Anglo-American Encroachments and Texas
at the Turn of a Century, 1783–1803
The Treaty of Paris in 1783 finalized the creation of a new American nation with its 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 a crisis of empire. Its expanded responsibilities included the defense of Florida, regained from Great Britain at the conclusion of the American colonies’ war of independence, and the Louisiana Territory.
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 most enlightened monarchs was followed by one of its least able—Charles IV (1788–1808). The immigration policy formulated by the new king and his chief minister, Manuel Godoy, for the defense of Louisiana would prove ineffective, but it would nonetheless be repeated later on in Spanish Texas.
Although Anglo-American immigrants were allowed to enter Spanish Louisiana, officials in Mexico City regarded Texas and New Mexico as offlimits to foreign infiltration. To this end, they redoubled efforts at securing the loyalties of the major Indian nations in both provinces, lest they fall under Anglo influence. In their dealings with the Norteños and the Comanches, the Spanish continued the French approach of employing licensed agents who were sent among these First People. At the same time, given that Indians in South and East Texas had generally proven unwilling to accept life on Spanish terms, the mission/presidio system in Texas was destined to end in the late 1700s. By contrast, Texas witnessed the continued emergence of viable communities at Nacogdoches, La Bahía, and San Antonio, with their economies centered primarily on ranching and farming. And finally, concerns over Anglo influence near their realms convinced Spanish officials