On the Eve of Revolution
The map Mexico, Showing its Connection with the Ports of Acapulco, Vera Cruz, and Tampico, published in February of 1832, shows a significant number of settlements not present in 1821 when Mexico won its independence from Spain, including Stephen F. Austin's colony, San Felipe de Austin. Armed conflict between Anglos and the Mexican government erupted in 1832 when the commander at Anahuac, a military installation above Galveston Bay, arrested William B. Travis for sedition. A group of Anglos upset with the Centralist government's import taxes and anti-immigration policy then attacked the military post. Mexican military leaders released Travis and worked quickly to neutralize the crisis. Although military action was considered somewhat drastic and the men who had made the attack were generally regarded as radicals, it was a significant step in defying the authority of the Mexican government.
High on the list of Texan concerns was taxation: immigrants were exempt from taxation until 1830 and wanted an extension of the exemption; collection of taxes was considered arbitrary and unfair. Other concerns included the immigration question, slavery, and the need for judicial reform. At this point, many Texans saw separate Mexican statehood for Texas (apart from Coahuila) as the answer to their problems.
One of the most useful books on Texas-indeed, the first book about Texas written by an Anglo-American and the first in English solely on Texas-was produced during this period. Mary Austin Holley, who was Stephen F. Austin's cousin, visited Austin's Colony in 1831 and published Texas, an account of her travels, in 1833. Holley, who was charmed both by her cousin and by the country, called Texas "a splendid country" and noted the influx of Anglo-American settlers. "Their numbers" Holley said, "are rapidly increasing, and there cannot be a doubt, that, in a few years, Texas will become one of the most thriving, if not the most populous, of the Mexican States." She also echoed her cousin's belief that Texas should become a separate state. Holley's book is widely believed to have encouraged immigration to Texas.
Another figure became a major player on the national Mexican scene in 1833. Antonio López de Santa Anna, active as both a soldier and a politician, was elected president of Mexico as a Federalist. With the Centralists removed from power, the prohibition on Anglo colonization was lifted, and land agents once again began to bring settlers to Texas. More printed promotional materials, like the Guide to Texas Emigrants, appeared.
Santa Anna's liberal leanings did not last, however, as his early experience in office convinced him that Mexico was not ready for a democratic government. By 1834 he was a confirmed Centralist with intense autocratic leanings and little tolerance for the Texians, the Anglo Texans, who strongly preferred to chart their own course. When Stephen F. Austin traveled to Mexico to petition for statehood for Texas, which Santa Anna considered a revolutionary measure, he had Austin jailed.
Santa Anna was worried not only about whether a revolution was brewing in Texas but about how many people might soon be fighting against him. Accordingly, Santa Anna instructed his vice president to send Juan N. Almonte, an American-educated newspaper editor, on an inspection tour of Texas and to have Almonte report on the conditions he found, including the Texans' defense resources. Almonte was also told to stall for time and to promise reforms that would help calm the colonists.
Almonte's report, titled Noticia Estadistica Sobre Tejas, contains only the nonpolitical materials gathered during his trip, yet it provides one of the best descriptions of Texas on the eve of the revolution. He estimated the Anglo population at about 20,000 individuals-eight times as many as in 1821-as compared to about 4,000 Tejanos, the native Mexicans. The number of towns had also increased, from the three that had existed in 1821 to twenty-one by 1835. Almonte found conditions generally peaceful, largely because the government had made several concessions to the Texans, including the re-opening of immigration, more seats in the legislature, and some judicial reforms. Almonte seems to have been impressed by the Texans he visited with and recommended additional concessions, including a separate Mexican statehood for Texas.
Texans were of two minds. Encouraged by the concessions they had already received, some were ready to push for more, including independence. Others were simply happy to be left alone to live and trade according to their own preferences-cherishing their personal independence above all. They thought that the Federalist framework of the Mexican government was sufficient to give them the freedom they wanted and had no desire to change the system.
Then, Santa Anna abolished the Federalist-approved Constitution of 1824 and convened a new congress composed of persons loyal to him and to Centralist principles. In October 1835, the new congress dissolved the state legislatures, making the Mexican states departments of the federal government governed by presidential appointees. These developments did not play well in Coahuila y Tejas. Shortly before the state legislature was dissolved, it had reaffirmed its Federalist stance and authorized the raising of funds to protect those interests.
Fearful of military action against the Mexican government, the commander in Bexar (San Antonio) asked Santa Anna for more soldiers. Hearing this, some of the more militant Texans captured the fort at Anahuac to protect Texas from invasion, an action the Mexican government deemed rebellious. Anglo Americans and Mexican forces fought several skirmishes in October 1835. Overall, the prospect of a large Centralist army controlling Texas-with the resulting economic stagnation and heavy-handed authoritarianism-focused the thoughts of both war and peace parties.