“spin-offs from racial attitudes developed and cultivated through repeated interaction with colored people on the western frontier were being bestowed upon another caste in a different setting”; “a race of ‘mongrels'” (de Leon)

De León positions Texas Mexicans as another people of color in the 19th century racial system, projected into coloredness through “spin-offs from racial attitudes developed and cultivated through repeated interaction with colored peoples on the western frontier,” and keyed to Anglo interpretation of mestizaje as forming a “mongrel” or “degraded” racial status. Emory, qtd. here, on “practical amalgamation of races of different color” and unions between the “cleaner race” or the “white” and “his darker partner.” In p. 112 n. 18 we have de León’s take on the 1845 constitutional convention debate (via Crisp), the first place I heard tell of it.

Manifestly, spin-offs from racial attitudes developed and cultivated through repeated interaction with colored peoples on the western frontier were being bestowed upon another caste in a different setting. As Olmsted reported in his notes on Texas society of the 1850s, Mexicans were regarded as “degenerate and degraded Spaniards” or, perhaps, “improved and Christianized Indians.” Generally, their tastes and social instincts were like those of Africans. “There are thousands in respectable social positions [in Mexico] whose color and physiognomy would subject them, in Texas, to be sold by the sheriff as negro-estrays who cannot be allowed at large without detriment to the commonwealth,” he concluded.[18]

In view of the Southern presumption that individuals with any noticeable trace of African blood were blacks and given the contempt whites had for Indian “half-breeds,” it is not surprising that “niggers,” “redskins,” and “greasers” intimately intermingled in the Anglo-Texan mind. Moreover, whites considered racial mixing a violation of austere moralistic codes. According to Joseph Eve, U.S. chargé d’affaires to the Republic, the Texans regarded Mexicans as a race of “mongrels” composed of Spanish, Indian, and African blood.[19] To Francis S. Latham, traveling in Texas in 1842, Mexicanos were nothing more than “the mongrel and illicit descendants of an Indian, Mexican and Spanish, pencilled with a growing feintline of the Anglo Saxon ancestry.”[20] Such feelings about “mongrels” stemmed from the extensive lore American culture had developed concerning [17] the undesirability and supposed peril of miscegenation, especially between whites and blacks. Certainly, the mixed-blood nature of Tejanos concerned Anglo-Americans because of their cultural aversion to interracial passion, a subject upon which whites expressed themselves adeptly, albeit with no scientific basis. According to white beliefs, Mexicans resembled the degenerates from whom they descended. Although they inherited both the faults and the good qualities of their ancestors, unfortunately, the darker traits predominated, so that Mexicans by nature were superstitious, cowardly, treacherous, idle, avaricious, and inveterate gamblers. William H. Emory, surveying the boundary between the United States and Mexico, related this idea in an incidental remark included as part of his report, finished during the Franklin Pierce administration. Attributing the decline and fall of Spanish domination in Texas and the borderlands to a “baneful” cohabitation between whites and Indians, he continued:

Where practical amaglamation of races of different color is carried [out] to any extent, it is from the absence of the women of the cleaner race. The white makes his alliance with his darker partner for no other purpose than to satisfy a law of nature, or to acquire property, and when that is accomplished all affection ceases. Faithless to his vows, he passes from object to object with no other impulse than the gratification arising from novelty, ending at last in emasculation and disease, leaving no progeny at all, or if any, a very inferior and syphilitic race. Such are the favors extended to the white man by the lower and darker colored races, that this must always be the course of events, and the process of absorption can never work any beneficial change. One of the inevitable results of intermarrying between races of different color is infidelity. The offspring have a constant tendency to go back to one or the other of the original stock; that in a large family of children, where the parents are of mixed race but yet the same color, the children will be of every color, from dusky cinnamon to chalky white. This phenomenon, so easily explained without involving the fidelity of either party, nevertheless produces suspicion followed by unhappiness, and ending in open adultery.[21]

This sort of pseudoscience dictated the status of mixed-blood Tejanos in a white state.

Arnoldo de León, They Called Them Greasers: Anglo Attitudes toward Mexicans in Texas, 1821-1900. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983., 17-18.

 

  1. [18]Olmsted, Journey Through Texas, p. 454.  In 1845, serious debate dealing with the Mexicans’ color arose at the state constitutional convention. Some of the delegates protested that limiting citizenship and franchise to free “white” males might exclude Tejanos (Crisp, “Anglo-Texan Attitudes toward the Mexican,” pp. 413-416). For another example in which whites questioned Mexicans’ right to citizenship because of their color, see Texas State Gazette, April 21, 1855, p. 4.
  2. [19]Joseph Eve, “A Letter Book of Joseph Eve, United States Chargé d’Affaires to Texas,” ed. Joseph Nance, Southwestern Historical Quarterly 43 (October 1939): 218, (April 1940), 494, 506, 510.
  3. [20]Francis S. Latham, Travels in Texas, 1840, or the Emigrant’s Guide to the New Republic, p. 227; Roemer, Texas, p. 11; [Wright and Wright?], Recollections of Western Texas, p. 32; McIntyre, Federals on the Frontier, p. 254. Miscegenation produced curious side effects in Mexicans, according to popular lore. According to border resident Jane Cazneau, “the stoic Mexican, true to his Indian nature, endures suffering himself in silent, passive fortitude, and has no tenderness or sympathy for suffering or anything else” (Eagle Pass: Or, Life on the Border, p. 68; see also pp. 53, 70), while the German Ferdinand Roemer believed the Mexicans had somehow inherited the same inclination and skill for stealing horses as their Indian ancestors (Texas, p. 150).
  4. [21]House Exec. Doc. No. 135, 34th Cong., 1st Sess. (Ser. 861), I: 68-70. For a similar discourse on ethnology, see Vielé, “Following the Drum,” p. 158.

