History Friday: The English Visitor

You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.

The English visitor, a lawyer and pamphleteer named Nicholas Doran Maillard landed up in Texas early in 1840, when the Republic of Texas had just achieved four years of perilous existence . . . and inadvertently provided the means for an exception to Humbert Wolfe’s stinging epigram. In that year, Texas was perennially cash-broke but land rich, somewhat quarrelsome, and continually scourged by Comanche depredations from the north and west, and the threat of re-occupation by Mexico from the south, Texans had first seen immediate annexation by the United States as their sure and certain refuge. But alas, that slavery was permitted and practiced within Texas – so annexation was blocked by abolitionists.

This left the Republic seeking recognition and even strong allies elsewhere, namely with France and Britain – neither of whom particularly approved of the ‘peculiar institution’ but were more than willing to play the great game of international politics, especially if a foothold on the North American continent might come out of it. Both England and France eventually recognized the independent Republic; Sam Houston cannily referred to it all as a flirtation, in order to reinforce the relationship with the United States.

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Black Beans and Boy Soldiers

(As a respite from current events this week – what about another history post? I did have a write up about the aftermath of the Scott Walker recall, but it looks like that topic has already been covered, so … a bit of a diversion.)

The movies and popular culture seems to have it that after Houston’s smashing victory over General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at San Jacinto in April, 1836, everyone signed a peace treaty, made nice and went home. Oh, there was a little dust-up of a war ten years later, upon the occasion of Texas formally joining the United States. Common knowledge of this is confined to the memories of trivia buffs who remember that US Grant and Robert E. Lee served in it together as junior officers, and Marine Corps veterans who are taught the historical origin of references in the Marine Corps Hymn to the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli. Alas, peace on the borderlands between Mexico and the Republic of Texas did not fall like a gentle rain from heaven upon the signing of the Peace of Velasco. In fact, quite the reverse; Mexican national pride had been severely affronted by the loss of Texas – and Lopez de Santa Anna felt the sting most particularly. If he could not get Texas back, he would make things difficult.

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An Old Mission Church, Half Tumbled Down

On this day, 176 years ago, the army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna entered San Antonio de Bexar and laid siege to the Alamo, raising the flag of ‘no quarter’ from the top of the highest building in town, the original church of San Fernando …

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