“such a pretty brown shirt that fit me so tightly” (Menchaca)

Perceptions of skin color– “such a pretty brown shirt that fit me so tightly” / RTL, 88

After Houston and his officers and also Santa Anna had held a long conversation with Zavala, [88] the latter asked to see the documents which contained a record of the proceedings of the Congress of the Republic of Texas. Rusk told him that I had them and asked him to accompany him over to my quarters. When they reached there I had not returned and they asked where I was and sent after me. My shirt had not yet dried sufficiently for me to put it on, so I went back without it. When I came into the presence of the august ex-vice president of the Republic of Mexico, I had no shirt on, and both he and Rusk looked a little surprised and smiled visibly. Rusk asked me to explain why I came on dress parade before one of the generals of the army with such a pretty brown shirt that fit me so tightly. I told him all of my other shirts but one had been stolen by one of his own men who were guarding some of the baggage and that one was drying on the bank of the bayou. He then said he would make me a present of a shirt and sent to his tent by one of my men to bring me one.

Antonio Menchaca, Recollections of a Tejano Life: Antonio Menchaca in Texas History, edited by Timothy Matovina and Jesús F. de la Teja, with the collaboration of Justin Poché (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013)., 87ff.

 

“Burleson … told me that my family might cross but not me, that the men were needed in the army … I also met up with fourteen Tejanos from San Antonio, and we united and remained there until a company could be formed” (Menchaca)

1836: Menchaca conscripted by Burleson, Mexican company organized. / RTL 66ff

I continued my journey to Gonzales and arrived at the house of Green DeWitt, where I met up with General Edward Burleson, who had just arrived with seventy-three men. I slept there and on the next day attempted [67] to pass to the other side of the river with my family but was prevented by Burleson, who told me that my family might cross but not me, that the men were needed in the army.

Arrival of Seguín with Message from Travis: Organization of Company of Mexicans

At Gonzales I also met up with fourteen Tejanos from San Antonio, and we united and remained there until a company could be formed. The Texans were gradually being strengthened by the addition of from three to fifteen daily. Six days after being there Captain Seguín, who was sent as a courier by Travis, arrived there and presented himself to General Burleson, who upon receipt of the message forwarded it to the Convention assembled at Washington, Texas. On the following day, the Mexican company was organized with twenty-two men, having for captain Seguín, for first lieutenant Manuel Flores, and me for second lieutenant.

On 4 March news reached us that Texas had declared her independence. The few who were there, 350 men, swore allegiance to it, and two days later General Sam Houston arrived and took command of the forces.

Antonio Menchaca, Recollections of a Tejano Life: Antonio Menchaca in Texas History, edited by Timothy Matovina and Jesús F. de la Teja, with the collaboration of Justin Poché (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013)., 66-67.

 

“What, then, was the role of slavery in the Texas Revolution? … The institution was always there, never too far in the background, as … a ‘dull, organic ache.'” (Campbell)

What, then, was the role of slavery in the Texas Revolution? Circumstantial evidence supports the abolitionists’ contention that slavery was the primary cause of the conflict. Anglo-American settlers wanted their Peculiar Institution, and Mexico opposed it, at least in principle. Once they were independent, Texans made no pretense of hiding their determination to guarantee slavery in their new republic. They outlawed the African trade, but that was primarily a response to world opinion rather than an action against slavery.[22] The introduction of slaves from the United States was guaranteed. Given these results, slavery appears to have been a major cause of the revolution.

The difficulty with this interpretation, however, is the lack of direct supporting evidence. Slavery did not play a major role in the developments from the passage of the anti-immigration Law of April 6, 1830, until the outbreak of fighting in the fall of 1835. The institution was not a primary issue in the disturbances of 1832 or the events of late 1835, and Mexico took no action threatening it directly or immediately during these years. Instead, the immediate cause of conflict was the political instability of Mexico and the implications of Santa Anna’s centralist regime for Texas. Mexico forced the issue in 1835, not over slavery, but over customs duties and the generally defiant attitude of Anglo-Americans in Texas.

