“Texans remained in a virtual state of war for nearly fifty years … an Anglo-Texan strategy and a policy … the deliberate ethnic cleansing of … people of color” (Anderson)

Texans remained in a virtual state of war for nearly fifty years, the longest continuous struggle of its kind in American history. Indeed, the fighting subsided only with the defeat of the Comanche and Kiowa during the Red River campaigns of 1874-1875. Although the following statement may seem “presentistic” to some, in hindsight the conflict can be seen for what it was: an Anglo-Texan strategy and a policy (at first haphazard, debated, and even at times abandoned) that gradually led to the deliberate ethnic cleansing of a host of people, especially people of color.[2]

Gary Clayton Anderson, The Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promised Land, 1820-1875 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005), 7.
  1. [2]To those readers who believe that “presentist” arguments are unfair, I would suggest that as an explanatory model, ethnic cleansing sheds much useful light. And it is well understood. For further reading, see Norman M. Naimark, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001), and George J. Andreopoulos, Genocide: Conceptual and Historical Dimensions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994).

1835-45: Development of a “Culture of War” (Anderson)

In retrospect, rather than a fight for liberty, the 1835 Anglo-led revolution was a poorly conceived southern land grab that nearpy failed. Texans had an overwhelming desire to expand slavery (an institution that Mexico had outlawed) and to use slave labor to increase profits made from cotton production.

Many American politicians, particularly those from the North, recognized the conspiratorial nature of the revolt and initially kept Texas from joining the American union. Texas formed a republic in 1836 that remained separate from the United States for nine years. During that time, Texas constantly feuded with Mexico, creating a “culture of war,” or a persisting belief that violence against people was necessary for nation building.

Gary Clayton Anderson, The Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promised Land, 1820-1875 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005), 5.