“Menchaca was comparatively well off, but only in relation to a San Antonio Tejano population undergoing a significant downward trend in economic status from landowners to a working underclass.” (Matovina and de la Teja)

1840-1850: Census documentation of declining Tejanx economic position

The 1840 census of the Republic of Texas recorded him as holding one town lot in San Antonio, presumably the location of his private residence, and two horses. He was also the agent of record for his widowed mother, who owned one town lot. After U.S. annexation of Texas, his level of prosperity remained relatively constant. In 1840, on the first U.S. census conducted in San Antonio, he was listed as a “merchant” who owned real estate valued at $2,000; a newspaper report from seven years later mentions Menchaca as one owner of transport carts loaded with goods that left San Antonio for the coast under armed guard during the infamous Cart War.[26]

[15] Still, in comparison to other San Antonio Tejanos, Menchaca’s retention of his homestead and mercantile interests placed him ahead of many contemporaries. Although incomplete, the census of 1840 showed that Tejanos owned 85.1 percent of the town lots in San Antonio, along with 63.8 percent of all land acreage titled to local residents. According to the 1850 census, they owned only 9.1 percent of real estate values claimed. Similarly, in 1830, when Tejanos comprised nearly all the population of San Antonio, the census showed that most residents were farmers and only 14.8 percent were laborers. No employment listings were given in the 1840 census, but in 1850, 61.4 percent of the Tejano population was in labor positions. Menchaca was comparatively well off, but only in relation to a San Antonio Tejano population undergoing a significant downward trend in economic status from landowners to a working underclass.[27]

Menchaca did not complacently accept the woes of his fellow Tejanos. He was a frequent witness for Tejano parties in court cases, particularly for veterans seeking the compensation due them by law for military service in the Texas Revolution. Convinced that the just claims of many Tejano veterans had been denied or unduly delayed as compared to the more prompt approvals their Anglo-American counterparts received, Menchaca was one of nineteen Tejano signers in 1875 of a letter to the Texas comptroller of [16] public accounts that sought to “disabuse [Comptroller Stephen H. Darden’s mind of any prejudice” against Tejano veterans and that demanded for themselves and their comrades “simply justice and nothing more.” His support of fellow Tejanos was so strong that apparently he did not even hold grudges against those who supported the Mexican side in the Texas Revolution. For example, he provided a deposition to support the legal claims of Francisco Esparza, a San Antonio native who, unlike his Alamo-defender brother Gregorio, had opted to fight in the Mexican army during the December 1835 Texan siege of San Antonio and was on reserve with the Mexican forces during Santa Anna’s Texas campaign. James Newcomb summed up Menchaca’s leading role as a legal advocate when he quipped that “in later years, when the titles to almost every foot of ground in the old city and county of Bexar were litigated in the courts, Captain Menchaca became a standing witness to prove up the genealogy of the old families.”[28]

Matovina and de la Teja, “Introduction: Antonio Menchaca in Texas History,” in 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)., 14-16.

  1. [26][…] Gifford White, ed., The 1840 Census of the Republic of Texas, 15; V. K. Carpenter, comp. The State of Texas Federal Population Schedules Seventh Census of the United States, 1850, entry no. 179, 1:121; San Antonio Herald, 25 September 1857, p. 2. For a brief overview of the Cart War, see John J. Linn, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas, 352-354; J. Fred Rippy, “Border Troubles along the Rio Grande, 1848-1860,” 103-104; Larry Knight, “The Cart War: Defining American in San Antonio in the 1850s,” 319-336.
  2. [27]White, ed., The 1840 Census of the Republic of Texas, 12-18; Carpenter, comp., State of Texas Seventh Census, 1:111-189; White, 1830 Citizens of Texas, 79-112. The downward trend in socioeconomic fortunes of Bexareños was not unique, either to Texas or to the Southwest generally. Arnoldo De León, in The Tejano Community, 1836-1900, was the first to explore this theme in a major work, not from the perspective of victimization, but from that of resistance and self-assertion. David Montejano, in confirming De León’s findings, expanded the focus to include the legalistic dynamics of Tejano marginalization in the nineteenth century in Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986. Beyond Texas, Richard Griswold del Castillo, in The Los Angeles Barrio, 1850-1890: A Social History, and Albert Camarillo, in Chicanos in a Changing Society: From Mexican Pueblos to American Barrios in Santa Barbara and Southern California, 1848-1930, trace the very similar processes at work in southern California during the nineteenth century. Even in New Mexico, where they remained such a large percentage of the population, Laura E. Gómez demonstrates in Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race that Mexican Americans faced socioeconomic decline. In all these cases, the result was the formation and reinforcement of a distinctly Mexican-based identity.
  3. [28]Antonio Menchaca, deposition, 1 January 1856, Antonio Fuentes file, and deposition, 28 July 1856, Carlos Espalier file, both in Memorials and Petitions, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin; Juan N. Seguín, “Application for Pension,” 2 October 1874, in Seguín, Revolution Remembered, ed. De la Teja, 2nd ed., 187-188; Tejano citizens to Stephen H. Darden, 12 January 1875, in James M. Day, ed., “Texas Letters and Documents,” 84; Menchaca, deposition, 24 August 1860, Court of Claims voucher file no. 2557 (Francisco Esparza), Texas General Land Office, Austin; Newcomb, introduction to Memoirs, by Antonio Menchaca, ed. Chabot, 11.

