Shorts and Opinions by Don Guillermo
To my knowledge, there is no single comprehensive biography of Col. John Henry Moore from Austin's Colony, prominent minuteman Captain from Fayette County and who some consider the founder of La Grange, Texas. There should be, but fortunately, his heroic contributions, which are many, are scattered about in various histories and archives. L.R. Weyand and H. Wade in Early History of Fayette County give one of the most concise I have found with some insight into his person:
Moore was one of those ordered arrested by Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos in 1835 because they were publicly outspoken in favor of Texas independence. Col. Moore was ready and willing at a moment's notice to assemble settlers and assume leadership in response to Mexican Centralista threat, but most commonly in regional security against Indian vandalism and depredations both in the colony and the Republic. He was one of the first to be called upon by Lamar's presidency which was known for its "get tough" policy toward Indian depredations which some credit with having made some of the horse Indians more receptive for peace negotiations during the subsequent Houston administration. In addition to the Battle of Gonzales, Moore is known for his Defeat on the San Saba 1838 for which he retaliated with a vengeance on his Victory on the Colorado 1840. Moore mustered and commanded Fayette County companies under Captains Rabb and Dawson to respond to the Vazquez invasion of San Antonio in 1842. Due to illness he did not actually participate in the Battle of Salado to remove Gen. Adrian Woll's Centralista forces from San Antonio. Some say he may have prevented the disastrous massacre of Fayette County men under Capt. Nicholas Dawson if he had been in better shape and taken command. He was second in command to Capt. Mathew Caldwell of the Texians who chased Gen. Adrian Woll's retreating forces toward the Rio Grande after the Battle of Salado.
The Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas presentation of the Battle of Gonzales is recommended for an overview of the event. 8/17/99 for Alamo de Parras Forum
In my opinion there was no substantial difference between relationships and attitudes of the Tejanos (meaning Hispanic-Tejano) and Anglo-Tejano colonists prior to 1836 except one of scale. The gap of ca. 4000 years of cultural development between the two groups of European origin and nomadic aboriginal tribes that roamed Texas ranges was so great as to make Hispanic and Anglo differences in attitudes and philosophy miniscule. The differences in attitude among different tribes and even small bands of aboriginals toward each other was often far greater than the differences between Anglo and Hispanic culture toward the aboriginal culture as a whole. Both when they were the majority and later the minority, historically Hispanic-Tejanos suffered far more per capita than the general Texas population from hostile nomadic aborigines that roamed and exploited the Texas frontier simply because their numbers were smaller and they were in their path on the frontera.
The failure of both missionary and military approaches under both Spain and Mexico to pacify, assimilate or exterminate hostile aboriginal populations, resulted in desperate local policies of defense by extermination which equaled or exceeded brutalities on both sides seen anytime after Anglo colonization. Unfortunately, those individuals and tribes willing to assimilate and co-exist peacefully were most often not distinguished. Because of the ratio of hostiles to native Tejanos, the losers were the long-suffering Tejanos. This situation in the early 1800's was in no small part motivation to open Texas to immigration through the Empresario system. Subsequent Texian policy in dealing with Indians in all its complications into statehood through the 19th century even to the fine detail of the modis operandi of the Texas Rangers can be found in our Spanish and Mexican roots.
On a positive note, in less than 200 years, the ca. 4000 year cultural gap closed, the attitudes and policies employed in early 1800 Texas with all their complications and tragedy worked. There are more Texans today of native American aboriginal descent than ever in history carrying on the traditions of their ancestors while living in peace and economic prosperity beside Texans of every other conceivable origin. 08/20/99 for Alamo de Parras Forum
The most concise answer to this issue elicited by an Alamo Defender and casualty to my knowledge was one time commander James Bowie. Did other Alamo Defenders, particularly the ones that get all the most credit and "press" e.g. Travis and Crockett, express an opinion on why they were there?
From pg. 39, Bits and Pieces of Texas History in the Melting Pot of America, by José Tomás Canales:
The causes which led to the Texas Revolution of 1835-6, as briefly stated by Col. James Bowie, are as follows:
1. Jealousy of Mexicans regarding the intentions of the people of the United States, and a belief that, a design to despoil Mexico of Texas was contemplated, and had the secret aid of the American government.
