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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. 

Mexican Rule

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. 

American Annexation

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.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 

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