This, of course, is not to say that slavery was unimportant in the Texas Revolution. In the broadest sense, the conflict resulted from a clash of cultural traditions. Anglo-Americans were simply too different from Hispanic-Americans to accept Mexican government indefinitely. One of those differences was slavery. The institution was always there, never too far in the background, as what the noted Texas historian Eugene C. Barker called a “dull, organic ache.” It was, therefore, an underlying cause of the struggle that began in 1835. Once the revolution came, slavery was an immediate concern. Texans worried constantly about the servile insurrection they accused the Mexicans of trying to foment, and Mexican leaders indicated that slavery would be one of the casualties in their conquest of the rebels. The war did disturb slavery and give some bondsmen the opportunity to escape. After San Jacinto, however, the institution became more secure than it had ever been in Texas. Protecting slavery was [49] not the primary cause of the Texas Revolution, but it certainly was a major result.[23]Samuel Harmon Lowrie, Culture Conflict in Texas, 1821-1835 (New York, 1932), 59-60, 179-81; Barker, Mexico and Texas, 86. On Texans’ fears concerning slavery, see Eugene C. Barker, “Public Opinion in Texas Preceding the Revolution,” in Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1911 (Washington, D.C., 1913), 219. Mexico did indeed end slavery in 1837. See Josefina Zoraida Vázquez, “The Texas Question in Mexican Politics, 1836-1845,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LXXXXIX (1986), 317. Paul D. Lack, “Slavery and the Texas Revolution,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly LXXXXIX (1985), 181-202, is the most recent review of the subject of this chapter. Lack places somewhat greater emphasis on slavery as a cause of the revolution and on the efforts of slaves to use the crisis to obtain freedom, but there is no fundamental difference between his article and the views presented here.

Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press., 48ff.

 

  1. [22]J. Pinckney Henderson as minister to Great Britain and France from the Republic of Texas pointed to the outlawing of the African trade as proof that Texas had “abolished the most offensive features of slavery.” George P. Garrison (ed.), Diplomatic Correspondence of the Republic of Texas (3 vols.; Washington, 1908-11), I, 827-28.
  2. [23]

“there is a force at this place, which … has no other object than to gather the slaves and other property of these citizens” (Seguín)

{22}

From General Pedro de Ampudia
To Juan Seguín [incorrectly addressed to Erasmo Seguín, Juan’s father]
Contraband Marsh, Quarter until eight in the Evening, May 2, 1836

By way of a report received from the officer charged with assisting the sick, I am informed that there is a large force in those woods, which, according to you, has as its sole objective the recovery of black slaves and such [property] as may belong to the citizens of this country. In regard to the former, I say to you that there are no slaves at this place and, with regard to the latter, I have no knowledge of any property belonging to the individuals who accompany you.

[…][138]

{23}

From Juan Seguín
To General Pedro de Ampudia
Headquarters, Vanguard of the Army of Texas, May 3, 1836

By your communication dated a quarter before eight in the evening yesterday, I am informed that from the report given to you by the officer in charge of assisting the sick, you learned there is a force at this place, which, as I stated to the said officer, has no other object than to gather the slaves and other property of these citizens. [To which] purpose my commanding general, upon ordering me and the vanguard to observe the enemy’s movements in its retreat, instructed me to communicate with its leader in order to let him know that the slaves who were to be returned as a result of the negotiations (which, upon my departure from General Headquarters, were being celebrated with the President of Mexico), were to be turned over to me and not left loose in the fields, and that in the future the President of Mexico’s troops were not to avail themselves of Texas property.

Juan N. Seguín, A Revolution Remembered: The Memoirs and Selected Correspondence of Juan N. Seguín, edited by Jesús F. de la Teja (Austin, Texas: State House Press, 1991), 137-138.