2. The feelings engendered by these opinions caused Mexican officials to look upon the actions of the American residents of Texas, with suspicion, and ended in treating them unjustly and oppressively.
3. The interference in the political affairs of the Texans; the quartering of troops upon private families; the overthrow of the Mexican constitution of 1824, which the citizens of Texas had sworn to support; and the establishment of a centralized military despotism in its stead, and the attempt to invade, disarm, and reduce the Texans into subjection to the will of a tyrant, were causes impelling the colonists to resist the execution of measures which would have made them political slaves. 08/20/99 for Alamo de Parras Forum
Whether Stephen F. Austin is the "Father of Texas" is semantics---STEPHEN F. AUSTIN IS TEXAS---in microcosm in any one single individual past and present, making all other examples a distant, distant second. In Austin's experience, we find the entire evolution of Texas with all the political, economic and moral elements at play that gave rise to and comprise those at play in Texans of today. Visionary, but realistic and practical in the present; patient, tolerant and loyal to a sin to family, regimes, and benefactors, but unforgiving when betrayed beyond hope; self-sacrificing to the brink of martyrdom for the greater good, but mindful of making a living and enjoying a good cigar; self-analytic and initially insecure to extremes, but decisive and forceful when it's time to act. These are to name a few. To date there has not been his equal in the Presidents of the two Republics that he served nor in a Governor of the State that one became. Let's hope there will be, both in the President of the remaining Republic (Mexico) and Governor of the State.
Author Gregg Cantrell's most recent contribution, Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Texas, is a timely, impressive tribute to Austin that adds to the above despite frequent 20-20 hindsight opinion and speculation ( .probably did this .probably did it for that .) and sounding like my wife in his parenthetical comments about Austin's hotel bill add-ons. Cantrell's implication from time to time that Austin and other Anglo Mexican immigrants like him had few dreams (and real loyalties) for the Republic of Mexico with Texas as the star example, or that there were no Mexican's with similar vision; and that somehow Austin could have affected the course of Afro-slavery and Indian problems in Texas fail to dilute his positive tribute to the Father of Texas. His discussion of Austin's detractors were thorough and fair, when matched against those of any other candidates for "Father" they are pale. At times I was afraid the author might turn to N. Doran Maillard, Gen. Santa Anna or Gen. Filisola in a desperate grasp for something negative. [Nota bene: Does choice of words "Empresario" rather than "Father" have some hidden meaning?]
10/15/99 I can agree with correspondent Long that Houston, Texas, namesake of General Sam, is certainly the "Father of Texas" cities and Austin is not in the running. However, in regard to the men, I have to agree with Austin biographer Barker on Austin:
"He was a grave, gentle, kindly man, charitable, tolerant, affectionate and loyal, naturally impulsive but restrained by habit, sensitive, lonely, and given too much, perhaps, to introspection. He enjoyed social companionship, but his position set him apart from the colonists and made close friendships with them difficult and rare. He smoked, danced now and then, loved music (he played the flute in his younger days), and his bills show occasional charges for whiskey, brandy, and wine. He was well educated, widely read for his opportunities, and a clear thinker. His letters in their straightforward precision and naturalness remind one of Franklin. He worked incessantly, unselfishly, and generally most patiently. In short, he appears to me a lovable human character, with many charming qualities." Austin biographer and historian Eugene Barker, 1918, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XXII, 1-17.
However, it's good to know the company with which his critics will find themselves:
"The first of the villains who came to this state; Was runaway Stephen F. Austin the great; He applied to the Mexicans as I understand; And from them got permission to settle this land." Composition by Dr. Lewis D. Dayton, anti-Austin agitator 1827-8, tried, tarred and feathered and run out of San Felipe on a rail. From Difficulties of a Texas Empresario, Lester Bugbee, 1899.
