I am a big history buff, and am one of those strange people who are able to read a history book and call it a pleasant experience. Most people read history books, nod their heads and agree inwardly that whatever the history book wrote is all 100% true. After all, it is a history book, it is non fiction and so ipso facto must be true.
But not everybody is an discerning idiot like myself.
And so I am kicking off a new series on the blog, called Real History. Because, when I read a history book, I have a 180 degree different attitude than most people - prove to me that what is written there is not bullshit.
After all, isn't believing that a history book is all true the same as believing that everything you see on TV "news" is true? Isn't that similar to religious faith? And since religious faith is bullshit.... Catch my drift?
Example. When two countries make war on each other, inevitably history books of both will be written about that. Make an effort and try to read history books of both nations about those events - you will be surprised that, although they describe the same battles and events, probably using the same documents as sources, the tone of them will be very different. An apocryphal example, but a truism never-the-less.
So - onward to XIX Century Texas.
The typical American schoolbook will describe the Texas revolution thusly: Texas was a Mexican territory at first, American folks (who immigrated to Mexico from USA -imagine that!) lived there peacefully and all was hunky dory. Then the evil Mexican president Santa Ana got uppity and the brave Texans had to revolt and fight for freedom, liberty and the American way. Even back then there were a lot of Mexicans, and so at Alamo the brave Texas folk got wiped out. See the glowing description here, from www.lone-star.net. From the webpage: "For many Americans and most Texans, the battle has become a symbol of patriotic sacrifice. Traditional popular depictions, including novels, stage plays, and motion pictures, emphasize legendary aspects that often obscure the historical event."
The Texas Revolution and the Alamo was tailor made for Hollywood, and the entertainment industry duly obliged and pumped out tens of blockbuster war movies, where white Texas colonists fight heroically the Mexican army.
After Alamo, the Texans did the impossible and actually won their independence, after defeating Santa Ana in a battle of San Jacinto. Basically the idiot Mexican president was captured, a knife was stuck to his throat, and he was gently asked told that if he wanted to live, he better grant Texas a nationhood separate from Mexico.
Santa Ana, the president of Mexico, graciously and enthusiastically agreed to Texas independence.
Shortly after, the white Texans, who as you remember immigrated to Mexico from USA, voted to rejoin USA. The evil Mexicans got uppity again and so the heroic American troops had to kill them. Here is the official version again.
Texas joined the American Union after Yoo Ess Ey's victory and everybody was happy.
That is the official version. Now sit down, grab a hot tea, hot coffee, or better yet some alcoholic beverage and get ready for the no bullshit zone of history.
Look up the wardata.net Mexican-American War Timeline. Take your time. I would gently ask you to pay attention to the word slaves as you read the timeline.
See something interesting? That's right, in the official US History version the slave issue is almost non existent.
What follows is the unofficial (and true) history of the Texas Reolution and the Mexican-American War.
Let's start in the beginning then. Mexico was a colony of Spain, and fought a War of Independence to become a nation. One of the first issues it dealt with oddly enough was American immigration into Mexico. A American business man, named Moses Austin, swindled a deal with the then Spanish (as in Spain, the colonial country) authorities and got their permission to bring 300 American immigrants to Mexico. This Moses fellow led a very interesting life, as he pursued the ancient American dream of making big $$$ for himself. He moved from place to place, never letting anything stop him, even swore allegiance to the Spanish Crown (as an American citizen!) to establish his business in Spanish controlled parts of America.
He failed several times in his business dealings, alas, and was bankrupt twice. First time the state of Virginia confiscated his businesses, and second time the War of 1812 again bankrupted him and again he had to sell his businesses at very bad prices.
But he was a very persistent fella.
Moses made his way to Texas (then a Spanish possession), and that's when he swindled the deal to bring 300 white Americans into Texas. Alas, unluckily for Moses, he met some bandits on a road back into the US, and was so severely beaten that he died.
And that would be the end of the story except this nutter asked his son to continue his dream of making money in Texas. Gotta hand it to Moses, he was one persistent son-of-a-bitch.
His son, Austin, took Spanish citizenship, and moved into Texas with the assorted riff raff. Funnily enough, meanwhile the Mexicans revolted and won their independence. Imagine the surprise of a just installed Mexican governor as a bunch of white guys came in and said that they have a treaty with the (previous, now gone) Spanish government of Texas stating they have a right to settle there.
The Mexican governor, one Senor Martinez, shrugged his shoulders and basically said "Whatever, fella, go fuck yourself and leave me alone." The incredible true story is here, in the glorious Wikipedia
And lo it was, that the Americans came to live in Texas. And Austin, son of Moses, was a smart fella, went back to USA and "offered land at 12.5 cents per acre, only 10% of what comparable acreage sold for in the United States. Settlers would pay no customs duties for seven years and would not be subject to taxation for ten years. In return, they would be expected to become Mexican citizens."
