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By Michelle Ong

The 17th century saw renewed competition between France and Spain. In September 1685, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle sailed down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico and established Fort St. Louis near Matagorda Bay. He was later murdered by his own men on March 20, 1686. His settlement worried the Spaniards and other rumors of French colonies in Spanish territory caused the establishment of Spanish missions in East Texas.

In 1690, Fray Damián Massanet established the first East Texas mission, San Francisco de los Tejas, in present day Houston County. A second mission, Santísimo Nombre de María was founded for the Hasinai Indians that same year. Unfortunately, a flood destroyed the mission in 1692. Missionaries withdrew from the area in 1693 due to native hostility and Spain¹s focus on Florida.

Fray Francisco Hidalgo organized a return to the East Texas area. Hidalgo had served at Mission San Francisco de los Tejas from 1691-1693 and attempted to persuade authorities in New Spain to create new missions for the Hasinais in East Texas.

After a decade of waiting, Hidalgo contacted the French to engage in missionary activity in the area, hoping that Spanish authorities would become alarmed by the French and send men to establish more missions. Hidalgo sent a letter to the Governor of Louisiana, Antoine Laumet, in 1711 proposing the establishment of missions to serve the Caddo. When the letter reached the governor in 1713, Laumet saw an opportunity to trade while engaging in missionary activity. He sent Louis Juchereau de Saint-Denis to lead an expedition to open trade with the Indians and assist in any missionary activity in the area. In late 1713, Saint-Denis began accumulating goods at Natchitoches on the Red River to trade with the Caddo Indians, including the Hasinais. By mid-1714, however, there were no missionaries and Saint-Denis persuaded the Hasinais to request for Franciscans. Mexico City agreed to the request and to Saint-Denis's participation.

From 1716-1776, six more missions were established near the East Texas border to serve the Caddo. The East Texas missions again withdrew due to a threatening French invasion during the War of Quadruple Alliance. Marquís de San Miguel de Aguayo reestablished the missions in 1721. He also founded Presidio de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de los Adaes at present day Robeline, Louisiana that served as the capital of the province. Presidio de Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía was established on the site of Fort St. Louis.

The Spanish also adopted French methods to deal with the Indians. Without ending missionary activity in San Antonio, the Spanish would trade with those they held in favor and withheld goods from other belligerent tribes.

Near the end of the French and Indian War, France transferred the Louisiana Territory to Spain. New Spain worked on alliances with northern tribes, and those east and west of the Mississippi River to protect them from American expansion.

In 1793, a war in Europe broke out. The French attempted to undermine the loyalty of northern native tribes to the Spanish. The viceroy consequently ordered the arrest of all French nationals living in Spanish soil excluding those married to Spaniards and modifying this mandate for Texas. They arrested the French and confiscated their possessions. In 1795, the Treaty of Basle reestablished calm relations between Spain and France. But rumors of Anglo-Americans working among the northern tribes caused another wave of arrests and interrogations of foreigners.


Napoleon instigated the events that led to Mexican independence from Spain. He forced Charles VI of Spain to relinquish the throne and captured his son and heir Ferdinand VII. When the news reached New Spain in 1808, peninsulares, or Spaniards born in Spain, wrested control of the viceregal palace to elevate a senile Petro Garibay to the viceregency. Creoles competing against the peninsulares continued their activities underground such as the "literary club" in Querétaro that planned independence. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was an important member of this club and would later be known as the "Father of Mexican Independence".

Meanwhile, Ignacio Allende and other creoles plotted a revolt to wrest power from the peninsulares. The new viceroy Francisco Javier de Venegas sent secret orders to arrest the conspirators, forcing them to revolt prematurely. On September 16, 1810 Hidalgo delivered a speech calling for good government and social and economic justice. He became the leader of thousands of untrained Indians and mestizos because of his language skills and popularity. The large rebel forces defeated the royalist forces and captured Guanajuato in late September, plunging the city into chaotic murder, pillage and plunder. Hidalgo did not attempt to restrain his men.

The rebel forces also defeated the royalists in Mexico City but Hidalgo decided against occupying the city, causing many Creole officers to desert. After reconciliation, Hidalgo and his Creole officers rebuilt the army in Guadalajara in late 1810. On January 17, 1811 a successful battle was fought at Calderón Bridge but a glass fire dispersed the soldiers. Unable to reconvene, Hidalgo and other rebel leaders were captured and executed.

José María Morelos y Pavón continued the independence movement. He organized a small guerilla force and isolated Mexico City from both coasts. In 1813, Morelos called into session a Congress at Chilpancingo where delegates issued a declaration of independence and formed a new constitution that was officially announced in 1814. However, royalist forces defeated and executed Morelos in 1815.

The final leaders of independence were Agustín Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero. With Ferdinand's return to power in 1814, the viceregency's power was rapidly transferred down to the lower levels of society, serving the interests of the provincial elite. The elite of Mexico City chose Iturbide as their military support. The Plan of Iguala was drafted in February 1821 that called for independence, full protection for Roman Catholicism and equal rights for both creoles and peninsulares. The Plan would create an autonomous Mexican state within the Spanish monarchy. On September 21, 1821, Iturbide's army entered Mexico City.

The new regime sought to preserve the old hierarchy. The Mexico City elite attempted to ally with the Royalist Army to recreate central power and halt the flow of power to the provincial elites. The Treaty of Córdoba on August 1821 guaranteed Mexico's autonomy. The Declaration of Independence was promulgated on September 28, 1821.

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