Analysis of November Texas Constitutional Amendments via Blue Dot Blues

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Editorials

Citizens Have Opportunity to Claim Property (St. Rep. Ken Paxton)

"Political Fiction That Stimulus Dollars Were Necessary To Balance Our Budget" (Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst)

When will Big Government advocates take a deep breath? (John Colyandro)

Prop. 11 Provides Greater Private Property Protection (Peggy Venable, AFP)

2010 Governor's Race (Peter Morrison Report)

Why Texans Should Vote YES on Constitutional Amendment #7

Focus Health Care Reform on Patients, Not Government (The Hon. Arlene Wohlgemuth, TPPF)

Thought While Shaving: It Just May be Huckabee’s Time (Tom Roeser, DallasBlog)

An Argument In Favor of Prop. 11 (Michele Samuelson)

A Republic, If We Can Keep It (Michele Samuelson)



Daily Blog Links

Lutz blasted judicial activism on WFAA (Dallas Blog)

HPD rolls out innovative new revenue stream (sans acronym, sadly) (blogHouston)

Travis County Taxpayers To Foot Tab For Abortions? (Travis Monitor)

Presumed AG candidate announces re-election campaign for House (Blue Dot Blues)

SHOCKER: White House Inflates 'Success' of Stimulus (Lone Star Times)

Conservative Women; Making a Difference. (RightWingSparkle)

City of Alma: No Property Taxes (Ellis County Observer)

Dangerous time/place/behavior update: A deadly weekend (blogHouston)

DMN - Plano's economic development board seeks restraining order against activist (Collin County Observer)

Sen. John Cornyn Blasts Obama for Trying to Cap Executive Pay (UrbanGrounds)

Why the silence on Prop. 1? Vote No (Empower Texans)

Houston mayoral candidate loans money to campaign, charges usurious interest rate (blogHouston)

At Least One Nobel Prize Make Sense (Excellent Thought)

Propositions 2, 3, and 5 don't create statewide property tax (Lone Star Report Blog)

Democrat Study Finds Republicans Are Raging, But Not Racist (The Republic of Dave)

The Inner City Poor, Politicians Do The Wrong Thing or Nothing (RightWingSparkle)

Where Was Obama? (Rhymes with Right)

Pimp Your Golf Ride on the Guvmint Teat (Lone Star Times)

Is Begging a Free Speech Issue? (Quid Nimis)

Ralph Reed Speaks at Western CPAC (Dr. Melisaa Clouthier)



Texas Independence Day and the History of Texas


By James Aalan Bernsen
TexasRepublicNews.com

March 2 is Texas Independence Day, Time for us Texans, Texians or Tejanos to remember why our homeland is so great. To appreciate what it means to be a Texan, one needs a sense of the history of our great state, and the epic struggle that turned a wilderness into the land that we now know as Texas.

1813 – Stirrings of Freedom

The Texas Revolution of 1836 was not the first revolution in Texas. In 1810, Father Hidalgo issued the famous “Grito,” or call to revolution, which swept across the Mexican countryside, as the people rose up against the tyranny of Spain.

The Tejanos too, wanted to revolt. But they were a poor province, with no weapons, no trained soldiers, and little hope against the vaunted Spanish Army. Isolated as Texas had always been from the rest of the country, it was only natural that they turned to their northern neighbors for help.

America in 1810 was a growing, but still tenuous nation, surrounded and isolated by monarchies world-wide. A revolution in Mexico was greeted with jubilation. Soon, it was hoped, freedom and democracy could spread throughout the continent. But America could offer no direct aid to the cause – it had its own problems to worry about. Trouble was brewing with England, and soon the two countries would be engaged in the War of 1812. As Washington, D.C. was burned to the ground, it seemed American independence itself was in danger of being destroyed by tyranny.

But there were many individual Americans who sought to help their Mexican neighbors. Knowing that they needed help, the Tejanos sent representatives to Louisiana and Washington to plead their case. The result was the Gutierrez-Magee expedition, in which 300 Americans (to be joined by more in the coming months), entered Texas to fight on the side of the Mexican Republicans in a multi-ethnic army fighting for freedom.