Austin used "same Jesuitic and insidious policy with which he has always marked with black footprintes the crooked path along which he has traveled, under cover of darkness, in carrying out his nefarious and perfidious designs." Sterling Clack Robertson in a petition for empresa lands to Coahuila y Texas legislature 1834 (Cantrell, Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Texas).
"-----disgusting self-deceit-----arrogant dictation-----inconsistent stupidity-----oracular weathercock-----political Proteas-----presumptious dictator" William Wharton, 1834, in response to implication by Austin that he and Chambers were conspiring against him while in prison (Cantrell, Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Texas).
"Col. Austin, who was himself the most crafty of the 'political fanatics, political adventurers, would-be great men, and vain talkers,' wrote in this bland style, solely to escape the clutches of the Mexican government, and not with a view to restore tranquillity to Texas." N. Doran Maillard referring to Austin's approaches with Mexican officials in History of the Republic of Texas, 1842.
"-----systematic politics and treacherous intentions------ingratitude-----gravest of insults-----impudence difficult to analyze-----such were the maneuvers and the distinctive character of Stephen Austin-----surprised Gen. Teran's loyalty by failing to keep promises-----reprehensible craftiness with Gen. Filisola-----" General Vicente Filisola, in memoirs of the Texas campaign in The History of the War in Texas.
"With the hypocrisy that characterized him, Austin presented himself and tried to put in motion all the influences which his audacity suggested." Jose Maria Tornel, 1837, Secretary of War, Republic of Mexico during the Texas campaign. 10/10/99 for Alamo de Parras War Room
Warring between free masonry factions along political lines in the newly independent Mexican Republic and meddling in the scrabbles for political interests by first US Mexican envoy, Joel Poinsett, may debatably have very indirectly contributed to the first two of three causes which led to the Texas Revolution of 1835-6, as briefly stated by Anglo-Mexican immigrant Col. James Bowie:
1. Jealousy of Mexicans regarding the intentions of the people of the
United States, and a belief that, a design to despoil Mexico of Texas was contemplated,
and had the secret aid of the American government.
For an objective look at freemasonry and impact on 19th century Mexican politics, see Rivalries between the Scottish Rite (Ecoseses of European continental origin) and York Rite (Yorkinos of American origin) lodges.
If these stories have merit, then the masonry brotherhood may have saved El Presidente from immediate or post-capture execution for which there was significant pressure. Arguably, execution of the dictator may have changed the course and timetable of independence and relative peace and painted the Texian freedom fighters as no more humane than their Centralista enemies.
There are other reports of use of the Masonic bond to spare execution or gain favors in actions in the Texas war of independence. A description of an event in Texas by W.P. Zuber mentions a role of Masonic membership as early as 1827:
Almaron Dickinson is said to have left his Masonic apron with wife Susannah and instructed her to display it appropriately if it would aid her survival assuming she were spared in the Alamo assault. There are instances where the masonry brotherhood is said to have fostered cooperation between Anglo and Hispanic Texians prior to independence in gaining favorable political conditions for settlement through colonization.
For a discussion of early Texian Masons, see Masonic Heroes of Texas. 11/29/99 for Alamo de Parras War Room
appropriately note fallen Centralist soldiers at Texas battle sites.
This was mentioned at the 2000 commemoration of the battle of San Jacinto at the monument and battleground by author Ray Miller and probably at subsequent ones. The most appropriate place to do this, would be at the San Jacinto battleground at the site of the largest number of fallen Centralist soldiers on that field in April 1836. A marker at this location properly done should be sufficient to commemorate all Centralista soldiers who fell at all engagements around the state. San Jacinto is most appropriate since here occurred the largest loss of life and here was the turning point in the future fate of Texas and for that matter, the Republic of Mexico of 1836 which ended up eventually giving up over half of its territory to the United States of the North either by treaty of purchase. The marker should be appropriate in design and size so as clearly not to detract from the main monument to the Texian freedom fighters and their US allies. Commemoration of all fallen Centralistas at this most important site in the struggle for a return to Mexican Republican Federalism and the struggle for liberty and independence in the originally Spanish State of Texas and Mexican State of Coahuila and Texas abrogates the need for commemoration markers of similar magnitude at the Alamo and Goliad and other sites of Centralist engagement around the state. This does not preclude notation with something like a standard Texas State historical marker or such at other sites. For example, near the Alamo, perhaps on the river or other sites where the bodies of a significant number of fallen Centralista soldiers are thought to have been disposed, or at the Campo Santo, the standard historical marker might be appropriate. Such markers should be well placed, modest and discreetly designed so as not to detract from the commemoration of the fallen Alamo defenders, or Texian patriots at other sites.
