“the lower class or ‘Peon’ Mexicans… taking the likeliest negro girls for wives” and “a greaser” (Scraps of Newspaper, Olmsted)

“the lower class or ‘Peon’ Mexicans… taking the likeliest negro girls for wives” (Matagorda Co.) ‘a greaser’ / JTT p. 502

MATAGORDA.–The people of Matagorda county have held a meeting and ordered every Mexican to leave the county. To strangers this may seem wrong, but we hold it to be perfectly right and highly necessary; but a word of explanation should be given. In the first place, then, there are none but the lower class or “Peon” Mexicans in the county; secondly, they have no fixed domicile but hang around the plantations, taking the likeliest negro girls for wives; and, thirdly, they often steal horses, and these girls, too, and endeavor to run them to Mexico. We should rather have anticipated Lynch law, than the mild course which has been adopted.


A VOTER.–As an evidence of the capacity of the Mexican population to discriminate in matters of State importance, it may be mentioned that at one of the polls held in this city, a greaser, who was challenged, was asked incidentally by a bystander, “who he voted for, for Governor?”

“Sublett,” was the reply.

“Who for Lieutenant-Governor?”

“Sublett,” rejoined the Mexican.

“Who for Representative?”

“Sublett,” again muttered this bombshell freeman.

Voters like that swelled the Anti American majority in Bexar. Boast of your triumphs, gentleman Bombshells.

Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through Texas; or, a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier (New York: Dix, Edwards & Co, 1857), 502.

“Town Life” in San Antonio and “The Mexicans in Texas” (Olmsted, Journey Through Texas)

Town Life.

The street-life of San Antonio is more varied than might be supposed. Hardly a day passes without some noise. If there be no personal affray to arouse talk, there is some Government train to be seen, with its hundred of mules, on its way from the coast to a fort above; or a Mexican ox-train from the coast, with an interesting supply of ice, or flour, or matches, or of whatever the shops find themselves short. A Government express clatters off, or news arrives from some exposed outpost, or from New Mexico. An Indian in his finery appears on a shaggy horse, in search of blankets, powder, and ball. Or at the least, a stage-coache with the “States,” or the Austin, mail, rolls into the plaza and discharges its load of passengers and newspapers.

The street affrays are numerous and characteristic. I have seen, for a year or more, a San Antonio weekly, and hardly a number fails to have its fight or its murder. More often than otherwise, the parties meet upon the plaza by chance, and each, on catching sight of his enemy, draws a revolver, and fires away. As the actors are under more or less excitement, their aim is not apt to be of the most careful and sure, consequently it is, not seldom, the passers-by who suffer. Sometimes it is a young man at a quiet dinner in a restaurant, who receives a ball in the head; sometimes an old negro woman, returning from market, who gets winged. After disposing of all their lead, the parties close, to try their steel, but as this species of metallic amusement is less popular, they generally contrive to be separated (“Hold me! Hold me!”) by friends before the wounds are mortal. If neither is seriously injured, they are brought to drink together on the following day, and the town waits for the next excitement.

[159] Where borderers and idle soldiers are hanging about drinking-places, and where different races mingle on unequal terms, assassinations must be expected. Murders, from avarice or revenge, are common here. Most are charged upon the Mexicans, whose passionate motives are not rare, and to whom escape over the border is easiest and most natural.

The town amusements of a less exciting character are not many. There is a permanent company of Mexican mountebanks, who give performances of agility and buffoonery two or three times a week, parading, before night, in their spangled tights with drum and trombone through the principal streets. They draw a crowd of whatever little Mexicans can get adrift, and this attracts a few sellers of whisky, tortillas, and tamaules (corn slap-jacks and hashed meat in corn-shucks), all by the light of torches making a ruddily picturesque evening group.

The more grave Americans are served with tragedy by a thin local company, who are death on horrors and despair, long rapiers, and well oiled hair, and for lack of a better place to flirt with passing officers, the city belles may sometimes be seen looking on. The national background of peanuts and yells, is not, of course, wanting.

A day or two after our arrival, there was the hanging of a Mexican. The whole population left the town to see. Family parties, including the grandmother and the little negroes, came from all the plantations and farms within reach, and little ones were held up high to get their share of warning. The Mexicans looked on imperturbable.

