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Republicans Pacify the South and Expel Mongolians

The Republican party was responsible for creating “unsound money” with its infamous greenbacks, despite a constitutional provision that all money be gold or silver; civil service reform was anathema as much of their power came from political appointees and the selling of government positions in exchange for party support.

On the issue of Chinese immigration, the Republicans passed the Page Act of 1875 which banned the immigration of Chinese women – fearing they might give birth to children in the US.

In 1878, a Republican-dominated Congress proposed a ban on Chinese immigration, though vetoed by President Rutherford B. Hayes. In 1879, California adopted a new constitution which explicitly authorized the State government to determine who would be allowed to reside in the State, and banned Chinese people from employment by corporations, plus State and municipal government.

Had any Southern State adopted a constitution authorizing State government to determine who could reside within its boundaries, blue-clad troops would reappear to overthrow that State government.

Republicans Pacify the South and Expel Mongolians

“The Republican National Convention was called to order by national committee Chairman Edwin D. Morgan of New York promptly at noon on Wednesday, June 14 [1876]. The site was Exposition Hall, at Elm and Fourteenth Streets – the same building which had been the scene of the Liberal Republican revolt against Grant in 1872.

Consideration of the platform [resulted in] a tepid document that declared the United States “a nation, not a league,” congratulated Republicans for saving the Union, promised “speedy, thorough and unsparing” prosecution of corrupt public officials, opposed polygamy and sectarian interference with the public schools, and called for “respectful consideration” of demands for women’s suffrage.

One plank deprecated all appeals to sectional feeling and abominated Democratic hopes for a “solid South,” whereas another pledged anew the party’s sacred duty – eleven years after Appomattox – to achieve “permanent pacification of the Southern section of the Union,” and a third charged the Democratic party with “being the same in character and spirit as when it sympathized with treason.”

The platform contained a firm endorsement of sound money and a wonderfully evasive stand on civil service reform . . . The only plank that stirred controversy was the eleventh: “It is the immediate duty of congress [to] fully investigate the effect of immigration and importation of Mongolians on the moral and material interests of the country.”

Edward L. Pierce of Massachusetts objected bitterly: “The Republican party this year, this centennial year, is twenty years old . . . and this is the first time in all that long period that any attempt has ever been made to put in its platform a discrimination of race.”

The eleventh section was retained, nevertheless, on a roll call vote of 532 to 215, and the entire platform was “unanimously adopted” on a voice vote.”

(The Politics of Inertia: The Election of 1876 and the End of Reconstruction, Keith Ian Polakoff, LSU Press, 1973, excerpts pp. 58-61)

“Wolves Snapping at the Throat of Democracy”

After a long career as the Commonwealth’s Attorney of Lynchburg, Robert “Cap’n Bob” Yancey’s wife suggested that thirty-four years in that position was long enough and he should retire. But Yancey had been the State’s attorney “for so long that he considered the office his own prerogative.”

In his 1925 re-election bid the regeneration of the Ku Klux Klan became an important issue: that regeneration since 1915 was the result of New Yorker Theodore Roosevelt’s “100% Americanism,” increased foreign immigration since the 1880s, and Woodrow Wilson’s war and its intense anti-German propaganda.

The original late -1860s Ku Klux Klan was a defensive reaction to the Republican party’s Union League intimidation and voter-suppression activities in the immediate postwar. It had no official flag and disbanded in 1869 after Union League activities diminished. Later incarnations of the Klan bore little if any resemblance to the original.

“Wolves Snapping at the Throat of Democracy”

“Nobody thought Father could be elected in 1925 because, in that year, the candidate who opposed him had the support of the Ku Klux Klan. And Father scorned the Ku Klux Klan with the most outspoken contempt.

“Anti-Jew, anti-Catholic, anti Negro!” said my father scathingly. “Why don’t they reduce it to a summary and conclusion and call it anti-Christ!” My father could not fight the Ku Klux Klan hard enough to suit himself. It was an insult to the South that the name Ku Klux Klan had been revived.

Historically, it had been necessary. The only purpose of its existence had been the protection of a defenseless people during a period of national madness. It had been disbanded by its own members as soon as the necessity for it was at an end. It was an insult to the memory of those first, desperate Klansmen that the name should now be made to stand for boycotting the rights of our best American citizens.

