Today, March 2, is Texas Independence Day. On this day in 1836, delegates gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos, both Texian and Tejano, declared Texas to be free and independent from Mexico.
This fact means different things to different people. Some people will undoubtedly greet this news with, “so what? Who cares?” It’s somewhat tempting to opine that these people are actually the smartest of us.
Some people will say that this was a great day, that it marks the rising of free people to overthrew a tyrannical Mexican government.
Others will say that this day marks the successful theft of Texas away from Mexico by devious, land hungry, slave holding North Americans with the full backing of the U.S. government, which ultimately led to the American invasion of Mexico and the acquisition of all of what is now the American southwest from Mexico.
So which of these two narratives is right? Well, both are, and neither. More precisely, neither is accurate, but both have a strong grain of truth in them.
History is never as simple as popular historians and pundits make it to be.
There were many thousands of residents, again both Texian and Tejano, who wanted nothing more than to be loyal Mexican citizens under the Constitution of 1824. When it became clear that this was not possible under Santa Anna, they opted instead for an independent Texas.
But there were also many thousands of Americans illegally pouring across the border wanting cheap land. If the best way to get this was to throw out the Mexican government, so be it.
And the American government was certainly supporting this. Acquiring Texas had been a longterm goal of U.S. foreign policy. President Andrew Jackson specifically asked Sam Houston, who was on his way to Texas, to act as an American agent. Houston’s response to this is unknown; there is no record. Houston, who always played his cards close to his vest, seemed most of the time to be acting in the best interests of Texas, not Washington, but we’ll never know for sure, and there was certainly a lot of overlap between them.
So Happy Texas Independence Day, or not so happy perhaps. Just remember, whatever it may or may not mean to you, you’ve probably only scratched the surface.