Mexican Texas

By: Arnoldo de León

Revised by: Jesús "Frank" de la Teja

Type: General Entry

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: May 2, 2022

The Mexican war of independence (1810–21), one of the rebellions that erupted throughout Latin America to overthrow Spanish colonial rule (see SPANISH TEXAS), left Mexico with an array of problems that touched upon events in the far northern Mexican province of Texas. Economically, the country faced devastation in 1821. It stood in marked contrast to the rich colony that had promised great potential towards the end of the colonial era. Money barely circulated. Once-rich mines struggled to regain their former efficiency. Ranches and farms were no longer productive. Entire areas experienced depopulation as people sought out a livelihood elsewhere. Moreover, while social distinctions persisted, as the military and church officials sought the preservation of the colonial order, emerging commercial and local landed interests attempted to introduce liberal modes of governance based on United States and European models.

Unlike the United States, which evolved out of the confederation of individual colonies, each with its own legislative, executive, and judicial systems, and which gave way to the union of states under the constitution of 1787, Mexico had no history of even limited provincial autonomy. Before 1810 all administrative officers beyond the municipal level were royal appointees, there was no separation of powers, and the only representative political institutions were the cabildos (municipal councils also called ayuntamientos), some of which contained aldermen who had purchased their posts for life and others of whom were elected. Also elected were the magistrates (alcaldes) who combined executive and judicial functions at the municipal level. Even the Catholic Church was an arm of the government and responsive to royal interests. Between 1810 and 1821, at the same time that the country experienced rebellion and Spain suffered through the upheavals of the Napoleonic intervention and the reestablishment of Bourbon rule afterwards, the viceregal government was caught between reform and reaction. Ultimately, it was the revolt of a Spanish expeditionary force assembling in Cadiz and the re-imposition of the Constitution of 1812, which made Spain a constitutional monarchy, that created an opening for Mexico to declare its independence. Despite, or perhaps precisely because of its frontier situation, Texas was profoundly influenced by the events of the decade (see TEXAS IN THE AGE OF MEXICAN INDEPENDENCE), its circumstances giving it an outsized role in the first decade of independence.

Following a brief period of uncertaintity, Agustín Iturbide engineered his election as emperor of a Mexican empire that conformed to the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of New Spain in today’s Mexico, Central America, and the southwestern United States. The failure of the monarchical experiment (1822–23) nevertheless left a lasting influence in Texas, which through the efforts of Moses and Stephen F. Austin was opened to foreign settlement through the Imperial Colonization Law. Growing interest in Texas land by American, Mexican, and European speculators led the constituent congress that replaced Iturbide’s regime to issue a new colonization law in 1824 that left most matters regarding settlement and immigration in the hands of the states. A year later, the state of Coahuila and Texas passed its own colonization law, which became the basis for all land colonization contracts after Austin’s initial agreement (see MEXICAN COLONIZATION LAWS). Ultimately, disagreements between state and national authorities and between Texans and Coahuilans over land matters became an important contributor to the Texas Revolution.

Equally important to the development of the independence movement in Texas a decade later was the adoption of the Constitution of 1824, which transformed Mexico into a federal republic. With the failure of the monarchists, the political interests of provincial elites gained the upper hand in the constituent congress of 1823–24, where men such as Lorenzo de Zavala advocated a national compact similar in the relationship between the national and state governments to what the United States had experimented with under the Articles of Confederation. Unlike the United States, where the previously autonomous colonies joined together to create the union, in Mexico the process was much more complex, with the congress itself giving birth to some states. In the case of the sparsely-settled northern frontier provinces, their status would hinge on negotiations among bordering jurisdictions. Eventually, both California and New Mexico obtained only territorial status, which, as in the case of the United States, meant that they were under the direct supervision of the national government.

Under the old regime, Texas had been part of a collective known as the Eastern Interior Provinces, which included Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, and Texas. Even though Texas sent representatives to the first and second constituent congresses—Father Refugio de la Garza and Erasmo Seguín respectively—the expectation was that the province would form part of a larger super state. As Tamaulipas and Nuevo León demanded and were granted separate statehood, Texas became reconciled to joining Coahuila in forming the territorially largest but also the poorest and most sparsely-settled state in the Mexican union. As Anglo-American immigration increased and Mexican national politics remained unstable and often violent, the union between Texas and Coahuila became increasingly unstable and became yet another important factor in the independence movement.

