History is written by winners. When Winston Churchill was asked how he thought history would see him, he responded, “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.” Or so the misquote goes.
Memories may fade and stories may be whitewashed, but the truth always comes to the surface. Truth has a way of hitting nerves. It can make us feel uncomfortable when it’s not what we expect, but the truth sets us free. Once we know it, the blinders can never be pulled over our eyes again.
In every conflict, there are at least three sides to the story. The first two are the opposing sides. The third is the unbiased perspective, observing the other two. What would make the Battle of the Alamo any different? Was their cause truly without fault?
For me, this was the question that made me reexamine my proud Texan heritage. I can trace my ancestors to the first 16 families to settle San Antonio in 1731. They fought in the Alamo. They fought in the Civil War, obviously on the wrong side (though “the wrong side” is debatable when considering three perspectives).
From history class, I knew that the Texas rebellion had something to do with the revocation of the Mexican Constitution of 1824. What I didn’t know was that Mexico had abolished slavery in 1829. This caused panic among Texas slaveholders.
They in turn sent Stephen Austin to Mexico City to complain. Austin was able to wrest from the Mexican authorities an exemption for the department — Texas was technically a department of the state of Coahuila y Tejas — that would allow the vile institution to continue. But it was an exemption reluctantly given, mainly because the authorities wanted to avoid rebellion in Texas when they already had problems in Yucatán and Guatemala. All of the leaders of Mexico, in itself only an independent country since 1821, were personally opposed to slavery, in part because of the influence of emissaries from the freed slave republic of Haiti. The exemption was, in their minds, a temporary measure and Texas slaveholders knew that.
The legality of slavery had thus been at best tenuous and uncertain at a time when demand for cotton — the main slave-produced export — was accelerating on the international market. A central goal of independence would be to remove that uncertainty. [Read More]
Now it could be said that because slavery was an essential part of the Texans economy, the true dispute was over money. The struggle over money is the struggle for power (insert “freedom” here). This actually sums up the cause of all wars.
When contemplating states rights, freedom, and liberty, I now ask freedom to do what? What rights are being defended? What is the ulterior motive?
It all makes sense now.
As the defenders of the Alamo were about to sacrifice their lives, other Texans were making clear the goals of the sacrifice at a constitutional convention for the new republic they hoped to create. In Section 9 of the General Provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas, it is stated how the new republic would resolve their greatest problem under Mexican rule: “All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state of servitude … Congress shall pass no laws to prohibit emigrants from bringing their slaves into the republic with them, and holding them by the same tenure by which such slaves were held in the United States; nor shall congress have power to emancipate slaves.” [Read More]
The original Constitution of the Republic of Texas is a telling document. The truth always surfaces. It says a lot about why the war was fought.
But, don’t take my word for it. Finding truth is about digging for it, expecting it to be less fantastic and almost forgotten, unlike the gift shop version.