The issue of marking the site of fallen Mexican Centralista soldiers at Texas battle sites is often emotion-packed largely because of the difficulty in dissecting issues of Federalist Republican principles of liberty and independence versus Centralist vice-regalism, ecclesiastical corruption, dictatorship, racism, blind nationalism and despotism from group association based on race and cultural origin. This is especially so in this era of political correctness and apology particularly by historians and others struggling to find an identity, build a career and sell a book in an environment where it is risky to move beyond mechanical description of military tactics, ordnance and archeological digs. The issue is particularly emotion-packed for those who maintain identity and pride in racial, cultural and/or political past and are struggling to reconcile that past with and find historical perspective in context of the current environment in which they find themselves.
While marking the site of fallen Centralista soldiers based on humanitarian principles, the fact that they were fighting for Centralist vice-regalism, dictatorship and despotism and against Federalist Republican principles of liberty, independence, and regional self-determination should be clearly pointed out and never forgotten. It is the fight for this cause instead of Federalist Republicanism that caused the loss of over half of the territory of the Republic of Mexico and repressed development of a second democratic Republic in the Americas. A democratic Republic at least consisting of the Northern Mexican States and territories of 1836 north of Tampico to the 42 parallel, if not the entire United States of Mexico to the Guatemalan border or beyond.
Those who fell in defense of Centralism and despotism should be clearly distinguished from Mexican patriots, native born and immigrant, who resided mostly in the Northern Mexican States and territories north of Tampico except for fiercely independent Yucatan and home of Republic of Texas first Vice-President Lorezo De Zavala, and their allies, who gave their lives in defense of Federalist Republican principles. These patriots regardless of culture and country of origin should be honored with monuments throughout the current and former Northern Mexican States of 1836 by the entire current Mexican government and their Texian allies should be recognized in the process. These patriots should be honored with much greater priority than Mexican Centralista "soldados" and Mexican-American War dead from both sides.
Current Mexican governments and Mexicans in general must come to grips with their history, understand it, put it in perspective and then then unify around it (see Learning from Mexican History). Mexico lost Texas because of the rejection and failure to embrace the independence movements and principles of local self-determination and economic opportunity that began in Spanish Texas as early as 1811 that were largely modeled after the independence developments and Constitution of the 19th century US of the North. This and the failure to capitalize on alliances and free trade with the US, on which the Mexican Republic was originally founded, and the plunge into the politically and economically crippling continuous Centralist revolutions that continued into the 20th century are the forces that stunted the development of a second great democratic Republic in the Americas and resulted in loss of over half its territory.
All great countries to become or remain great with disastrous historic periods as Germany, Japan, the former members of the Soviet Union and China have or will have to go through this process that includes Texas and the USA, in particular when it broke into Civil War.