The Constitution of 1824 affected the development of Texas in other ways. Under its terms, Mexico remained a Catholic nation, and, although there was freedom of conscience, public worship was restricted to Catholicism. Also, while slavery and the slave trade were debated in the congress, neither the colonization law nor the constitution addressed the issue, which left the legality of slavery ambiguous. Both Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos had decreed abolition during the 1810s, but the status of those declarations was unsettled. The Baron de Bastrop succeeded in keeping things ambiguous by ensuring that the state colonization law of 1825 merely stated that “the new settlers as regards the introduction of slaves shall subject themselves to the existing laws, and those which may hereafter be established on the subject” (art. 46). Lastly, congress reserved to itself the authority to create states out of territories or allow new states to be carved from existing ones but did not specify the process by which such changes would be made. In matters of citizenship and electoral processes, the Constitution of 1824 left matters in the hands of the states, except for declaring that the president and vice president would be elected by the legislatures of the states rather than by the people directly and that it had the authority to create a uniform process of naturalization. With regard to the public domain, the national government retained control only over federal territories and made the national government’s permission necessary for the distribution to foreigners of land along the border with the United States and along the coast. In one way or another all these issues would become points of contention as the population of Texas swelled with immigrants from the United States.

The constituent legislature of Coahuila and Texas was among the slowest in producing a state constitution, which did not appear until 1827. In the meantime, it issued a number of decrees that affected the development of Texas. Whereas Monclova had been the provincial capital of Coahuila and San Antonio the provincial capital of Texas, following the merger of the two provinces into the new state, the first capital was placed at Saltillo, the state’s largest city and a major frontier commercial center during the colonial period. Coahuila and Texas was divided into departments, and at first the whole of Texas, because of its small population, was treated as a single department with its seat at San Antonio, where a jefe politico, or political chief, who was appointed by the governor, served as the chief administrative officer. At the legislature the Baron de Bastrop was the first representative from Texas, which was entitled to only one deputy. As the department’s population grew from approximately 5,000 in 1824 to more than 20,000 a decade later, the state government attempted to appease the growing dissatisfaction of the Anglo-American settlers with their relationship to the rest of the state by increasing Texas representation in the legislature. Texas was first divided into two departments in 1833—Béxar, with its seat as San Antonio, and Texas with its seat at San Felipe de Austin, which also served as the headquarters of Austin’s land business—each with a representative. The following year, as a further concession, the legislature further divided the eastern part of Texas into two departments, with the one based at San Felipe renamed Brazos and the new one, named Texas, based at Nacogdoches.

The Baron de Bastrop, who died before work on the state constitution was finished, served on the colonization committee, which produced the state colonization law of March 24, 1825, more than two years before the constitution appeared. The legislation attempted to bring about the peopling of Coahuila and Texas, encourage the tilling of the soil and the growth of ranches, and facilitate commerce. It stated that Americans could settle in the state, though Mexicans were to have first choice of lands; that for a nominal payment a settler could receive as much as a league or sitio (4428.4 acres) of land for grazing and cultivation; that immigrants were temporarily free of every kind of tax; and that newcomers had to take an oath promising to abide by the federal and state constitutions, to worship according to the Christian religion, and to display sound moral principles and good conduct. After accepting these terms and settling in Texas, immigrants earned the standing of naturalized Mexicans. The provision addressing slavery merely called on new settlers to conform to existing and future laws.

Foreigners seeking land in Texas could negotiate individually, but the more common method was to act through immigration agents (empresarios), who contracted with the state government to settle eligible settlers within designated tracts of land. Working with government appointed land commissioners, who issued the land titles, empresarios would earn five sitios and five labores for each 100 families brought and settled once the terms of the contract were completed. Aside from Austin, who made his first contract under the Imperial Colonization Law of 1823, and Martín De León, who received permission to establish a colony from the Texas Provincial Deputation before Coahuila and Texas were joined, about twenty empresario contracts were made by the state, including two with the business partnerships of John McMullen and James McGloin and James Power and James Hewetson to bring Irish Catholic families. A handful of prominent Mexicans also obtained contracts, including Lorenzo de Zavala. The empresario system proved controversial, especially when the national government sought to end it through the Law of April 6, 1830, from the effects of which only Austin and Green DeWitt were considered exempt. Although parts of the law were later repealed, abuses and conflicts over colonization contracts, including between Austin and his partner Samuel Williams and Sterling Robertson, and the illegal purchase by the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company of the empresario contracts of Joseph Vehlein, a German-Mexican businessman, future Republic of Texas president David G. Burnet, and Lorenzo de Zavala.