No taxes! Cheap land! And all you have to do is become a Mexican citizen!
Joyful Americans poured into Mexico, establishing a pretty prosperous society. Some of them just happened to be slaves though, as many Americans came from the South of the country, and so brought their slaves with them.
This was a problem - (please see Slavery in Texas Wiki article here).
You see, "in 1823, Mexico forbade the sale or purchase of slaves and required that the children of slaves be freed when they reached fourteen".
In 1829 Mexico outlawed slavery altogether, making it illegal to own slaves in the country.
This made the American immigrants in Texas justifiably angry, as these terrible Mexican anti slavery laws were extremely anti business and anti Texan. They interfered with Moses', his son's, and now the Texans' dream of making big $$$.
So, quoting Wikipedia: "To circumvent the law, many Anglo colonists converted their slaves into indentured servants for life. Others simply called their slaved indentured servants without legally changing their status. Slaveholders wishing to enter Mexico would force their slaves to sign contracts claiming that the slaves owed money and would work to pay the debt. The low wages the slave would receive made repayment impossible, and the debt would be inherited, even though no slave would receive wages until age eighteen."
But the evil Mexicans again interfered with American god given right to make money, as "This tactic was outlawed by an 1832 state law which prohibited worker contracts from lasting more than ten years."
This could not be allowed.
Big business was affected.
This meant war.
And so the "glorious" Texas Revolution for freedom (snicker), liberty (hahahaha) and American way (that for sure) happened.
After the glorious fuck up that was The Alamo, Sam Houston and his army of Texan riff raff surprised Santa Ana's Mexican Army. By surprise I mean that they moved in silently as close to the Mexican army tent camp and then charged, killing the surprised Mexicans, who were trained to fight in European style, make ranks and fire. None of that bullshit in the slaughter of San Jacinto, as the dumbass Mexicans were killed in their tents. Only nine Texans died, which make calling this a "battle" a slightly dubious proposition. Slaughter fits better. Or perhaps massacre.
Santa Ana, then the Mexican president was duly captured by the Texans, who then gently posed him a question regarding Texas independence from Mexico.
If you want to see how the question was posed, here is a scene of Santa Ana in Texan custody.
Needless to say, Santa Ana enthusiastically agreed to all the demands put to him. And squeeeeeled like a pig.
Incidentally, Sam Houston personifies the type of people who left the United States voluntarily and settled in Mexican Texas. The reason why he left the USA: he beat a man with a cane on a street in our nation's capital. US Congress ordered his arrest, and he was found guilty in his trial even though he pleaded self defense. Being friends with a then US president James K. Polk, allowed a wink wink nod nod settlement of the case and Sammy boy was "reprimanded". For almost killing a man in broad daylight in our nation's capital. That man who was beat up happened to be a Congressman - hence the outrage of Congress and its involvement in the case.
American history is just gloooooorious ain't it?
Sam was ordered to pay a $500 fee after the beaten up Congressman sued him for assault in a civil court (pansy! girly man!) but, Sam being Sam, he elected to move to Texas and beat up people there, I guess, and not to pay.
The whole reason for the karate street fight of the Congressman and Sammy boy was the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
You see, Yoo Ess of Ey had large pieces of its territory occupied by native American tribes, and so President Andy Jackson wrote a law in which the natives were to be "voluntarily" moved to less desirable laws. Like the Dakotas. If you ever been to Dakota, South or North, you know that it sucks and that there ain't nothing there - but Wall Drug.
And Wall Drug, even though it is the chief Dakota (both north and south) attraction, sucks donkey balls.
Anyway, old Sam bid on a government contract to supply the Indians with ... stuff...as they were ethnically cleansed from their lands and moved to Wall Drug country. If you find it strange, imagine Halliburton supplying American troops overseas, how lucrative it is to do so, and your admiration for ole Sam Houston will go up a notch. Here we have a precursor of Halliburton (no bid wink wink nod nod) contract.
So we have Moses Austin - the swindler... Sam Houston, the criminal and swindler ...Don't forget the legendary Bowie, who is chiefly famous for his big knife...
These people should not have been settling in Texas, they should have been in jail!
Anyway, sorry for the break in the historical narrative...Where was I? Oh yeah, the glorious Texas revolution was won and Texas won its independence from Mexico.
Everybody in Texas was happy, and much drinking, whoring and celebrating ensued.
Except for the slaves, but fuck them. The war was fought for business reasons, and won. People like Sam Houston and the Moses folk could finally make their money in peace, as they whipped the "negroes" to work harder. In fact, see this article on slavery in Texas - after the "glorious" revolution,
The Texas Revolutionqv assured slaveholders of the future of their institution. The Constitution of the Republic of Texasqv (1836) provided that slaves would remain the property of their owners, that the Texas Congress could not prohibit the immigration of slaveholders bringing their property, and that slaves could be imported from the United States (although not from Africa). Given those protections, slavery expanded rapidly during the period of the republic.