“Aiding or inciting a slave insurrection was not defined specifically as a crime until surprisingly late in the development of Texas’ slave code” (Campbell)

1854: Tex. state law passed to punish aiding, planning, or inciting a slave rebellion–N.B. proximity to Columbus expulsions &c.

Aiding or inciting a slave insurrection was not defined specifically as a crime until surprisingly late in the development of Texas’ slave code. An act of December, 1837, provided the death penalty for free blacks found guilty of “insurrection, or any attempt to excite it,” but no law encompassing whites as well as blacks and specifying aiding, planning, or inciting a slave rebellion was passed until 1854. The crime was punishable by death until a revision of the state’s penal code in 1858 reduced the penalty to a prison sentence of ten years to life. “Insurrection of slaves” was defined as an “assemblage of three or more, with arms, with intent to obtain their liberty by force.” After 1858 the law also provided a penalty of five to fifteen years in prison for any person who tried to render a slave “discontented with his state of slavery.”[13]

Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press., 102.

 

  1. [13]Gammel (comp.), Laws of Texas, III, 1511; Oldham and White (comps.), Digest of the General Statute Laws, 539. Oliver C. Hartley (comp.), A Digest of the Laws of Texas (Philadelphia, 1850), the most recent digest made before a general revision began in the mid-1850s, had no law specifying penalties for inciting slave insurrection.

“The great majority of immigrants to antebellum Texas came from the older southern states (77 percent of household heads in Texas were southern born), and many brought with them their slaves and all aspects of slavery as it had matured in their native states.” (Campbell)

Slaveholding South orientation: 77% of heads of household from the South, ~1/4 of [white?] families own slaves:

The limited nature of Texas’s historical experience with slavery, however, belies the vast importance of the institution to the Lone Star state. The great majority of immigrants to antebellum Texas came from the older southern states (77 percent of household heads in Texas were southern born), and many brought with them their slaves and all aspects of slavery as it had matured in their native states. More than one-quarter of Texas families owned slaves during the 1850s, and bondsmen constituted approximately 30 percent of the state’s total population. Proportions of slaveholders and slaves in the populations of Texas and Virginia during the last antebellum decade were closely comparable.[4] In this sense, then, slavery was as strongly established in Texas, the newest slave state, as it was in the oldest slave state in the Union.

Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press., 2.
  1. [4]Randolph B. Campbell and Richard G. Lowe, Wealth and Power in Antebellum Texas (College Station, 1977), 27-30. James D.B. DeBow (comp.), Statistical View of the United States . . . Being a Compendium of the Seventh Census (Washington, D.C., 1854), 86, shows that slaves were 27.3 percent of the population of Texas in 1850 and 33.2 percent of the population of Virginia. In 1860, the comparable statistics were 30.3 for Texas and 30.8 for Virginia; see U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population of the United States in 1860, 483, 515. Approximately one-quarter of all families in Texas and Virginia owned slaves. Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South (New York, 1956), 30.

“Without exception, every Mexican in the county was implicated…” (Scraps of Newspaper, Olmsted)

Contemplated Servile Rising in Texas.

The Galveston News publishes the following in relation to the late contemplated negro insurrection in Colorado county:

Columbus, Colorado Co., Sept. 9, 1856

The object of this communication is to state to you all the facts of any importance connected with a recent intended insurrection.

Our suspicions were aroused about two weeks ago, when a meeting of the citizens of the county was called, and a committee of investigation appointed to ferret out the whole matter, and lay the facts before the people of the county for their consideration. The committee entered upon their duties, and in a short time, they were in full possession of the facts of a well-organized and systematized plan for the murder of our entire white population, with the exception of the young ladies, who were to be taken captives, and made the wives of the diabolical murderers of their parents and friends. The committee found in their possession a number of pistols, bowie-knives, guns, and ammunition. Their passwords of organization were adopted, and their motto, “Leave not a shadow behind.”

Last Saturday, the 6th inst., was the time agreed upon for the execution of their damning designs. At a late hour at night, all were to make one simultaneous, desperate effort, with from two to ten apportioned to nearly every house in the county, kill all the whites, save the above exception, plunder their homes, take their horses and arms, and fight their way on to a “free State” (Mexico).

