The Republic of Texas (1836-1846)

In the 1730s the Spanish had sent more than 30 expeditions into Texas. San Antonio, which by 1718 housed a military post and a mission, had become the administrative centre. Missions, with military support, were established in Nacogdoches in East Texas, Goliad in the south, and near El Paso in the far west. The French also explored Texas. The explorations of Robert Cavelier, Lord de La Salle, and his colony at Matagorda Bay were the bases of French claims to East Texas.

Anglo-American colonization gained impetus when the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 and claimed title to lands as far west as the Rio Grande. By 1819, however, the United States had accepted the Sabine River as the western boundary of the Louisiana Territory. Moses Austin secured permission from the Spanish government to colonize 300 families on a grant of 200,000 acres. When Mexico became an independent country in 1821, his son, Stephen F. Austin, received Mexican approval of the grant. He led his first band of settlers to the area along the lower Brazos and Colorado rivers. By 1832 Austin's several colonies had about 8,000 inhabitants. Other colonies brought the territory's Anglo-American population to about 20,000.

Revolution and the republic

Unrest throughout Mexico, including Texas, resulted in a coup by Antonio López de Santa Anna, who assumed the presidency in 1833. Texans, hopeful for relief from restrictive governmental measures, supported Santa Anna. Austin expected a friendly hearing about these grievances but instead was imprisoned in Mexico City for encouraging insurrection. He was freed in 1835 and returned home to find that skirmishes had already developed between the colonists and Mexican troops and that Santa Anna was preparing to send reinforcements. Texans formed a provisional government in 1835, and in 1836 issued a declaration of independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos. David G. Burnet was chosen ad interim president of the new Republic of Texas, Sam Houston was appointed its military commander, and Austin became commissioner to the United States with the mission of securing strategic aid and enlisting volunteers.

The famous siege of the Alamo in San Antonio lasted from February 23 to March 6, 1836. The strategic objective of the stand was to delay Mexican forces and thereby permit military organization of the Texas settlers. As the battle climaxed with a massive attack over the walls, the defenders (about 183) were all killed. Among the dead were the famous frontiersmen Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett. On April 21 Sam Houston led a surprise attack on the Mexican troops at the San Jacinto River, where he succeeded in capturing Santa Anna and in securing victory for the Texans.

The Texan revolution was not simply a fight between the Anglo-American settlers and Mexican troops; it was a revolution of the people who were living in Texas against what many of them regarded as tyrannical rule from a distant source. Many of the leaders in the revolution and many of the armed settlers who took part were Mexicans.

The Republic of Texas was officially established with Sam Houston as president and Stephen Austin as secretary of state. Cities were named in their honour: Houston was the capital until 1839, when Austin was approved as the permanent capital.

The republic had a difficult 10-year life. Financing proved critical, and efforts to secure loans from foreign countries were unsuccessful. Protection against raids from Mexico and occasional attacks by Indians required a mobile armed force. During the republic a squad of armed men, the famous Texas Rangers, was maintained to ride long distances quickly to repel or punish raiding forces.

Annexation and statehood

As early as 1836, Texans had voted for annexation by the United States, but the proposition was rejected by the Jackson and Van Buren administrations. Great Britain favoured continued independence for Texas in order to block further westward expansion of the United States, but this attitude only helped to swing Americans toward annexation. Annexation was approved by the Texas and the U.S. congresses in 1845, and the transfer of authority from the republic to the state of Texas took place in 1846. One unique feature of the annexation agreements was a provision permitting Texas to retain title to its public lands.

The U.S. annexation of Texas and dispute over the area between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River brought about the Mexican War. Troops led by Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor invaded Mexico, and Scott captured Mexico City on Sept. 14, 1847. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago, signed on Feb. 2, 1848, Mexico gave up its claim to Texas and also ceded an area now in the states of New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, and western Colorado. Texas claimed most of this additional area but later relinquished it in the Compromise of 1850. (Encyclopaedia Britannica Article)