San Antonio, excluding Galveston,[*] is much the largest city [160] of Texas. After the Revolution, it was half deserted by its Mexican population, who did not care to come under Anglo-Saxon rule. Since then its growth has been rapid and steady. At the census of 1850, it numbered 3,500; in 1853, its population was 6,000; and in 1856, it is estimated at 10,500. Of these, about 4,000 are Mexicans, 3,000 are Germans, and 3,500 Americans. The money-capital is in the hands of the Americans, as well as the officers and the Government. Most of the mechanics and the smaller shopkeepers are German. The Mexicans appear to have almost no other business than that of carting goods. Almost the entire transportation of the country is carried on by them, with oxen and two-wheeled carts. Some of them have small shops, for the supply of their own countrymen, and some live upon the produce of farms and cattle-ranches owned in the neighborhood. Their livelihood is, for the most part, exceedingly meagre, made up chiefly of corn and beans.

The Mexicans in Texas.

We had, before we left, opportunities of visiting familiarly many of the Mexican dwellings. I have described their externals. Within, we found usually a single room, open to the roof and invariably having a floor of beaten clay a few inches below the level of the street. There was little furniture–huge beds being the universal pièce de résistance. These were used by day as sofa and table. Sometimes there were chairs and a table besides; but frequently only a bench, with a few earthen utensils for cooking, which is carried on outside. A dog or a cat appears on or under the bed, or on the clothes-chest, a saint on the wall, and frequently a game-cock fastened in a corner, supplied with dishes of corn and water.

[161] We were invariably received with the most gracious and beaming politeness and dignity. Their manner towards one another is engaging, and that of children and parents most affectionate. This we always noticed in evening walks and in the groups about the doors, which were often singing in chorus–the attitudes expressive of confident affection. In one house, we were introduced to an old lady who was supposed by her grandchildren to be over one hundred years old. She had come from Mexico, in a rough cart, to make them a visit. Her face was strikingly Indian in feature, her hair, snow white, flowing thick over the shoulders, contrasting strongly with the olive skin. The complexion of the girls is clear, and sometimes fair, usually a blushing olive. The variety of feature and color is very striking, and is naturally referred to three sources–the old Spanish, the creole Mexican, and the Indian, with sometimes a suspicion of Anglo-Saxon or Teuton. The hair is coarse, but glossy, and very luxuriant; the eye, deep, dark, liquid, and well set. Their modesty, though real, we heard, was not proof against a long courtship of flattering attentions and rich presents. The constancy of the married women was made very light of, not that their favors were purchasable, but that they are sometimes seized by a strong penchant for some other than their lord. There was testimony of this in the various shades and features of their children; in fact we thought the number of babies of European hair and feature exceeded the native olive in number. We noticed, in a group of Mexican and negro women, when an indelicate occurrence took place, that the former turned away in annoyed modesty, while the latter laughed broadly. Their constitutions, in general, are feeble, and very many of both sexes, we were informed, suffered from scrofulous disease. [162] Nevertheless, with good stimulus, the men make admirable laborers.

The common dress was loose and slight, not to say slatternly. It was frequently but a chemise, as low as possible in the neck, sometimes even lower, with a calico petticoat. On holidays they dress in expensive finery, paying special attention to the shoes, of white satin, made by a native artist.

The houses of the rich differ little form those of the poor, and the difference in their style of living must be small, owing to the want of education and of all ambition. The majority are classed as laborers. Their wages are small, usually, upon farms near San Antonio, $6 or $8 a month, with corn and beans. That of the teamsters is in proportion to their energy. On being paid off, they hurry to their family and all come out in their best to spend the earnings, frequently quite at a lost for what to exchange them. They make excellent drovers and shepherds, and in work like this, with which they are acquainted, are reliable and adroit. A horse-drover, just from the Rio Grande, with whom we conversed, called them untiring and faithful at their work, but untrustworthy in character. To his guide, he paid $24 a month, to his “right bower,” $15, and to his “left bower,” $12 a month.

