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REVIEW OF THE MEXICAN WAR.
EARLY EFFORTS TO WREST TEXAS FROM MEXICO.
LOUISIANA was ceded by France to Spain in 1762, and restored to the former power in 1800. Three years after, it was ceded by France to the United States. In none of these cessións, was there any specification of boundaries. The territory was a vast undefined region east of the Mississippi ; and with rare exceptions, untenanted by civilized inhabitants. It, of course, adjoined the Spanish dominions in Mexico, but the separating line could not easily be ascertained. As the American settlements in Louisiana extended, the question of boundary necessarily became a matter of discussion, between the governments of Spain and the United States. This question was finally settled in 1819, by a treaty with Spain, in which the contracting powers severally ceded to each other, all claims to territory beyond their respective sides of a defined line.
In 1820, the State of Missouri, formed out of the Louisiana territory, was admitted into the Union as a slave State. To facilitate its admission, and to overcome the formidable opposition of the Northern States, to the incorporation into the confederacy of another slaveholding State, the slaveholders proposed and effected the celebra
ted Missouri compromise, a law declaring that in future slavery should be prohibited north of 36° 30' north latitude.
It was not long however, before it was discovered that this Missouri compromise, together with the southern boundary of the United States, as defined in the Spanish treaty of 1819, had reduced within comparatively narrow limits, the area from which slave States might hereafter be formed; with the exception of Florida, the territory south of the Missouri compromise line, was not probably sufficient for more than two States.
The State of Louisiana was separated from the Spanish province of Texas, by the Sabine river, and the soil, climate, and position of that province, rendered it a desirable acquisition to the slave holding interest. Various expedients were from time to time devised, to obtain possession of this coveted territory-forcible seizure-colonization--purchase-independence, and annexation. The first was attempted soon after the Spanish treaty, had extinguished all claims of the United States to Texas, as included within the territory of Louisiana.
A man named James Long, without about seventy-five lawless adventurers, left Natchez on the 17th June, 1819, and proceeded to Nacogdoches, about forty miles within the limits of Texas. On the 23d of the same month, he there issued a proclamation which may be regarded as the first step in that career of fraud, falsehood, and violence, which ultimately led to the annexation of Texas, and the war against Mexico. In this document, which was probably prepared in the State of Mississippi, Long, styling himself President of the Supreme Council of Texas, declared “ that the citizens of Texas, have long indulged the hope that in the adjustment of the boundaries of the Spanish possessions in America, and of the territories of
the United States, they should be included within the limits of the latter.” As this hope had been dissipated by the recent treaty, the proclamation proceeds to announce the independence of the REPUBLIC OF Texas. This paper, was of course, intended as an invitation to American citizens to repair to Long's standard, and participate with him in the intended plunder; and it was consequently published in the Louisiana Heruld, printed in New Orleans.
In a little while, the whole party were dispersed, some being killed, and the others taken prisoners by the Spaniards.*
The plan of colonization was next adopted. Moses Austin of Missouri, in 1821, obtained leave from the Spanish authorities, to introduce three hundred families into Texas, on certain conditions. The permission was granted, as is said, on the representation of Austin, that Catholics were oppressed in the United States, and it was agreed that all the settlers to be introduced by him, should be of the oppressed religion. Austin dying, the grant was in 1823, renewed to his son, who commenced a colony on the Brazos, with emigrants from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. By the renewed grant, the settlers, it is asserted, were to be exclusively Catholics; but whatever was their creed in other respects, they were believers in the right of man to hold property in man, and accordingly carried their slaves with them.
In 1826, a body of emigrants from the United States, settled about Nacogdoches, again raised the standard of insurrection under a man of the name of Edwards, and published a declaration of independence. They were, however, soon crushed by the Mexican forces. At the date of the boundary treaty, Mexico was a
Speech of Mr. Severance in H. of R., Feb, 4, 1847.
slaveholding country, and its near propinquity to our own settlements, was on that account viewed with less jealousy by southern statesmen.
The planters, as we have seen, might cross the line with their slaves, and pursue the cultivation of sugar
and cotton; nor was any difficulty apprehended with regard to the recovery of fugitives slaves from the States.
These border relations were, however, changed by a decree of the Mexican Congress of 13th July, 1824, prohibiting the introduction of slaves from foreign countries. The Mexican Constitution, adopted the same year, declared that no person should hereafter be born a slave; thus providing for the gradual but total abolition of slavery throughout the Republic.
The United Provinces of Coahuila and Texas, formed one State, and its Constitution adopted in 1827, contained an article giving freedom to all who should be hereafter born, and prohibiting the introduction of slaves. The work of emancipation was completed by a decree of the Mexican Congress of 15th September, 1829, manumitting every slave in Mexico.
These successive measures not only frustrated the views of the colonists, and discouraged further emigration from the slave States, but greatly irritated and alarmed the whole slaveholding interest. The future area of slavery had been greatly contracted by the boundary treaty, and the Missouri compromise ; and now that area was to be bounded on the south and east, as well as on the north, by an unlimited AREA OF FREEDOM. Under such circumstances, American slavery was doomed. The influence of the free States would soon predominate in the general government, and the growing spirit of abolition would not only extend into the south itself, but would in various ways, endanger the security and permanency of slave
property. The colonists in Texas, were at present too feeble to break the yoke of freedom imposed on them by the Mexican Government. Against that Government, the United States had no pretext for war; and the treaty of boundary was too recent and too explicit, to permit any claim being made to the territory of Texas. But one resource was left, and that was purchase.
The government as early as the 15th March, 1827, instructed Mr. Poinsett, our Minister in Mexico, that we wished to change the existing boundary, making it begin at the mouth of the Rio del Norte (Rio Grande), thence up the river to the Rio Puereo, and then with the last river to its source; thence North to the Arkansas, and with this to the 420 North Lat. ; and that for this change of boundary we would give one million of dollars. This modest proposal included almost the whole of Texas as at present claimed.
The idea of purchase now took strong hold of the southern mind; and great efforts were made to enlighten public opinion on the importance of Texas, and the necessity of its acquisition. In 1829 a series of newspaper essays on the subject appeared from the pen of Mr. Benton, a distinguished Senator from Missouri. Of the character of these essays some opinion may be formed from the following notices of them in the journals of the day.
The Edgefield Carolinian, speaking of Texas, remarked, "Some imposing Essays, originally published in the St. Louis Beacon, with the signature of Americanus,' and attributed to Col. Benton of the Senate, explaining the circumstances of the treaty of 1819, and displaying the advantages of the retrocession, have operated on the public mind in the West with electrical force and rapidity. The writer produces strong circumstantial proof that the surrender of Texas resulted from the subserviency of our