American Minute with Bill Federer
The Spanish Empire was the first empire on which “the sun never set,” spanning over 5 million square miles around the globe.
Beginning with Columbus’ discovery in 1492, for the next three centuries large areas of North, Central and South America were called New Spain.
Spain and France had been allies.
France even gave its Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi to Spain in the secret Treaty of Fountainebleau, 1762, to prevent Britain from getting it in the French and Indian War.
Spain joined France in aiding America during its War of Independence from Britain.
Bernardo de Gálvez, Governor of Spanish Louisiana and Cuba, helped supply American forces during the British blockade.
He defeated the British at Fort Bute, Baton Rouge, Natchez, and Mobile.
With the help of Juan Manuel Cajigal and Francisco de Miranda, Gálvez’s Spanish forces captured Pensacola, May 9, 1781, and Nassau, Bahamas, May 1782.
Spanish drove the British from the Gulf of Mexico, while allowing supplies for the American forces to be shipped up the Mississippi to the Ohio River.
Miranda helped raise money for American troops from citizens of Cuba, notably, the “Ladies of Havana,” who donated gold and jewelry equivalent to $28 million dollars to help General Washington win the Battle of Yorktown.
The French Revolution changed everything.
France beheaded its King Louis XVI in 1793, to which Spain and Portugal protested. In response, France declared war on them.
In 1796, France pressured Spain to ally with them against Britain, but after their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Spain switched to the British side.
When Napoleon defeated Prussia in 1807, Spain switched back to being allies with France.
This fluctuating foreign policy undermined Spanish trust in their King Charles IV, and he was forced to step down.
He was replaced with Ferdinand VII.
Though allies, Napoleon betrayed this trust and invaded Spain in 1808.
When Spaniards in Madrid resisted him, Napoleon used his mercenary Muslim cavalry, the Mamelukes of Egypt, to charge into the Spanish crowd, killing 500.
This began the six year Peninsular War.
Napoleon deposed the Spanish King Ferdinand VII and put his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the throne.
This made repercussions throughout the Spanish Empire, which was Catholic, as in 1798, Napoleon’s army had invaded Rome, imprisoned Pope Pius VI, let him die in captivity, then postponed burying him for political purposes.
Napoleon dishonored the next Pope, Pius VII, in 1804, by placing the emperor’s crown on his own head, rather than letting the Pope crown him.
In 1808, Napoleon seized Church properties and invaded Rome.
When Pope Pius VII excommunicated him, Napoleon captured and imprisoned him for five years.
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With Spain in such turmoil, having Joseph Bonaparte on the throne, Simon Bolivar began a revolution to make New Spain independent.
Bolivar fought for freedom with courageous leaders:
– José de San Martín,
– Bernardo O’Higgins, and
– Francisco de Miranda, who had helped in the American Revolution.
Countries that had previously been part of New Spain became independent:
– Venezuela, 1811;
– Colombia (which included Panama), 1819;
– Ecuador, 1820;
– Peru, 1821;
– Bolivia (named after Bolivar), 1825;
– western Guyana, 1824; and
– northwest Brazil, 1822.
In 1810, a revolt against Spain began in Mexico, led by a priest name Hidalgo.
For ten years, Spanish General Agustín de Iturbide fought to put down the revolt.
Finally, in 1820, Iturbide switched sides with his Plan of Iguala.
He successfully won independence for Mexico in 1821, but soon disappointed many of his followers.
Instead of setting up a representative republic, Iturbide had himself crowned Emperor of Mexico.
Within a few years, Iturbide fell from favor and was executed.
A Mexican Republic was established in 1824, with a Federal Constitution, but the new government suffered continual upheavals.
In 1833, General Santa Anna was elected President of Mexico.
He demanded more control and higher taxes, which led to resistance against him.
Santa Anna decided the people were not capable of ruling themselves, so he ignored the Constitution, dissolved the Congress, and declared himself dictator.
Santa Anna wrote to the U.S. minister to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett:
“A hundred years to come my people will not be fit for liberty … a despotism is the proper government for them, but there is no reason why it should not be a wise and virtuous one.”
A “despotism” is where one person has absolute and arbitrary power.