Their tools are of the rudest sort. The old Mexican wheel of hewn blocks of wood is still constantly in use, though supplanted, to some extent, by Yankee wheels, sent in pairs from New York. The carts are always hewn of heavy wood, and are covered with white cotton, stretched over hoops. In these they live, on the road, as independently as in their own house. The cattle are yoked by the horns, with raw-hide thongs, of which they make a great use.

[163] They consort freely with the negroes, making no distinction from pride of race. A few, of old Spanish blood, have purchased negro servants, but most of them regard slavery with abhorrence.

The Mexicans were treated for a while after annexation like a conquered people. Ignorant of their rights, and of the new language, they allowed themselves to be imposed upon by the new comers, who seized their lands and property without shadow of claim, and drove hundreds of them homeless across the Rio Grande. They now, as they get gradually better informed, come straggling back, and often their claims give rise to litigation, usually settled by a compromise.

A friend told us, that, wishing, when he built, to square a corner of his lot, after making diligent inquiry he was unable to hear of any owner for the adjoining piece. He took the responsibility, and moved his fence over it. Not long after, he was waited upon by a Mexican woman, in a towering passion. He carried her to a Spanish acquaintance, and explained the transaction. She was immediately appeased, told him he was welcome to the land, and has since been on the most neighborly terms, calling him always her “amigo.”

Most adult Mexicans are voters by the organic law; but few take measures to make use of the right. Should they do so, they might probably, in San Antonio, have elected a government of their own. Such a step would be followed, however, by a summary revolution. They are regarded by slaveholders with great contempt and suspicion, for their intimacy with slaves, and their competition with plantation labor.

Americans, in speaking of them, constantly distinguish themselves as “white folks.” I once heard a new comer informing another American, that he had seen a Mexican with a revolver. [164] “I shouldn’t think they ought to be allowed to carry fire-arms. It might be dangerous.” “It would be difficult to prevent it,” the other replied; “Oh, they think themselves just as good as white men.”

From several counties they have been driven out altogether. At Austin, in the spring of 1853, a meeting was held, at which the citizens resolved, on the plea that Mexicans were horse-thieves, that they must quit the country. About twenty families were thus driven from their homes, and dispersed over the western counties. Deprived of their means of livelihood, and rendered furious by such wholesale injustice, it is no wonder if they should take to the very crimes with which they are charged.

A similar occurrence took place at Seguin, in 1854; and in 1855, a few families, who had returned to Austin, were again driven out.

Even at San Antonio, there had been talk of such a razzia. A Mexican, caught in an attempt to steal a horse, had been hung by a Lynching party, on the spot, for an example. His friends happened to be numerous, and were much excited, threatening violence in return. Under pretext of subduing an intended riot, the sheriff issued a call for an armed posse of 500 men, with the idea of dispersing and driving from the neighborhood a large part of the Mexican population. But the Germans, who include among them the great majority of young men suitable for such duty, did not volunteer as had been expected, and the scheme was abandoned. They were of the opinion, one of them said to me, that this was not the right and republican way. If the laws were justly and energetically administered, no other remedy would be needed. One of them, who lived on the Medina, in the vicinity of the place of the occurrence, told us he had no [165] complaint to make of the Mexicans; they never stole his property, or troubled him in any way.

The following is the most reliable estimate I can obtain of the actual Mexican population in Texas, (1856):–

San Antonio 4,000
Bexar Co. 2,000
Uvalde Co. 1,000
Laredo 1,500
El Paso, with Presidio 8,500
Lower Rio Grande Counties 3,000
Goliad and Nueces Counties 1,000
Other parts of State 1,000
Floating, say 3,000
25,000
Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through Texas; or, a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier (New York: Dix, Edwards & Co, 1857), 158-165.
  1. [*]The two towns have nearly kept pace in growth. The yellow fever, it is said, has now given San Antonio the advantage.

“free white inhabitants,” etc. in mid-1850s city incorporation acts (Gammel’s Laws of Texas)

Galveston, August 1856.

Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That all free white inhabitants of the city of Galveston shall continue to be a body politic and corporate by the name of the Mayor, Aldermen and inhabitants of the city of Galveston, and by that name they and their successors shall have exercise and enjoy all the rights immunities, powers privileges and franchises and shall be subject to all the duties and obligations now appertaining and incumbent on said city as a corporate, or incumbent upon the inhabitants or officers thereof, and may ordain and establish such acts, laws, ordinances and regulations, not inconsistent with the constitution or laws of this State as shall be needful to the good order of said body politic, and under the shall be known in law …

“An Act to consolidate in one act and to amend the several acts incorporating the city of Galveston” (August 27, 1856), in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 142/688 (link).

