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CUSTOMS SERVICE OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS

CUSTOMS SERVICE OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS. The need for the government revenue and taxation program that would be considered least onerous by Texans prompted the General Council to enact a revenue tariff law in December 1835. This and subsequent enactments established what came to be known as the Customs Service of the Republic of Texas. Revenue districts designated were Galveston, Sabine, Brazos, Matagorda, Jackson, Aransas, La Bacca (Lavaca), Copano, and Maximilian.

At the Convention of 1836 any earlier customs systems were declared void, and the republic enacted the formation of the customs service in December 1836. In June 1837 administration of customs was placed under the Treasury Department, and collectors of customs were appointed by the president, subject to confirmation by the Senate. Sometime later a comptroller of customs was made responsible for administering revenue laws. Lower-ranking officers were to be selected at each district port of entry by the respective collectors, the districts being designated as Aransas, Matagorda, Brazos, Galveston, Sabine, and San Augustine. In 1839 the district of La Vaca was carved from Matagorda district, and in 1841 the Matagorda and La Vaca districts were consolidated into the district of Calhoun. In 1842 a northeastern district, Red River, was established, and in 1845 Red River, Bowie, Harrison, Rusk, and part of Nacogdoches counties were organized as the Soda Lake district.

For collection of revenue and enforcement of the tariff, customhouses were maintained at Galveston, Aransas Pass, Linnville, Port La Vaca, Copano, Point Bolivar, Sabine Pass, Matagorda, Velasco, Sabine City, San Augustine, Port Calhoun or Cavallo, San Luis, and various river landings. The buildings were usually frame structures of from one to three rooms, poorly furnished and equipped. Employees of these offices were, for the most part, few in number and inadequate for preventing evasion of the tariff laws. At Galveston the officials included a collector and deputy collector, each of whom was paid $2,000 a year; a cashier, $1,600; a bookkeeper, $2,000; an entry clerk, $1,600; a permit clerk, $1,600; a storekeeper, $1,400; an impost clerk, $1,600; a boarding officer, $1 500; two boatmen at $90 a month each; and nine inspectors and an appraiser, paid for the days they were actually employed. In number and salary Galveston employees were the exception rather than the rule, for Galveston was the chief port of entry to Texas and the most important revenue district as well. Gail Borden, Jr., served as Galveston collector from 1837 to December 1838, when Dr. Willis Roberts assumed charge. Roberts was succeeded by Alden A. M. Jackson in December 1839. Borden returned to the customhouse in January 1842 and continued as collector until relieved by James H. Cocke in January 1844.

Galveston trade from June 1, 1837, to March 1839 was largely confined to the import of manufactured goods, assorted groceries, and liquors from New Orleans and New York. The economic condition of Texas forced her into an unfavorable balance of trade until 1842. During the year of greatest importation, 1839, Texas commerce expanded to the ports of Europe, and by 1844 the trade included Trieste, Antwerp, Cork, Dunkirk, London, Liverpool, and Le Havre. Statistics compiled from reports of collectors of customs, the comptroller of customs, and the secretary of the treasury indicate that the Texas treasury received a total of $1,984,423.62 from customs between June 1837 and October 1846.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

R. E. L. Crane, The Administration of the Customs Service of the Republic of Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1939).

R. E. L. Crane, Jr.

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

R. E. L. Crane, Jr., "CUSTOMS SERVICE OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mcc03), accessed July 28, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.