Welcome to the MAKING OF A NATION –American history in VOA Special English。 In the early eighteen thirties, theterritory of Texas belonged to Mexico。 But many Americans had moved to Texasbecause they could buy a lot of land with little money。 The government ofMexico expected the settlers to speak Spanish, to become Roman Catholic and toaccept Mexican traditions。 The settlers did not want to。 For the most part,there was little that President Andrew Jackson could do。 The United States hada treaty of friendship with Mexico。 The government in Washington had a duty toremain neutral, even as the situation in Texas became increasingly tense。 GwenOuten and Steve Ember tell the story in this week's program in our series。
Americans in Texas held a convention inApril eighteen thirty-three。 They prepared a list of appeals to the leader ofMexico, General Santa Ana。 The Texas settlers asked Santa Ana to end a tax ongoods imported into the territory。 They asked him to lift a ban on new settlersfrom the United States。 And they asked that Texas be organized as a separatestate of Mexico。 One of the Americans, Stephen Austin, carried the appeals toMexico City。 He spent six months negotiating with the Mexican government。 GeneralSanta Ana promised to honor all the requests except one。 He would not makeTexas a separate state, although he said that might be possible someday。 StephenAustin was satisfied。 He left the Mexican capital to return to Texas。 On hisway home, to his surprise, Austin was arrested。 He was arrested because of aletter he wrote earlier, when his negotiations with Mexican officials seemed tobe failing。 He had said it might be best if the people declared Texas aseparate state。 Austin was put in prison in Mexico City for a year and a half。 Austinurged the people of Texas to remain loyal to Mexico。 But talk of rebellionalready had begun。 The settlers already were calling themselves"Texans。" Minor hostilities broke out between Texans and localMexican officials。 The Mexican army threatened action。 When Austin returnedfrom prison, he was chosen to negotiate with the commander of Mexican forces。The commander refused to negotiate。 It appeared that war would come。 The Texansbegan to organize their own army。
In November eighteen thirty-five,representatives from all parts of Texas held a convention to discuss thesituation。 They had no plans to take Texas out of the Mexican Republic。 Infact, a proposal to do that was defeated by a large vote。 However, the Texanstook action to protect themselves against Santa Ana, who had declared himselfdictator。 They organized a temporary state government。 They organized a statearmy。 And they made plans for another convention to begin on March first。 Beforethe Texans could meet again, Santa Ana led an army of seven thousand men acrossthe Rio Grande River into Texas。 The first soldiers reached San Antonio onFebruary twenty-third。 The Texas forces withdrew to an old Spanish missionchurch called the Alamo。 On March first, the second Texas convention opened。This time, the representatives voted to declare Texas a free, independent andsovereign republic。 They wrote a constitution based on the constitution of theUnited States。 They created a government。 David Burnet was named president。 AndSam Houston was to continue as commander of Texas forces。 On the second day ofthe convention, a letter came from the Alamo in San Antonio。 The letter wasaddressed to the people of Texas and all Americans。 The commander of Texas forcesat the Alamo wrote: "I have been under an artillery attack for twenty-fourhours and have not lost a man。 The enemy has demanded our surrender。 Otherwise,he said, he will kill every one of us。 I have answered his demand with a cannonshot。 Our flag still waves proudly from the walls。 I shall never surrender orretreat。 I call on you -- in the name of liberty, of patriotism, and everythingdear to the American character -- to come to our aid with all speed。 If myappeal is not answered, I will fight as long as possible, and die like asoldier who never forgets what he owes his own honor and that of hiscountry。" The letter from the Alamo closed with the words: "Victoryor Death。"
Representatives at the convention wanted toleave immediately to go to the aid of the Texans in San Antonio。 But SamHouston told them it was their duty to remain and create a government forTexas。 Houston would go there himself with a small force。 The help came toolate for the one hundred eighty-eight men at the Alamo。 Santa Ana's forcescaptured the Spanish mission on March sixth。 When the battle ended, not a Texanwas left alive。 Sam Houston ordered all Texas forces to withdraw northeast --away from the Mexican army。 One group of Texans did not move fast enough。 SantaAna trapped them。 He said the Texans would not be harmed if they surrendered。 Theydid。 One week later, they were marched to a field and shot。 Only a few escapedto tell the story。 Santa Ana then moved against Sam Houston。 He was sure his largearmy could defeat the remaining Texas force。 President Andrew Jackson and SamHouston were close friends。 When told of Houston's retreat, the presidentpointed to a map of Texas。 He said: "If Sam Houston is worth anything, hewill make his stand here。 Jackson pointed to the mouth of the San JacintoRiver。
The battle of San Jacinto began at fouro'clock in the afternoon。 There were about eight-hundred Texans。 There were twotimes that many Mexicans。 The Mexicans did not expect the retreating Texans toturn and fight。 But they did。 Shouting "Remember the Alamo!" theTexans ran at the Mexican soldiers。 Eighteen minutes later, the battle wasover。 Santa Ana's army was destroyed。 About half of the Mexicans were killed orwounded。 The other half were captured。 Only two Texans were killed。Twenty-three, including Sam Houston, were wounded。 The Texans found Santa Anathe next day, wearing the clothes of a simple Mexican soldier。 Santa Ana beggedfor mercy。 Houston told him: "You might have shown some at theAlamo。" Many of the Texans wanted to shoot the Mexican general。 ButHouston said he was worth more alive than dead。 On May fourteenth, eighteenthirty-six, Texas President Burnet and General Santa Ana signed a treaty。 Thetreaty made Texas independent。
Eighteenthirty-six was a presidential election year in the United States. AndrewJackson had served for eight years. He did not want another term. He supportedhis vice president, Martin Van Buren. Jackson's opposition to the demands formore states' rights, and his attack on the Bank of the United States, hadcreated problems for his Democratic Party. Texas also was a problem. Slaverywas legal in the new Republic of Texas. Most northerners in the United Statesopposed slavery anywhere. Jackson felt that if he recognized Texas, theDemocrats would lose votes in the presidential election. So Jackson decided notto act on Texas until after the election. Opposition to the Democrats came froma coalition political party. Members of the party called themselves Whigs.Three Whigs ran for president in eighteen thirty-six against Martin Van Buren. TheWhigs did not expect any of their candidates to win. But they hoped to getenough votes to prevent Van Buren from gaining a majority. Then the House ofRepresentatives would have to decide the election. And a Whig might have abetter chance. The plan failed. Van Buren won. Andrew Jackson had only a fewmonths left as president. It seemed that much of his time was occupied with onequestion. That was the request by the Republic of Texas to become a state ofthe union. Jackson wanted to make Texas a state. But more important was theunion itself. The issue of slavery in Texas was critical. Jackson said:"To give statehood to Texas now, or to recognize its independence, wouldincrease the bitterness between the north and south. Nothing is worth thisprice." Then Jackson thought of a way in which statehood for Texas couldbring the nation together, instead of splitting it apart. That will be ourstory next week.