William Bryan, Texas diplomat, was influential in the formation of the Republic of Texas as one of a group of United States citizens who secretly supported the Texas cause and provided Texas with financial assistance, supplies, and services such as transporting and outfitting volunteers and chartering and fitting out vessels for the Texas Navy. Documentation regarding his birth, marriage, and death has not been discovered.
The initial days of the provisional government were filled with many difficulties. One major problem was that the country lacked resources to conduct a protracted and vigorous war against Mexico. Texas was forced to seek outside assistance from its only supporter, the United States. To fill this need, Bryan and his mercantile firm appeared in Texas history for the first time. Bryan provided the Texas government with numerous reports and several financial records, which document his activity. On January 14, 1836, he was appointed general agent for Texas in New Orleans. After a few months of providing goods and services to Texas, mostly on credit, he began to worry that Texas and his business would not be able to meet their financial commitments because no cash was coming from the government or Texas commissioners. Unfortunately for him, the Texas government never provided the necessary funds to pay outstanding bills, so Bryan was compelled to borrow cash or use his own capital to delay bill collectors and attempt to maintain good credit. By July 1836 the Texas government owed Bryan's firm $77,468, which was later repaid to him in slow-moving land scrip.
Bryan also orchestrated a clandestine operation that provided Texas with valuable intelligence about Mexico. In New Orleans publications he conducted propaganda campaigns to maintain favorable public opinion about Texas. He provided legal assistance to Texas and its military personnel. His ability to assess and react to critical situations is evident in his handling of the Pocket and Brutus affairs. By his actions, Bryan avoided a possible international confrontation between Texas and the United States. He also made Texas aware of its international duties to other nations upon the seas.
Bryan's reward, however, was not a just one. The administration of David Burnet replaced his agency with Toby and Brother, leaving him with an enormous personal debt and damaged credit. During Mirabeau B. Lamar's presidency, the republic realized its mistake and appointed Bryan consul to New Orleans. He then provided valuable assistance to the second Texas Navy. He remained consul to New Orleans until annexation, then suddenly disappeared from history.
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Alma Howell Brown, "The Consular Service of the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 33 (January, April 1930). Robert W. Kesting, William Bryan and the Navy from Abroad (M.A. thesis, St. Mary's University, 1985).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Robert W. Kesting,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 27, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
April 4, 2019