Whenever my mother would hear of the things that Father was broadcasting against the Ku Klux Klan, she would shake her head. “If you father really wants to win this election,” she would say, “he had better stop his bitter attacks upon the Ku Klux Klan. The temper of the working people has gradually been changing since the World War. The working classes are tired of paternalism in politics: the people of this new generation want things in their own hands. A good many of them take the Klan seriously. Your father shouldn’t antagonize them in this way.”

My father had a very devoted friend named Mr. Thomas Welch . . . [who was] disturbed about Father’s lack of restraint in his criticism of the Ku Klux Klan.

“Cap’n Bob,” he said, with genuine concern written all over his broad honest face, “Cap’n Bob, sir, I know just exactly how you feel – but you can’t keep this up and be elected. “Taint like it was during Prohibition. The people is different now. The gossip is that a man can’t git nowhere in politics without the Ku Klux backs him. I don’t ask you not to dislike them. I just ask you not to dislike ‘em so loud. If you keep a little quieter I think we can git you elected.”

“Ku Klux!” snorted my father unsubmissively. “Ku Klux! Wolves in sheet clothing! Wolves snapping at the throat of democracy,” said my father in a voice that made my backbone tingle . . . “Well, I won’t keep quiet. The damned thing is too wrong in principle. I won’t be hushed up – elected or not elected: I’ll just be damned if I will.”

And father did continue to give the Ku Klux a fit. And much to everybody’s surprise, he was elected in 1925.”

(The Vanishing Virginian, Rebecca Yancey Williams, E.P. Dutton & Company, 1940, excerpts pp. 265-269)

Religious Bigotry, Ethnic Hatred, and Lynch Mobs

Though the war had a chilling effect upon Cincinnatians trading southward, by 1863 it was a boomtown supplying the Northern military and “filling large orders for iron and steel products, uniforms and wagons. In a few years, the profits amassed into great fortunes.”

Lincoln’s administration maintained the patriotism of the West with lucrative military supply contracts. Cincinnati’s political system became corrupt, and its leaders notorious for controlling elections and manipulating judges and juries.

The Courthouse Riot of 1884 occurred after German worker Wilhelm Berner and mulatto accomplice Joe Palmer murdered their employer, William Kirk. Though the judge, after the trial and confessions, sentenced both to 20 years in prison, the bribed jury returned a verdict of simple manslaughter.

The “Boss” Cox mentioned below was George B. Cox, a saloonkeeper who ran Cincinnati’s Republican political machine, which Ohioan William Howard Taft called a “local despotism” for the benefit of big corporations.

Religious Bigotry, Ethnic Hatred and Lynch Mobs

“Between 1830 and 1840 the population grew by 85 percent, reaching 46,338 residents, and made Cincinnati the fastest-growing city in America, sixth in population and third in manufacturing. In the 1830s and 1840s, Cincinnati’s population was composed mainly of native-born Americans from the Eastern Middle Atlantic and Upper Southern States.

Travel writers described it as a Yankee city with a pleasant blend of Southern ease and charm. But a new ethnic element appeared in the Thirties, when people from the fragmented states of Germany discovered Cincinnati.

Many of them clustered north of the canal in an area that they called Over-the-Rhine, where they built churches, houses, tenements (street-level shops with residence above), and small commercial buildings.

The new Whig party, intellectual successors to the Federalists, advocated government funding of “internal improvements,” primarily canals, highways and railroads . . . (Southern and eastern-based Jacksonians opposed federal funding for sectional projects that would chiefly benefit Kentucky, Ohio and the “West.” By the 1850s, entrepreneurial railroads radiated out from five depots in downtown Cincinnati like spokes on a half-broken wheel.

From 1835, German-speaking people were coming to Cincinnati in large numbers. The first were predominantly Protestants and Freethinkers, but Roman Catholics soon outnumbered them. By 1840, one-third of Cincinnati’s 75,000 citizens were German-speaking, of which an estimated two-thirds to three-fourths were Roman Catholic. The Irish . . . were also arriving in considerable numbers after 1840 . . .

As their numbers grew, so did hostility from the native-born majority. The Nativist riots of the 1840s and the political activities of the Know-Nothing party in the 1850s were indicative of the continuing bigotry toward Catholics and immigrants. In the 1870s and 1880s . . . Native-born Americans often blamed poor pay and labor conditions on the surplus of recent immigrants and freedmen. Social and political tensions grew over issues of class, race, ethnicity and criminal justice.

The city had a record of street violence, but there was no precedent for the Cincinnati Courthouse Riot of 1884, one of the bloodiest riots in American history. What began as a meeting in Music Hall . . . to discuss corruption in the justice system (a bribed jury had found a confessed murderer guilty of manslaughter only) ended with a lynch mob engaging law enforcement officials in a three-day street battle.”

