Thursday, November 22, 2012
Word of Thanks to Immigrants | Casey's Last Word
For the last few years – ever since reading a book by historian Timothy J. Henderson -- I’ve included in my Thanksgiving list of people for whom I am grateful a particular band of illegal aliens.
Henderson picked up his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Texas and his doctorate at the University of North Carolina.
He’s now head of the history department at Auburn University Montgomery.
In his book, A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and its War with the United States, Henderson tells the story of Stephen F. Austin and the American men who followed him to Texas.
Henderson describes him as "likable, handsome, hardworking, and well educated.”
Austin was a man with “cultivated manners, a moderate temperament, and a sometimes unfortunate tendency to assume the good intentions of others."
Austin believed in playing by the rules.
He went to Mexico City to negotiate a pact with Mexican authorities, who were eager to populate Texas with settlers who would ward off the Indians.
Austin won a generous deal.
A head of an immigrant family would get 4,438 acres for farming and another 177 acres for livestock.
For every 200 immigrants he or other impresarios brought in they would receive another 66,774 acres.
In exchange, Austin pledged to bring Anglo settlers into Texas according to rules set out by Mexican authorities.
Henderson wrote that Austin "from the outset made plain his intention to do everything by the book, and for most of his adult life he never wavered from his commitment to be a good citizen of Mexico."
The basic rules were what you would expect from a Catholic nation.
Immigrants had to pledge loyalty to Mexico.
If they weren't already Roman Catholics, they had to convert.
Despite Austin's best efforts, Henderson writes, Anglos came pouring in and most "had no intention of abiding by their end of the bargain."
Mexican law, for example, stipulated that any slaves would be free as soon as they entered Texas.
Anglo immigrants "elected to assume that this referred only to the buying and selling of slaves and did not apply to slaves brought by colonists for their own use."
One Mexican general wrote that the colonists "commit the barbarities on their slaves that are so common where men live in a relationship so contradictory to their nature: they pull their teeth, they set dogs upon them to tear them apart, and the mildest of them will whip the slaves until they are flayed."
Some newcomers were adventurers.
Others came for economic reasons, often fleeing debts.
Others were escaping the law.
Some, writes Henderson, were men “sporting brands on their faces marking them as miscreants.”
When some of these men continued their criminal ways they were sometimes executed in clear violation of the (still existing) Mexican prohibition of the death penalty.
These immigrants either came into Texas illegally or violated the terms of their legal entry.
Many made no pretense of abiding by Mexican laws.
Finally in frustration the Mexican government in 1830 passed a law barring all new American immigrants from entering Texas.
Among the illegals violating that particular law were David Crockett, William B. Travis and Sam Houston.
These were the most aggressive sort of illegal aliens.
They broke every pledge Stephen Austin had made, and proceeded to commandeer the vast land they had illegally entered.
For which I and just about every other law abiding Texan are eternally grateful.
But I am also grateful for the illegal aliens who most likely picked and plucked the food that became our wonderful Thanksgiving feast.
They work hard and they do not try to steal our country.