header image

Texas Insights October 2017

Volume VIII, Issue 2
October 2017
What's New: 
NEW Revolution Timeline
newsletter image

The Alamo Education Department developed an audio visual timeline of the Texas Revolution. Complete with photos, video, and text, this website covers significant milestones of the revolution from Mexican Independence in August of 1821 through the signing of the Treaties of Velasco in May of 1836. It also provides additional online and book resources for further information. It is a great summative overview to supplement teaching the Revolutionary period. The timeline is easy to navigate and it is a great starting point for further conversation about each milestone and the chronological order provides a nice organization of events to understand the progression of the revolution. To use this timeline, visit TeachingTexas.org.

Our friends at the Texas Historical Commission have launched a web documentary film about the Massacre at Goliad. 360 degree camera technology was used to be attractive and immersive for Texas history students. It can be viewed on laptop, cell phone, tablet, VR headsets or on the THC website. A Chrome browser provides the best experience. All of the sites for the Massacre were shot on location and the artifacts shown were gathered from both public and private collections, including the Alamo Collection of the British rock star, Phil Collins.  To see the video, go to TeachingTexas.org.

The Texas Council for the Social Studies annual conference will be held in Las Colinas, Texas October 20-22, 2017. The conference sees over a thousand people each year with exhibitors and professional development to enrich your classroom and grow your network and resources. Registration is open and rooms with the discounted rate must be booked by October 12th. Be sure to stop by the TSHA booth and ask any questions you may have about TeachingTexas.org or other TSHA programs and resources. For registration information, visit TeachingTexas.org.

Historian's Corner: 
Federalism & the Texas Revolution: Why Does It Matter?
newsletter image

[The State of Coahuila and Texas] . . . will admit no other amendments of the constitution than those effected conformability to the steps and requisites provided by the same; on the contrary, it will regard any measure, transcending these legal provisions, as a violation of its sovereignty.

Legislature of Coahuila and Texas

Monclova, April 22, 1835

For many years the Texas Revolution has been portrayed as a conflict between Texans and Mexicans, an interpretation that automatically cast the conflict as racial in nature. A close examination indicates this racial animosity was more an outcome of the revolution than its specific origin. The same examination reveals that more than race, ideology played a larger role in the Texas Revolution than often acknowledged. The root cause of Mexico’s ongoing civil war—a conflict of which the Texas Revolution was an episode—rests on changing attitudes towards government sparked by events in Europe and North America.

For most of history, the world’s population had been ruled by various monarchs with titles such as king, emperor, czar, etc. Political authority, or sovereignty, rested in the hands of royal families that passed their wealth, status, and power on to their offspring. While war might occasionally dethrone a family, royal dynasties, once established, could look forward to generations of ruling over their subjects. Intermarriage between royal families produced a system of strong alliances whose members supported and protected one another. Reinforcing royal power even further was the traditional belief that monarchical societies were the natural world order. Moreover, monarchs routinely held the title of protector of the state’s religion, making their positions seem preordained and backed by God. In this scenario, opposition to the monarch was not only a civil offense, but a religious one as well.

Western civilization’s questioning of the traditional nature of government led to change. An period of introspection took place over several historical phases that are usually categorized as the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. The first resulted in the death of the notion of the divine right of kings, the second focused attention on man and his existence on earth, and the third explored alternative forms of government intended to shift power away from the monarch towards the individual. All three periods shaped the world in which we live today.

The American Revolution was a direct outgrowth of the European Enlightenment. Throughout the late 1600s and into the 1700s, intellectuals criticized the monarchy and the stratified society it produced as they attempted to identify a form of government to counter the existing system. The model they selected was the republic as once practiced in the Greco-Roman world. The concept of the republic was simple: Unlike a monarchy where the inhabitants belong to the monarch and all power flows downward from the king to his subjects, a republic centers around individuals called citizens who elect representatives to carry out their will. In a traditional monarchy, the ruler is sovereign or the source of authority. In a republic, sovereignty resides with the citizens. Although by today’s standards the idea of the republic does not appear to be a radical form of government, the rise of republican ideology in the early nineteenth century threatened the existing world order. Newly converted republicans rose up in the former European colonies of the western hemisphere which were then beginning to shake off centuries of monarchial rule.

The core dispute between the political concepts known as centralism and federalism centered on where authority (sovereignty) should rest. In a centralized system such as a monarchy, a small circle of elites (nobles, clergymen, and military officers) make and enforce laws, judge the accused, and punish criminals. The majority of the population (i.e., subjects) lack the ability to challenge the governing body it since is so powerful. However, under federalism the power rests with individual citizens who, through elections, entrust a small number of their peers with the power to govern for them. Authority flows from the citizen to the state in which he or she resides and then on to the national government. The basic concept is that authority, although it may temporarily rest elsewhere, ultimately belongs to the citizens and not the officials they elect. This simple fact is the basis of modern self-government as we understand it.

The struggle between centralism and federalism is one of the most important facets of Mexican history. Mexico’s adoption of a federal system in 1824 represented a break from centuries of centralist rule under a succession of Spanish monarchs. The break, however, represented more than just a change of political systems—it fundamentally threatened to overturn Mexican society by eliminating the power of the elites. Clergymen, army officers, and landowners pushed back against Mexico’s newly enfranchised masses who demanded a greater say in their own lives. This ideological struggle between Mexicans produced what some historians refer to as Mexico’s Federalist Wars which spanned nearly fifty years.

