Spanish Texas, 1519-1821

By Donald E. Chipman | Go to book overview

TEN
Anglo-American Concerns and the Decline of Missions, 1783-1803

THE SECOND TREATY OF PARIS ( 1783) FINALIZED THE BIRTH of a new American nation, a nation of expansion-minded citizens who would soon exert increasing pressures on Spain's North American holdings. Over the next two decades, which ended with the Louisiana Purchase, Spain faced an impending crisis of empire. Its expanded responsibilities included the defense of Florida, obtained from Great Britain at the conclusion of the war for American independence, and Louisiana, where it had exercised effective control for only fourteen years. Protecting the latter against Anglo-Americans would require significant reorganization and new policies. Unfortunately for Spain, Charles III died in 1788, and the dictum that great monarchs are seldom succeeded by equally great sons held true. One of Spain's best monarchs was followed by one of her worst: Charles IV ( 1788-1808). The immigration policies formulated by the new king and his chief minister, Manuel Godoy, for the defense of Louisiana proved ineffective, but they would nonetheless be repeated in Spanish and Mexican Texas.

As Anglo-Americans of questionable loyalty entered Louisiana, conservative officials in New Spain regarded Texas and New Mexico as critical areas of defense. To this end Spanish officials thought it important to address the Indian situation in those provinces and to secure the loyalties of the more powerful tribes, lest they fall under foreign influence. In its dealings with the Norteños and the Comanches, Spain continued to employ the recently adopted French approach. At the same time, the general absence of Indians in South and East Texas who were willing to accept life on Spanish terms essentially doomed missionary enterprises. Mounting secular influences in the late 1700s, which ended the missions at San Antonio, are also evidenced by the emergence of viable communities at Nacogdoches, La Bahía, and San Antonio and an economy dominated by ranching and farming. Finally, continuing concerns over Anglo-American activities convinced Spanish officials of the importance of establishing

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