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THE FINANCES OF THE TEXAS REVOLUTION.
NE is puzzled to know whence came the revenues of Texas
while a part of the Mexican confederacy. The constitution of Coahuila and Texas provided, indeed, that "the taxes of the individuals composing the state shall form its public revenue," and it can be gathered from the laws and decrees of the state that its inhabitants were subject to several sorts of taxes - stamped paper for legal documents, dues on land, an income tax and an excise, not to speak of customs duties. But though the workings of the fiscal system are far from clear, it is certain that numerous exemptions were granted from some of the taxes and that a great deal of liberty was allowed in the payment of others, so that there was surely no considerable income derived from these sources. When the revolution began, therefore, not only was there very little public money in the country, but the machinery of collection was stiff with inaction and poorly adapted to the important work of bringing in quick returns. And added to this, the resources of Texas were not of the sort to be readily converted into the sinews of war.
Under these conditions, then, how were the Texans enabled to establish a government, maintain an army and accomplish their independence? Mr. Henry M. Morfit declared to Secretary Forsyth that the means were derived principally “from the sympathy of their neighbors and friends in the United States and by loans upon the credit of the state,” i while Mr. Gouge, in his Fiscal History of Texas," somewhat facetiously remarks that the various expedients of governments for raising funds in such exigencies may be resolved into "taxing, borrowing, begging, selling, and robbing and cheating,” and that the Texans apparently determined to try all six. Before investigating this question it will be necessary to outline briefly the political changes in Texas during the revolution.
When hostilities began at Gonzales (October 2, 1835), proclamations had already been issued for the election of delegates to a general consultation, which was to meet at San Felipe on October 16. Until this could assemble, the direction of affairs was assumed by a committee of five, composed of Messrs. William Pettus, Gail Borden, R. R. Royall, Joseph Bryan and C. B. Stewart. They organized themselves on the with into the permanent council and elected Mr. Royall president. Five days later, when the consultation should have convened, it was found that most of the members-elect had joined the army then marching on San Antonio. Since a quorum could not be obtained, an adjournment was taken to November i and a number of the members present, upon invitation, united with the permanent council. The council then acted as a sort of executive committee until the consultation was formally organized and relieved them of their duties. After a session of ten days the consultation provided for the organization of a provisional government, consisting of a governor, a lieutenant-governor and a council, and, bequeathing its problems to them, adjourned until the first of March. Before the day of their reassembling, however, there had been developed an almost unanimous desire for separation from Mexico, and new delegates were chosen with plenary powers to devise a permanent government. On the second of March they made a declaration of independence, and on the seventeenth adopted a constitution. Pending the ratification of this by the people, the convention appointed David G. Burnet president ad interim, and adjourned.
| Morfit to Forsyth, September 4, 1836, in House Executive Document, 24th Cong., ad Sess., no. 35, p. 16.
? P. 24.
In view of these frequent changes one could hardly expect a settled financial policy to be developed. Measures looking toward the raising of revenue were necessarily experimental, and fortunately the revolution was over before it was proved that most of them were failures.
The permanent council was short-lived and lacked authority. The most that it could do was to make an effort to look after the immediate necessities of the few hundred volunteers who had taken the field. For this purpose, on October 14, William Hall was appointed “contractor for the army of the people," and instructed to begin contracting immediately for such things as were needed. He was to give his official receipt for supplies obtained, and upon refusal of parties of the second part to relinquish their goods on such terms, he was authorized to "press into service any valuables that may be necessary to a speedy and prompt coöperation with our forces at headquarters.” On the same day the council borrowed $100 from James Cochran, and used it in the transportation of some “artillery” from Columbia to the army. The loan was to be repaid from funds in the hands of J. H. Money, treasurer of the municipality of San Felipe de Austin. Cochran consented to make additional advances on the same security, so that the council, in ordering the next day supplies of coffee, sugar and salt for the army, were able to assure the grocer that they had "some funds." In the end Cochran's loans reached the amount of $280, and this with $58.30 from land dues in the hands of Mr. Gail Borden and an advance of $36 by the president, seems to have been all the money handled by the permanent council.'
On the 20th, the appointment of a committee of five was moved “to inquire into the state of the public funds and, if necessary, report a plan for replenishing them.” The committee was forthwith appointed, and recommended that six "public agents” be appointed to coöperate with the committees of safety in each jurisdiction in the collection of dues on land and stamped paper. They were also to negotiate loans whenever possible, and pledge as security therefor the public faith.? On the 22d Borden's powers were strengthened as collector in the jurisdiction of San Felipe, and he was instructed to publish a notice that drafts drawn by captains of companies — presumably for supplies and approved by the president of the council would be accepted in payment thereof. It is likely that this was suggested by the committee.
On the 27th a more ambitious effort was made to secure funds by the appointment of Thomas F. McKinney to negotiate a loan of $100,000 in New Orleans. But from this undertaking he
· Journal of the Proceedings of the Consultation, II.
3 Royall to Austin, October 27, 1835. Austin Papers, N 20. Royall declared himself skeptical of McKinney's success, in case he accepted the commission, for the reason that sentiment in the United States as a condition of assist* Journal of the Proceedings of the Consultation, 11, 12. For the paragraph in general, see the journal of the permanent council in the Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, vii, 249-278.
excused himself on the ground that such a commission would need to be supported by unquestionable authority, which he feared would not be conceded to the permanent council. Before this reply was received the council had merged into the consultation, to which it reported the result of its fortnight's labors, receiving therefor a vote of thanks. The sum of $374.30 had been expended, provision had been made for the efficient collection of the public dues, and supplies were on the way to the army. These consisted of “upwards of a hundred beeves, a considerable quantity of corn meal, and sugar, coffee, bacon, blankets, shoes and tent cloths." 2
The consultation's tenure of power was even briefer than that of the permanent council. It first secured a quorum November 3, and adjourned on the 14th. When the call was issued for the assembly in August, it was expected that the principal work of the delegates would be to consult upon the attitude which Texas should take toward the centralizing measures of Santa Anna. This question, however, the rapid development of events had already determined, and it was quite a different program that was submitted to them. In his inaugural address the chairman, Dr. Branch T. Archer, suggested that they should confine their attention mainly to three things : they should promulgate and publish to the world the reasons why they had taken up arms and the objects for which they were fighting; they should consider the propriety of creating a provisional government; and they should secure the organization of a military system. Money, he said, would of course be needed for this, and agents should be ap
ance in loans seemed to favor a declaration of independence, while the Texans at this time were determined upon allegiance to the federal constitution of 1824. But he consoled himself with the hope that at any rate volunteers and contributions might be obtained.
McKinney to Royall, October 31, 1835. Archives of Texas, diplomatic correspondence, file 14, no. 1337. If upon its meeting the consultation saw fit to appoint him agent, McKinney said that he would be glad to serve. In the meantime, he thought the immediate necessities of the army could be supplied by the firm of McKinney & Williams and other local merchants.
pointed to get it. The first proposal was easily carried out, and the declaration was issued on the 7th; but the second was of greater magnitude, and occupied them throughout their session; while the third they passed on to their successors practically untouched.
In fact, the actual financial affairs of the consultation were scarcely more important than those of the permanent council. On the morning of the 6th, five members were appointed to provide for the necessities of the army, with authority “to borrow money or originate other debts for that purpose,” and in the afternoon they reported a loan of $500 obtained from Thomas F. McKinney. Of this, $238 had been expended in paying drafts already drawn on the government, $20 was used in forwarding an express, and a balance of $242 remained in their hands. The following day the consultation declared "that Texas is responsible for the expenses of her armies now in the field, that the public faith of Texas is pledged for the payment of any debts contracted by her agents," and "that she will reward by donations in land all who volunteer their services in her present struggle;" but for practical purposes this meant little more than the expression of a willing spirit to meet her obligations if she were able.
At the same time a windfall arrived in the shape of a contribution from New Orleans. Mr. Edward Hall brought the news on the 6th that a committee in that city had raised $7,000 for the benefit of Texas. Half of it had been employed in equipping and transporting volunteers, but the balance, rapidly growing by other donations, was retained by the committee. Three days later we find the consultation appointing Hall agent for the purchase of war munitions and instructing him to draw on this committee for funds. Patriotic citizens also began to offer loans and securities in the hope that an hypothecation of individual property might prove more tempting to the money lenders than a bare pledge of the public faith. Stephen F. Austin tendered his “whole estate," to be mortgaged as the consultation saw fit; J. W. Fannin presented thirty-six slaves; and Ben Fort Smith offered eleven leagues of land for the same purpose. On the 13th the house gratefully
· Austin to the consultation, November 4, 1853. Archives of Texas, diplo