Stephen F. Austin and the Anglo-Texan Response
to the Religious Establishment in Mexico,
IN DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE TELLS US THAT ON
his arrival in the United States in 1831, "the religious aspect of the
country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I
stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences re-
sulting from this new state of things." The "new state of things," of
course, was the disestablishment of religion in the American republic.
The French nobleman was intrigued to find that there was no official
connection between church and state in America; that no American
clergymen occupied public office; that, on the contrary, most ministers
"seemed to retire of their own accord from the exercise of power" and
made it "the pride of their profession to abstain from politics." To that
happy situation de Tocqueville contrasted the role of the clergy with
whom he was familiar. In Europe, unfortunately, "Christianity has
been intimately united to the powers of the earth" for centuries. There
the foes of Christians must attack them as their "political opponents
rather than as their religious adversaries"; must hate Christianity "as an
opinion of a party much more than as an error of belief"; and must
denounce the clergy not because they represent the Deity but because
"they are the allies of government."'
As de Tocqueville began his tour of Jacksonian America, hundreds
of Americans far to the south and west-in Arkansas, Louisiana, Ken-
tucky, and Tennessee-were deciding to renounce their native land
and its religious freedom and to become citizens of Texas, in the new
* Howard Miller is associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. He is
the author of the article on region in Texas in Samuel S. Hill (ed.), Encyclopedia ofReligzon in
the South (1984).
IAlexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. Henry Reeve, Francis Bowen, and Phillips
Bradley (2 vols.; New York: A. A. Knopf, 1945), I, 308, 309, 314.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed June 2, 2015.