[504] Notwithstanding the intense excitement which moved every member of our community, and the desperate measures to which men are liable to be led on by such impending danger to which we have been exposed by our indulgence and lenity to our slaves, we must say the people acted with more caution and deliberation than ever before characterized the action of any people under similar circumstances.

More than two hundred negroes had violated the law, the penalty of which is death. But, by unanimous consent, the law was withheld, and their lives spared, with the exception of three of the ringleaders, who were, on last Friday, the 5th inst., at 2 o’clock P.M., hung, in compliance with the unanimous voice of the citizens of the county.

Without exception, every Mexican in the county was implicated. They were arrested, and ordered to leave the county within five days, and never again to return, under the penalty of death. There is one, however, by the name of Frank, who is proven to be one of the prime movers of the affair, that was not arrested; but we hope that he may yet be, and have meted out to him such reward as his black deed demands.

We are satisfied that the lower class of the Mexican population are incendiaries in any country where slaves are held, and should be dealt with accordingly. And for the benefit of the Mexican population, we would here state, that a resolution was passed by the unanimous voice of the county, forever forbidding any Mexican from coming within the limits of the county.

Peace, quiet, and good order are again restored, and, by the watchful care of our Vigilance Committee, a well-organized patrol, and good discipline among our planters, we are persuaded that there will never again occur the necessity of a communication of the character of this.

Yours respectfully,

John H. Robson,
H.A. Tatum,
J.H. Hicks.
} Cor. Com.

The Galveston News, of the 11th nst. has also the following paragraph:

“We learn, from the Columbian Planter, of the 9th, that two of the negroes engaged in the insurrection at Columbus were whipped to death; three more were hung last Friday, and the Mexicans who were implicated were ordered to leave the country. There was no proof against these last beyond surmises. The band had a deposit of arms and ammunition in the bottom. They had quite a number of guns, and a large lot of knives, manufactured by one of their number. It was their intention to fight their way to Mexico.”

[From the True Issue, Sept. 5]

We noticed last week the rumor that a large number of slaves, of Colorado county, had combined and armed themselves for the purpose of fighting their way into Mexico. Developments have since been made of a much more serious nature than our information then indicated. It is ascertained that a secret combination had been formed, embracing most of the negroes of the county, for the purpose of not fleeing to Mexico, but of murdering the inhabitants–men, women, and children promiscuously. To carry out their hellish purposes, they had organized into companies of various sizes, had adopted secret signs and passwords, sworn never to divulge the plot under the penalty of death, and had elected captains and subordinate officers to command the respective companies. They had provided themselves with some fire-arms and home-made bowie-knives, and had appointed the time for a simultaneous movement. Some two hundred, we learn, have been severely punished under the lash, and several are now in jail awaiting the more serious punishment of death, which is to be inflicted to-day. One of the principal instigators of the movement is a free negro, or one who had been permitted to control his own time as a free man.

Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through Texas; or, a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier (New York: Dix, Edwards & Co, 1857), 503-504.

 

“Town Life” in San Antonio and “The Mexicans in Texas” (Olmsted, Journey Through Texas)

Town Life.

The street-life of San Antonio is more varied than might be supposed. Hardly a day passes without some noise. If there be no personal affray to arouse talk, there is some Government train to be seen, with its hundred of mules, on its way from the coast to a fort above; or a Mexican ox-train from the coast, with an interesting supply of ice, or flour, or matches, or of whatever the shops find themselves short. A Government express clatters off, or news arrives from some exposed outpost, or from New Mexico. An Indian in his finery appears on a shaggy horse, in search of blankets, powder, and ball. Or at the least, a stage-coache with the “States,” or the Austin, mail, rolls into the plaza and discharges its load of passengers and newspapers.

The street affrays are numerous and characteristic. I have seen, for a year or more, a San Antonio weekly, and hardly a number fails to have its fight or its murder. More often than otherwise, the parties meet upon the plaza by chance, and each, on catching sight of his enemy, draws a revolver, and fires away. As the actors are under more or less excitement, their aim is not apt to be of the most careful and sure, consequently it is, not seldom, the passers-by who suffer. Sometimes it is a young man at a quiet dinner in a restaurant, who receives a ball in the head; sometimes an old negro woman, returning from market, who gets winged. After disposing of all their lead, the parties close, to try their steel, but as this species of metallic amusement is less popular, they generally contrive to be separated (“Hold me! Hold me!”) by friends before the wounds are mortal. If neither is seriously injured, they are brought to drink together on the following day, and the town waits for the next excitement.

[159] Where borderers and idle soldiers are hanging about drinking-places, and where different races mingle on unequal terms, assassinations must be expected. Murders, from avarice or revenge, are common here. Most are charged upon the Mexicans, whose passionate motives are not rare, and to whom escape over the border is easiest and most natural.