They succeeded at first, fighting several battles before entering San Antonio in triumph. The new “Mexican State of Tejas” was proclaimed. But dissention crept into the ranks after the local population brutally murdered the former Spanish commander in the city. Many American veterans went back to Louisiana. By this time, their own country was in danger.

Those who remained marched out under Gen. José Álvarez de Toledo (a Cuban) to meet a Spanish force that had come to expel them. On August 18, 1813, along the Medina River south of San Antonio, they stumbled into an ambush. In the “Battle of Medina,” the destinies of five nations – Spain, Mexico, the United States, England, and France rested on the outcome. 

When the Spanish emerged triumphant, the geopolitical forces turned, and the Mexican revolution’s successful outcome was delayed for nearly a decade. Before the battle, it looked as it would be swept out of North America (it had lost Florida already). But success in Texas delayed the inevitable. Ten more years of decay would ultimately stunt the growth of the new Mexican nation that was to be born – while America and its people were on the rise. This would have an important impact on Texas.

Nearly 1,000 republican soldiers died in the “Battle of Medina,” the bloodiest battle ever fought in Texas. Spanish losses were in the low hundreds. But bad as the battle was, the aftermath was worse. Spanish forces, under the orders of Gen. Joaquin de Arredondo, burned and pillaged their way across Texas, hanging revolutionaries, killing any Americans they found and torching villages. One of the Spanish officers, Mexican-born officer Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, watched his mentor and learned well. He did not know it, but fate would bring him back to San Antonio 23 years later.

Decline and Rebirth, 1813-1830 

Following the battle, the Mexican population of Texas had plummeted. Crushed by Spain, facing hostile Indians – many pushed out of settle areas in Louisiana and Arkansas, the land was clearly in a state of decay. Eight years later, realizing that continued chaos would only cause the province of Tejas to slip from its grip forever, Spain was looking for a solution. That’s when an American, Moses Austin, came to them with a proposition.

Few Spanish people, or interior Mexicans, were willing to settle in Texas. Austin and his son Stephen (who took over after his father died) offered to settle Americans instead. What they promised were hard-working, Christian people who would swear allegiance to Mexico and the Catholic Church and provide a buffer between Mexico proper and the hostile Indian tribes – in exchange for certain rights that would be granted to them. Neither side would stick to the agreement. The Texans, because Austin was unable to keep unwanted people out, and the Spanish (and later Mexicans), because their leaders were not so committed to human rights.

Although Spain had held onto Mexico after 1813, the inevitable defeat came and Mexico achieved its independence. When he saw the writing on the wall, Santa Anna switched sides, as did most of the native-born Spanish soldiers. Soon, Spain was expelled from the continent. A republic was proclaimed in 1821, and an enlightened constitution very similar to the American one was passed in 1824. The president of the constitutional convention was Lorenzo de Zavala – a native of the Yucatan and former deputy in the Spanish Cortes. De Zavala would soon move to Texas.

American immigration into Texas continued under Mexico. Although Austin had only brought in 300 families in the first wave, new “empresarios,” as they were called soon brought in more. When a Mexican general rode through the province in 1830, he was shocked. Anglos had come to outnumber native-born Mexicans 10 to 1, and they were still coming. What was more, beyond the legal immigration was extensive illegal immigration. 

Mexican alarm over changing demographics in Texas coincided with Santa Anna’s rise to power. Elected president, he turned the office into a dictatorship along the lines of his idol, Napoleon Bonaparte. Soon, he had overturned the constitution of 1824 and was oppressing all of Mexico, not just Texas.


(Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna)

Tyranny and Revolution

By 1834, there were two types of people in Texas: those who reviled Santa Anna, wanted a new president and the constitution restored (most of the old 300 immigrants and the native-born Mexicans) and those who favored independence (new immigrants and illegal immigrants). The first group was larger, led by Austin, the nominative head of the Anglo population in the province. The second group, led by firebrands like William Barret Travis, bid their time.

Stephen F. Austin, still hoping for reconciliation, went to Mexico City to present the grievances of the Texans. At first received politely, he was later thrown in prison for expressing his view that Texas should be an independent state within Mexico, free of Coahilla, whose politicians in Saltillo cared little for Texans and Tejanos alike.

