Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Texas Independence Day

It was on this day in 1836 that delegates meeting at Washington-on-the-Brazos officially declared the independence of the Republic of Texas. This action was taken in spite of the fact that, at the time, whether there would be any English-speaking population at all in Texas was highly in doubt. The army, such as it was, had largely melted away as different leaders led small bands off on their own independent campaigns, the largest force was in utter confusion at Goliad and the small band of men at the Alamo were besieged by vastly superior Mexican forces. The republican dictator of Mexico, Santa Anna, had made it abundantly clear that he would take no prisoners and show no mercy in this war. And it was a war he was, so far, clearly winning. However, despite winning every battle in 1836 save for the last, Santa Anna was eventually defeated at Texas independence secured. The fallen “Napoleon of the West” (as he fancied himself) was forced to recognize the independence of the Republic of Texas, but of course the government in Mexico City quickly repudiated his right to do so and continued to claim Texas as their own despite never being able to recover the vast region.

This put the new Republic of Texas in a rather difficult diplomatic position as anyone who recognized the new country could expect to seriously irritate the Republic of Mexico. Of course, the United States was the first to recognize the Republic of Texas (many viewing this as simply one more step closer to the annexation they had planned for all along) and with the most powerful country in North America giving Texas her blessing many of the monarchies of Europe felt safe in doing the same. King Louis Philippe I of the French granted recognition (and you can still visit the old French legation in Austin), followed by King Leopold I of the Belgians and King Willem I of the Netherlands. The Republic of the Yucatan also recognized Texas, itself still struggling for independence from Mexico, a struggle they would eventually lose despite some daring victories on the part of the Republic of Texas Navy fighting in their service. The government of Queen Victoria did not officially grant recognition to Texas as they did not want to risk angering Mexico with whom they had extensive economic ties. However, in a move rather like those countries who deal with both Communist China and the Republic of China, the British effectively recognized Texas independence in all but name and still established diplomatic relations. The Texas embassy in London was not preserved, but it is still there, near St James’s Palace and adjacent a very colorful Texas-themed restaurant (Texas Embassy Cantina). In 1840 HH Pope Gregory XVI recognized Texas independence but no secular diplomatic relations were established between the republic and the Papal States.

As a new and still struggling country, the Republic of Texas was very grateful for this foreign recognition and displayed it in a number of ways. Murals dealing with the period frequently show the US, French, Belgian, Dutch and British flags in some way. These countries, whether the people were aware of it, then or now, were held in special favor by Texans for being the first to accept their hand of friendship in spite of the possibility of angering their former rulers. Texas established legations in Washington DC, London and Paris and despite the lack of formal recognition, the Republic of Texas was considered a potentially crucial ally for the British Empire. Fearful of the expanding power of the United States (which had invaded Canada in their last war) the British saw a strong and independent Texas as being of great benefit to the British Empire by blocking American moves farther south and west. Other European powers also saw the potential for Texas becoming a new third power in North America and took this into account with some of their colonization expeditions (as we have seen).

This put the British Empire firmly on the side (though they would never openly take a side of course) of the “independence” faction. The Republic of Texas never had any political parties, but from day one there were two clear factions; the “independence” faction led by Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar who favored an independent and even expansionist Texas (the term “Texian Empire” was sometimes used but this was a reference to size and grandeur rather than actual form of government -sadly lol) and then there was the “annexation” faction led by Sam Houston who favored joining the United States and, indeed, viewed the entire existence of the Republic of Texas as simply a necessary step toward that ultimate goal. As we know, it was the annexationists who eventually won out, resulting in a disappointed British Empire, and a sharp but highly successful war between the United States and Mexico. However, it all started with that declaration of independence, signed in a very unimpressive little building lacking doors and windows, 175 years ago today. Happy Birthday Lone Star State!

4 comments:

  1. It seems more and more to me that an independent Texas might have been a good thing to have.

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  2. How many supported the independence faction?

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  3. No numbers were kept at the time but, given how things worked out, obviously not a majority. Too many of the settlers were from the US and could not break away from the whole 'Manifest Destiny' American vision. Plus, Sam Houston, as the guy who won Texas independence on the battlefield, supporting annexation had a big influence on the public. No one really wanted to oppose General Sam.

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  4. another wonderful article which I appreciate!

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