Sec. 33. That every free white male inhabitant of said city who shall have attained the age of twenty-one years, and who shall have rented at least twelve months previous to the day of election, within the limits of the city of Galveston, and who shall have paid all taxes which shall have been assessed against him by or under the authority of the city council, shall have and possess the right to vote at the election of Mayor and Aldermen, and other elective officers of said city.

“An Act to consolidate in one act and to amend the several acts incorporating the city of Galveston” (August 27, 1856), in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 154/700 (link).

San Antonio, July 1856.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That the inhabitants of the city of San Antonio, as the same is hereby and hereafter laid out, and their successors, are hereby constituted a corporation and body politic in fact and in law, by the name and title of the city of San Antonio …

Sec. 3. The city of San Antonio shall be divided into four wards, the boundaries thereof shall be fixed by the City Council hereinafter created, and may be by said Council changed from time to time, as they shall see fit, having regard to the number of free white male inhabitants, so that each ward shall contain, as near as may be, the same number of qualified electors for city elections, and the Mayor and board of Aldermen may establish new wards when they may deem it necessary or expedient.

“An Act to incorporate the City of San Antonio” (July 17, 1856), Article 1, in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 4-5/550-551 (link).

Section 1. The Mayor and City Council shall have power by ordinance, and for municipal purposes:

1st. To levy and collect taxes upon all property made taxable by law for State purposes; … also a poll tax of one dollar each on all free white male inhabitants, over the age of twenty-one years, who do not pay a tax to at least that amount on property ….

27th. To regulate the conduct of slaves and free persons of color.

“An Act to incorporate the City of San Antonio” (July 17, 1856), Article 3, in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 9/556 (link). and ibid. 11/557.

Sec. 6. Every free male white person, over the age of 21 years, who shall have resided six months within the city limits, and one month within the ward where he offers to vote, shall be entitled to vote at all city elections.

“An Act to incorporate the City of San Antonio” (July 17, 1856), Article 5, in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 19/565 (link).

Sec. 7. The present Mayor and City Council shall exercise all the powers and functions vested in the Mayor and Council by this act, until superseded by the officers elected under the same, and they shall, also, as soon as practicable, after this act goes into effect, proceed to take an enumeration of the free, white, male inhabitants of the city, and to divide said city into wards as herein before prescribed, so that the next city election, to be holden, on the fourth Monday in December next, may be held according to the provisions of this charter.

“An Act to incorporate the City of San Antonio” (July 17, 1856), Article 7, in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 21/567 (link).

Indianola (September 1, 1856)

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That the following described limits, to wit: beginning at the mouth of Powder Horn Bayou in Matagorda Bay, … thence with said Bayou to the place of beginning, be and the same, with the inhabitants therein, is hereby created a body politic and corporate, under the name and style of the town of Indianola …

Sec. 3. … No person shall be eligible to any town office unless he be a free white male citizen, over twenty-one years of age, and who shall be a free holder or householder within the corporate limits, and resident therein for at least six months preceding the election. No person shall be allowed to vote for town officers unless he be a free white male resident, over twenty one years of age, and shall have resided at least three months within the corporate limits, and shall have paid a town tax on real estate, or a town poll tax of fifty cents; …

Sec. 4. The Mayor and Alderman shall constitute the Town Council … the council shall have the power to pass all ordinances necessary for the government and well-being of the town … they may also collect an annual poll tax on every white male resident of the town over twenty-one years of age, who shall have resided three months within the corporation, provided, that such person shall not have paid a tax on real estate, and provided further, that no such person shall be compelled to pay said poll tax, unless he desires to vote in the town election.

“An Act to incorporate the Town of Indianola” (September 1, 1856), in in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 303/849 (link).

Ibid. 304/850.

Ibid. 305/851.

