Slavery and the Texas Revolution
PAUL D. LACK*
F LANGUAGE SERVES AS A USEFUL GUIDE, THE MATTER OF SLAVERY OC-
cupied an important place in the minds of the leaders of the Texas
Revolution. Their rhetoric brimmed with imagery depicting a struggle
between freedom and bondage. In their view Mexico sought to enslave
the only people in the land who still dared to defend the cause of lib-
erty. A group of volunteers in October, 1835, labeled Mexican rule as
"worse than Egyptian bondage"; the following June General Thomas J.
Rusk sought to rally the people to the field against an enemy who in-
tended "to make [them] the slaves of petty military commandants." The
opposing soldiers thus became "menial slaves" of military despotism.
However appealing Texans found this vision of themselves as sufferers
"in the cause of Freedom and the Rights of Man," in candid moments they
acknowledged that the conflict involved the issue of slavery in a manner
far different from that portrayed in this propaganda.'
Wars for independence had invariably subjected the institution of
slavery to profound tensions since the time of the American Revolu-
tion. Throughout the new world in the subsequent half-century a vari-
ety of forces shook the foundations of bondage and led to its over-
throw, by a combination of black revolution and state action, in Haiti,
the British West Indies, and the South American republics. In all these
slave societies radical ideologies, accompanied by sudden shifts in po-
litical, economic, and military power, emerged during times of crisis to
undermine the old order. Wars-international, internal, or both-ac-
* Paul D. Lack is a professor of history at McMurry College in Abilene, Texas. He has pub-
lished on urban slavery in the Southwest and is currently working on a social history of the
'Texas Republican (Brazoria), Oct. io, 1835 (1st quotation); Thomas J. Rusk to the People
of Texas, June 27, 1836, John H. Jenkins (ed.), The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835-1836
(lo vols.; Austin, 1973), VII, 287 (2nd quotation); Haden Edwards to James W. Robinson,
Nov. 29, 1835, William C. Binkley (ed.), Official Correspondence of the Texan Revolution, I835-
1836 (2 vols.; New York, 1936), I, 135 (3rd quotation); Council to the People of Texas, Feb. 13,
1836, ibid., I, 419 (4th quotation).
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/. Accessed July 8, 2015.