This past few weeks my students and I have been discussing various sides of the so-called Texas Revolution in depth in both my Texas History class and Mexican American History I class.
One of my favorite things about teaching is that there is always so much to learn and things change every semester. Anything related to Texas History is especially interesting because there is so much “bad information” out there when it comes to anything related to Texas and its existence.
In particular, the past week I have been thinking about various issues of historiography connected with the so-called Texas Revolution. Too often, even otherwise very strong historical accounts, take the Texas Revolution at face value.
In far too many cases, people don’t know or don’t accept that Texas was Spanish and Mexican. Starting after the Louisiana Purchase, White “illegal immigrants” from the United States flooded into Texas and came with the intent of taking Texas for the United States. All of this was with the full backing and encouragement of the United States. (Some even claimed that the Louisiana Purchase included Texas.)
All except a few of those who fought against Mexico during the so-called Texas Revolution were from the United States, were White, and were recent arrivals to Mexico. Some had only been in Mexican Texas a few days or a few weeks. These were not people protecting their liberty or freedom. They wanted Texas to help spread and secure enslavement. And they had immediate plans and hopes to join the United States. They did not want to establish a “Republic of Texas.”
My students and I also always explore the all important questions: “How revolutionary was the Texas Revolution” and “Was Texas ever ‘really’ its own country?”
These questions are important. For our purposes here, the second one is most important. Mexico never officially recognized Texas and its independence until the end of the Mexican American War. If it hadn’t been for all of the problems elsewhere in Mexico, they would have retaken Texas very easily. The press in Mexico was especially unhappy with the behavior of the White rebellious, law-breaking illegal immigrants in Mexican Texas.
The Mexican American War starts as soon as the United States moves to officially annex Texas. The United States kind of wanted war to prove itself and to take even more of Mexico.
As a result of these thoughts (and others), I have come to realize even more than before that the Mexican American War actually goes back to the so-called Texas Revolution or even back to the Fredonian Rebellion in the late 1820s. The Alamo and other such battles are historically best understood when considered events in the long trajectory of hostility from the U.S. directed toward Mexico, events in the long Mexican American War – which is also known as the Mexican War, the War of the United States Against Mexico, and the Invasion of Mexico.
Historical accounts about the Texas Revolution discuss it and subsequent events as being inevitable. Essentialism, presentism, and “upstreaming” are the enemy of good historical accounts. By even calling it the “Texas Revolution” we give ahistorical credence to a White, anti-Mexican perspective of History, a perspective that suggests it was indisputably a revolution and that it was at that point an established, recognized, independent imagined political entity.
Classification, periodization, words, and point-of-view matter. The Texas Revolution was not just anti-revolutionary in that it further dehumanized everyone except White men, but it is also anti-revolutionary in that it ignores the destruction of Mexico, as partly indicated in the maps below. Imagine how rich Mexico would be today if it had the riches of Texas oil?
Andrew Joseph Pegoda
Mexico in 1821:
Mexico in 1854: