THE MEMOIRS OF JOSÉ ANTONIO NAVARRO
Brief Biographical Sketch of the Author of these Memoirs
There are few men who, like José Antonio Navarro, have not only desired to be patriots, but who knew how to be patriots, which attribute constitutes an illustrious citizen. We shall not attempt to portray Navarro as a liberator like Bolivar, Henry Clay, or as a leader like Hidalgo, because our scant knowledge of his irreproachable nobility forbids it; but we can say that he has done more to merit fame in his retirement to private life than might have been accomplished in the spacious hall of the Senate.
José Antonio Navarro is one of those men who may be compared with men of note, surpassing them in spite of his meager education and we can say that his genius appears to approach most nearly that of Benjamin Franklin. Everyone is more aware of the virtues of the Philadelphia philosopher than of his accomplishments, and José Antonio, following his example, has made himself worthy of the esteem bestowed upon him by all those men who have had the opportunity of considering the fact conscientiously. Any man who analyses the character of Navarro deeply, according to the ideas which obsessed him or that which might have bee revealed by him to a visitor, when he was in the right spirit, must be aware of the fact that all this is admitted and repeated by José Antonio with such tact and courtesy that no one could ask any more of any man.
The furniture and adornments which make up the furnishings of his home immediately convey the idea that this honorable compatriot is a member of that small body of men whose unchanging and simple customs consist successively of study and recreation. which are characteristic of a well balanced existence.
If we could have been there and seen José Antonio during the period of which we are writing in these paragraphs, we would recall at once the proverb which says: So young, so old. There is nothing in his physiognomy which shows that he is of Spanish stock: the aquiline nose, the purity of the color of his race which is of a rosy hue, nor is the complete uniform whiteness of his long hair which adorns his wide forehead like a delicate picture frame, which might betray the excesses of a premature old age, but on the contrary, his sane mind, the common organ of intelligence, clear and quick to perceive, his natural voice, sonorous and energetic when he raises it, his easy and accentuated motion, all show to the most indifferent observer that José Antonio Navarro is in full possession of the faculties of old age, which age is, so to speak, in the highest quality of vigor to developed with the utmost regularity. Surprising results of a frugal life, molded by good habits!
Many times, we who are writing these lines have enjoyed the privilege of visiting a few hours with that distinguished oldster and we cannot attribute the influence on our souls to the most alluring regions in the region of the absolute but to his so diverting and agreeable company. One evening, at the Theater of Erfurth, Alexandro of Russia said to Napoleon, "The friendship of a great man is a gift of the Gods."
Indeed, how many times would we have failed to enjoy a new thought had we not heard the reasoning intelligence of our venerable friend!
Surely, we could amplify these reflections if we sought to discuss all the items, which certainly would swell this brief essay and undoubtedly would make it much more complete, but when we consider that there are writers who probably will undertake the complete biography of the said José Antonio, we leave to them that task, because they will probably be more competent and better informed than ourselves. We shall lean to the lighter side, concerning the birth of certain particulars of the life of him we are discussing.
José Antonio Navarro was born in this city, February 27, 1795. His parents were Angel Navarro, a native of Ajaccio, Corsica (Europe), and María José Ruiz y Peña, of Spanish and Creole :origin, and of this city.
Seemingly a human being naturally gifted with great and righteous ideas, he soon became resigned to the meager education that could be acquired in the State of Coahuila, although it was too limited to satisfy his ambition to learn. He devoted his energies to obtaining an education himself, and as a result of his study, José Antonio was called to occupy distinguished positions, first in Mexico, then in the Republic of Texas, and later in the United States.
The life of José Antonio Navarro may be said to be divided into three glorious epochs: First, that of his birth .and youth in Mexican Texas, where at an early age he was initiated into the affairs of the insurrection, according to his memoirs which follow; second, the epoch of his mature years in which he took a notable part in the revolution of Republican Texas, in which, because of his staunch character and high principles, he suffered a cruel disenchantment through Santa Anna, the most despotic of Mexican dictators. Consequently, the third epoch, the rest of his time to the present date, has been passed in the United States. He has been the strongest champion for the rights of the common people, notwithstanding his retirement from the public affairs which are stirring the country today.
So lives our venerable compatriot today offering his own invariable conduct and moderate habits as the most excellent examples of sane reasoning in the question of party politics.
José Antonio Navarro has many eminent friends in this country who take delight in recalling his merits in spite of their political differences.
It has frequently happened that men are more distinguished than he, both in learning and activity, have won a reputation for brilliancy before critical audiences, but like a flash of lightning lasting only while the rain falls, they immediately disappear, while José Antonio, following the course of event, has imparted to his country the usefulness of a well-filled existence, exercising that judgment which is only granted to those who are favored by destiny.
Such is the perspective when we review the history of this honorable and interesting oldster. He is 74 years of age; and it seems that the passing of time only improves his marvelous memory.
He suffers from a tumor which was caused by a wound in his left leg, nevertheless, this impediment does not prevent our venerable countryman from walking naturally and taking his exercise regularly.
Let us conclude this article, the object of which is to describe in our own words the character of the author of the historical memoirs which we have the pleasure of presenting to our countrymen as a historical treasure of the past of the country, regretting at the same time that we must omit the narration of other deeds of José Antonio Navarro which his excessive modesty would not permit us to relate despite the acquiescence which he gave us in his letter and reply set forth at the beginning of this essay. Enough has already been said so that everyone who knows the Honorable José Antonio Navarro may read what we have written, for the sake of truth, and which we hope in part may serve as a revelation of all these who, like ourselves, profess a true affection for him. San Antonio, Texas July 20, 1869.
Narciso Leal and other friends.
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