In “Historic Tales from the Texas Republic: A Glimpse of Texas Past” Jeffery Robenalt tells the story of the birth of Texas. This brief book provides a great overview of some of the more important events between Mexico’s independence from Spain and the struggle for Texas to become one of the United States.
Reading about the early history of Texas was interesting because in a lot of ways, compared to the current political climate in that State, the tables have been completely turned. Once Mexico declared independence from Spain, the new constitution favored states rights. The Mexican government encouraged immigration and cultivation of the land but as time went on they began to grow worried about the lack of respect that the settlers from the United States had for Mexican law. After some time, they banned all future immigration from the United States and made generous offers to European citizens who were willing to move and work the land. The US made an attempt to purchase Texas from Mexico, but this ended up offending the Mexican government. There were a few people in the Mexican government who warned of the trouble to come from Texas, but not enough was done to prepare.
Once General Santa Anna became the ruler of Mexico he began a regime that was counter to the constitution that all of the Mexican states were adhering to. In Texas, there was not consensus on weather or not Texas should stay in Mexico or attempt to declare independence. Consensus was reached after the Battle of Gonzales (where the famous battle flag “Come and Get It” comes from). Stephen Austin became the leader of the revolution and announced to all that war was declared on Mexico.
Despite being outnumbered, the Texas army had a number of important victories. During the winter, no one thought that Santa Anna would march through the winter and much of the Army was releases for rest and relaxation. This left the Alamo completely exposed. Many brave men defended the Alamo against a 13 day siege but ultimately succumbed to the overwhelming power and lack of reinforcements. Despite this major setback, at the same time that the Alamo was under attach the convention of 1836 was underway. A constitution, bill or rights, and branches of government were established. News of the Alamo attack removed any question of weather or not Texas should be independent and shortly afterwards the republic of Texas was born. Fierce battles were fought by both sides. Texas ultimately won at the Battle of San Jacinto where Sam Houston captured Santa Anna and secured the independence of Texas.
As it turns out, being an independent country is a lot of more difficult than it might seem. Texans found this out the hard way. The war resulted in crippling debt, there continued to be conflict with Native Americans, and many people wanted to be annexed by the United States. The book dives into the presidencies of Houston and Lamar. They were nearly polar opposites and spent the majority of their presidencies overturning the others previous policies. The main reason why Texas struggled to be annexed is because it would have caused an imbalance between slave states and non slave states. Ultimately, in 1845, Texas became the 28th State in the Union.
Texans, like many other people in the history of the United States, were horrible to the Native Americans. Especially the peaceful Cherokee tribe. In this book, I found myself rooting whole heartedly for Texas in their fight against Mexican oppression and then hang my head in disgust when I read about the horrid acts towards various Native American Tribes. The author was not very compelling in his justification for this. Something along the lines of “Although many Indians were needlessly slaughtered, Texas gained a rich source of new land”. It was hard for me to see the that silver lining.
Jeffery Robenalt is an excellent writer. The best evidence of this for me personally is that he tells the story of the birth of Texas from many different angels and has a way to making you relate to the characters right away. I found myself rooting for the hero in one story and shorty after, when seeing the same story told from a different perspective, rooting for the “villain” instead. I wish more history books were told in this style. It’s often very difficult to truly understand a story without seeing both sides.