This struggle takes us to the twin Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas which existed from 1824 until 1835. The two former Spanish provinces were combined into a single unit because neither had the number of inhabitants required for statehood. Although joined together, there were important differences in the character of the two populations even both were Mexican nationals. Proximity to Louisiana gave Tejanos access to foreign ideas, goods, and customs that Mexicans living further south lacked. Texas was also the site of numerous filibustering expeditions and a major rebellion against the Spanish crown during the decade of 1810 to 1820. Many leading Tejano families participated in these events as supporters of both independence and the establishment of republican government. Both Tejanos and colonists from the United States applauded Mexico’s adoption of the Federal Constitution of 1824. In fact, the influx of colonists to Texas was seen as the element the former province (which now was part of the twin state of Coahuila and Texas) needed to achieve local autonomy within the Mexican republic. If the population grew large enough, a mechanism existed for Texas to separate from Coahuila and become its own state.

The issue of centralism vs. federalism erupted in Coahuila and Texas just as it did on the broader Mexican national scene. Located closer geographically to the center of Mexico, politicians from the state’s capital of Saltillo tended to reflect the centralist opinion popular in Mexico City. Beginning in the late 1820s, a coalition between politicians from Monclova in northern Coahuila and San Antonio de Béxar in Texas worked to wrest control of the state from Saltillo’s centralist faction. Ultimately, with the support of Texas’ colonists, the federalist faction succeeded in relocating the capital north to the federalist stronghold of Monclova. Nationally, though, centralism was on the rise. Santa Anna’s revocation of the Constitution of 1824 stripped states of the power guaranteed to them under the federal system and shifted it to the centralist national government in Mexico City. Already at odds with one another, Coahuila and Texas took sides: Coahuila embraced Santa Anna and the supporters of centralism while Texas pronounced for federalism.

The opening stages of the Texas Revolution were guided by the issue of federalism. On October 2, 1835, Lieutenant Francisco de Castañeda, sent from San Antonio to Gonzales to retrieve a loaned cannon, asked the colonists why they had just fired on him. They announced it was because he was a “centralist.” The November 7, 1835, Declaration of Causes produced by the members of the Consultation meeting at San Felipe proclaimed the goal of the revolt was to restore the Constitution of 1824 and obtain separate statehood for Texas with the Mexican federation. Stephen F. Austin, elected general and tasked with leading the colonists to San Antonio, announced his arrival outside the town to General Martín Perfecto de Cos, stating that he was the commander of the Federal Army of Texas. It was only after Austin departed to the United States and the influx of American volunteers arrived to take part in the fight that supporters of independence were able to transform the goal of the revolt from restoration of the Mexican republic to succession from Mexico. Although it is this later phase that most people associate with the Texas Revolution, it is the initial phase that provides the context necessary to understand the event.

Texas History News: 

Humanities Texas presents a total of fifteen awards to exceptional K-12 humanities teachers. One of these categories is the Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award. All winners receive a $5,000 with an additional $500 for their schools to purchase humanities-based instructional materials. For eligibility, visit TeachingTexas.org.

TSHA is accepting nominations for the Mary Jon and J.P. Bryan Leadership in Education Award which is given annually to honor two outstanding educators in Texas. One award is for an elementary/secondary level educator and one is for a higher education level educator with each recipient receiving $5,000. Submissions must be postmarked on or before December 8, 2017. Recipients will be announced in March at the association’s annual meeting. Visit TeachingTexas.org for rules of submission.

This interactive website and app from The Monuments Project originally began as a project at the American School of Paris in France. Through many partners, the project developed into a website and app to provide research and storytelling about World War I service members buried in American cemeteries abroad. Go to TeachingTexas.org to learn more.

The New History at Old Red: A Conference on Texas, United States, and World History will be held on October 28, 2017 from 8:30am until 3:00pm at the Old Red Museum in Dallas. Experts will discuss State, National, and Global Democracy. Guest speakers include Sarah Rodriguez, Jeffrey Engel, and Jo Guldi from Southern Methodist University followed by lunch and a session entitled Handling Hot Topics in the Classroom. CPE credits will be given with paid registration. Go to TeachingTexas.org for information.

The TSHA 2018 Annual Meeting will be held in San Marcos on March 8-10, 2018. This meeting is the largest gathering of Texas history enthusiasts. CPE credit is given for attendance to the over 40 sessions covering Texas history topics as broad as the state. There is also an opportunity to attend events and network with historians and professionals from across the state. To learn more, visit TeachingTexas.org.

The General Land Office Save Texas History Essay Contest entries must be received by October 31st. Students in 4th and 7th grade are eligible to submit an essay answering the question, “What history in your community, or in Texas, is worth saving?” Students will be graded on creativity, whether it is informative, grammar, and organization. There are different criteria for each grade and the winner will be announced on December 1st. Prizes include a three-day car rental, as well as, prizes from the San Antonio Tourism Council, two-night accommodations, a historic map replica, and tickets to various San Antonio-area attractions. To see the rules, visit TeachingTexas.org.

Telling the story of Texas and Texans in the Great War to school students is a top priority for the World War I Centennial. Veteran’s Day 2017 is the perfect opportunity to make the connection. TSHA supports the Texas World War I Centennial Commemoration (TXWWICC) Association's Fall 2017 outreach initiative, 100 Years / 100 Schools, with a goal to partner with at least 100 schools as part of organized Veterans Day programs to create awareness of the 100th anniversary of WWI, see TSHAonline.org for details. 

TSHA will be holding the Discovering Texas History Conference on November 7-8 in conjunction with Region XIII Education Service Center and the Bullock Texas State History Museum.  The conference will run from 8am- 4pm both days, Tuesday at the Thompson Conference Center and Wednesday at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin Texas.  The theme is Texas History from 1836 through 1900. On February 5-6, TSHA will hold the Encountering Texas History conference with the Aldine Independent School District at the M.B. Sonny Donaldson Child Nutrition Center, Aldine ISD, Houston, Texas. The topic will cover Texas History 1900 through the present. For registration information visit TeachingTexas.org.