The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988 Page: 284
The following text was automatically extracted from the image on this page using optical character recognition software:
Southwestern Historical Quarterly
nation of Mexico, where religious liberty was as unknown as it was in de
Tocqueville's France. These citizens, overwhelmingly Protestant, were
among the few Americans who in the antebellum period decided-vol-
untarily-to live under an officially established Catholic church. The
reaction of Moses and Stephen F. Austin and their colonists to the situa-
tion they encountered in Catholic Mexico reveals much about Jackso-
nian America, as well as about the Anglo-Texan culture created be-
tween 1820 and 1836.
Anglo-Americans first entered the Mexican state of Texas in appre-
ciable numbers in the early 1i 82os, just as Mexico won its decade-long
struggle for independence from Spain. They entered a land in turmoil.
In 1821 the future shape and function of the Mexican state, economy,
and church had yet to be defined. The place of the church in the new
Mexican republic would be a particularly controversial issue in the
182os, and the debate over that issue had significant implications for
the possibilities of Anglo-Texan religious culture in that decade.
The position of the Roman Catholic church in Mexico on the eve of
independence was complicated and ironic. On the one hand, it was re-
markably powerful. It was firmly established by law and centuries of
tradition: Catholicism and Christianity were simply synonymous in
Mexico, as they were in Spain. The rights and privileges of the church
hierarchy, especially those of the upper levels of that hierarchy (com-
posed largely of peninsulares, or native Spaniards), were protected by
the same laws that established the church. Those rights, privileges,
grants, and immunities had allowed the church to accumulate in its
hands by 1824 at least one-quarter of the wealth in Mexico.2 But an
asset even more valuable to the church was the devotion of the faithful
throughout the land. One need not speak disparagingly of "super-
stitious" and "ignorant" masses to make the undeniable point that the
support of the church by the laity was extraordinary. When the church
finally was attacked in the years after independence, it was that lay de-
votion, not its wealth, that saved it.
And attacked it was, for despite its very real strengths, the Mexican
church was a vulnerable institution. The source of that vulnerability
was obvious. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a
succession of popes had conceded to the Catholic rulers of Spain un-
precedented control over the church in their domains in both the Old
and New Worlds. State power over the church in Spanish America, the
2J. Lloyd Mecham, Church and State zn Latin America: A History of Politico-Ecclesiastical Relations
(rev. ed.; Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966), 344.
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988, periodical, 1987/1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/m1/340/: accessed May 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.