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In Texas itself the wealth of the citizens, as of the state, consisted in land. One is not surprised to learn, therefore, that with two exceptions they subscribed no cash. On November i Frost Thorn wrote to inform the consultation that the people of Nacogdoches had pledged in mass meeting the previous day twenty-eight horses and $2,800," while a few days later San Augustine announced subscriptions of thirteen horses and $400.” No record is shown of the receipt of this money by the government, so it is probable that all was expended by the local committees in purchasing ammunition and in supplying volunteers from the United States who passed through east Texas on their way to the army.
In the latter part of March, when loans on satisfactory terms were almost despaired of, President Burnet proposed to several friends a plan to raise funds by selling individual property. Persons who donated land for this purpose were to take a receipt for their gift, and the government, when able, would repay them, either in money or, if the land had not been sold, by a retransfer of the land. James Kerr was the first to manifest his approval of this suggestion by surrendering (March 23) for the disposition of the government four hundred and eighty acres of land in De Witt's colony. The following day Mr. Gail Borden endorsed the plan, and expressed the opinion that a contribution of $100 was worth more than a subscription of $1,000. A circular from the office of The Telegraph and Texas Register gave publicity to the proposition, and exhorted the people to sell a small part of their property in order to save the remainder from the enemy. Four and a quarter leagues — including Kerr's gift — were subscribed immediately. Shortly after this, however, Burnet decided that he had no authority to promise repayment of such advances, though he felt sure that Congress would be quite willing to do so. Accordingly, Retson Morris added a half league unconditionally.
1 Thorn to General Council, November 1, 1835. Archives of Texas, diplomatic correspondence, file 18, no. 1753.
? Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council, 7.
3 Kerr to Burnet, March 23, 1836. Archives of Texas, diplomatic correspondence, file 24, no. 2369. Borden to same, March 24, 1836, file 22, no. 2157. Circular, file 4, no. 351.
Archives of Texas, diplomatic correspondence, file 22, no. 2180.
Before other contributions were made the battle of San Jacinto had been won, and the people considered their sacrifices no longer necessary
Inasmuch as these land donations were made, nominally at least, in the expectation of repayment, it would perhaps be technically more accurate to call them loans. But the prospect of repayment was so remote that they were doubtless considered by the donors as free-will offerings. Practically it makes little difference how we regard them, for the reason that the government realized nothing from them, and it is doubtful whether formal transfers of title were ever made. They are of significance, nevertheless, as illustrating conditions of the time and the spirit of the people. “Deficient,” as they were, says Kennedy,"
in all the resources requisite for war, except moral energy and courage, the colonists themselves contributed, from their private means, whatever was calculated to be of use to the troops. Leaden water pipes and clock-weights were melted down for ammunition, and even the women cheerfully assisted in moulding bullets and making cartridges.
In granting letters of marque and reprisal the general council according to Gouge, "tried its hand at robbing,” but, as he adds it could plead in extenuation “the precedents of the best established governments.”2 At any rate, the matter is of little importance, for if any privateers were actually put in commission nothing was ever heard of them. From the beginning the law was designed to provide defense rather than revenue, and this was soon rendered unnecessary by the acquisition of a regular navy sufficient to meet any naval operations from Mexico."
The colonists turned naturally to a tariff as a revenue device, for the reason that Mexico had been spasmodically trying ever since 1832 to collect customs. In his first message Governor Smith recommended the establishment of a tariff, and the finance committee estimated an annual income of $125,000 from tonnage
1 Texas, ii, 115.
Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council, 26, 31, 75; Ordinances and Decrees, 23–24, 38; Archives of Texas, diplomatic correspondence, file 25, no. 2414
dues alone. No time was lost in introducing a bill. It was passed on the 8th, and approved on the 12th, but how much revenue it yielded is unknown.' In all likelihood it was very little. Thomas F. McKinney declared that all the merchants in the country had imported larger stocks than usual in anticipation of the law, and complained that he had been prevented from doing the same, because his partner, Mr. Williams, had neglected his own business in the United States to purchase supplies for the government. The council, thereupon, to remedy the injustice, passed an act exempting from duty all goods actually shipped but not received by this firm before the passage of the act. All promise of revenue from this law was permanently blighted on January 20, by making treasury notes acceptable for customs. Com plaints soon began to come in, too, from the United States, and since Texas was so largely dependent upon the good will of that country, it is likely that the enforcement of the law quietly ceased. Finally, the constituent convention decreed, March 12, 1836, that the provisional government had exceeded its authority in levying import duties, and ordered what had been collected to be repaid.