Even before Mexican independence, government officials had had difficulty controlling immigration into Texas. Pleas to the national government for the necessary resources to control the border went largely unheeded. The Americans, including an increasing number of squatters, who settled in the eastern part of the province, violated colonization statutes, imposed their own practices on local affairs, and came into conflict with the settled population and each other. In 1826 the empresario Haden Edwards, having been rebuffed in his effort to force preexisting settlers within the boundaries of his contract to present their land titles or pay him land fees, went so far as to proclaim the Nacogdoches area an independent republic, the Republic of Fredonia (see FREDONIAN REBELLION). Though the episode was short-lived, as even fellow empresarios denounced Edwards, the Mexican government came to fear that continued immigration might well produce secessionist sentiments among Anglo-Texans.

Partly in response to the troubles in Texas, the national government organized a scientific and boundary commission under Gen. Manuel de Mier y Terán to survey conditions along the border with the United States. The commission spent almost a year in eastern Texas in 1828–29, during which Mier y Terán came to see only a major effort by the national government to control immigration, regulate trade, and deal effectively with the increasingly complex American Indian relations (see “Republics of Mexico and Texas” in AMERICAN INDIANS) as necessary to retain the province. His report formed the basis of the Law of April 6, 1830, which was drafted by Lucas Alamán, minister of foreign affairs. The law voided those empresario contracts still not in compliance. It further curtailed immigration from the United States, although officials did permit continued settlement in the colonies of Austin and DeWitt because these two empresarios were ruled to have settled the required 100 families; in actuality, however, both had yet to fulfill their contracts. Military bases were to be established as a means of policing illegal immigration. Slaves, the law stipulated, were not to be imported from the United States, though those already in Texas would remain enslaved.

The Law of April 6, 1830, was the second action of the national government to affect Texas in less than year. In September 1829 President Vicente Guerrero issued a decree abolishing slavery, although Texas received an exemption in December, just before being overthrown at the end of the year. Guerrero, a member of the Federalist political faction that embraced the strong states’ rights ideology embedded in the Constitution of 1824, was deposed by the Centralist faction, which espoused the primacy of the national government over the states. Vice President Anastasio Bustamante, a Centralist, had warned against unchecked Anglo-American immigration while serving on the frontier and welcomed the opportunity to bring Texas under tighter control.

Among those inveighing against the Law of April 6 were Anglo-American settlers, political leaders in Coahuila, and Tejano oligarchs who thought that inexpensive settlement from the United States portended the wealth of Texas. Federalists in Coahuila and Texas had welcomed Anglos as a way of providing security from Apache hostilities, developing the cotton lands of Texas, and establishing prosperity through commerce. With more and more foreigners seeking to convert their land acquisitions into farmsteads, entrepreneurs in Texas and Coahuila foresaw the realization of their ambitious plan to develop the region. As commercial activity grew, they envisaged for themselves an economic network extending into Louisiana, Coahuila, and the far north of Mexico. But Anglo immigrants could be attracted only if they were permitted to use the Gulf ports, exempted from taxes, allowed to continue introducing slaves, and offered other inducements.

Among those upset with the anti-immigration policy outlined in the Law of April 6 were Anglo-Americans who attacked the military post at Anahuac in the summer of 1832. Their pretext was the arrest for sedition of the lawyer William Barret Travis by the Anahuac commander Col. John Davis Bradburn, an Anglo-American adventurer who belonged to the Centralist faction in Mexico. Fortunately, ranking military figures defused the crisis by reassigning Bradburn and releasing Travis and other inmates (see ANAHUAC DISTURBANCES). On June 13, 1832, the attackers issued the Turtle Bayou Resolutions, wherein they explained the attack as an expression of dissatisfaction with Bradburn, not the government in the interior. But Anglo volunteers and Mexican troops skirmished again at the battle of Velasco on June 26. As of 1832, however, the "War party"—as the radicals came to be labeled—lacked popular support; in fact many Anglo-Texan colonists branded them as adventurers.