"By 1845, when Texas joined the United States, the state was home to at least 30,000 bondsmen."
Which makes me realize that we here have hit on another topic.
We skip skip a few years and move on to the Mexican-American War - grab another brew.
Skip over the official history, laugh, drink up, and continue on...
The American government approached the Mexican government multiple times, and politely inquired about Texas - because, you see, Americans wanted to buy it from Mexico. The public opinion in Mexico, of all classes in society, from the rich land owners to a beggar on the street, all agreed on one thing - that selling off Texas to the USA would tarnish national honor. In fact, many favored armed intervention to bring Texas back into Mexico. Imagine - sending an army to reclaim a seceding state. Boy, that is just crazy talk. Am sure glad that never happened in our American history...
John Slidell, an American diplomat was sent by then American president Polk to talk things over, after a law passed in US Congress that Texas was to be annexed by America (Surprisingly, Mexico broke diplomatic relations with USA at that - what nerve!)
By talk, I mean that he gently asked Mexico to sell Texas to the USA and allow Texas to be annexed by USA. And by gently, I mean he said that otherwise we will kill you and take it anyway.
Shockingly, he was rebuffed by the uppity Mexicans, and Slidell came back to the US somewhat miffed at the non white folk out there in Mexico.
By a curious coincidence, USArmy units just happened to be stationed on Mexican-American border, fully armed, ready to go.
Just a coincidence... The following had nothing to do with American haste to annex Texas:
But in the late 1830s, relations between Britain and the U.S. became strained. A financial panic in the U.S. had made the American market less important for Britain’s finished goods, and some Americans were also aiding revolutionaries in Quebec. For Britain, it seemed like a good time to find an alternative to American cotton.
The Republic of Texas seemed like the answer—if Texas would free its slaves. Britain was so serious about forging a cotton alliance with Texas that at one point the British charge d’affaires in Texas, Charles Elliott, went to Sam Houston and offered a large British loan that would enable the Texas government to emancipate all the slaves and compensate their owners for the loss. Houston and the other leading men of Texas were willing to consider the idea.
A free Texas under British domination was the worst nightmare of the American South. Such an alliance would wreck the Southern cotton trade and threaten the very existence of plantation culture. As the British became more intent on their courtship of Texas, it would be Southern planters who would bring the annexation debate back to the forefront of American politics.
Curiously, the preceding explanation from the Texas State Library & Archives Commission makes it seem like the whole war was fought to keep American cotton price up and the slaves in chains. Of course, that cannot be correct, as the war was a good war, fought to protect American way of life, freedom, liberty etc etc.... right? Right?
When the evil Mexicans rejected the generous offer from the USA, those troops invaded to liberate Mexico from Mexicans.
Polk stated to Congress that "Mexico had invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil." Which was curious as the Thornton Affair took place in Texas, which was an independent country at the time... or just annexed US territory...or actually Mexico. I am confused. Suffice it to say, some yahoos from Mexico got drunk and shot some equally drunk US soldiers. Hence the hutzpach Polk declaration of "American blood spilled on American soil" yada yada let's kill some brown skins.
And kill them we did. By gawd it was glorious. We wiped them out, and then we celebrated. From Wiki:
U.S. soldiers' memoirs describe cases of scalping innocent civilians, the rape and murder of women, the murder of children, the burning of homes, and the desecrating of Catholic religious objects and buildings. One officer's diary records:
"We reached Burrita about 5 pm, many of the Louisiana volunteers were there, a lawless drunken rabble. They had driven away the inhabitants, taken possession of their houses, and were emulating each other in making beasts of themselves.
John L. O'Sullivan, a vocal proponent of Manifest Destiny, later recollected:
"The regulars regarded the volunteers with importance and contempt... [The volunteers] robbed Mexicans of their cattle and corn, stole their fences for firewood, got drunk, and killed several inoffensive inhabitants of the town in the streets."
Things got so bad that many Catholic Irish soldiers, US citizens, considered the war unjust and about a land grab. Called the Saint Patrick's Battalion, they deserted USArmy and joined the Mexican side - in great numbers. They fought bravely for the Mexican Army, and the more badly the war went for Mexico the more bravely they fought.
They were then hanged by the USArmy troops when caught, at the end of the war.
So, moving on with the narrative, the better armed, better led US troops won several victories, the war was won and Texas and several other territories were stolen err taken over by better management.
And everybody in the land rejoiced... Well, perhaps not the slaves, who continued to be lashed, raped, beaten and worked to death, until the people who did the "glorious" Texas revolution tried the same thing, for the same reason (business and profit, the American way, against the evil government regulation - damn Washington bureaucrats sticking their noses where they don't belong!) only on a MUCH larger scale...and with a different country...
Of course, you know what I am talking about right? Hint: 1861-1865.
PBS version of the Mexican American war - the version with kittens, unicorns and gentle US soldiers...