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Coahuila and Texas

Jesús F. de la Teja General

In 1689–90 Alonso De León, governor of the Spanish province of Coahuila, extended his authority to include Texas. Early in 1691 he was succeeded by Domingo Téran de los Ríos, who was appointed governor of Coahuila and Texas. In 1693, however, Spain withdrew the Franciscan missions from East Texas, and it was not until 1716 that Martín de Alarcón, who had been appointed governor of Coahuila in 1702, reextended his control over Texas. Alarcón was succeeded by the Marqués de Aguayo, who left Fernando Pérez de Almazán in charge of Texas when he withdrew in 1722, effectively separating the government of Texas from that of Coahuila. Beginning with Almazán, the provinces were governed separately, with the capital of Coahuila at Monclova and that of Texas at Los Adaes until 1773, when the capital was transferred to San Antonio de Béxar. Due to its frontier circumstances, the governorship of Texas on more than one occasion was exercised by the governor of neighboring Coahuila, most importantly by Manuel Antonio Cordero y Bustamante in the period immediately following the Louisiana Purchase.

During the constituent congress of 1823–24, the Eastern Interior Provinces of Nuevo León, Nuevo Santander, Coahuila, and Texas were broken up, leaving the latter two as a single state under the Constitution of 1824, with the stipulation that at a future date Texas could separate when it had attained sufficient population to undertake self-government. A constituent congress was elected and assembled at Saltillo in August 1824, and a provisional governor was named for the state. A provisional chief was appointed for Texas in August 1824, and in December the Department of Texas was legally established as a subdivision of the state of Coahuila and Texas. The Constitution of Coahuila and Texas was adopted on March 11, 1827. The state was at first divided into five departments, of which Texas because of its sparse population formed a single one with the set of government at San Antonio. In an attempt to placate Texas demands for greater representation, the number of departments increased to seven in 1833–34: Saltillo, Parras, Monclova, Rosas, Bexar, Brazos, and Nacogdoches. The seats of the Texas departments were the towns San Antonio de Béxar, San Felipe de Austin, and Nacogdoches respectively.

During the period that Monclova replaced Saltillo as the capital of the state beginning in March 1833, the legislature at Monclova passed several acts beneficial to Texas aside from creating the new departments, which increased the representation of Texas in the legislature. A number of new municipalities were authorized, and the use of English in schools and public affairs was authorized. Also the Monclova government attempted to revise the judicial system, which had been particularly troublesome to Texans, by appointing Thomas J. Chambers superior judge of a three-district judicial circuit created for Texas, and by providing within this new system for trial by jury. Chambers was prevented from organizing the court system, however, by the ensuing difficulties in Coahuila.

The reforms enacted by the Federalist-controlled legislature were in response to Texas agitation in favor of separate statehood. Following the immigration restricting and tariff stiffening passage of the Law of April 6, 1830, by the federal congress. In 1832–33 Anglo Texans and Tejanos separately complained about the treatment of Texas both at the hands of the federal government and within the state government. In particular, the Anglo-Texan portions of Texas held conventions in fall 1832 and spring 1833 that advocated for separate statehood, the 1833 meeting going as far as drafting a constitution for Texas. Although the constitution was only approved by the convention, in which the Tejano towns were not represented, Stephen F. Austin presented it to the Mexican government. When Austin reported the government’s rejection of Texas’s cession from Coahuila to Texas, indicating that Texans should nevertheless proceed with separation, he was arrested on a charge of sedition, furthering unsettling relations between Texas and Coahuila on the eve of the Centralist overthrow of the Federalist constitutional order.

When the Monclova legislature closed its session in April 1834, Coahuila lapsed into confusion. A rump meeting of the Monclova deputation in June declared against Antonio López de Santa Anna's Plan of Cuernavaca. In July, Saltillo formed a state government in opposition to the Monclova faction, annulled the acts of the previous legislature, and appointed José María Goribar as military governor. The time for elections arrived amid growing party hostility, but before any serious collision occurred, the rival governments submitted their case to Santa Anna for arbitration. The Mexican president ordered that Monclova remain the seat of government and that a new election should be held for the entire state. Elections were held, but trouble arose almost immediately, and, in protest against a decree providing for the wasteful sale of public land in Texas, the Saltillo faction withdrew from the newly-elected legislature. The national government was petitioned to nullify the elections which, it was alleged, had been conducted illegally. Martín Perfecto de Cos, military commandant for the eastern division of the Provincias Internas, supported the Saltillo faction in a stand against the Texas land sales and ordered a company of federal troops to disband the legislature at Monclova. After decreeing that the governor had the authority to change capitals, the legislature hastily adjourned on April 21, 1835. Agustín Viesca then called out the militia with the object of reducing Saltillo and, when threatened by General Cos, resolved to make San Antonio de Béxar the capital of the department. In this he was supported by a number of Texans under the command of Juan Seguín, and on May 25, accompanied by about 150 militiamen and twenty-odd Texans, he left Monclova with the archives. The military was ordered to prevent his crossing the Rio Grande, and he returned to Monclova to attempt a secret withdrawal to Texas aided by Benjamin R. Milam and John Cameron. The party was captured and imprisoned, but most of the men escaped and eventually reached Texas. Viesca and the remaining members of the legislature were arrested in Coahuila. José Miguel Falcón, who was appointed governor, was replaced on August 8 by Rafael Ecay Músquiz, but neither man served. Ramón Músquiz, the vice governor under Viesca, took over the governorship on June 28, 1835. This overthrow of constitutional government, together with the arrest of the incendiary Viesca, precipitated long-smoldering resistance in Texas and led to the Texas declaration against Santa Anna. In November 1835 the Consultation declared Texas a separate state under the Constitution of 1824 and formed a provisional government. The severance of Texas and Coahuila was made final by the Texas Revolution and the Mexican War.

Charles A. Bacarisse, “The Union of Coahuila and Texas,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 61 (January 1958). Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of the North Mexican States and Texas (2 vols., San Francisco: History Company, 1886, 1889). Gregg Cantrell, Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999). Jesús F. de la Teja, Faces of Béxar: Early San Antonio and Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2016). Paul D. Lack, The Texas Revolutionary Experience: A Political and Social History, 1835–1836 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992). Manuel González Oropeza and Jesús F. de la Teja, eds., Actas del congreso constituyente de Coahuila y Texas, de 1824 a 1827. Primera constitución bilingüe / Proceedings of the Constituent Congress of Coahuila and Texas, 1824–1827: Mexico’s Only Bilingual Constitution, 2 vols. (Mexico City: Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación, 2016). Vito Alessio Robles, Coahuila y Texas en la época colonial (Mexico City: Editorial Cultura, 1938; 2d ed., Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa, 1978). 

Categories:

  • Exploration
  • Communities and Jurisdictions

Time Periods:

  • Spanish Texas
  • Mexican Texas

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

Jesús F. de la Teja, “Coahuila and Texas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 25, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/coahuila-and-texas.

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