The town amusements of a less exciting character are not many. There is a permanent company of Mexican mountebanks, who give performances of agility and buffoonery two or three times a week, parading, before night, in their spangled tights with drum and trombone through the principal streets. They draw a crowd of whatever little Mexicans can get adrift, and this attracts a few sellers of whisky, tortillas, and tamaules (corn slap-jacks and hashed meat in corn-shucks), all by the light of torches making a ruddily picturesque evening group.

The more grave Americans are served with tragedy by a thin local company, who are death on horrors and despair, long rapiers, and well oiled hair, and for lack of a better place to flirt with passing officers, the city belles may sometimes be seen looking on. The national background of peanuts and yells, is not, of course, wanting.

A day or two after our arrival, there was the hanging of a Mexican. The whole population left the town to see. Family parties, including the grandmother and the little negroes, came from all the plantations and farms within reach, and little ones were held up high to get their share of warning. The Mexicans looked on imperturbable.

San Antonio, excluding Galveston,[*] is much the largest city [160] of Texas. After the Revolution, it was half deserted by its Mexican population, who did not care to come under Anglo-Saxon rule. Since then its growth has been rapid and steady. At the census of 1850, it numbered 3,500; in 1853, its population was 6,000; and in 1856, it is estimated at 10,500. Of these, about 4,000 are Mexicans, 3,000 are Germans, and 3,500 Americans. The money-capital is in the hands of the Americans, as well as the officers and the Government. Most of the mechanics and the smaller shopkeepers are German. The Mexicans appear to have almost no other business than that of carting goods. Almost the entire transportation of the country is carried on by them, with oxen and two-wheeled carts. Some of them have small shops, for the supply of their own countrymen, and some live upon the produce of farms and cattle-ranches owned in the neighborhood. Their livelihood is, for the most part, exceedingly meagre, made up chiefly of corn and beans.

The Mexicans in Texas.

We had, before we left, opportunities of visiting familiarly many of the Mexican dwellings. I have described their externals. Within, we found usually a single room, open to the roof and invariably having a floor of beaten clay a few inches below the level of the street. There was little furniture–huge beds being the universal pièce de résistance. These were used by day as sofa and table. Sometimes there were chairs and a table besides; but frequently only a bench, with a few earthen utensils for cooking, which is carried on outside. A dog or a cat appears on or under the bed, or on the clothes-chest, a saint on the wall, and frequently a game-cock fastened in a corner, supplied with dishes of corn and water.

[161] We were invariably received with the most gracious and beaming politeness and dignity. Their manner towards one another is engaging, and that of children and parents most affectionate. This we always noticed in evening walks and in the groups about the doors, which were often singing in chorus–the attitudes expressive of confident affection. In one house, we were introduced to an old lady who was supposed by her grandchildren to be over one hundred years old. She had come from Mexico, in a rough cart, to make them a visit. Her face was strikingly Indian in feature, her hair, snow white, flowing thick over the shoulders, contrasting strongly with the olive skin. The complexion of the girls is clear, and sometimes fair, usually a blushing olive. The variety of feature and color is very striking, and is naturally referred to three sources–the old Spanish, the creole Mexican, and the Indian, with sometimes a suspicion of Anglo-Saxon or Teuton. The hair is coarse, but glossy, and very luxuriant; the eye, deep, dark, liquid, and well set. Their modesty, though real, we heard, was not proof against a long courtship of flattering attentions and rich presents. The constancy of the married women was made very light of, not that their favors were purchasable, but that they are sometimes seized by a strong penchant for some other than their lord. There was testimony of this in the various shades and features of their children; in fact we thought the number of babies of European hair and feature exceeded the native olive in number. We noticed, in a group of Mexican and negro women, when an indelicate occurrence took place, that the former turned away in annoyed modesty, while the latter laughed broadly. Their constitutions, in general, are feeble, and very many of both sexes, we were informed, suffered from scrofulous disease. [162] Nevertheless, with good stimulus, the men make admirable laborers.

The common dress was loose and slight, not to say slatternly. It was frequently but a chemise, as low as possible in the neck, sometimes even lower, with a calico petticoat. On holidays they dress in expensive finery, paying special attention to the shoes, of white satin, made by a native artist.

The houses of the rich differ little form those of the poor, and the difference in their style of living must be small, owing to the want of education and of all ambition. The majority are classed as laborers. Their wages are small, usually, upon farms near San Antonio, $6 or $8 a month, with corn and beans. That of the teamsters is in proportion to their energy. On being paid off, they hurry to their family and all come out in their best to spend the earnings, frequently quite at a lost for what to exchange them. They make excellent drovers and shepherds, and in work like this, with which they are acquainted, are reliable and adroit. A horse-drover, just from the Rio Grande, with whom we conversed, called them untiring and faithful at their work, but untrustworthy in character. To his guide, he paid $24 a month, to his “right bower,” $15, and to his “left bower,” $12 a month.

Their tools are of the rudest sort. The old Mexican wheel of hewn blocks of wood is still constantly in use, though supplanted, to some extent, by Yankee wheels, sent in pairs from New York. The carts are always hewn of heavy wood, and are covered with white cotton, stretched over hoops. In these they live, on the road, as independently as in their own house. The cattle are yoked by the horns, with raw-hide thongs, of which they make a great use.