Belleville (February 1856)

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of (the State of) Texas, That the citizens of the town of Belleville, in Austin county, be and they are hereby declared a body politic and corporate under the name and style of the town of Belleville. … (396)

Sec. 6. All free white males of and over the age of twenty years, who have been resident citizens within the limits of the corporation one month next preceding any election, and who are otherwise legal voters of the State of Texas, shall be entitled to vote for officers of said corporation. … (397)

Sec. 9. The council shall have power to enact such rules, ordinances and regulations as they may deem sufficient for the proper government and improvement of the town and preservation of good order within the corporate limits … They may compel all free white male citizens between eighteen and forty-five years of age, and all male slaves and other persons of color over sixteen and under sixty years of age, residents of said corporation, to work on the squares, roads and streets, provided such persons shall not be compelled to work more than six days in one year. … (398)

“An Act to incorporate the Town of Belleville” (February 7, 1856) in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 303/849 (link).

Austin (February 9, 1857)

Sec. 2. That the inhabitants of the City of Austin, as the same extends and is laid out above, be, and they and their successors are, hereby constituted a corporation and body politic, in fact, and in law, by the name and style of the City of Austin… (401)

Sec. 3. That the City of Austin shall be divided into eight wards, the boundaries thereof shall be fixed by the city council, and be by the council changed from time to time as they shall see fit, having regard  to the number of free white male inhabitants, so that each ward shall contain as near as may be, the same number of free white male inhabitants. (401)

Sec. 7. That the Mayor and City council shall have power within the City by ordinance. … 30th. To provide for the taking of an enumeration of the inhabitants of the City. … 37th. To lay and collect a poll tax not exceeding fifty cents upon every free white male person over 21 years of age, who shall have resided six months within the City. (403, 405)

… The present city Council shall exercise all of the powers and functions vested in the Council under this Act until superseded under the same, and they shall as soon as practicable after the passage of this Act, proceed to take an enumeration of the free white male inhabitants of the City, and to divide the City into wards as prescribed by the same, and provide for elections conformably to the same. (413)

“An Act to incorporate the City of Austin” (February 9, 1857), in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 102/400 (link).

Woodville (August 18, 1856)

Sec. 6. All free white males of, and over the age of twenty years, who may have been resident citizens within the limits of said corporation for one month next preceding any election, and who may in other respects be legal voters of the State of Texas, shall be entitled to vote for all officers of said corporation. (635)

Sec. 9. The common Council shall have power to enact such rules, ordinances and regulations as they may deem sufficient for the proper government and improvement of the town and preservation of good order within the corporate limits thereof … they may compel all free white male citizens between the age of sixteen and forty-five years, and all male slaves and free negroes over fifteen and under sixty years of age, who are residents of said corporation, to work on the public streets, squares and alleys of the same; provided, such persons shall not be compelled to work on any road beyond the limits of said corporation. (635, 636)

“An Act to incorporate the town of Woodville” (August 18, 1856) in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 88/634 (link).

LaGrange (February 13, 1854)

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That the people of the town of LaGrange, in the county of Fayette be, and they are hereby declared a body politic and corporate, under the name and style of the Town of LaGrange …. (146)

Sec. 7. Every free white male of twenty-one years of age, being a citizen of the United States, who may have resided for six months next preceding an election within the limits of said corporation, shall be deemed a qualified elector under this charter. (147, 148)

“An Act to Incorporate the Town of LaGrange in the County of Fayette” (February 13, 1854) in Laws of Texas 1822-1897, 146 (link).

Tejanos and Mexicans at the 1836 Convention; Zavala becomes Vice President (Henson)

[101] Zavala saw many familiar faces from the Consultation, but most were new men. Among them were José Antonio Navarro and Francisco Ruíz from San Antonio, and as neither spoke much English, they relied on Zavala to translate for them. By the end of the first week, the three Mexican delegates joined William Fairfax Gray in a rented carpenter shop where they had more privacy. Gray, a Virginia lawyer visiting Texas as agent for some land speculators, found the three fascinating and wanted to learn Spanish.

[…]

[103] After midnight the constitution was finished and adopted and an ordinance organizing a provisional government read and approved. The election of officers followed in the early hours of March 17.