It was this act that radicalized the population in Texas. Still, most saw Santa Anna as the enemy – not the Mexican state. When Austin was released months later, he was a changed man, and now openly opposed Santa Anna. When a Mexican garrison marched on Gonzales in October, 1835 to seize a very small cannon that had been given to the settlers to defend against Indians, the seeds of revolution had been sown. Underneath a flag with a picture of the cannon, a single star and the words, “Come and Take It.” Beneath their flag, the Texans readied for the Mexicans.

When the shooting started, one Mexican soldier was killed before they withdrew. It was a small victory in an undeclared war.

Gonzales aside, the largest city in Texas – the provincial capitol San Antonio de Bexar – was still firmly in Mexican control. A group of revolutionaries formed in the Anglo colonies and marched on it. Their single piece of artillery was the small cannon from Gonzales (about three feet long). As it was deemed useless in a real battle, they buried it alongside a creek, where it was re-discovered over a century later.

The large force of Texans, led by Ben Milam, surrounded the city, which was commanded by Martin Perfecto de Cos, Santa Anna’s brother–in–law. A siege ensued, but it soon became clear that the Mexicans had much more food and provisions than the revolutionaries. Morale was slipping amongst the Texans and it seemed the siege would fail. Finally, Milam stood up before his men and shouted, “Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?” A resounding cry greeted him and the Texans attacked. After days of house-to-house fighting in which hundreds of Mexicans died to a mere handful of Texans, the Mexicans surrendered. As they began retreating across the Rio Grande, Texans thought they had expelled the source of tyranny.

Santa Anna himself, however, had been busy crushing revolts across Mexico. The revolution against the dictator was not isolated to Texas, and was not primarily – as later Mexican propaganda attempted to assert – racially motivated. In all, four states rose up against the Santa Anna, and only one of them had a sizeable non-Hispanic population. The Mexican patriots in the Yucatan, Lorenzo de Zavala’s original home, fought for the same ideals their compatriot now fought for in distant Texas – freedom from centralized governmental control.

Though it would later get some help from the Republic of Texas Navy, revolt in the Yucatan would fail because of lack of arms and support from the outside world. Santa Anna easily dispatched the outmatched rebels in Mexico proper, then turned his eyes northward.

All throughout late 1835 and early 1836, Santa Anna began plans to return to the site of his triumph in 1813, to remove all Anglos and disloyal Mexicans from Texas for good. Defying conventional wisdom that argued against military campaigns in winter, the self–styled “Napoleon of the West” marched 2,000 soldiers through thousands of miles of barren land, through a blizzard (which is rare for that region), toward San Antonio. It was truly a masterpiece of military organization and logistics. At the same time, he sent up an army under Gen. Jose de Urrea, of equal size, which moved along the coast, terrorizing the population and demanding loyalty oaths to Santa Anna.

Not all of the rebels were Anglo – respectable numbers of Hispanics joined them – and neither too were all the loyalists Hispanic. The mostly Catholic Irish of San Patricio County generally opposed the Revolution.


(The Alamo, as it appeared a decade after the battle.)

The Alamo – 13 Days of Glory 

The force of rebels which had captured San Antonio in 1835 had dwindled to only about 150 men three months later. The Texians – as they generally called themselves back then – had formed a military, led by Sam Houston, and he began organizing defense of invasion, which no one expected before summer. He sent Col. James Fannin to the Presidio La Bahia in Goliad to set up a defense of the southern border of the Anglo colonies. San Antonio, he thought, was too far away from the Anglo power base to be successfully defended, and he ordered the city abandoned. 

But its leaders had other plans. Since Ben Milam had been killed in the battle for the city, leadership fell to two men. James Bowie, an American who had married a Mexican woman and had lived in the city for a decade, wasn’t about to let his new hometown be taken. William Barret Travis, a vain, glory-hungry 25-year-old lawyer from South Carolina, thought the town should be held, and the Mexican Army stopped in South Texas. 

The two men turned to the old Mission San Antonio de Valero, which the Mexicans had used as a garrison, as their best defensive spot. The fort, known to locals as the “Alamo,” was in disrepair, but could be a very strong fort – with enough men to guard it’s wide walls. But Bowie and Travis didn’t have enough men, and sent letters across Texas asking for more. While they waited, they shored up the walls as best they could, and brought in all the Mexican cannon they had captured.

