Why It Matters
The Texas Revolution had a lasting effect on Texas and San Antonio de Béxar. While the event began with the stated call to overthrow Santa Anna, restore the Federal Constitution of 1824, and acquire separate statehood for Texas within the Mexican Federation, it quickly transformed into a demand for total independence from Mexico. Thus, although Texas entered the revolt as a department within the state of Coahuila y Tejas, it ultimately became the independent Republic of Texas. While Tejano elites would initially maintain some degree of influence, Texas was destined to become Americanized.
A significant portion of the war would be fought in San Antonio de Béxar. An important military, political, commerce center as well as crossroads, the town became an early target of the rebels who captured it in December 1835. The expulsion of government troops by the rebels brought a Mexican column under Santa Anna to San Antonio to reestablish control. It is this second phase of the struggle over San Antonio in which the Siege and Battle of the Alamo occurred.
Texas had not been immune to Enlightenment ideas. The independence movement begun by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1810 spread to Texas the following year when Captain Juan Bautista de las Casas initiated a short-lived revolt against Spanish officials in San Antonio de Béxar. Aided by American filibusterers, Mexican republicans under José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara marched into Texas (1812) for the purpose of severing Texas from Spain and establishing a new republic. A year later, the rebels were crushed by a Spanish force at the Battle of the Medina. Nevertheless, smaller attempts to establish a republic in Texas vexed Spanish official up though Mexican independence in 1821.
Tejano elites, many of whom had supported these early attempts to establish a republic, were pleased when Mexican officials formed the Federal Republic of Mexico in 1823. Mexico soon adopted the Mexican Constitution of 1824 that laid out the framework for a national as well as state government. However, due to its sparse population, Texas was designated a department within the state of Coahuila y Tejas, a move that disappointed Tejanos. Joined by the incoming American colonists, the inhabitants of Texas were increasingly vocal in their call for separate statehood within the Mexican federation.
Not all Mexicans were pleased with establishment of a republican form of government. The move challenged the traditional authority and influence enjoyed by the National Army, the Catholic Church, and landowners. The members of these groups, which often overlapped, formed a political faction called Centralists. Supporters of the republic included the rising profession classes (lawyers, doctors, and businessmen) and were known by the names Republicans and Federalists. This political-societal conflict would be central to events in Mexico for years to come. One consequences of this conflict would be the Texas Revolution, an event that occurred within an ongoing Mexican civil war.
The Texas Revolution is an example of the political and societal changes that were unleashed by the period called the Enlightenment that occurred in 18th Century Europe. The central issue at the heart of this philosophical movement was a questioning of the old world order. New emphasis was placed on the individual. The legitimacy of hereditary hierarchies, like those found in the interlocking family monarchies who ruled over Europe, was questioned. Enlightenment thinkers proposed that another form of government—the republic—was needed.
The American Revolution offered the breakaway British colonies an opportunity to experiment with the ideas stemming from the Enlightenment. One such notion was the simple statement that “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Although accepted as the norm today, the implementation of a republic threatened established governments. No longer would people be subjects of the throne but they would now be citizens with rights responsible for their own governing. Moreover, by placing all men on the same level, no man could claim to have a privilege of a guaranteed special position in society. This ensured that there would be conflict between the traditional elites and the rising masses.
As the 19th Century dawned, Enlightenment ideas spread throughout Europe and the Spanish colonies of the Western Hemisphere. The French Revolution and the subsequent rise of Napoleon Bonaparte helped both to strengthen and speed these revolutionary challenges to the old world order.