War Party

By: Jodella K. Dyreson

Type: General Entry

Published: December 1, 1995

Updated: February 16, 2019

The War Party, which existed before the Texas Revolution, represented a faction within the Anglo-American population of Texas that helped to sway public opinion in favor of armed conflict with the rest of Mexico in the crucial time between 1832 and 1835. The War Party and its counterpart, the Peace Party, cannot be defined easily because they were not established political parties, but rather labels for persons of opposing political dispositions-that is, "party" members did not label themselves by these terms but instead described the opposition with them. Both parties surfaced during the disturbances of 1832. Leaders of the War Party either participated in the disturbances or condoned them. Events of 1835, which displayed the increasingly centralized nature of Antonio López de Santa Anna's regime, began to define the lines between the War and Peace parties, which were not called by those names until July 1835. The faction often termed the War Party historically has been called a variety of names-some complimentary, others not. The first documented use of the term dates from relatively late in the prerevolutionary period. In the few instances where someone has ventured a list of members, the core individuals have remained basically the same while the supporting cast has differed widely. A controversy continues as to the role which the rampant Monclova land speculations of 1835 played as a motive of the War Party in advocating agitation against the Mexican government. It is fair to state that the land speculations predisposed the populace to ignore the cries of the War Party as those of speculators attempting to protect their dubious claims. The earliest document that has been found to contain the name War Party is a July 25, 1835, letter from James H. C. Miller to J. W. Smith, which suggests the arrest of the prominent leaders, reporting, "All here is in a train for peace, the war and speculating parties are entirely put down." Historians have made few attempts at defining the War Party. Francis (Frank) White Johnson, one of its leaders, noted many years later, "there was a small party in Texas ready to make the most of any occasion for friction with Mexico." Eugene C. Barker called them a "small but very active party...[which] counseled secession from Mexico." In a scathing 1844 letter to Sam Houston, Moseley Baker provided a list of his fellow War Party members. John Henry Brown provided two lists, the second of which concerned only the Navidad and Lavaca river areas; this list of names did not include a single prominent leader. This was part of his effort to prove that the War Party was not all politicians and professional men who lived in towns but included a sizable number of farmers. Barker, however, maintained that the party numbered no more than a dozen. The following individuals implicated themselves as leaders of the War Party by word or deed in agitation for action against the Mexican government in the period from 1832 to 1835: Branch T. Archer, Moseley Baker, James Bowie, Andrew Briscoe, Francis (Frank) W. Johnson, Robert Mills, Henry Smith, William Barret Travis, Edwin Waller, Robert M. Williamson, William H. Jack, Patrick C. Jack, and the brothers John A. and William H. Wharton.

Eugene C. Barker, "James H. C. Miller and Edward Gritten," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 13 (October 1909). Eugene C. Barker, ed., "Journal of the Permanent Council," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 7 (April 1904). John Henry Brown, History of Texas from 1685 to 1892 (2 vols., St. Louis: Daniell, 1893). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Jodella D. Kite, "The War and Peace Parties of Pre-Revolutionary Texas, 1832–1835," East Texas Historical Journal 29 (Spring 1991).

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

Jodella K. Dyreson, “War Party,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/war-party.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1995
February 16, 2019