After the riot, Cincinnati turned to George “Boss” Cox to stabilize city government.”

(Architecture in Cincinnati: An Illustrated History of Designing and Building an American City, Sue Ann Painter, Ohio University Press, 2006, excerpts pp. 30; 35-36; 45; 94-97)

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

For five bloody days in mid-July 1863, armed mobs of draft resisters, mostly immigrants, fought on New York City streets against enforcement of Lincoln’s conscription law – what began as a simple demonstration on July 13 devolved into wholesale destruction of property and life – 120 black people were killed and many fled the city in fear of their lives. This carnage was the result of Lincoln’s insatiable need for troops, as volunteers were coming to the end of their enlistments, horrifying news came from the front, and the State drafts of 1862 met with widespread evasion. Also unpopular was Lincoln’s new war aim of freeing slaves. 

To combat the rioters, nearly ten thousand Northern troops and artillery units were brought in from Gettysburg to patrol the streets.

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

“[The] film [Gangs of New York] gives a glimpse of the rather nasty nativism among Northerners, a great many of whom hated Catholics and immigrants as much or more than they hated Southerners. None of the above fit into the Yankee ideal of true Americanism. Nativist gangs burnt down convents in Philadelphia and Boston when such things were never dreamt of in the South.

The film can open the door to another dirty little secret. We have heard a lot about immigrant criminal gangs. The fact that vigilante law prevailed over much of the North during the War has been conveniently forgotten. Besides the thousands of his critics Lincoln jailed without due process, thousands more were killed, injured, intimidated, and run out of town by proto-fascist gangs of Republican bully boys called “Wide Awakes.” They played a major role in making sure Northern elections turned out right, i.e., Republicans won.

The “riots” did not start out as race pogroms, though they degenerated into that. They started out as organized civic resistance to the draft, encouraged by the Democratic State government. Everyone knew that the Lincolnites enforced the draft at a much higher rate in areas that opposed them than they did in friendly areas – according to forthcoming studies by the New York playwright and historian John Chodes, the draft was imposed at four times the rate for Massachusetts. And the conscripts were well aware that they stood a good chance of being used up as cannon-fodder by Republicans who knew if they lost four men for every Southerner killed they would still end up on top, as long as the immigrant flow kept up.

About a fourth of the total enrollment of Lincoln’s armies were immigrants, many of whom were brought over and paid bounties for enlisting. The situation was so bad that the Pope sent one of his most persuasive priestly orators to Ireland to warn the people about being used up for Union cannon fodder.

Perhaps we can begin to recognize the historical fact that millions of Northern citizens did not willingly go along with Lincoln’s War. And the opponents were not limited to the New York City draft rioters.

The truth is that Lincoln’s party did not save the Union and the Constitution. It was a Jacobin party that seized power and revolutionized the North as well as conquering the South. The Gangs of New York can perhaps open a window that will encourage further historical discovery along these lines.”

(Scorcese’s Gangs of New York; Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 220-221)

Immigration and the Demise of America

The waves of European immigration into the United States, 1830-1860, added a different strain to the original English, Scot and Irish population, especially in the North and emerging West. The South maintained its ethnic heritage from Revolutionary times and its deep understanding of the Founders America. The North quickly became a far different country by 1850, with a new electorate easily misled by Northern demagogues. To attain national power and dominance, the demagogues destroyed the South’s political power in the country through a destructive war, instilled hatred between Southerners and their former laborers, and finally molded the new black electorate into dependable Republicans.

Immigration and the Demise of America

“The founding fathers were rare men and wise, men who had “come to themselves,” men who measured their words. They knew history; they knew law and government; they knew the ancient classics; they knew the ancient failures; they knew the Bible. But theirs was a wisdom which, as always, can be misunderstood by lesser mortals.

It can be misinterpreted; it can be misapplied through ignorance; it can be misused and perverted through ambition, interest, even plain human cussedness. Liberty was never to be license.

But as growth occurred, the influx of millions of immigrants from the Old World, from different backgrounds, settled north and west in established communities and crowded the cities. They knew little of a constitution, and cared less. This was the land of liberty; men were “free and equal”; the majority ruled – the “American” way, their Carl Schurz-like leaders told them while ordering their votes, urging war upon the South, and anathematizing slavery. They knew nothing of the South’s acute problems.