[163] They consort freely with the negroes, making no distinction from pride of race. A few, of old Spanish blood, have purchased negro servants, but most of them regard slavery with abhorrence.

The Mexicans were treated for a while after annexation like a conquered people. Ignorant of their rights, and of the new language, they allowed themselves to be imposed upon by the new comers, who seized their lands and property without shadow of claim, and drove hundreds of them homeless across the Rio Grande. They now, as they get gradually better informed, come straggling back, and often their claims give rise to litigation, usually settled by a compromise.

A friend told us, that, wishing, when he built, to square a corner of his lot, after making diligent inquiry he was unable to hear of any owner for the adjoining piece. He took the responsibility, and moved his fence over it. Not long after, he was waited upon by a Mexican woman, in a towering passion. He carried her to a Spanish acquaintance, and explained the transaction. She was immediately appeased, told him he was welcome to the land, and has since been on the most neighborly terms, calling him always her “amigo.”

Most adult Mexicans are voters by the organic law; but few take measures to make use of the right. Should they do so, they might probably, in San Antonio, have elected a government of their own. Such a step would be followed, however, by a summary revolution. They are regarded by slaveholders with great contempt and suspicion, for their intimacy with slaves, and their competition with plantation labor.

Americans, in speaking of them, constantly distinguish themselves as “white folks.” I once heard a new comer informing another American, that he had seen a Mexican with a revolver. [164] “I shouldn’t think they ought to be allowed to carry fire-arms. It might be dangerous.” “It would be difficult to prevent it,” the other replied; “Oh, they think themselves just as good as white men.”

From several counties they have been driven out altogether. At Austin, in the spring of 1853, a meeting was held, at which the citizens resolved, on the plea that Mexicans were horse-thieves, that they must quit the country. About twenty families were thus driven from their homes, and dispersed over the western counties. Deprived of their means of livelihood, and rendered furious by such wholesale injustice, it is no wonder if they should take to the very crimes with which they are charged.

A similar occurrence took place at Seguin, in 1854; and in 1855, a few families, who had returned to Austin, were again driven out.

Even at San Antonio, there had been talk of such a razzia. A Mexican, caught in an attempt to steal a horse, had been hung by a Lynching party, on the spot, for an example. His friends happened to be numerous, and were much excited, threatening violence in return. Under pretext of subduing an intended riot, the sheriff issued a call for an armed posse of 500 men, with the idea of dispersing and driving from the neighborhood a large part of the Mexican population. But the Germans, who include among them the great majority of young men suitable for such duty, did not volunteer as had been expected, and the scheme was abandoned. They were of the opinion, one of them said to me, that this was not the right and republican way. If the laws were justly and energetically administered, no other remedy would be needed. One of them, who lived on the Medina, in the vicinity of the place of the occurrence, told us he had no [165] complaint to make of the Mexicans; they never stole his property, or troubled him in any way.

The following is the most reliable estimate I can obtain of the actual Mexican population in Texas, (1856):–

San Antonio 4,000
Bexar Co. 2,000
Uvalde Co. 1,000
Laredo 1,500
El Paso, with Presidio 8,500
Lower Rio Grande Counties 3,000
Goliad and Nueces Counties 1,000
Other parts of State 1,000
Floating, say 3,000
25,000
Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through Texas; or, a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier (New York: Dix, Edwards & Co, 1857), 158-165.
  1. [*]The two towns have nearly kept pace in growth. The yellow fever, it is said, has now given San Antonio the advantage.

“said land shall not be … within four miles of the residence or improvements of any white inhabitant of this State” (Alabama Indians Relief Act, 1854)

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, that twelve hundred and eighty acres of vacant and unappropriated land, situated in either Polk or Tyler counties, or both, to be selected by the Chiefs of the Alabama Indians and the Commissioners hereinafter named, be, and the same is hereby set apart for the sole use and benefit of, and as a home for the said tribe of Indians….

Sec. 3. That said land shall not be selected or located within four miles of the residence or improvements of any white inhabitant of this State. And that said Indians shall not alien, lease, rent, let, give or otherwise dispose of said land or any part thereof to any person whatsoever. And should the State of Texas hereafter provide a home for said tribe of Indians, and settle them thereon, then the said twelve hundred and eighty acres of land, with its improvements, shall become the property of the State.

“An Act for the relief of the Alabama Indians,” February 3, 1854. H. P. N. Gammel, The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, Vol. 4 (Austin, Texas: Gammel's Book Store, 1898), 68 (link).

