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the Federal System, that “ division of the supreme powers of the Federation, and of the States," which, according to the provisions of the Constitutional compact in 1824, could “never be reformed.”
The legislature of the State of Coahuila and Texas assembled in session at Monclova on the 1st of March, and Augustin Viesca, who had been elected governor, entered upon the duties of his office. . Among the grievances which were considered by the Texans as an equitable ground of separation from Coahuila, was the prodigal disposal of the valuable waste lands, which lay almost exclusively within the limits of Texas. The waste lands of a new republican state constitute its capital, and it was calculated that those appertaining to Texas would, under proper administration, sustain the expenditure of a State government for the first ten years.
An immense extent of the domain of Texas had been granted in 1834 to John T. Mason of New York, by an act of the Legislature of Coahuila and Texas, and on the 14th March, 1835, they followed up the same wasteful and iniquitous policy, by selling 411 leagues of choice land at private sale, and for the inadequate sum of 30,000 dollars. Tracts of eleven leagues had also been sold, at a nominal price, from time to time, to citizens of Coahuila, to be by them resold at a profit; thus improving their condition at the expense of Texas. Anticipating the period of separation, the Coahuilan members of the State Legislature, availed themselves of their majority, and proceeded without shame or scruple, in squandering the resources of their constitutional associates. Among the speculators who appeared as purchasers at Monclova, were some Texans, whose participation in the odious job has, in places where the facts were unknown, brought discredit on the general body of their fellow-citizens. These persons justified their conduct on the plea that, if Texan settlers had not bought the land, it would have been transferred to strangers. The transaction, however, which had been accomplished by sinister influence, excited the deepest dissatisfaction among the industrious colonists who protested against it as “ a violation of good faith and the most sacred guarantees,” denounced it as a “death-blow" to their rising country, and stigmatised it as “an act of corruption in all parties concerned.”
The Federal Decree of 6th April, 1830, contemplated the purchase of the frontier lands from the States to which they belonged, by the Supreme Government, for the purpose of colonization and defence. Nothing had been effected under the provisions of that decree, until the mission of Colonel Almonte, whose report revealed the intention of the general government to colonise Texas with Mexicans, instead of foreigners, more especially with military men. The lavish appropriation of the waste lands by the Legislature of Coahuila and Texas must, of course, if permitted, have disabled the Government from executing its design. The law authorising the sale of the 411 leagues of Texan land was, therefore, as objectionable to the supreme authorities as to the colonists. The General Government accordingly denied the right of the State Legislature to dispose of the land except in
its own favour, on the ground that Coahuila and Texas was chargeable with a proportion of the public debt, which remained unliquidated. Instead, however, of resorting to the remedies prescribed by the Constitution and the laws, the power of the sword—the usual arbiter of Mexican differences, was invoked to rectify the alleged abuse.
The revolutionary proceedings of the party in power in Mexico, were opposed by the people in Puebla, Oaxaca, Zalisco, and other States of the nation. The State of Zacatecas refused to disband and disarm its militia, in obedience to the decree of the General Congress, and in April had recourse to arms, to resist the measures in progress for establishing a Central Republic. On the 22nd of the same month, the Legislature of Coahuila and Texas framed an “ Exposition to be presented to the Chambers of the Union, petitioning that no reforms be made in the Federal Constitution, save in the manner therein prescribed.”
In this document the petitioners, after lamenting the constant fluctuations in the government for party objects, observed :
“ A year has not passed since the plan of Cuernavaca, exciting the fears of the timid and the individual interest of those disaffected by the compacts of Zavaleta, became general throughout the republic. This plan did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the General Congress, and most of the State Legislatures were dissolved, under the pretext of their having passed laws upon religious reforms, and others which were contrary to the Federal Constitution and those of the States. If this single cause produced a general and simultaneous movement throughout the republic, what may be expected from the violent reforms which now occupy the august chambers ?
“ To effect these reforms, opinions have been expressed in that august body, so unreasonable as to suppose the present General Congress invested with the power of changing the constitution at pleasure. It is not understood how a national representation which owes its origin to the existing fundamental compact, can have the right of reforming or changing it according to their caprices. On what principle of constitutional right can this power be predicated? What act of their organization has conferred upon them so extraordinary a prerogative? Did not the electors from whom they received their appointment act in conformity with the same constitution? Then it is certain that the general Congress has not, nor can have, any other power than those defined in the 47th, 48th, 49th, and 50th articles of the Federal Constitution, because it is also evident that the people, in constituting this Congress, were strictly governed by the same.
“ Therefore, the State of Coahuila and Texas, legally represented by its legislature, protests, in the most solemn manner, that having been received into the confederation by virtue of the fundamental compact, and on the principles therein established, it does not, nor ever will acknowledge the acts emanating from the General Congress, which are not in strict conformity with the express tenor of the above cited articles; nor will it admit other reforms of the Constitution, than those made in the manner therein prescribed: on the contrary, it will view as an attempt against its sovereignty, every measure in opposition to these legal dispositions. A fatality, ever to be lamented, has caused us to attempt the remedy of one evil by another. While in the south there appears a revolutionary spark, the chambers of the Union are warmly engaged in the discussion of questions of reform, which have engrossed the attention of all: certain laws have been repealed, and others have been passed, giving such a preponderance to the privileged classes, that they, to continue these abuses, are constantly engaged in exciting disturbances. The civic militia is reduced throughout the republic; or, rather, the only bulwark of liberty, and of the rights of the community, is destroyed. The general government, which ought to turn its attention to the revolutions of the south, is preparing an expedition against a pacific state, as is that of Zacatecas, which has so long been the glory of the nation, checking arbitrary measures and abuses of power. The commandant-general of the Eastern Internal States, interfering, in the most scandalous manner, with the internal administration of the State of Coahuila and Texas, and even issuing orders that certain laws which have been passed by this legislature shall not be complied with, is making arrangements to move the presidial troops from the frontier posts where they are stationed, and where they are so necessary on account of the savage Indians, and is bringing them upon this capital, doubtless to put down the supreme authorities, or to accomplish some nefarious object. The general government, which has been applied to, to check these advances of military power, preserves a profound silence upon the subject; so that everything indicates the dangerous course we are pursuing, and in which reflection, prudence and wisdom alone can prevent us from being involved in the disasters of a civil war.”
Santa Anna, with a body of regular troops, marched in April against Don Francisco Garcia, governor of the State of Zacatecas, a liberal and enlightened man, but an unskilful commander. Withdrawing his undisciplined troops, amounting to 5,000 men, from their strong post in the city, Garcia had the imprudence to give battle to Santa Anna on the prairies of Guadalupe, where, after an engagement of two hours, he was totally defeated with great loss, leaving 2,700 prisoners, with cannon, arms and ammunition in the hands of the enemy. Advancing by a forced march to the city of Zacatecas, Santa Anna took possession of it, and overcame all farther resistance in the State. * While engaged in
* Official account of the fall of Zacatecas, by General Santa Anna, May 11th, 1835.