Episode 33 Independence and a Republic is born (sort of)
Welcome to the Hidden History of Texas. I’m your host Hank Wilson and this is Episode 33 – Independence and a Republic is born (sort of)
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Time to start discussing the actual founding of what was to be known as the Republic of Texas.
While it is true that most Anglo Texans and many of the Mexican Texans believed that Texas began working to become a nation after the victory over Santa Anna at San Jacinto, the reality is quite different. In earlier episodes, I talked about the various declarations that had been passed during the 1830s. The actual convention that was to declare that Texas was independent began in March, prior to the falling of the Alamo.
The convention was held at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 1, 1836, and it was very different from the Consultation or any of the pervious gatherings. There were 41 delegates present and another 59 people who periodically stopped by or attended the meetings. An interesting fact about the makeup of the convention is that two delegates (José Francisco Ruiz and José Antonio Navarro of Bexar) were native Texans, one (Lorenzo de Zavala) had actually been born in Mexico. Of the rest of the delegates only 10 had been living in Texas before 1835. The majority were late arrivals who came from either the United States, or from Europe. While about 2/3 of the delegates were not yet forty, several of them already had political experience. For example, Samuel P. Carson of Pecan Point served in the North Carolina Legislature and Robert Potter of Nacogdoches in the U.S. House of Representatives.
On March 1 George C. Childress, who had returned from a visit with President Jackson in Tennessee, presented a resolution calling for independence. It was quickly adopted, and Childress was appointed to lead a committee of five in drafting a final declaration of independence. Childress must have been expecting this because when the committee met that evening, he pulled out a statement he had brought from Tennessee. That document followed the outline and contained the main features of the United States Declaration of Independence. On March 2nd, the delegates unanimously adopted his suggested declaration. After 58 members signed the document the Republic of Texas was unofficially born.
Upon receiving the news about the fall of the Alamo and that Santa Anna’s army was marching eastward, the convention hastily adopted a constitution, signed it, and elected an interim government: David G. Burnet, was elected president; Lorenzo de Zavala, vice president; Samuel P. Carson, secretary of state; Thomas J. Rusk, secretary of war; Bailey Hardeman, secretary of the treasury; Robert Potter, secretary of the navy; and David Thomas, attorney general. Immediately after this the delegates fled Washington-on-the-Brazos and headed towards Galveston Island. Upon hearing of Houston’s victory at San Jacinto they quickly headed to the San Jacinto battlefield and began negotiations to end the war. At Velasco on May 14, they had Santa Anna sign two treaties, one public and one secret. The public treaty ended hostilities and restored private property. Texan and Mexican prisoners were to be released, and Mexican troops would retire beyond the Rio Grande.
The secret treaty included the provision that Santa Anna was to be taken to Veracruz and released. In return for this, Santa Anna agreed to seek Mexican government approval of both treaties and to negotiate a permanent treaty that acknowledged Texas independence and recognized its boundary as the Rio Grande.
Texans demanded that Santa Anna should be put to death, but on June 4, the dictator, his secretary Ramón Martínez Caro, and Col. Juan N. Almonte were put aboard the ship the Invincible in order to return them to Veracruz-Gen. However, Thomas Jefferson Green, a new arrival from the United States with a company of volunteers, forced President Burnet to remove the men from the vessel and confine them. The two men were kept under guard until the Texas government finally kept the secret agreement they had made at Velasco and returned Santa Anna to Mexico in August.
On June 25 Burnet appointed major general Mirabeau B. Lamar, to succeed the current secretary of war Rusk, who had asked to be relieved. However, word soon reached Texas that even though Santa Anna had not yet returned to Mexico, the Mexican Congress had repudiated Santa Anna, rejected his treaties, and ordered the war with Texas to continue. Along with that word came a rumor that Gen. José de Urrea was advancing on Goliad and Rusk tried to change his mind about retiring. However, Burnet was hesitant to remove Lamar, but when Thomas Jefferson Green and Felix Huston, who had arrived in Texas with a group of volunteers from Mississippi, stirred up the soldiers against Lamar, forced Burnet to return Rusk to command. However, when Urrea failed to appear, Rusk did step down and this time the army chose Huston to replace him. Army unrest continued as the officers openly defied the government and threatened to impose a military dictatorship. The decision not to execute Santa Anna continued to have ramifications over the next several years, not only for Texas, but also for the United States and Mexico. I’ll discuss that over the next few episodes.
The new republic faced other problems. On May 19th, Comanche and Caddo Indians attacked Fort Parker. Fort Parker was located on the Navasota River about 60 miles north of the settlements. They captured two women and three children. The new government had neither the manpower or the resources to mount a rescue or to retaliate against the tribes. There was little to no communications, there were very few roads, and of course there was no regular mail system. The republic’s treasury had no money, the new nation’s credit had a very low reputation and of course hard currency was scarce. Nobody was certain over who owned what land, or who had legal title to their land. After the Runaway Scrape many families had lost almost everything and when they finally returned to their homes, they discovered that their property had been destroyed and most of their stock either eaten or run off. All in all, the republic was off to a very shaky start.
And that’s going to do it for this episode.
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Thanks for listening y’all