This was the beginning of a false premise, wholly without foundation in the Constitution, of “an aggregate people,” of unrestricted democracy, of the absolute right of a popular majority – even a “simple” majority – whenever it exists and however ascertained, to rule without check or restraint, independent of constitutional limitations or of State interposition.

This absurd proposition that the will of a mere majority for the time being becomes vox Dei was held by numerous leaders of the North and the West, not the least among them Abraham Lincoln. The Southerners opposed, opposed strenuously, and fought it to the end.

[John C.] Calhoun attempted ameliorations by such proposals as vetoes, nullifications, interposition, and “concurrent” majorities, all of which at one time or another were rejected, leaving the South, as he said in 1850, helpless to retain equality in the Union and relegated to a position hardly different from that which the Revolutionary fathers rejected in 1776.

In answer to these efforts to obtain justice, Northern leaders undertook an attack on the domestic institutions of the South. “At first harmless and scattered movements” of small, so-called humanitarian groups in the North were seized upon by those who saw political possibilities in them, and the agitations spread from isolated spots to the halls of Congress.

Abolitionists began to attack the South at every opportunity and demanded an end to the labor arrangements of the region and the emancipation of the African Negro “slaves” who worked mostly upon the great plantations.

Abolitionist fathers and grandfathers had brought those poor black creatures – often savages, sometimes cannibals – from the Guinea coasts of West Africa and had sold them to the planters, much of whose capital was invested in them. We still teach . . . falsehoods to children by slanted history textbooks that parrot the clichés, though it is surely time to make some changes and tell the truth.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell Hoover Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 55-56)

The Teutonic Tide

The only liberal democratic America which existed for German revolutionaries prior to 1860 was in the Northern States, already given over to burned-over districts and various “isms” of reform and communal-living movements. Well-before 1860, and mostly due to the foreign immigration in the North and flowing westward, two very different Americas existed. The South retained the Founders republic and Constitution; the North became the liberal democratic America which German revolutionaries believed they were migrating to. The Southern soldier fought for political independence against not only conscripted and bounty-enriched patriots in blue, but also recently-arrived Germans dreaming of a liberal socialist America. It was not by accident Lincoln purchased a German-language newspaper in Springfield, Illinois, to help him win the Republican nomination in 1860, and one-quarter of his army of invasion were German.

The Teutonic Tide

“After the Revolution, a number of the Hessian hirelings who had been brought over by the British settled in America . . . [and joined] the German settlements, avoiding the English-speaking communities in the United States because of the resentment shown towards them. The second period of German migration began about 1820 and lasted through the Civil War. [Between] 1845 and 1860 there arrived 1,250,000, and 200,000 came during the Civil War. [Due to the defeat of the socialist revolutions in Europe in 1848,] There seemed to remain only flight to liberal democratic America.

Arrived in America, these Germans were not content to settle, like dregs, in the cities on the seacoast. [And] westward they started at once . . . by way of the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes, and later by the new railway lines into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin and Iowa. St. Louis was the center of a German influence that extended throughout the Missouri Valley.

Unlike the Irish, the Germans brought with them a strange language [and] many of the intellectuals believed they could establish a German state in America. “The foundations of a new and free Germany in the great North American Republic shall be laid by us,” wrote Follenius, the dreamer, who desired to land enough Germans in “one of the American territories to establish an essentially German state.”

After 1870 a great change came over the German migration. More and more industrial workers, but fewer and fewer peasants, and very rarely an intellectual or man of substance, now appeared at Ellis Island for admission to the United States. The new Germans came in hordes even outnumbering the migrations of the fifties. Humility on the part of these newcomers now gradually gave way to arrogance. Instead of appearing eager to embrace their new opportunities, they criticized everything they found in their new home.

In 1895 there were some five hundred German periodicals published in America, and many of the newer ones were rabidly Germanophile. Before the United States entered the Great War, there was a most remarkable unanimity of [pro-German] expression among these German publications; afterward, Congress found it necessary to enact rigorous laws against them. As a result, many of them were suppressed, and many others suspended publication.”

