which critics claim was blatantly partisan; the result was a sweep
of the Texas congressional delegation during the 2004 election cycle.
Texas today is a state thoroughly steeped in tradition, yet equally
embracing of new social and technological developments. From the state
capital of Austin (also headquarters of Dell Computers and known as "Silicon
Hills") to the cosmopolitan air of Dallas, to the oil-and-finance rich
industry of Houston to the Latinesque cultures of San Antonio and El Paso,
the state tourism slogan truly fits: "Texas: It's like a whole other country."
Portions of this text is from the public domain print edition of the
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.