Talamantes, Melchor de (1765–1809)

By: Carlos E. Castañeda

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 1, 1996

Melchor de Talamantes Salvador y Baeza, early martyr of Mexican independence and commissioner of the King of Spain to write a critical report on the true boundary of Louisiana and Texas, was born in Lima, Peru, on January 10, 1765. He received his early education from Fray Manuel Alcocer, his teacher and companion until 1779, when he entered the Royal and Military Order of Our Lady of Mercy. He continued his studies in the University of San Marcos, Peru, and successively won appointment to the chairs of Philosophy, Theology, and Sacred Scriptures, becoming synodal examiner for the Archbishopric of Peru. In September 1798 he was granted permission by his provincial to go to Spain by way of Mexico. When he arrived in Mexico in November 1799 he apparently lost interest in his trip to Spain. His great learning, his brilliant mind, and his irresistible oratory immediately won him recognition and friends but aroused at the same time the animosity of the envious. When the royal orders of May 20, 1805, commanding the viceroy of Mexico to compile "as many documents and historical and geographical data as may be possible...to verify the dates of settlement...in...Texas and the adjacent coast" arrived late in 1806, Talamantes was appointed chief of the historical commission charged with ascertaining the true boundaries of Texas and Louisiana. He began his work in 1807 and labored diligently for a year. But when news of Napoleon's intervention in Spain and the replacement of Charles IV by Joseph as king reached Mexico, the impulsive young historian was deeply stirred and joined the liberal-minded criollos in arguing that the deposition of the legitimate king of Spain had caused sovereignty to revert to the people of the colonies. He, with the celebrated Francisco Primo de Verdad, openly advocated the calling of a national congress. At first the city council of Mexico and the viceroy himself favored the plan, but the conservatives suddenly took matters into their own hands, deposed the viceroy, and set up Pedro de Garibay as viceroy in September 1808. Talamantes and the other liberals were arrested on September 16. Tried by the Inquisition, he was at first sentenced to death, but the judges were fearful of the consequences and decided to send him under guard to Spain. In March 1809 he was taken to the Castle of Ulloa in Vera Cruz, where cholera was raging. Before he could be put on board to sail for Spain he became ill and died early in May 1809, a martyr to the cause of Mexican independence. His unfinished work on the limits of Louisiana and Texas was turned over to José Antonio Pichardo, together with the books and documents he had collected. He left several political disquisitions in manuscript.

Luis González Obregón, "Fray Melchor de Talamantes," in Ensayos históricos y biográficos (Mexico City, 1937). Charles W. Hackett, ed., Pichardo's Treatise on the Limits of Louisiana and Texas (4 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1931–46).


  • Religion
  • Catholic

Time Periods:

  • Spanish Texas

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

Carlos E. Castañeda, “Talamantes, Melchor de,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 18, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/talamantes-melchor-de.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996

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