They had scarcely begun when suddenly, a massive army, 2,000 strong, appeared on the horizon. The Texians were shocked and caught surprised, but quickly regrouped. Provisions were brought into the fort and a group of about 30 volunteers from Tennessee, led by Davy Crockett, a former Congressman, slipped inside the walls. Though the numbers are still debated today, about 190 Texans were probably inside the Alamo, a fort that was designed to be defended by 300. With these small numbers, there were many gaps in the wall.

Santa Anna demanded surrender. Any who refused, he said, would be killed. Travis, who had taken sole command after Bowie had been struck down with illness, replied to the ultimatum with a single cannon shot. A 13-day siege ensued. Midway through it, in an impassioned plea, Travis appealed to the rest of Texas for help. 

There was no help coming, though. For none could come in time.

Although the flag flying over the Alamo bore the Mexican colors and the year “1824” for the constitution the Texans had demanded be reinstated, things had moved much further back in the colonies. On March 2, 1836, 59 statesmen gathered in Washington-on-the-Brazos (near present-day Navasota) and signed a declaration of independence from Mexico. The president of the convention was Sam Houston, who was celebrating his birthday on that day. Soon after it was over, he left to return to his army, which he was readying for battle. Although he had not planned it that way, the defenders at the Alamo were buying him time, and he didn’t waste it.

But time was running out for the Alamo defenders. The Mexicans were now well-settled on all sides of the fort, and it was nearly impossible to get dispatch riders through their lines. Finally, Travis pulled aside Juan Seguin, one of the 10 or so native Tejanos who were fighting on the side of the Texans in the fort. Knowing that only a native could slip through the Mexican lines at night, Travis sent Seguin to send one more plea to Houston.

As he rode through the darkness, Seguin responded to challenges from the Mexican sentries. “Soy Mexicano,” he said. “I am a Mexican.” They let him pass and he spurred his horse to Houston’s camp.


(Juan N. Seguin)

On March 5, James Bonham, another scout who had been sent out to find help, returned to the Alamo, to find it surrounded. The Mexicans were clearly planning an assault, which would overwhelm the fort. Bonham could have turned around and gone back to Houston, but he didn’t. Knowing that there was no possibility of survival, he went in anyway, racing through the Mexican lines, into the fort, so that he could die with his friends.

The attack began in the pre-dawn hours of March 6. The Mexicans suffered terrible losses, including many of their best soldiers, who died in the first waves. Hundreds of bodies piled up before the walls of the Alamo. Finally, the soldiers broke through in a spot where the collapsed wall had been replaced by a wooden palisade. Retreating Texans forgot to spike their cannons, and the Mexicans turned them around. A second line of defense was breached and the fort was overrun. All the defenders were killed in the melee that followed. When it was over, the only survivors were Susana Dickenson, wife of a defender, her child, a black slave and one or two wives of Tejano fighters. All the bodies but one were burned in a funeral pyre. A Mexican army soldier pulled out the body of his own brother, who had fought among the defenders of the Alamo, and was allowed to bury him as a Christian.

Santa Anna had suffered at least 500 dead and many more wounded. Still, he proclaimed it “a small affair.” He then began his march northward, spreading terror, just as his mentor, Gen. Arredondo had done in 1813. The terrified Texas population began to flee in what became known as the “Runaway Scrape.”

Massacre at Goliad

At Goliad, Fannin had received Travis’ letters, and after a long debate, chose to abandon his fort (one of the strongest in Texas) and go to his aid. He had only gotten a day or so away from home when he learned of the Alamo’s fall. He turned back, still unaware that a second army was moving up, with him in its sights. 

Fannin was a West Point graduate, and his 300 men were the best–trained Anglo soldiers in Texas. But they were caught in an open field by the army of Gen. Urrea. In the Battle of Coleto Creek (March 19 and 20),  Fannin’s troops were surrounded and threatened with annihilation. Upon receiving Urrea’s promise of good treatment, Fannin surrendered, and his troops were marched back to their fort, where they now became prisoners of the Mexicans. Upon receipt of word that Urrea had treated the Texans well, Santa Anna flew into a rage, and wrote a letter demanding that Urrea execute all captured troops. To ensure that the letter got to his general, the dictator sent three copies by three separate routes.