Zavala supported the selection of cabinet members Samuel B. Carson, Bailey Hardeman, Thomas Jefferson Rusk, Robert Potter, and David Thomas for seccretaries of state, treasury, war, navy, and attorney general. But tired as he was, he was not pleased by his own unanimous election as vice president nor that of David G. Burnet as president. The latter had won by seven votes over the better qualified Carson, a former United States congressman from North Carolina.

After initially refusing, Zavala reluctantly accepted his post when the members persuaded him that it would create a favorable impression among Mexican federalists. His confidence in Burnet to unite the Texans was less.

[…]

[104] The new officers took their oaths at 4:00 A.M. Thursday, March 17. […] Zavala, Ruíz, and Navarro, with their servants, horses, and Zavala’s mule, crossed the ferry to the east bank of the Brazos on Friday, March 18, and that night camped alongside the road. Zavala was unwell the next morning, so the entire group remained in camp. Sunday they reached Jared E. Groce’s [105] Retreat, a recently developed plantation where Zavala parted from his new friends. The two San Antonio men were headed downriver to San Felipe, where they expected to hear news about their refugee families.

Margaret Swett Henson, Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996), 101, 103-105.

“If the word white means anything at all it means a great deal and if it does not mean anything at all it is entirely superfluous” (Navarro, Weeks)

Mr. Navarro said, that if the word white means anything at all it means a great deal, and if it does not mean anything at all it is entirely superfluous, as well as odious, and, if you please, ridiculous. He made no remark with the idea that this question had any relation to the Mexican people, for they are unquestionably entitled to vote. By the application [159] of the word white, certain persons may be qualified, &c.,–and others, though white as snow, yet not white by descent, be disqualified. That is to say, white negroes or the descendants of Africans, who, in the course of time become so nearly white that no distinction or scarcely any can be made. He was as much opposed to giving the right of suffrage to Africans to the descendants of Africans as any other gentleman. He hoped the Convention would be clearly convinced of the propriety and expediency of striking out this word. It is odious, captious and redundant: and may be the means at elections of disqualifying persons who are legal voters, but who perhaps by arbitrary judges may not be considered as white.

William F. Weeks, Reporter. Debates of the Texas Convention.  Houston, Tex.: J.W. Cruger, 1846158-159.

“In 1875 when election time came around, my friends nominated me as Justice of the Peace” (Tafolla)

In 1875 when election time came around, my friends nominated me as Justice of the Peace for the precinct. And, as I was wicked, they wanted me to be the judge. On election day, Mr. J. P. Rodríguez did not get a single vote.

In due time, after the election, they called me to Bandera to take the oath of Justice of the Peace for the precinct.

Santiago Tafolla, A Life Crossing Borders: Memoir of a Mexican-American Confederate. Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press. Edited by Carmen Tafolla and Laura Tafolla. Translated by Fidel L. Tafolla. 90.

 

“The political status of the Mexican in Texas … the right to vote” (Montejano)

From David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986, 39-41.

The second question requiring immediate attention was the political status of the Mexican in Texas. One of the liveliest debates in the Texas Constitutional Convention (1845) concerned whether or not the Mexican should be allowed the right to vote. The debate centered on whether the qualifying adjective ” white” should be retained in the constitutional provisions that described the voters of the state. The Harris County representative argued that the qualifier “white” should be kept, not because he feared the Spaniard; he welcomed them as he welcomed any portion of the Caucasian race that desired to settle in Texas. Rather he feared the mass immigration of “hordes of Mexican Indians”: “Silently they will come moving in; they will come back in thousands to Bexar, in thousands to Goliad, perhaps to Nacogdoches, and what will be the consequence? Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty thousand may come in here, and vanquish you at the ballot box though you are invincible in arms. This is no idle dream; no bugbear; it is the truth.”[47] The proposal failed, however, because of opposition by several Anglo-Texan allies and protectors of the Texas Mexican elite (like Col. Henry Kinney of Corpus Christi). José Antonio Navarro of San Antonio, the only Texas Mexican (and the only native-born Texan) at the Constitutional Convention, argued eloquently against the proposal.