(Our Foreigners, A Chronicle of Americans in the Making; The Chronicles of America Series, Allen Johnson, editor, Yale University Press, 1921, excerpts pp. 129-131; 134-135; 141-143)

Intolerant Mountaineers

While the North Carolina mountains are normally described as antislavery and Unionist during the war, it was also strongly resistant to foreigners and a hotbed of Know-Nothingism imported from the North in the mid-1850s. Originally a secret, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and anti-party fraternal order, the “Know-Nothings” was a response to “the vast influx of immigrants” who would drive native-born Americans from northeastern cities toward the West. This immigrant invasion affected the North and was changing the electorate there from those who understood the Framers’ vision of America, to those born in European kingdoms ruled by royalty. The American South remained mostly free of such threats to the republic, and enjoyed many immigrant groups who assimilated; the new, sectional Republican party absorbed the intolerant Know-Nothings.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Intolerant Mountaineers

“At first glance, the North Carolina mountain region might have seemed infertile soil for a party dedicated to curbing the political influence of Catholics and foreigners, both of who were practically nonexistent in [the mountain] district. Nevertheless, many westerners proved susceptible to dire warnings that their democratic system of government was being threatened by hordes of immigrant criminals and paupers who owed primary allegiance to the Pope.

With their rallying cry of “Americans should rule America,” the Know-Nothings made impressive gains not only among the Whigs and boasted that their party had “arisen upon the ruins, and in spite of the opposition, of the Whigs and Democratic parties.”

But as the congressional elections of 1857 approached, the Know-Nothings – seemingly so formidable just two years earlier – now found themselves “weak, broken down, and scattered.” The party had been thoroughly demoralized by its abysmal showing in 1856 . . .”

(Thomas Lanier Clingman: Fire Eater From the Carolina Mountains, Thomas E. Jeffrey, excerpt pp. 105-107; 115)

Smallpox Hand Grenades Feared in Virginia

The Twenty-first Regiment of New York Volunteers was initially enlisted for a three-month tour of duty after Fort Sumter. On August 20, 1861, as the unit neared the end of their sworn term, it was reported that “attempted revolt” in the ranks arose as Lincoln requisitioned the short-term volunteers for his lengthy war. Generous enlistment bounties, furloughs, new immigrants impressed and captured Southern black men counted toward State quotas would solve the issue.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Smallpox Hand Grenades Feared in Virginia

“On June 5th [1861], the Elmira correspondent of the [New York World] writes as follows: “The Cayuga, Buffalo and Hillhouse regiments are the only ones that have received their arms, and indeed, the only ones that are uniformed. The Buffalo men were uniformed by their fellow citizens, and present a fine appearance.”

In Mr. Faxon’s correspondence with the [Buffalo] Courier, we find the following:

“Yesterday and today were given almost entirely to the preventive service. Small-pox having been announced as one of the warlike weapons in use by our rebellious friend in Virginia, to scatter among our troops as a soldier would throw hand grenades, our Surgeon . . . [introduced] into the entire human economy of the regiment a little vaccine matter.

The Rev. Mr. Robie had become at once a general favorite. He has donned the theological uniform . . . and looks as though he was ready, at a moment’s notice, to engage the rebels of the South or the foe of all mankind.

Says a member of the regiment in a letter to the Buffalo Courier: “I consider it the duty of someone to tender our grateful acknowledgments to the ladies . . . Ladies of Buffalo, we will bear you in everlasting remembrance, and try to do our duty as soldiers, — to the killing of Jeff. Davis, if possible.”

[July 8th]: Last Thursday being the eighty-fifth anniversary of American Freedom, was fitly celebrated with us by a review of the troops in Washington and vicinity.

[Near Falls Church, Virginia], We learned this morning [29 September] that a scouting party returning from the front last night were fired upon by a California regiment, and several men killed, the result of carelessness in not having the countersign. Some of the men have been foraging among the deserted rebel mansions in the neighborhood. The house of Major Nutt, which its gallant owner hastily evacuated the day of our advance, stands, or did stand, about a mile north of the hill.

A party of [General Ludwig] Blenker’s [German regiment], probably carrying out the precepts of old world warfare, have completely demolished it, together with that portion of the contents which they did not choose to carry away. The remains of a fine piano and other heavy furniture litter the grounds; the garden and outbuildings are sacked and destroyed, and the [livestock] appropriated by the ravagers.”

(Chronicles of the Twenty-first Regiment, New York Volunteers, J. Harrison Mills, Twenty-first Regiment Veteran Association, 1887, excerpts pp. 50-52; 121)

Immigrant Politics and Recruits Up North

An 1845 congressional committee investigating naturalization frauds in New York and Philadelphia found it was common practice on the eve of elections for immigrants, many not yet qualified by residency, to be naturalized in droves by political machines like Tammany Hall. This immigrant influx had created two Americas by the late 1850s: An immigrant-dominated North versus a South still consisting of English and Scots-Irish who originally settled the region. The former knew little of American institutions; the latter revered limited government, self-reliance and independence.