Reluctantly, Urrea complied, and on Palm Sunday, marched the Texans out of the fort under the pretext of moving them. When they got to an empty field, the Mexican soldiers suddenly fired on the helpless men in a massacre. Some Mexican soldiers may have intentionally shot high, and a dozen or so of the men escaped, to carry word to the colonies about the treacherous act.

With the interim government having fled Washington-on-the-Brazos and many considering the Texas cause lost, Sam Houston, now the general of all Texas forces continued to drill and prepare his men. Santa Anna’s armies drew nearer, and Houston made strategic retreats, knowing that each step deeper into the colonies helped his supply problems and made Santa Anna’s worse. Still, moral was shrinking fast, and many thought that Houston was a coward. 

Finally, after a month of moving backwards, the army came to a crossroads. One road went north – to America. One went south – to Santa Anna’s army. In a scene of poignant simplicity, Houston, without saying a single word, pointed south and his army erupted in a cheer.


(Statue of Sam Houston, Hermann Park, Houston)

San Jacinto

Among the men riding with Houston was Col. Seguin, who had escaped the Alamo as a courier and would lead the Tejano contingent in the ensuing fight against the Mexican dictator. To identify the “good Mexican” from the “bad Mexicans,” Seguin’s men put pieces of cardboard in their hats. It worked. Although Mexican losses would be heavy, none of Seguin’s Tejanos would be killed.

Santa Anna had camped with his back to the San Jacinto River near modern Houston. He was cocky and arrogant and dismissed Houston’s army. His forces still outnumbered the Texans nearly two to one. His pickets were not even put at their highest state of readiness. He had seen what the well–drilled Mexican Army could do to revolutionaries in the Yucatan and other places, and was not afraid. But he hadn’t appreciated just what he lost at the Alamo. Many of his best troops were gone, and half of the rest were conscripted Indians.

On April 21, 1836, Houston attacked. His scouts had destroyed the bridges Santa Anna needed for escape, and as the Texas forces quickly swept into the surprised Mexican camp, the Mexican Army broke and ran. As the revolutionaries had done in 1813, the Mexicans lost all organization and degenerated into a fleeing mob. The slaughter was terrific. Over 600 Mexicans died. 

Santa Anna himself was captured a day later, hiding in the uniform of a private. But when he was brought back to his captured men, one of them shouted “El Presidente!” and he was exposed. When he was brought to Houston, who was recovering under a tree from a leg wound, Santa Anna was given a simple offer. His life for Texas. Santa Anna bowed his head and agreed. Texas was a free nation at last.   

Epilogue

A few weeks later, a solemn group of citizens gathered around a pile of ashes in San Antonio. Before them was the funeral pyre of the heroes of the Alamo. Only two were missing: Gregorio Esparza, whose brother, a Mexican soldier, had been given his body for burial, and Juan Segiun. Seguin, who was among the most fiercely patriotic Tejanos, had been amongst the Alamo defenders, and seemed fated to die with the rest. But it was not to be. Seguin was chosen to send a vital message to the outside world, and bidding a heart-felt goodbye to his friends, he rode out of the walls of the Alamo. 

And now, here he was again. Presiding over the gathering of mourners, Seguin spoke a eulogy in both English and Spanish. Finishing his touching speech, Juan Seguin bade his friends farewell for a second time. As the sarcophagus was taken to the San Fernando church - where it remains to this day - the final remains of the mortal men of the Alamo were laid to rest. As men, their days were gone forever. As heroes, they would live on, never to be forgotten.

Seguin’s eulogy itself is lost, but the message he had carried from the Alamo on that fateful day is etched forever in the minds of those who love freedom:

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World 

Fellow citizens & compatriots

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat.

Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country. 

VICTORY OR DEATH.  

William Barret Travis,

Lt. Col. comdt.    

Fellow Texans, on this day, we should pause and remember the sacrifices of these heroes, who gave us the freedoms we have today. The heroes of 1836 fought and died to defeat tyranny and to protect democracy and the rule of law. They were emulating their own heroes of 60 years before, and in our daily lives, we should emulate them as well. For theirs was a great, noble and righteous struggle. For those who live in their shadow, the sacrifices of 1776, 1836, and yes, 2008, make every day our Independence Day.

God Bless Texas!







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