“What, then, was the role of slavery in the Texas Revolution? … The institution was always there, never too far in the background, as … a ‘dull, organic ache.'” (Campbell)

What, then, was the role of slavery in the Texas Revolution? Circumstantial evidence supports the abolitionists’ contention that slavery was the primary cause of the conflict. Anglo-American settlers wanted their Peculiar Institution, and Mexico opposed it, at least in principle. Once they were independent, Texans made no pretense of hiding their determination to guarantee slavery in their new republic. They outlawed the African trade, but that was primarily a response to world opinion rather than an action against slavery.[22] The introduction of slaves from the United States was guaranteed. Given these results, slavery appears to have been a major cause of the revolution.

The difficulty with this interpretation, however, is the lack of direct supporting evidence. Slavery did not play a major role in the developments from the passage of the anti-immigration Law of April 6, 1830, until the outbreak of fighting in the fall of 1835. The institution was not a primary issue in the disturbances of 1832 or the events of late 1835, and Mexico took no action threatening it directly or immediately during these years. Instead, the immediate cause of conflict was the political instability of Mexico and the implications of Santa Anna’s centralist regime for Texas. Mexico forced the issue in 1835, not over slavery, but over customs duties and the generally defiant attitude of Anglo-Americans in Texas.

This, of course, is not to say that slavery was unimportant in the Texas Revolution. In the broadest sense, the conflict resulted from a clash of cultural traditions. Anglo-Americans were simply too different from Hispanic-Americans to accept Mexican government indefinitely. One of those differences was slavery. The institution was always there, never too far in the background, as what the noted Texas historian Eugene C. Barker called a “dull, organic ache.” It was, therefore, an underlying cause of the struggle that began in 1835. Once the revolution came, slavery was an immediate concern. Texans worried constantly about the servile insurrection they accused the Mexicans of trying to foment, and Mexican leaders indicated that slavery would be one of the casualties in their conquest of the rebels. The war did disturb slavery and give some bondsmen the opportunity to escape. After San Jacinto, however, the institution became more secure than it had ever been in Texas. Protecting slavery was [49] not the primary cause of the Texas Revolution, but it certainly was a major result.[23]Samuel Harmon Lowrie, Culture Conflict in Texas, 1821-1835 (New York, 1932), 59-60, 179-81; Barker, Mexico and Texas, 86. On Texans’ fears concerning slavery, see Eugene C. Barker, “Public Opinion in Texas Preceding the Revolution,” in Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1911 (Washington, D.C., 1913), 219. Mexico did indeed end slavery in 1837. See Josefina Zoraida Vázquez, “The Texas Question in Mexican Politics, 1836-1845,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LXXXXIX (1986), 317. Paul D. Lack, “Slavery and the Texas Revolution,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly LXXXXIX (1985), 181-202, is the most recent review of the subject of this chapter. Lack places somewhat greater emphasis on slavery as a cause of the revolution and on the efforts of slaves to use the crisis to obtain freedom, but there is no fundamental difference between his article and the views presented here.

Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press., 48ff.


  1. [22]J. Pinckney Henderson as minister to Great Britain and France from the Republic of Texas pointed to the outlawing of the African trade as proof that Texas had “abolished the most offensive features of slavery.” George P. Garrison (ed.), Diplomatic Correspondence of the Republic of Texas (3 vols.; Washington, 1908-11), I, 827-28.
  2. [23]

Mexican plans for Texas revolution in 1835 and the Amphictyonic Council (Henson)

1835 Sep-Nov: Mexican federalists and Amphictyonic Council attempt to create a separate northern federation

While the Texans made plans to resist General Cós, Zavala’s federalist friends in New Orleans met on September 3 and 4 to plan the defeat of Santa Anna. Former Vice President Gómez Farías and his family had arrived in the Crescent City on August 29, four days after Austin left for Texas. Mexía and the others welcomed him and organized a meeting of the Amphictyonic Council for September 3. The name came from ancient Greece: amphictyons (deputies) represented their neighborhoods at meetings of a league of states at Delphi or Thermopylae. The New Orleans group included both Mexican federalists and Anglo Americans who were united by commercial interests and freemasonry. Mexía outlined a plan to attack Tampico and rally federalists to attack Santa Anna. He already had tentative financial backing from some Louisiana capitalists, provided he could guarantee the sale of Texas to the Louisiana interests. Texas would be made an independent state, temporarily under the guidance of the United States, until “a new republic of the South” could be organized that included the north Mexican states.”

[90] Gómez Farías thought the plan impractical and did not like the idea of severing Texas even temporarily, saying that the Mexican people would not understand. He recommended that Mexía’s proposed invasion be postponed. But the supporters of the scheme argued the invasion was in the interest of all lbierals, which brought Gómez Farías reluctantly into the fold.

The meeting on September 4 debated the issues of bringing “true liberty” to the United States of Mexico. A two-thirds majority approved seven articles: Gómez Farías, Mexía, and Zavala would lead the effort to return the federal system and liberalism to Mexico. Gómez Farías was the nominal head while Mexía, as head of the Federal army, was to recruit met in Louisiana and later the civic militias of Tamaulipas and other Mexican states. Zavala would direct the Texans in an uprising to draw attention and Santa Anna’s army away from Mexía’s landing at Tampico. Amnesty would be offered to all except Santa Anna and his ministers, who would be executed. Mexía would petition Congress to reform the 1824 Constitution by restricting the power of the clergy and the military, while freedom of religion would be established along with land reform. United States citizens, as a reward for their support, could enter Mexico without passports and be exempt from one-third of the import duties. Thirty-seven men signed the document, but their names did not appear in the December newspaper article published in Mexico City, the only known record of this meeting. Seemingly the Amphictyons had a spy in their midst.

Zavala and Mexía must have discussed the plan in July, because the wording used some of Zavala’s phrases. Moreover, his questions to the Columbus committee about support for independence fit the scheme. There was sufficient time for Zavala to tell Mexía about his cool reception, but perhaps Mexía and even Zavala believed that the Texans would rally in time.

Margaret Swett Henson, Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996). 89-90.