The disturbances in Texas took place within the broader context of a Federalist uprising against the Bustamante regime. By the end of 1832, the Federalists, led by Antonio López de Santa Anna, entered Mexico City and removed the Centralists. He won election to the presidency in March 1833, but almost immediately left Mexico City for his hacienda, leaving his more radical vice president, Valentín Gómez Farías to govern. The Federalist government then revoked the article in the Law of April 6, 1830, that curtailed immigration from the United States, and the Anglo-American influx resumed. But in May 1834 Santa Anna turned against Gómez Farías, who, in Santa Anna's absence, had passed legislation that infringed on the prerogatives of the clergy, army officers, and privileged classes. Now turned Centralist, Santa Anna’s return to the capital and began the dismantlement of the Federalist system. A new congress abrogated the Constitution of 1824 and in October 1835 disbanded the legislatures and converted the states into departments governed by appointees of the president. In effect, it established a Centralist state. The rise of the Centralists incited uprisings in such states as Zacatecas, though these were not independence movements.

The contest between Federalism and Centralism had also been going on at the state level in Coahuila and Texas. Most parts of the state resented Saltillo’s dominance, especially Monclova, which had been the provincial capital of Coahuila until 1824. To assert the government’s autonomy, the Federalists in the legislature moved the seat of government to Monclova in 1833. At Monclova, the state government under the administration of Béxar native Juan Martín Veramendi began attempts to address the complaints of the Texas settler population. Veramendi, whose daughter Ursula had married James Bowie, was one of a group of Tejano Federalist oligarchs who also saw the need for reforms at the state and national levels. Although they disagreed with the Anglo Texans’ use of two conventions—the Convention of 1832 and the Convention of 1833—to demand the separation of Texas from Coahuila and changes to the Law of April 6, 1830, they supported the general ideas presented at the conventions.

While Austin went to Mexico City as the representative of the 1833 convention to lobby for the requested reforms, the government at Monclova proved to be receptive to the pleas from Texas. Among the actions of the Federalist state legislature was permitting the use of English in legal documents and proceedings, the adoption of trial by jury, and creation of a circuit court for Texas. As mentioned earlier, the legislature also recognized the growing population of Texas and expanded its representation in the legislature as early as 1831. In summer 1834 the government was finally able to implement the division of Texas into three departments—one based at San Antonio, one at San Felipe de Austin, and one at Nacogdoches. Unfortunately, the state’s coffers remained as empty as they had been since the formation of Coahuila and Texas a decade earlier. Despite warnings from the national government, which by this time had returned to Centralist control, the legislature in the spring of 1835 promulgated a law authorizing the governor to dispose of up to 400 leagues of land in order to raise the needed funds to meet the danger confronting federalism. Another decree permitted the distribution of 400 leagues to finance militia units to deal with threats from American Indian insurgents. Both Mexico City and the Anglo Texan parts of Texas saw the sales as evidence of corrupt deals between Monclova politicians and land speculators, contributing to growing tensions between Texas, Monclova, and Mexico City.

Stephen F. Austin found the Federalist-run national government also receptive to reforms, as key provisions of the Law of April 6, 1830, were reversed. Canceled empresario contracts were reinstated, which appealed to many settlers whose grants had been thrown into question, and immigration from the United States was reopened. What neither acting president Gómez Farías and the Federalist congress nor the state federalists were willing to give Texans was separate statehood (see CONSTITUTION PROPOSED IN 1833). Aside from any fears that Texas statehood would be the step toward the loss of Texas entirely, they could also argue that Texas did not yet have sufficient population to form its own state. When Austin wrote the authorities back in Texas that he had failed to obtain the separation of Texas from Coahuila but that Texas should prepare to separate anyway, he was arrested and remained in custody until summer 1835, by which time circumstances had brought Texas to the brink of revolt.

At the end of the Mexican war of Independence the population of Texas numbered approximately 2,500. Throughout the 1820s the size of the immigrant population increased, then stagnated following the adoption of the Law of April 6, 1830. Settlers arrived nonetheless; in any case the law was nullified in 1834. That year Juan N. Almonte, sent by Mexico on an inspection tour of Texas, estimated the Anglo population at about 20,000. One historian estimates that the figure probably reflected a doubling of the Anglo population from four years previous. From the three towns that existed in 1821, the number of urban sites increased to twenty-one by 1835; almost all owed their founding to Anglo immigrants. Principal towns established by Americans included San Felipe de Austin, Gonzales, Velasco, Matagorda, Brazoria, San Augustine, and Liberty.