Lastly, except for purely historical site markers, it is generally customary for the commemoration of fallen soldiers, whether on current domestic or foreign soil, to be initiated by the closest surviving national group or government, be they winner or loser at the time, which represents that for which the fallen served and died. This usually occurs with the cooperation and participation of the national group or government with current jurisdiction over the sites of the fallen. This cooperative venture can be a means of celebrating the glorious and coming to grips with the inglorious forces that converged to cause the events and deaths of the fallen that are to be commemorated. 4/2000 for Shorts & Opinions from Don Guillermo, SDCT
The origin and evolution of the usage and meaning of the term Gringo, especially in northern Mexico and what used to be Mexico in the US, has many versions. The one I have heard most is that it came from the "Green Grow" of variants of the folk song "Green Grow the Lilacs" (originally of Scotch or Irish origin, e.g. Green Grow the Rushes-O) which was sung by English speaking immigrants of northwest European origin in Texas and Latin America. Probably the most famous musical of all time, Oklahoma, was originally named "Green Grow the Lilacs. Most linguists and historians doubt this origin, simply because it was unlikely that the song was so commonly sung by sufficient numbers of persons to have caught on all through Latin America and that "Green Grow" would be interpreted similarly as "Gringo" to the ear of so many diverse Spanish speakers who might have heard the English words. Webster's dictionary says it is probably a Spanish alteration of griego (Greek) which came to mean generally something foreign as we say even now "it's all Greek to me" about something foreign or not understood. The term probably was originally slang for simply "stranger" or "foreigner," Gringo being purely descriptive, having a good, or bad connotation depending on one's feeling about strangers or foreigners. It probably originally referred mostly to political or nationality differences, rather than those of ethnic, race or culture. Given the xenophobic nature of Spain during the colonial period in America and its liberated colonies from time to time, the term on average acquired a negative, or suspicious meaning. Since the greatest majority of foreigners involved with New Spain and later independent Republics were non-Hispanic, Gringo probably evolved to refer mostly to peoples of Northwest European and Northeast American origin, the majority of which were Nordic, Celtic or Anglo-Saxon in respect to race and culture. I am not sure if Gringo refers more to Anglo background in respect to race and culture throughout Latin America today, or still more broadly to foreigners, but my impression is that in Mexico and the US, it has evolved to refer to Americans north of the Rio Grande of primarily Anglo background.
The term has evolved down to today as a complicated one of how, when and by whom it is used. It's an indicator of the evolution of the age old struggle to describe difference without basing it on simple racial, national and cultural identity. It seems today that a person of Anglo background may refer to themselves as a Gringo even in a group with those of Hispanic background present, but for the same person of Hispanic background to refer to the same individual in the group as a Gringo would usually not be done publicly and often have a perjorative implication. The term is used widely commercially for foods, restaurants, etc., but behind most of these are probably Anglo Americans. However, I have seen locally run pubs in South America for example Cuzco and Puno, Peru named "Gringo" this and "Gringo" that which I assume were named and owned by locals. The meaning and use of the term is likely much more complicated and delicate now than in the 19th century when it was probably common in Mexico, for example, to refer to someone from the USA openly and publicly as a "Gringo" meaning simply foreigner, most often Anglo-American foreigner, without a value placed on it. This appears to be the case late in the 19th century, even in reference to public articles written by North Americans, but published in Mexico by Mexicans and referred to as "written by a Gringo," "from a Gringo perspective," etc.
The date of origin of the term Gringo also varies widely, most commonly said to have become in wide use after the US war with Mexico in 1847. It is unclear whether enemies of Texas as Santa Anna (1830-1855) and those he represented used the slang term Gringo, but if so it was to refer to the foreign character of the enemy, most of whom were Northwest European or Anglo-American origin. If used, it was likely derogatory to the extent that the enemy in general was held in contempt. Likewise, it is unclear if the term was used by liberal elements in New Spain and Mexico in the early 19th century who invited North Americans and foreigners to join with them in colonizing Texas and northern territories of New Spain. If so, it was likely a descriptive term to denote the foreign origin and character of their allies and friends. 11/25/2001 for Shorts & Opinions of Don Guillermo, SDCT
Despite the fact that the current North American Thanksgiving celebrations have an distinct New England stamp from the 1621 cross between the British harvest festival and a special day of religious thanksgiving both originally observed by pilgrims in New England, 80 years before on May 23, 1541 Francisco Vásquez de Coronado camped along the Palo Duro in the Texas Panhandle and celebrated with his men and llocal natives a service of Thanksgiving.
El Paso commemorates a day of thanksgiving celebrated by Spanish explorer Juan de Onate and his expedition on April 30, 1598 when he reached the Rio Grande and shared food with local natives.
However, the first Texas Thanksgiving was likely the second Thanksgiving celebrated in the New World.
