Cazneau, Jane Maria Eliza McManus (1807–1878)

By: Robert E. May

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 21, 2016

Jane Cazneau [pseuds.: Montgomery, Cora Montgomery, Corrine Montgomery], journalist, author, promoter, and unofficial diplomat, daughter of William Telemachus and Catharina (Coons) McManus, was born in or near Troy, New York, on April 6, 1807. Her father served in the United States Congress from 1825 to 1827. She had three brothers, including Robert O. W. She was apparently raised Lutheran but seems to have become Catholic as a young woman. She married William F. (or Allen B.) Storms in 1825 and had a son but was divorced in 1831. Three years later she was named as Aaron Burr's mistress in a divorce suit brought against the former United States vice president. Jane McManus Storms (she used both surnames at different times after her divorce) first became active in Texas in 1832, when, to offset declining family fortunes, she investigated opportunities both to resettle her parents and to contract to bring immigrants to Stephen F. Austin's colonies, in what was then the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas. With her brother Robert she traveled to Texas on the first of nine trips that she made there between 1832 and 1849. She applied to Austin for a headright and a league of coastal land in 1834 and 1835, respectively. An acquaintance recollected that the Mexican government granted her eleven leagues of land for her project but that she lacked the financial means to move her settlers, a group of Germans, from the Texas coast to the designated colony. According to this account, the enterprise broke up at Matagorda, where Jane resided for several months. She may not have lived on her land long enough to get final title and may have forfeited her claim. In a letter posted from New York in 1835, she alluded to owning 1,000 acres in Austin's colony, over and above a league she claimed as a settler. She speculated actively in Texas land from 1834 to 1851. Meanwhile, apparently in 1833, her brother Robert and her parents moved to Matagorda, Texas, although her father returned north before his death in 1835.

Land interests and the presence of family gave Jane McManus a vested interest in the future of Texas. When the Texas Revolution erupted, she announced an intent to contribute money and arms to the cause of Texas independence. In the mid-1840s her columns in the New York Sun helped swing United States public opinion in favor of the annexation of the Republic of Texas. She contributed "The Presidents of Texas" to the March 1845 issue of the Democratic Review. That same year her Texas and Her Presidents, With a Glance at Her Climate and Agricultural Capabilities was published in New York. In December 1849 she married Texas entrepreneur and politician William Leslie Cazneau. From 1850 to 1852 she and her new husband lived at Eagle Pass, where he founded a town, opened a trade depot, and investigated mining opportunities. Jane recounted her experiences there in Eagle Pass; or Life on the Border (1852). In this book, in letters to United States Senator William H. Seward, and in columns for the New York Tribune, she charged that Mexicans had been kidnapping Texas residents into peonage in Mexico. Her complaints induced the United States Department of State to broach the issue with the government of Mexico. Eagle Pass also inspired Frederick Law Olmsted to investigate the matter. Olmsted reported in A Journey Through Texas that he found no evidence to corroborate Mrs. Cazneau's accusations. Throughout the antebellum period, she maintained close ties to Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas. Lamar dedicated a volume of poetry to her (Verse Memorials, 1857). Her will, drafted in 1877, lists 1,000 acres at Eagle Pass and other Texas properties among her assets.

Jane Cazneau participated in United States diplomacy almost a century before the first woman was appointed to the United States Foreign Service. During the Mexican War she played an important, if unofficial, part in the unsuccessful secret peace mission of Sun editor Moses Yale Beach to Mexico City, from November 1846 to April 1847, an assignment authorized by President James K. Polk. During that mission she became the only female war correspondent and the only American journalist to issue reports from behind enemy lines. Upon returning to the states she championed the "All Mexico" movement. Between 1847 and her death she also promoted United States annexation of Cuba, United States commercial penetration of the Dominican Republic, American Filibuster William Walker's conquest of Nicaragua, United States control of transit routes across the Mexican and Nicaraguan isthmuses, and other variants of "Manifest Destiny." She resided for much of the 1850s in the Dominican Republic, where her husband was serving as United States secret agent and commissioner, diplomatic missions which she helped initiate. It is difficult to separate ideology from self-interest when it comes to her expansionist advocacy; she and her husband made substantial investments that promised profit if the United States government implemented her policies. To promote these causes as well as her opinions on domestic political issues, she wrote letters to presidents and demanded and received presidential audiences. She socialized with and sent letters to politicians and journalists, including James K. Polk, James Buchanan, Jefferson Davis, Horace Greeley, Thurlow Weed, and William H. Seward. She contributed pieces to city newspapers on the East Coast, including the New York Sun, the Philadelphia Public Ledger, the Washington States, and the New York Tribune, as well as magazines such as Hunt's Commercial Magazine and the Democratic Review. She bought into the New York Morning Star, so that she could use its press to publish her own expansionist journal, the short-lived Our Times. Between 1848 and 1853 her column "The Truth," regularly published in the Spanish-and-English-language newspaper La Verdad, advocated the annexation of Cuba to the United States. Her books, particularly The Queen of Islands (1850) and Our Winter Eden: Pen Pictures of the Tropics (1878), conveyed her expansionist message.

The Cazneaus purchased Esmeralda, an estate in the Dominican Republic, in 1855. Though the Abraham Lincoln administration terminated Cazneau's diplomatic appointment to that country in 1861, around the time that Spain was reannexing the Dominican Republic, he and his wife remained at their estate. When Spanish troops destroyed Esmeralda in October 1863, they fled to Keith Hall in Jamaica, another of their properties. After Spanish evacuation of the Dominican Republic in 1865, they returned and became involved in both the project of President Andrew Johnson to acquire a United States coaling station at SamanĂ¡ Bay and President U. S. Grant's attempt to annex the Dominican Republic to the United States. William Cazneau died in 1876. Jane Cazneau died in the sinking of the steamship Emily B. Souder, bound from New York to Santo Domingo, on December 10, 1878. Her will left her property to Ann S. Stephens, a prolific New York writer.

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Jane Cazneau Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Jane Cazneau Papers, New York Historical Society, New York City; Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Edward P. Crapol, ed., Women and American Foreign Policy: Lobbyists, Critics, and Insiders (New York: Greenwod, 1987). Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin. Anna Kasten Nelson, "Jane Storms Cazneau: Disciple of Manifest Destiny," Prologue 18 (Spring 1986). Tom Reilly, "Jane McManus Storms: Letters from the Mexican War, 1846–1848," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 85 (July 1981).

  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Republic of Texas
  • Civil War
  • Texas Revolution
  • South Texas

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

Robert E. May, “Cazneau, Jane Maria Eliza McManus,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022,

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June 21, 2016

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