Generally, settlers lived in isolation, for neighboring farms might be miles away. Immigrants thus struggled for survival by their own wits, and lived off the land by hunting and by planting small gardens. For their shelter, plain folks turned to the environment and used whatever materials they could—logs, for instance—to build their cabins. The primitive domiciles characteristically consisted of one or two rooms and lacked floors and windows.

Frontiersmen improvised in other ways. For the education of their children, Anglo settlers set up schools that they themselves subsidized, most of them amounting to little more than facilities that duplicated the academies then typical of the South. Or settlers would simply convert homes into teaching institutions, so that school buildings generally consisted of pine-log huts. Teachers, furthermore, were difficult to find. Residents of means, however, dispatched youngsters to the United States for school.

Although an earlier document, the Gaceta de Tejas, claimed to have been published at Nacogdoches in 1813, and Samuel Bangs printed a manifesto on Galveston Island in 1817, it was G. B. M. Cotten’s, Texas Gazette at Austin's colony that was the first newspaper to be published in the province on a regular basis. After the Gazette discontinued production in 1832, Anglo-Texans got their news from other publications. Among these was the Telegraph and Texas Register, started in October 1835. It published such official documents as letters and reports written by leading Anglo-American figures.

Although Catholicism was the state religion of Mexico, the country could hardly enforce its own laws due to a shortage of priests and other problems. Anglo-Texan settlers therefore went their own way in practicing their faiths. Austin's settlers enacted their own ceremonies solemnizing births and deaths, for only briefly in 1831–32 did they have a priest among them, an Irishman named Michael Muldoon. Other colonists conducted worship services and camp meetings. The Mexican government seemed not to have been terribly concerned with the persistence of Protestantism, for in 1834 it even granted the Texans religious freedom on the condition that settlers abide by the laws they promised to observe.

For African Americans, slavery came to be a way of life in the eastern settlements, even as the Mexican government had strongly expressed disapproval of the system. The immediate future of the "peculiar institution" seemed uncertain during the early years of settlement, as the Mexican government persisted in its opposition to slavery but did not enforce edicts abolishing it or provided Texas with exemptions. Although slavery had existed in Spanish Texas from the beginning (see BLACKS IN COLONIAL SPANISH TEXAS), it gained significance in the 1820s because Anglo-Texans generally perceived Blacks as destined for servitude; most of the immigrants came from the lower South, where attitudes prescribed specific roles for both races. Furthermore, the immigrants considered slavery essential for the economic growth of Texas, a conviction with which Tejano oligarchs and some of their colleagues in Coahuila concurred. By 1836, 5,000 slaves resided in Texas and were concentrated in the Anglo settlements, although prominent Tejanos such as Erasmo Seguín and José Antonio Navarro also held enslaved Afro-Mexicans.

Most Hispanic Texans (Tejanos) remained situated in central and southern Texas, where they made their livelihood as rural workers, but others resided in the three urban settlements founded in the eighteenth century--San Antonio (Béxar), Goliad, and Nacogdoches. According to Almonte's report in 1834, Béxar and outlying ranches had a Hispanic population of 2,400, Goliad 700, and Nacogdoches 500. The new town of Victoria, colonized by Martín De León in 1824, had 300 residents in 1834.

Beyond the boundaries of Mexican-era Texas, Laredo, on the north bank of the Rio Grande, had a population of about 2,000 in 1835 with other Hispanic families living on the ranches north of the river as far as today’s Nueces County. Far to the west, in what was still New Mexico and Chihuahua, Mexican families lived on the north side of the Rio Grande in the vicinity of today’s El Paso.

Mexican Texas featured social divisions with origins in the colonial era that were now exacerbated by the new economics stimulated by the immigration of the 1820s and 1830s. A group of oligarchs occupied the upper crust of society; their standing rested on government position, family, racial background, business, and land possession. At the bottom lived peones and day laborers, usually multi-racial and Hispanicized indigenous peoples. Throughout the Mexican era, it was the upper class that voiced political opinions. Hispanic women lived in a society that stressed frontier ruggedness and masculinity. Even as Mexican law permitted women numerous freedoms—such as the right to have their own property while married and the right to judicial redress—they nonetheless encountered numerous political and legal restraints. Women could not be officeholders or exercise the franchise. Adulteresses faced harsh penalties and risked the loss of their property. Following Catholic canon law, divorce in the modern sense was impossible, leaving women open to considerable spousal abuse.