 

“not to permit any Indian or Indians, to be absent from said Reservations … unless they are accompanied by some white man, or men, to be sent with them” (Laws of Texas, 1858)

Be it Resolved by the Legislature of the State of Texas, that the Governor be, and he is hereby requested to urge upon the authorities of the Federal Government at Washignton, the great necessity of the immediate establishment of a permanent military post as near the junction of the larger Wichita and Red River as practicable, and the Indian Agents in charge of the Indians on the Texas Indian Reserve, be instructed to require every male Indian over the age of twelve years, to be upon the Reserve under his control every day, unless such Indian or Indians have his special written permission to be absent; and that such Agents be instructed not to permit any Indian or Indians, to be absent from said Reservations by special permission more than three days at any one time, unless they are accompanied by some white man, or men, to be sent with them by him, to prevent them from committing depredations on the citizens of the country, or communicating with other Indians not known to be at peace with Texas, or sent with white men [276/1148] as guides, hunters, &c., or sent by said Agents as spies, of express bearers; and that the Agents be required to enforce these instructions, and that the Government furnish and keep constantly at each Reserve, a sufficient military force to enable Agents to carry out such instructions. And that our Senators and Representatives in Congress be requested to co-operate with the Governor in accomplishing the objects of this Resolution, and that the Governor be requested to furnish each of them and the President and Secretary of War, and Secretary of the Interior of the United States, with a copy of the same.

Approved, January 29th, 1858.

Joint Resolution of January 29, 1858. H. P. N. Gammel, The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, Vol. 4 (Austin, Texas: Gammel's Book Store, 1898), 275-276 (link).

“The insolence of a slave will justify a white man in inflicting moderate chastisement,” Slavery, Color and the Penal Code (Texas Penal Code Revisions 1858)

[156/1028] An Act supplementary to and amendatory of an act entitled an act to adopt and establish a Penal Code for the State of Texas, approved 28th August, 1856.

Article 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That the following Chapters and Articles of the act above recited, commonly known as the Penal Code, be, and they are hereby so amended as that the same shall hereafter respectively read as follows–that is to say:

“An Act supplementary to and amendatory of an act entitled an act to adopt and establish a Penal Code for the State of Texas, approved 28th August, 1856” (February 12, 1858). H. P. N. Gammel, The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, Vol. 4 (Austin, Texas: Gammel's Book Store, 1898), 156 (link).

[157/1029] TITLE 5.

CHAPTER 1.

Principals.

Article 218a. If the master of a slave instigates, aids, encourages, advises, or wilfully permits such slave to commit an offence, he may be considered and prosecuted, either as a principal or as an accomplice, and shall be punished in the manner prescribed in Article 223 of the Penal Code.

“An Act supplementary to and amendatory of an act entitled an act to adopt and establish a Penal Code for the State of Texas, approved 28th August, 1856” (February 12, 1858). H. P. N. Gammel, The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, Vol. 4 (Austin, Texas: Gammel's Book Store, 1898), 156 (link).

[177/1049]

CHAPTER 8.

Cruel treatment of Slaves

Article 670 shall hereafter read as follows:

If any person shall unreasonably abuse or cruelly treat a slave, whether his own property or the property of another, he shall be fined not less than one hundred nor more than two thousand dollars.

Article 672 shall hereafter read as follows:

It is cruel treatment of a slave to inflict an unusual degree of punishment without just provocation, or to torture or cause unusual pain and suffering to a slave by the use of any means, or to subject such slave to punishment so severe as to become injurious to his health, or calculated greatly to depreciate his value, or for the person having the charge of any slave to fail to supply him with comfortable clothing, or a sufficient quantity of wholesome food.

“An Act supplementary to and amendatory of an act entitled an act to adopt and establish a Penal Code for the State of Texas, approved 28th August, 1856” (February 12, 1858). H. P. N. Gammel, The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, Vol. 4 (Austin, Texas: Gammel's Book Store, 1898), 177 (link).

[186/1058] PART III.

Of offences committed by Slaves and Free persons of color.

TITLE 1.

General Provisions

Article 796 shall hereafter read as follows:

An offence committed by a slave or free person of color, is known as a felony. When the punishment therefor is death, all other offences committed by either of these classes of persons are called petty offences.

TITLE 2.

Rules applicable to offences against the person when committed by Slaves or Free Persons of color.

Article 802 shall hereafter read as follows:

The offences enumerated in Title 17 of the Second Part of this Code, when committed by slaves or free persons of color, against a free white person, are subject to different rules from such as are prescribed in defining guilt or innocence when committed by a free white person, and the guilt or innocence of the accussed is to be ascertained by a consideration of the following general principles:

1st. The right of the master to the obedience of and submission of his slave, in all lawful things, is perfect, and the power belongs to the master to inflict any punishment upon the slave not affecting life or limb, and not coming within the definition of cruel treatment, or unreasonable abuse, which he may consider necessary for the purpose of keeping him in such submission, and enforcing such submission to his commands; and if, in the exercise of this right, with or without cause, the slave resists and slays his master, it is murder.

[187/1059] 2d. The master has not the right to kill his slave, or to maim or dismember him, except in cases mentioned in article 564 of this Code.

3d. A master, in the exercise of his right to perfect obedience on the part of the slave, may correct in moderation, and is the exclusive judge of the necessity of such correction; and resistance by the slave, under such circumstances, if it results in homicide, renders him guilty of murder.

4th. The insolence of a slave will justify a white man in inflicting moderate chastisement, with an ordinary instrument of correction, if done at the time when the insolent language is used, or within a reasonable time after; but it will not authorize an excessive battery, as with a dangerous weapon.