In spite of the formal defeat of disenfranchisement at the convention, Mexicans in certain districts were denied the vote or allowed only limited participation. Corpus Christi merchant Henry Kinney observed that in several counties the practice immediately after independence had been to withhold the franchise from Mexicans, even though they may have fought against a people “of their own race.” Traveler Frederick Olmsted observed that, if the Mexicans in San Antonio voted, they could elect a government of their own; “such a step would be followed, however, by a summary revolution.”[48] Where Mexicans did have the right to vote, protests and threats from Anglo-Americans were constant reminders of a fragile franchise.

A typical protest was exemplified by a hotly contested election for state representative from Nueces and Webb counties in 1863, where S. Kinney of Corpus Christi lost to Charles Callaghan of Laredo by a margin of thirty-five votes. The Corpus Christi Ranchero noted that Kinney was the choice of fifteen of sixteen voters where the English language was spoken and that “American men in an American country should have a fair showing in shaping the destinies of the country.” The Fort Brown Flag of Brownsville joined in the protest, editorializing that “we are opposed to allowing an ignorant crowd of Mexicans to determine the political questions in this country, where a man is supposed to vote knowingly and thoughtfully.”[49] Disenfranchisement was the usual sentiment of disgruntled losers in electoral politics.

Where Texas Mexicans constituted a significant portion of the male vote, the politicians among the American settlers proceeded to instruct and organize the new voters. A common pattern wast the controlled franchise, where Mexicans voted according to the dictates [40] of the local patrón or boss. Since these political machines delivered sizable blocs of votes in state and national elections, the Anglo patrones acquired influence far beyond that usually accorded “backwater” county politicians.

Generally, the lesser bosses were members of the wealthy Mexican families who had entered the political arena to maintain and defend their traditional status, as in the “subrings” of Brownsville, San Antonio, and El Paso.[50] But in all these instances, including places where Mexicans controlled most offices, as in Starr and Zapata counties, the figure of an Anglo boss legitimized Mexican political involvement. In the 1850s, the specific arrangements varied. Cameron County in the Lower Valley showed a nearly equal division of county commissioner positions. In Webb County, Anglos ran the county while Mexicans ran the city of Laredo. In El Paso County, the pattern was reversed, and Anglos ran the city while Mexicans ran the county.

The role of the Mexican elite as influential politicians was contingent, of course, on the presence of a large Mexican electorate. In San Antonio, where the Mexican population increasingly declined through the nineteenth century, Mexican representation on the city aldermanic council fell at an exponential rate after 1836. In 1837, for example, all but one of the forty-one candidates running for city elections were of Spanish-Mexican descent; a decade later there were only five. Between 1848 and 1866 each aldermanic council included one or two Mexican representatives; after 1866, however, even token representation was rare. Mexican political clubs remained active but constituted minor actors in the city’s affairs. Through the early 1900s, the Mexican voice in city politics was symbolically represented by Anglo officials with family ties to the Mexican upper class–the Lockwoods, Tobins, and Callaghans, for example.[51] The [41] tabulation in Table 1, with city administrations organized roughly in periods of seven to ten years, gives a clear indication of the decline in power of the Mexican elite in San Antonio during the late nineteenth century.[52]

[N.B. how in the Corpus Ranchero, “American” has become a purely ethnic and not a national term; an election in 1863 took place in the Confederacy, after Texas had been two years out of the United States of America.]

  1. [47] Quoted in P.S. Taylor, American-Mexican Frontier, p. 232.
  2. [48] Olmsted, Journey through Texas, p. 163; P.S. Taylor, American-Mexican Frontier, p. 230-234.
  3. [49] Quoted in J. Thompson, “A 19th Century History,” pp. 58-59. Another example is provided by Arnoldo de León, In Re Ricardo Rodriguez.
  4. [50] González, “Social Life,” p. 84; M. T. García, Desert Immigrants, pp. 157-158; De León, Tejano Community, pp. 23-49; J. Thompson, “A 19th Century History,” pp. 5, 28-31.
  5. [51] Remy, “Hispanic-Mexican San Antonio,” pp. 570; De León, Tejano Community, pp. 25, 28, 30-34.
  6. [52] This table was organized from information compiled by August Santleban, who attached an appendix of San Antonio’s city officials to his memoirs. The ethnicity of an alderman was based on surname, a fairly reliable method. See August Santleban, A Texas Pioneer, pp. 314-321.