While the government committed itself to a program of public education, support to communities was often inadequate, so that citizens looked to municipal taxes and individual contributions to educate their children. Hispanic Texans established schools in each of the urban areas during the 1820s, though they functioned irregularly amid weak government support, political uncertainty, the threat of American Indian raids, epidemics, and the difficulty of finding qualified teachers. Since colonial times, oligarchs had been able to send their sons to school outside the province (there is no evidence of women being sent to school outside the community), and some, such as Refugio de la Garza had returned from the seminary in Nuevo León to become San Antonio’s parish priest. In 1829 the legislature decreed the establishment of instruction based on the Lancastrian system of education, which used advanced students to teach those in lower grades. Through dictation, memorization, and recitation, young scholars learned the basics of arithmetic, grammar, religion, and civics.

Tejanos carried on religious practices grounded on Catholic tradition but adjusted to frontier existence. By the 1820s the Catholic Church had almost forsaken its commitment to the far north, and the two priests still assigned to Texas had interests other than spiritual: one was considered to be among the wealthiest men in Bexar, and both had questionable reputations. Dissatisfied Tejanos showed reluctance to contribute for the ministering of the sacraments. Pleading impoverishment, they explained their inability to make church donations. Nevertheless, communities continued to observe religious and secular feast days with public celebrations that included church ceremonials.

Texas Indians, whom the Spaniards had sought to convert, had either been reduced by diseases, conflict, or the adverse effects of mission life and White men's institutions. They pushed west into the frontier or integrated into Hispanic society. Only remnants of groups that the Spaniards had sought to Christianize—such as the Coahuiltecans and Karankawas—survived by the 1830s, and those in the San Antonio and Goliad missions were ostensibly absorbed into the towns' populations after the missions were secularized in the 1820s. Independent groups situated north and west of the settlements survived in their traditional ways. The Comanches and their allies and the Apaches hunted buffalo, then turned the animals over to the women, who cut and cured the meat and treated the hides before turning them into clothes, weapons, and an assortment of items for household use. Some American Plains Indians also relied on such crops as corn, beans, and pumpkins, whose cultivation and preservation was also entrusted to the women. Despite local, state, and national officials to make peace, raids on the Anglo and Tejano settlements remained a way of life as the Comanches, Apaches, and other tribes continued their custom of stealing livestock throughout the Mexican era. Some traded horses, mules, furs, and other stolen goods to unscrupulous Americans for weapons.

In eastern Texas, indigenous and immigrant tribes attempted to accommodate themselves to the ever growing Anglo American presence. The Caddos, who numbered about 300 families in the late 1820s, planted corn, beans, and pumpkins, but they supplemented their livelihood by trading beaver, deer, and otter skins for weapons and tobacco in Louisiana. Cherokees, who had arrived in Texas from Georgia and Alabama in 1819–20 and settled on land now in Van Zandt, Cherokee, Rusk, and Smith counties, numbered about eighty families in the late 1820s and farmed, raised cattle, and traded skins, corn, pumpkins, beans, and fruits with the Whites in Nacogdoches. Other immigrant tribes included bands of Shawnees, Delawares, and Kickapoos, Alabamas, and Coushattas. During the 1820s and 1830s the various bands sought vainly to persuade the Mexican government to grant them title to their lands, but only the Alabamas and Coushattas managed to obtain title to a small reservation during the Republic era.

