Sunday, April 30, 2006

Seguín on the Alamo

In light of the recent post on Texas Independence, I thought this would be a fitting post, since it's of a passage on which I'd like to have the citation to the original.

Compañeros de armas: Estos restos que hemos tenido el honor de conducir en nuestros hombros son los de los valientes héroes que murieron en el Alamo. Sí mis amigos, ellos prefirieron morir mil veces a servir el yugo del tirano. Que ejemplo tan brillante, digno de anotarse en las páginas de la historia. El genio de la libertad parece estar viendo en su elevado trono de donde con semblante halagueño nos señala diciendo: "Ahí tenéis a vuestros hermanos, Travis, Bowie, Crockett y otros varios a quienes su valor coloca en el número de mis héroes.---Yo os pido a que poniendo por testigo a los venerables restos de nuestros dignos compañeros digamos al mundo entero. Texas será libre, independiente o pereceremos con gloria en los combates.

[Attributed to Juan Seguín; 25 February 1837, at the burial of the ashes of the defenders of the Alamo.

Roughly translated:

"Companions in arms: These remains that we have had the honor of carrying upon our shoulders are the most valiant heroes who died at the Alamo. Yes, my friends, they preferred to die a thousand times rather than serve under the yoke of the tyrant. What a brilliant example, worthy of being noted in the pages of history! The genius of liberty seems to be looking down from its high throne; with a look of praise it points it out to us, saying, 'Here you have your brothers, Travis, Bowie, Crockett, and various others whose valor places them in the multitude of heroes.---I ask, with the venerable remains of our worthy companions bearing witness, that we tell the whole world: Texas will be free, independent, or we shall perish with honor in battle."

The last line is fairly well known; indeed, the whole passage is fairly easy to find (in Texas, at least). However, does anyone know the citation for where this passage is first recorded? I've never actually come across it.

UPDATE: In the comments Chris points out this website, which identifies the source as "Columbia (Later Houston) Telegraph and Texas Register
April 4, 1837". Chris also points out that Seguín wrote his own memoirs, which I had completely forgotten. Another website has a selection from those memoirs. Seguín's life story is a sad case of a significant hero -- certainly one of the more significant of Texas independence -- never getting his due afterward because of anti-Hispanic prejudices; facing several death threats, he had to flee with his family to Mexico, where he was promptly arrested and jailed; he was allowed out only on the condition that he fight for Mexico in the Mexican-American War. His memoirs were his apologia for his actions in this chain of misfortunes.

Chris also notes that the issue of slavery unfortunately played a role in Texas Independence. Technically slavery had been illegal in Mexico since before the Constitution, and this was reaffirmed under the Constitution of 1824 and under the 1827 Constitution of Coahuila y Tejas; but while Mexico had always been severe about the selling of slaves, it had scarcely done anything about the owning of slaves (slaveowners found loopholes in the laws, making slaves contractual servants forced to work for room and board), and there were unfortunately plenty of slaveowners who were not pleased with the limits they faced under the Mexican government. From then on out things got worse: further laws against slavery stirred up more unrest; the Constitution of the new republic recognized slavery; the state constitution after annexation went even farther; and when Texas seceded, it was one of the states that made the issue of slavery front and center. The almost continuous increase in pro-slavery powers throughout the period is one of the great tragedies of the era.

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