Texas Almanac, 1988-1989 Page: 20
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20 TEXAS ALMANAC 1988-1989
grants for land in present-day Nueces County. Indian
problems hampered some efforts. Martin de Leon, who
later founded Victoria and settled a colony, began
ranching on the Nueces River north of present-day Cor-
pus Christi in 1809 but moved to San Antonio for protec-
tion from Indian harassment.
Political change was in the offing for Spain, as well
as the rest of Europe. Charles IV took the throne in 1788
at the death of his father, Charles III, and Spain's brief
regeneracy soon ended. The son had none of his fa-
ther's skill as a ruler. Court life degenerated into a pur-
suit of pleasure, and governance of Spain's overseas
territories suffered. By 1805, Charles IV was forced to
abdicate in favor of his son, Ferdinand VII, who was no
better a ruler. Napoleon Bonaparte took advantage of
this weakness by luring the king and his father to
France in 1808 and placing his brother, Joseph Bona-
parte, on the Spanish throne in their absence. Civil war
ensued in Spain, and colonists flexed their growing de-
sire for self-government. Like other Spanish subjects,
they rejected the rule of the usurper.
During the civil war, Spanish liberals gained con-
trol of the government and wrote a constitution in 1812
that increased the sovereignty of the people at the ex-
pense of the crown. The Cortes (legislature) moved
from Madrid to Cadiz and considered many proposals
for the colonization of Texas, which had become a hot
item of interest. In 1813, the Cortes approved a plan by
Col. Ricardo Reynal Keene to colonize the province
with Irish Catholics from Spain. Keene's proposal in-
cluded all the features that later made up the empre-
sario system, but Ferdinand VII abrogated the plan,
along with all legislation passed by the Cortes under the
liberal constitution, when he regained the throne in
Mexico's war for independence began with Father
Miguel Hidalgo's revolt at Dolores in September 1810,
but the Texas Gulf Coast was little touched. In 1813,
Augustus Magee, commander of the army of the insur-
gents, held the Presidio La Bahia. Most of the action
during the days of the so-called Green Flag Republic of
Texas occurred in the more populated parts of the
Galveston Island did play a major role, however.
Don Jose Manuel de Herrera, a priest, was appointed
an agent of Mexico during the war for independence.
He appointed Don Luis Aury commodore of the navy of
Mexico and directed him to occupy the island for use in
action against Spanish shipping. Aury arrived in 1816
with 12-15 small vessels and in time almost swept Span-
ish commerce from the Gulf. When Aury left Galveston
for action in Mexico, Jean Lafitte arrived in 1817 and
swore fealty to Mexico. Lafitte had received amnesty
from the United States for aid given against the British
in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. But he
was a character of mystery. The Mexican revolutionar-
ies gave him control of the island to use as a base
against the Spanish. Recent research had indicated
that he also was a Spanish spy, even while preying on
that country's shipping. American filibusters also tried
in vain to get his support in their operations.
Whatever else was accomplished, Lafitte's occupa-
tion and operation in the Gulf brought prosperity to the
island. By the end of 1817, there were 1,000 men from
several nations at Galveston, some fugitives and others
refugees. Gambling houses, pool parlors and drinking
establishments sprang up, giving Galveston the ap-
pearance of a mining town. It also became quite a com-
mercial center. The plunder from Spanish ships was
sold at great discounts, and merchants from New Or-
leans and other Gulf ports were quick to take advan-
tage of the bargains.
Importation of slaves into the United States was
banned by law. But customers of Lafitte devised a
scheme to circumvent the prohibition. Captured slaves
were purchased for plantation owners and then de-
clared as illegal imports to U.S. customs officials. Cus-
toms policy required that the contraband slaves be sold
at auction. They were bought by the men who brought
them to the mainland. These men also received half the
auction price for turning in the contraband. Then the
slaves were delivered to the slaveholders who had or-
dered them. Jim Bowie and his brothers were practi-
tioners of the scheme and turned a $65,000 profit before
Lafitte also exercised tight discipline over those to
whom he issued commissions to attack Spanish ship-
ping. A "Captain Brown" violated his commission by
raiding a plantation in Louisiana, and Lafitte hanged
the man and turned his crew over to U.S. officials. In
Bernardo de Galvez was Viceroy of Mexico and
one-time frontier Indian fighter. Galveston Bay was
named for him. Photo Courtesy Archives Division, Texas
1820, some of Lafitte's charges plundered an American
ship, and U.S.authorities insisted that he abandon Gal-
veston Island. Karankawa Indians thereafter discour-
aged settlement on the island until the Texas
The instability caused by the Mexican revolution
also attracted adventurers, and New Orleans mer-
chants had long been interested in opening trade with
Texas. Spanish mercantile policy prohibited the estab-
lishment of ports in the province. All merchandise
bound for Texas entered New Spain at Veracruz and
was transported overland to its destination with costs
greatly increased each step of the way. Smuggling and
illicit trade with Louisiana, through many govern-
ments, thrived, providing lower priced and higher
quality goods than were available through the official
system of trade.
Filibusters from the United States entered Texas,
though none was successful in taking advantage of the
unsettled conditions. James Long centered one of his
expeditions on the Gulf Coast after unsuccessfully seek-
ing aid from Lafitte. Long was captured while attempt-
ing to hold the Presidio La Bahia in 1820 against govern-
ment forces and died under mysterious circumstances
after being released from official custody in Mexico
City. His wife, Jane, remained in Texas after his death.
For many years she was called the "mother of Texas"
for giving birth to the first Anglo-American child in the
province. Recent research, however, indicates that
many Anglo-American children were born in Miller
County, Arkansas, which later was recognized as part
of Northeast Texas, some time before Mrs. Long gave
birth to her second daughter.
Napoleonic exiles briefly settled in Texas. In 1818,
Generals Charles Lallemand and Antoine Rigaud estab-
lished the colony of Champ D'Asile on the Trinity River.
The purpose of the settlement was to help Mexican in-
surgents overthrow the Spanish government and to
place Joseph Bonaparte on the Mexican throne. Set-
tlers left after only a brief stay, and Spanish troops
were dispatched to destroy the settlement. Champ D'A-
sile served to accelerate U.S.-Spanish boundary negoti-
ations, which were completed with the Adams-Onis
Treaty of 1819. The United States gave up all claims to
Texas in exchange for Spanish concession of western
Florida - a strip of land on the Gulf running from the
peninsula to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Westerners in the United States were outraged that
Texas had been given away, and illegal immigration
into Texas gained momentum.
After the loss of the Louisiana Territory, Spanish
immigration policy in Texas was loosened to give prior-
ity to former Spanish subjects from the territory who
wanted to move. Efforts were made to keep Anglo-
American immigrants away from the border near their
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Texas Almanac, 1988-1989, book, 1987; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth113819/m1/23/: accessed January 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.