Frontier life determined the state of economic matters in Mexican Texas. Manufacturing of basic items was hardly known, so that Anglo settlers brought with them blankets, hats, clothing, and shoes; after they wore out their apparel, they often replaced it with clothes made from animal skins. Where fiber or a spinning wheel was available, many settlers produced new clothes from hand-made cloth. Weapons and implements for working the land were brought by settlers, as were such luxury items as coffee, cigars, and wines. The soil provided a minimum living with corn and various types of vegetables, but with slaves and imported technology, Anglos initiated commercial agriculture by raising and processing cotton for export. One historian estimates that commerce with New Orleans may have totaled 7,000 bales worth about $315,000 by 1834 (see COTTON CULTURE). Other items produced in quantities large enough to sell outside the province included corn, salted meats, and bear and deer skins. Lumbering and milling appeared in the timberlands of East Texas; though the lumber industry principally met only local needs, some lumber made its way to the Matamoros market. As in colonial days, smuggling was attractive to East Texans. The Mexican government excused immigrants from paying tariff duties, but since not all imports were exempted, the immigrants smuggled what they could of these. They found markets for such contraband in Mexico proper and even as far west as New Mexico. Bexareños also participated in the contraband market and apparently made hefty profits from the business. Trapping was pursued to some degree. The rivers along the coast abounded in otters and beavers, and Anglos sold the pelts at Nacogdoches yearly. Hispanic rancheros tapped the market in Coahuila and Louisiana by rounding up wild cattle and mustangs in the brush country, though stock raising may not have been as brisk as in Spanish Texas. Moreover, the rancheros were still harried by government restrictions and dangers from livestock raids by Apaches and others. Possibly, however, Tejanos found new markets for cattle and horses among the Anglo-Texan arrivals. Farming among the Hispanic population took a subordinate position to ranching. San Antonio residents irrigated small family-owned fields and orchards to raise a variety of vegetables, grains, and fruits, but did not produce them in exportable amounts. Wealthier landholders did cultivate produce to sell for a profit to the local military. Some landowners near San Antonio or Goliad experimented with cotton production, but their crops added up to only a small portion of the total amount of cotton harvested in the province. With hard cash practically unknown, barter was the popular way of conducting business. Transactions often involved payment with cows, swine, poultry, or even land. "Money is very scarce in Texas," reported Juan Almonte in 1834, "and one may say with certainty that out of every hundred transactions made not ten involve specie." Counterfeit paper money from both Mexico and the United States appeared regularly and was a constant problem.

Immigration from the United States to Texas produced new political directions for the province from 1821 to 1836. For one thing, it caused political disagreement over the immigration itself: Federalists generally encouraged the arrival of Anglo-Americans in hopes of advancing and modernizing Coahuila and Texas; but Centralists feared the Americanization of Texas and consistently clashed with the Federalists' policy and the fractious Anglo-Texans. Most significantly, of course, the new arrivals asserted themselves politically and finally usurped their hosts' authority. By the end of the Mexican period, therefore, great changes were apparent in Texas. Anglos had implemented a republican form of government, established a different language, introduced new Christian communions, created a social order wherein minorities, among them some Mexican Texans who assisted in the struggles of the 1830s, were subordinated, and, overall, given the region unique Anglo-American characteristics. However, the resulting life was not radically changed. Texas remained an underdeveloped frontier region in which Native peoples remained dominant in much of its territory. The country still taxed the perseverance of its settlers, who still depended on an agrarian economy and continued to face serious problems in such concerns as finances and education. The lot of the enslaved remained undisturbed. These issues affected the politics of the coming Texas Revolution and Republic of Texas. See also ANGLO-AMERICAN COLONIZATION.

Vito Alessio Robles, Coahuila y Texas: Desde la consumación de la Independencia hasta el Tratado de Paz de Guadalupe Hidalgo, 2nd ed. (Mexico: Editorial Porrúa, 1979). Timothy E. Anna, Forging Mexico, 1821–1835 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998). Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821–1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). Gregg Cantrell, Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999). Arnoldo De León, The Tejano Community, 1836–1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982). Stanley C. Green, The Mexican Republic: The First Decade, 1823–1832 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987). Malcolm D. McLean, comp. and ed., Papers Concerning Robertson's Colony in Texas (19 vols., Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1974–76; Arlington: University of Texas at Arlington Press, 1977–92). Timothy M. Matovina, Tejano Religion and Ethnicity: San Antonio, 1821–1860 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995). Raúl A. Ramos, Beyond the Alamo: Forging Mexican Ethnicity in San Antonio, 1821–1861 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008). Jesús F. de la Teja and John Wheat, “Béxar: Profile of a Tejano Community, 1820–1832,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 89 (July 1985). Jesús F. de la Teja, ed., Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2010). Andreas Reichstein, Der texanische Unabhängigkeitskrieg (Berlin: Reimer, 1984; trans. by Jeanne R. Willson as Rise of the Lone Star: The Making of Texas [College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1989]). Jaime E. Rodríguez-O, Down From Colonialism: Mexico's Nineteenth Century Crisis (University of California at Los Angeles, 1983). Andrés Tijerina, Tejanos and Texas under the Mexican Flag, 1821–1836 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994). Andrew J. Torget, Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800–1850 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015). David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 18211846 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982).

Time Periods:
  • Mexican Texas

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

Arnoldo de León Revised by Jesús "Frank" de la Teja, “Mexican Texas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 02, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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May 1, 1995
May 2, 2022

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