The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959

Secular ife in the Sai Autoio
fAtissions
BILLIE PERSONS
T HE purpose of the Spanish mission in America was pri-
marily to convert the Indian to Christianity. In Spain
and Spanish America the church and state were united,
thus the crown held grave responsibility for the propagation of the
faith. The king delegated this duty to the civil officials, one of
whom was reminded by a mission inspector that he, a viceroy, was
the "father of these orphans" and "miserable wretches," meaning
the Indians. In fact, the mission inspector, lacking in sublety,
went so far as to give the viceroy the volume, page, and column
number of the canon law which declared his paternity.
The ease of securing governmental aid for mission activities,
however, sometimes depended "upon the extent to which political
ends could be compared with religious purposes."2 Happily re-
ligious and political aims were in harmony. Spain claimed a large
part of the new world but had a relatively small population
which could not be spared to stake the claim. If the Indians were
to be saved and civilized, they could settle the Spanish frontiers.
In this way the missions became an integral part of the Spanish
colonial system.3 Through the missions the frontier could be held,
extended, and guarded against French occupation. The mis-
sionaries could be helpful explorers and diplomats. With proper
influence over the Indian, the missionaries could prevent the
savages from invading civil settlements and gain Indian aid in
fighting hostile tribes. The crown officially acknowledged the
political and military purpose of the mission when it charged the
1J. Autrey Dabbs (trans.), "Texas Missions in 1785," Preliminary Studies of the
Texas Catholic Historical Society, III, 241.
ZHerbert E. Bolton, "The Mission as a Frontier Institution in the Spanish Amer-
ican Colonies," American Historical Review, XXIII, 48-49.
3lbid., 42, 52.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101173/. Accessed October 21, 2014.