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ANGLO-AMERICAN IMMIGRATION IN TEXAS
By Michelle Ong

Spain employed two different immigration policies for Louisiana and Texas. Spain wanted to attract loyal immigrants to Louisiana but discouraged immigration into Texas because of its long history establishing missions and forming better relations with the native tribes of Texas. Anglo immigrants gradually began entering both Louisiana and Texas under new immigration policies and land contracts, eventually becoming the majority group in Texas and leading the revolutionary struggle for independence.

France transferred Louisiana to Spain to avoid giving the territory to England, foreseeing its defeat in the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War. After the American Revolution, Anglo-Americans began to enter Louisiana. In 1784, fifty thousand American settlers crossed the Appalachian Mountains and needed to transport their goods to the Atlantic Coast through New Orleans. Spain used its control of the Mississippi River and New Orleans as leverage against these Americans.

In 1788, Spain became wary of the loyalty of the citizens of Louisiana and introduced a new immigration policy to attract Anglos from the American West to settle in Louisiana. The immigrants were predominantly Irish, English, French and American. Spain hoped to attract loyal citizens by requiring all immigrants to renounce their nationality and become Spanish citizens. Many immigrants took these oaths but privately kept their nationalities. Spain cancelled the policy in the 1790s due to American resistance to Spanish customs and traditions.

Immigration was clearly unwanted in Texas. Spain attempted to connect Texas and New Mexico with improved roads. In the mid-1790s the Spanish placed a permanent unit of troops at Nacogdoches to discourage illegal immigration. On August 27, 1796, Pedro de Nava issued an order forbidding the entrance of any immigrant into Texas, including citizens of Louisiana, without a passport. The Spanish were worried that immigrants would disrupt the relationship between Spanish settlers in and Indian tribes.

In spite of these restrictions, Anglo-Americans as early as 1815 settled on the Red River north of present-day Clarksville, naming the settlement Jonesborough. In 1816, other colonists settled at Pecan Point, south of the Red River. Many of these immigrants were slaveholders traveling from Arkansas. They developed a strong bond because of their isolation and frequent exposure to Indian attacks, allowing for the quick formation of volunteer troops to fight in the Texas Revolution twenty years later.

The National Colonization Law of August 18, 1824 failed to prohibit slavery and allowed Anglo-American immigration but favored Mexican immigrants from the south, soldiers and nomadic Texas tribes by giving them priority in acquiring land. Between 1821 and 1835, forty-one land contracts permitted 13,500 families, mostly Anglo-Americans, to settle in Texas. Stephen F. Austin received one of the first grants to establish a colony in Texas on August 1823. Two thousand settlers settled in the new colony that stretched from the east coast of Texas to La Grange. Green DeWitt established a colony centered at Gonzalez. Another colony to the southeast of Austin's colony belonged to Martín de León. By 1828, Austin had signed four contracts to settle 1200 families in Texas.

Anglos also entered Texas illegally, fleeing from the law or debts in the United States, and hoping for a new start.

With a growing Anglo-American population and their increasing resistance to Mexican authority, Mexico passed the Law of April 6, 1830. It declared incomplete land contracts void, and only allowed immigration to colonies that already held a hundred families, such as Austin's colony. Future Anglo-American immigrants were forbidden to settle near U.S. borders. More presidios were established to prevent illegal immigration. The law also banned the additional importation of slaves into Texas and began taxing imports.

New immigration continued under old contracts. James McGloin and John McCullen acquired contracts they made in the late 1820s. They brought several Irish families to Texas and found San Patricio in 1831. Other colonists, James Power and James Hewetson, established a settlement at modern-day Refugio. The Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company, a speculating company representing Vehlein, Burnet and de Zavala, continued to advertise land in Texas and sold illegal land contracts. Several European families immigrated to Texas with these land contracts and were allowed to stay because of their nationalities.

Anglos also became involved in smuggling, bringing goods like corn, meats and timber, into Texas and shipping the products south into Mexico or to New Mexico, further deteriorating relations with Mexican authorities.

Several conventions asked for the repeal of the Law of 1830, the abolishment of tariffs, and the establishment of Texas as an independent state from Coahuila, a neighboring state it was sharing representation with. Anglos would become the majority population in an independent Texas, increasing their power in the Mexican legislature and their demands for concessions. Mexican authorities instead decided to increase their military presence in Texas, to challenge these demands and suppress any rebellions. Anglo-American fear of military occupation quickly led to the Texas Revolution.

Mexico grew alarmed by the large population of Anglo-Americans in Texas, a state that was sparsely populated and far from Mexico City's control. Its close proximity to the United States increased Mexico's suspicions and the immigration policies were attempts to maintain a balance between Anglo-American and Mexican populations. Anglos could easily immigrate illegally because borders were not enforced or closely watched.

Ironically, the same problem occurs today with U.S. authorities trying to deter illegal immigration into Texas from Mexico. Texans are becoming aware of the increasing Hispanic population that will become the majority population in the future. Just like Anglo-Americans, the current Hispanic population will increase its demands for more representation and affect the state's focus to specific issues pertaining to the Hispanic community.


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