Sunday, March 2, 2014

Testing Dragon on Texas and Mexico and the Grand Illusion of the Re-Annexation of Texas

Here is a preface to a book called “A narrative of the capture and subsequent sufferings of the Mier prisoners in Mexico, captured in the cause of Texas, December 26, 1842, and liberated September 16, 1844. The author is Thomas W. Bell, my double first cousin (four times removed).
To the reader:
In submitting the following pages to the criticism of an enlightened public, the sole aim of the author has been to give a detail of facts in the plainest style rather than any literary embellishments common to works of its character. – And should this desultory Narrative prove a source of gratification, entertainment or instruction to its patrons, the most sanguine anticipations of the writer will be fully realized; and he will cherish a melancholy pleasure in the sad reflection of a long and perilous captivity, has enabled him to contribute this much to the enlightened spirit of the times.
The Mier captives were all but forgotten in the United States, as far as I can see in newspaper databases. The release of the survivors apparently went all but unnoticed in the last weeks of the campaign of 1844. Well, it was the Texas army which had been defeated, not the United States army.
I’ve been interested in the Mexican War since 1962, when I did research in newspapers in New York and Boston on Gansevoort Melville’s role in the campaign of 1844. Gansevoort had stumped the West for James K. Polk calling for the occupation of Oregon (including much of what became British Columbia) and the annexation of Texas.  More recently I’ve been interested in my Scottish-Cherokee great great grandfather John B. E. Glenn, who was a Mounted Volunteer and a Missouri Regiment under Capt. James Clarkson. (The regimental commander was the same Ralls who figures in Mark Twain’s “Private History of a Campaign that Failed.”) Glenn’s voluntary service discharge paper shows that he was on exceptional height, 6’5” tall. He was accompanied to Mexico and back by his younger brother who was shorter, 6 foot 4. Both of them survived to enlist together in the Union Army during the Civil War. I’ve been buying books through which I can follow my grandfather and his brother from Missouri to New Mexico and into Mexico and home.
I’ve also been trying to work out just what politicians meant in 1844 when they talked about the re-annexation of Texas. How could they talk about the annexation of Texas when Texas had never been annexed? How can Gov. Christie talk about a traffic study? I’m finding some answers to both questions, and dictating this on Dragon as best I can.

In the early 90s I looked at what I had on Gansevoort's role in the campaign of 1844 and said to myself, what am I doing? There's no way in hell Gansevoort could have returned to New York City a few days before the election without making another speech. Delaware had 5 NYC newspapers, and in the Herald I found my prize, a speech in Newark, NJ, which Herman and Allan almost surely attended and which Herman may have worked into a passage on Jackson in Moby-Dick. In the speech (now you can get it on a database) Gansevoort demonstrated that the annexation of Texas would end in the extinction of slavery--the extinction, not the expansion. The reporter for the Herald was condensing a 3-hour speech so he did not say just how Gansevoort had made this demonstration. Today I think I know. The DEMOCRATIC REVIEW for July had a long article on "The Re-Annexation of Texas" which was not at all about the re-annexation theory--a theory that reminds me strongly of the elaborate theory by which Canterbury (the actor who later played Polonius) persuades Henry V that he is the rightful King of France. No, the article in the DEMOCRATIC REVIEW had nothing in it about re-annexation. Instead, it was an elaborate demonstration that annexation of Texas would in due course lead to the extinction of slavery.

No comments:

Post a Comment