5th. The rules respecting manslaughter, as given in the second part of this Code, apply only to equals, and not to the case of offences by slaves, or free persons of color, against free white persons.

6th. An assault and battery, not inflicting great injury, committed by a free white person upon a slave, will not be a sufficient provocation to mitigate a homicide of the former by the latter, from murder to manslaughter, although it be in a case where the law does not expressly justify assault and battery.

7th. That amount of personal injury is a legal provocation, of which it can be pronounced, having due regard to the relative condition of the white man and the slave, and the obligation of the latter to conform his passions to his condition of inferiority, that it would provoke well disposed slaves into a violent passion, and the existence of such provocation will reduce the homicide to manslaughter.

8th. If a slave, by insolence, provoke chastisement, and then slay the person chastising him, it will be murder.

9th. In the following cases it is lawful for a free white person to inflict chastisement upon a slave by a moderate whipping:

1st. If a slave, without the consent of the white person, be found upon his premises at night.

2d. If the slave, against the orders of the white person, be found upon his premises at any time.

3d. If a slave be found using improper language, or guilty of indecent or turbulent conduct in the presence of white persons.

[188/1060] 4th. If the slave be guilty of rude or unbecoming conduct in the presence of a free white female.

5th. If a slave use insulting language or gestures towards a white person.

6th. If a slave commit any wilfull act, injurious to the property or person of a free white person, or of any member of his family.

7th. If a slave be found drunk, and making a disturbance in any public place, or upon the premises of a free white person.

TITLE 3.

Of the punishment of slaves and free persons of color.

CHAPTER 1.

Of Slaves.

Article 812 shall hereafter read as follows:

Slaves are subject to the following punishment–

  1. Death
  2. Whipping

Article 816 shall hereafter read as follows:

Whipping is inflicted upon the bare back, and in all cases the number of lashes shall be fixed by the Jury, Justice, Mayor, or Recorder who try the case; provided the whipping allowed by this article shall not be such as to permanently injure or endanger the life of the slave.

Article 819 shall hereafter read as follows:

The following offences when committed by slaves, shall be punished by death: first, murder; second, insurrection; third, arson; fourth, rape upon a free white woman; fifth, robbery when committed upon a free white person; sixth, assault with intent to commit murder, rape or robbery upon a free white person; seventh, an attempt to commit a rape upon a free white woman; eighth, assault with a deadly weapon upon a free white person.

CHAPTER 2.

Of Free Persons of Color.

Article 822 shall hereafter read as follows:

Free persons of color are subject to the following punishments: [189/1061] 1. Death; 2d. Whipping; 3. Labor upon any public works of a county.

Article 823 shall hereafter read as follows:

All offences which by law may be capitally punished, in the case of a slave, shall be punished capitally, when committed by a free person of color.

Article 824 shall hereafter read as follows:

Aiding in an insurrection of slaves, and kidnapping a free white woman, when committed by a free person of color, shall be punished by death.

Article 829 shall hereafter read as follows:

For all other offences not herein provided for, a free person of color, may be punished by whipping, and by being forced to work upon the roads, or other public works of the county where he is convicted, under the direction of the County Court, for a term not exceeding twelve months.

“An Act supplementary to and amendatory of an act entitled an act to adopt and establish a Penal Code for the State of Texas, approved 28th August, 1856” (February 12, 1858). H. P. N. Gammel, The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, Vol. 4 (Austin, Texas: Gammel's Book Store, 1898), 186-189 (link).

“If any white person shall, within this state, knowingly marry a negro, or a person of mixed blood, descended from negro ancestry …” (Texas Penal Code Revision of 1858)

[156/1028] An Act supplementary to and amendatory of an act entitled an act to adopt and establish a Penal Code for the State of Texas, approved 28th August, 1856.

Article 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That the following Chapters and Articles of the act above recited, commonly known as the Penal Code, be, and they are hereby so amended as that the same shall hereafter respectively read as follows–that is to say:

[…]

[164/1036]

TITLE 12.

CHAPTER 1.

Unlawful Marriage.

Article 386 shall hereafter read as follows:

If any white person shall, within this state, knowingly marry a negro, or a person of mixed blood, descended from [165/1037] negro ancestry, to the third generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation may have been a white person, or having so married in or out of this State, shall continue within this State to cohabit with such negro, or such descendant of a negro, he or she shall be punished by confinement in the Penitentiary, not less than two nor more than five years.

[…]

CHAPTER 2.

Article 392 shall hereafter read as follows:

Every man and woman who shall live together in adultery, or fornication, shall be punished by fine, not less than one hundred, nor more than one thousand dollars.

Article 395a. Every white person who shall live in adultery or fornication with a negro, or a person of mixed blood, descended from negro ancestry, to the third generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation may have been a white person, shall be punished by fine, of not less than one hundred nor more than one thousand dollars.

“An Act supplementary to and amendatory of an act entitled an act to adopt and establish a Penal Code for the State of Texas, approved 28th August, 1856” (February 12, 1858). H. P. N. Gammel, The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, Vol. 4 (Austin, Texas: Gammel's Book Store, 1898), 164-165 (link).