1513: For many historians the first Thanksgiving in what is now the United States occurred on April 3, 1513. This took place when Juan Ponce De Leon landed in Florida during the Easter season of 1513. He and the crew gave thanks as they stepped into the water to wade ashore.
After the 1541 Thanksgiving in Texas:
1564: A small colony of French
Huguenots came to the New World for religious freedom. They established a settlement near
present-day Jacksonville, Florida. They had constructed their earthen and log huts and dug
a well at Fort Caroline. They also took time to give thanks to God. On June 30, 1564,
their leader, Rene de Laudonniere, recorded that "We sang a psalm of Thanksgiving
unto God, beseeching Him that it would please Him to continue His accustomed goodness
towards us." Unfortunately they were slaughtered the next year by Spanish soldiers of
Menendez de Aviles, so they really didn't get a chance to start a tradition. This event is
often noted in Florida history books as the first Thanksgiving in the New World. This does
not seem to be the expected "traditional" Thanksgiving. There were no Indians,
no food, and the colony didn't last long.
continues over whether the Palm Sunday 1835 deaths of Texians and volunteers aiding in
their cause from the US resisting the Centralista dictatorship of Santa Anna should be
termed a massacre or execution.
Reading an article
in the December 10 issue of the Austin American-Statesman, The Virgin of
GuadalupeHer Miracles Live on in Austin leaves us thinking that Our Ladys
influence in Texas is limited to a religious icon for recent Mexican immigrants or subject
of nouveau Chicano pop art that to some insults Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady),
the patron saint of the Americas, and borders on blasphemy.
Texana columnist Mike Cox asks the
question in an Austin-American Statesman article of
November 20, 2005 concerning a new book by Oklahoma history professor Gary Clayton Anderson entitled "The
Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promised Land, 1820-1875." The cover
is blood red with a Comanche chief wearing a U.S. Cavalry hat, star on the crown with the
big "X" in the word "Texas" in red ink over the chief's face.
12/18/05 Texian Web Consortium Forum
In an Op-Ed in the Houston Chronicle,
University of Houston Assistant Professor of History, Raúl A. Ramos contends that the new
name for the new Houston major league soccer team will alienate Houstonians of
Mexican origin, a group that is surely a large part of the team's fan base.
A young Mexican girls history project contains a wealth of original documents, historical events and biographies of historic characters in Mexican history (in Spanish). These are certainly useful to Texas historians given that up to 1847 Mexican history was Texas history. It remains intimately interwoven today.
A quote on her homepage particularly caught my attention while pondering the controversy over naming Houstons new soccer team "Houston 1836."
"En otros países la historia sirve para unir a los ciudadanos en torno de un pasado común. En México es motivo de discordia, factor de grave desunión. Los norteamericanos honran por igual a Ulysses Grant y a Robert E. Lee, generales enemigos. Nosotros, en cambio, seguimos absurdamente divididos: hay todavía hispanistas e indigenistas; nadie puede mencionar a Iturbide, Maximiliano o Porfirio Díaz so pena de ser tachado de "reaccionario"; las pasiones de la Revolución no se han sosegado aún. Bien puede decirse que los personajes de la historia de México nunca descansan en paz. Aquí la historia no es una maestra sino, una luchadora. Hemos de ver con otros ojos el relato de nuestro pasado; interpretarlo a lo humano, de tal manera que nos lleve a la unidad. Ni héroes totales ni absolutos villanos hay en nuestra historia, sino hombres que vivieron su tiempo, tuvieron aciertos y cometieron yerros. Si somos capaces de apreciar en objetividad lo mismo a Hidalgo y a Iturbide, a Maximiliano y a Juárez, a don Porfirio y a Madero lograremos una inteligente síntesis conciliadora y llegaremos a esa unidad nacional que todavía nos falta". Catón
In essence the quote suggests that Mexican history if looked at wisely in broad perspective can be a teacher and unifying source for the future rather than a source of continuous division. No historic leaders are completely heroes or villains.
The quote reinforces two old favorites:
SONS OF DEWITT