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Santa Anna demanded citizens surrender their guns, decreeing:
“All foreigners who might be caught under arms on Mexican soil should be treated as pirates and shot” (William C. Binkley, Official Correspondence of the Texas Revolution).
The Texas Declaration of Independence mentioned that Santa Anna’s orders which “demanded us to deliver up our arms.”
Santa Anna wrote in his Manifesto, 1837:
“I offered life to the defendants who would surrender their arms and retire under oath not to take them up again against Mexico.”
He incited killings and used his military against those resisting his centralized power.
Santa Anna punished Mexican States of:
– San Luis Potosí,
– Jalisco, and
– Coahuila y Tejas.
In Zacatecas, Santa Anna defeated Francisco Garcia, took 3,000 prisoners and let his army ransack the city for two days.
When Federal General José Antonio Mexía marched from New Orleans to Tampico, Santa Anna defeated him and executed every prisoner.
On February 23, 1836, General Santa Anna’s army arrived outside the Old Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar.
His troops, eventually numbering 1,800, flew the blood-red flag of no quarter, signifying that all those captured would be killed.
Texan and Tejano defenders, numbering between 182 to 257, responded by firing their cannon.
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The first fatality of the Battle of the Alamo was the next day, February 24, 1836.
In the “13 days of glory at the Alamo,” Santa Anna’s take-no-prisoner policy had all defenders killed, including:
– William Travis,
– Jim Bowie, and
– former U.S, Congressman Davy Crockett.
Santa Anna ordered those who surrendered to be executed and have their corpses burned.
The few survivors included Susanna Dickinson, her baby, Angelina, and Travis’ young black servant, Joe.
The only Texas army left in the field was Col. James Fannin’s. It departed Goliad to rescue the Alamo but was surrounded in open ground and 350 were captured.
Santa Anna ordered the prisoners executed.
When the Mexican officer hesitated carrying out the executions, Santa Anna sent another officer who proceeded to execute nearly all of them in the Goliad Massacre, March 27, 1836.
Bodies were stripped, piled, burned and left exposed to vultures and coyotes.
A few dozen of the Texans were spared execution through the courageous intervention of Francita Alavez, the “Angel of Goliad,” and Mexican Colonel Francisco Garay.
Had Fannin’s troops been left in prison, Texans would have been disheartened, but instead, Santa Anna’s Goliad Massacre aroused world outrage.
The New York Post editorialized that if Santa Anna:
“… had treated the vanquished with moderation and generosity, it would have been difficult if not impossible to awaken that general sympathy for the people of Texas which now impels so many adventurous and ardent spirits to throng to the aid of their brethren.”
“Remember Goliad” and “Remember the Alamo” were battle cries of Sam Houston’s forces that defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, April 21, 1836.
On March 2, 1836, the people of Texas declared their Independence:
“UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE by the delegates of the People of Texas in General Convention at the Town of Washington, on the Second Day of March, 1836.
When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted;
and so far from being a guarantee for their inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression …
In such a crisis … the inherent and inalienable right of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases,
enjoins it as a right towards themselves and a sacred obligation to their posterity to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their welfare and happiness …”
The Declaration continued:
“The late changes made in the government by General Antonio Lopez Santa Anna,
who having overturned the constitution of his country, now offers, as the cruel alternative, either abandon our homes acquired by so many privations, or submit to the most intolerable of all tyranny, the combined despotism of the sword and the priesthood …
It denies us the right of worshiping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience, by the support of a National Religion, calculated to promote the temporal interest of its human functionaries, rather than the glory of the true and living God.
It has demanded us to deliver up our arms, which are essential to our defense – the rightful property of freemen – and formidable only to tyrannical governments …
It has, through its emissaries, incited the merciless savage, with the tomahawk and scalping knife, to massacre the inhabitants of our defenseless frontiers …”
The Texas Declaration ended:
“We, therefore, the delegates, with plenary powers, of the people of Texas … DECLARE, that our political connection with the Mexican nation has forever ended, and that the people of Texas, do now constitute a FREE, SOVEREIGN, and INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC …
Conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme Arbiter of the destinies of nations.”
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Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.