In 1860, the South contained some 233,000 people born under a foreign flag, while the North held nearly 4 million foreign-born inhabitants. While running for president in mid-1860, Lincoln purchased Springfield (Illinois) Zeitung to gather immigrant votes; by 1864, fully 25% of Lincoln’s war machine consisted of Germans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Immigrant Politics and Recruits Up North

“In 1835, it was reported that more than one-half of the paupers in the almshouses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore were foreign-born, and in later years the proportion was even higher. Crime statistics, too, revealed a disproportionate number of foreign-born offenders; in 1850 there were three times as many foreign-born inmates of the New York State prisons as there were natives.

To many nativists an equally grave and more immediate threat to republican freedom stemmed from the political role of the foreign-born. In places the proportion of foreign-born voters had so increased as to hold the balance of electoral power; this of itself was a source of alarm, for most immigrants remained ignorant of American institutions.

In addition, the electoral violence and voting frauds, which had come to characterize immigrant voting in politics, we believed to be sapping the very foundations of the American political system. There were numerous complaints of native voters being kept from the polls by organized mobs of foreign laborers, of immigrants voting on the very day of their arrival in America, and of hired witnesses and false testimony as the commonplaces of naturalization proceedings.

[Native resentment] of German arrogance gave way to excited warnings against the machinations of a disaffected and turbulent element to whom America had unwisely given asylum. [An example of this were] the demands of Communist Forty-Eighters like Wilhelm Weitling, who advocated complete social revolution and the establishment of an American “republic of the workers.”

In Missouri in the spring of 1861, the bulk of Union forces consisted of German militiamen [who] thwarted secessionist attempts to take the State out of the Union. What led many to enlist was the offer of a bounty greater than an unskilled laborer’s annual earnings. Large numbers, too, joined the army because the trade depression at the beginning of the war, and its consequent unemployment, left them no choice save starvation or military service.

Such cases were common, for example, in New York where Horace Greeley, struck in April 1861 by the high proportion of foreigners among the recruits, wondered whether “the applicants were actuated by the desire of preserving the Union of the States or the union of their own bodies and souls.”

(American Immigration, Maldwyn Allen Jones, University of Chicago Press, 1960, excerpts pp. 152-154; 171-172)

Jun 30, 2018 - Antebellum Realities, Immigration, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on Texas Border Crisis of 1858

Texas Border Crisis of 1858

The thick chaparral on the banks of the Rio Grande provided cover for cross-border raids into Texas during the 1850s. The Juan Cortina raid on Brownsville in late September, 1859 was a last straw for Sam Houston – jailed prisoners were freed, the jailor murdered, and Cortina threatened to burn the town while issuing a proclamation of war against Americans. He additionally raised the Mexican flag and gathered recruits from the local Mexican population.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Texas Border Crisis of 1858

“The Cortina crisis almost provoked a major invasion of Mexico by Governor Sam Houston of Texas. On February 18, 1858, Houston advocated to the United States Senate that the United States establish a protectorate because of Mexican anarchy, but his proposal was laid on the table. Houston then warned that he might take individual action if the United States continued to refuse to forcibly involve itself.

When he delivered his inaugural address as governor of Texas in the midst of the Cortina panic, he reiterated his threat. Paternalistically describing Mexicans as “mild, pastoral and gentle people” terrorized by “demagogues and lawless chieftains,” he said that if federal authorities could not correct the situation, he might have to exercise his “fullest powers.”

Houston nearly carried out his threat in 1860. Besieged by complaints over Mexican infringements of the border, Houston wrote to the War Department and sent emissaries . . . to get more troops on the Rio Grande or financial support for a Texas Ranger regiment to police the border. Simultaneously, he undertook preparations for an invasion of Mexico in the event that federal support was not forthcoming.

Houston even contacted Colonel Robert E. Lee, temporary U.S. Army commander of the Department of Texas at San Antonio, for the purpose of engaging him in a leadership role in the filibustering expedition. But Lee declined; he would not involve himself in any such enterprise without federal authorization.

[Houston] wanted to get the English bondholders of the Mexican debt to finance the enterprise, and . . . he planned to employ Texas Rangers mustered to fight Indians, Indian guides, and perhaps the Indians themselves for a grand move into Mexico. It is certain that had Houston made a move, Texas citizens would have rallied to his banner . . . and Texans were anxious to get another chance to fight their old foes.”

(The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854-1861, Robert E. May, LSU Press, 1973, excerpts pp. 144-146)

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