The Republic of Texas: A French View
NANCY N. BARKER*
M OST TEXANS THINK OF ALPHONSE ISIDORE DUBOIS DE SALIGNY,
French charged d'afairs in Texas, as a dandified little French
whipper-snapper who smoked expensive cigars, kept a stableful of fine
horses, and drank fine French wines and cognac instead of the local
firewater. Everyone knows that he reneged on his hotel bill, had his
servant shoot a number of the pigs of his former landlord, Richard
Bullock, and at last demanded that the hotel keeper be punished by
law for insulting a representative of the French government. Unable
to obtain satisfaction he departed in anger, leaving the unpunished
Bullock in full posession of the field.
This version may be very close to the truth; but it is not the whole
truth. Scholars, of course, know the outline of the sequel to the
story-that President Houston made an apology to the French gov-
ernment, requested the return of its representative, and a year later
received Saligny back on Texas soil. The young Republic had, in
fact, been required to back down in order to maintain its diplomatic
tie with France.
But up to the present we have never been able to flesh out our
skeletal knowledge of Franco-Texan relations from 1838 to 1846. Much
of our information has come from Texas sources-the abundant diplo-
matic correspondence of Texas, official documents, private letters and
diaries-that have yielded volumes of intimate and accurate information
on the policies of Texas during the years of its independence. We also
have the British diplomatic documents concerning Texas. The corre-
spondence between the British Foreign Minister and Charles Elliot,
his charge d'affaires in Texas, was published by the Texas State Histori-
cal Association in 1917 and has long been a standard tool of research.
What we have lacked almost entirely are the French views of Texas.
As Frenchman to Frenchman, what did Saligny report to, his Foreign
Minister when he visited the Republic in 1839? Why did he advocate
French recognition of Texas? Why did France grant it? How did he
describe the people and culture of Texas? What did he report to his
*Mrs. Barker is an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas. A version
of this paper was read at the last annual meeting of the Association, March 17, 1967,
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/. Accessed March 15, 2014.