The collection of land dues next occupied the attention of the council. The colonization law of Coahuila and Texas provided that new settlers shall pay to the state, as an acknowledgment for each sitio of grazing land, thirty dollars; for each labor, not irrigible, two and a half; and for each that is irrigible, three and a half; and so on proportionally, but the payment thereof need not be completed under six years from settlement. When hostilities began, J. H. Money, of the municipality of Austin, had in his possession from this source a balance of $296.70,6
Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council, 14-200, passim ; Ordinances and Decrees, 79-85, 86–87, 104-114.
* McKinney to Provisional Government, December 25, 1835. Archives of Texas, diplomatic correspondence, file 14, no. 1340.
3 Ordinances and Decrees, 119-120.
+ Edward Hall to Governor and General Council, February 4, 1836. Comptroller's department, Letters to Treasurer, vol. i, 11. 3 Archives of Texas, A, file 4, no. 462.
Report of J. H. Money, December 31, 1835. Comptroller's department, in Miscellaneous Papers of the Treasury Department, 1835-36.
and most of this, as we have already seen, the consultation used. Considerable sums were also in the hands of the collectors at Nacogdoches, and a few days after its organization the general council appointed a committee to take charge of them. On November 27 Mr. Menard of this committee reported that he had secured from land dues $1,678.771, and from the sale of stamped paper $250. Grasping at straws, as they were, and seizing upon everything that promised a revenue, however insignificant, this report must have encouraged the council. An ordinance of December 30 authorized the appointment of “collectors of public dues” in each of the departments of Texas. But as a yielder of revenue the law was greatly impaired in efficiency by the provision that properly audited treasury orders should be receivable for such dues.
Mr. Gail Borden was elected collector for the department of Brazos, and two of his reports are at hand. An incomplete one of July 31, 1836, shows that he had received at that time but $797.621. Owing to the unsettled conditions, however, he had heard from only one deputy, Andrew Ponton of Gonzales. Some persons, too, had secured treasury orders with which to pay and had neglected to endorse them, so that he could not report such dues as paid.' Collections during the second half of the year were much better, and he was able to report a total on January I, 1837, of $6,836.32. This probably included the $797.621 previously reported. Doubtless the greater part of this was in orders on the treasury. No report can be found from the department of Nacogdoches, but there was much opposition in that quarter to the closing of the land offices by the consultation, and on this account it is probable that few of the citizens paid their dues.
1 Comptroller's department, in Miscellaneous Papers of the Treasury Department, 1835-36.
? Ordinances and Decrees, 114-117, 132-133.
* Borden to Hardeman, July 31, 1836. Comptroller's department, Letters to Treasurer, vol. i, 55-56. Telegraph and Texas Register, September 21 and 28, 1836.
• Ibid. 76, 77. Of this amount, $3,902.04 was collected in Austin's colonies, $1,607 in Austin and Williams's colony, $1,255.38 in DeWitt's colony, and $71.90 was collected by Thomas Gazley of the municipality of Mina.
The council also tried, but with little success, to raise money by the sale of public property. This consisted almost entirely of land, but $229.50 was realized by the sale of a quantity of stamped paper to W. H. Steele on December 29,' and a few days later (January 2) Governor Smith requested the general council to make some disposition of “various goods” in charge of the commandant at Goliad. Their value, he said, was "considerable.” ? The military committee forthwith recommended a resolution, which was passed, authorizing Captain Dimmit to sell them at auction, but of the proceeds of the sale nothing is known. By the capture of San Antonio in December a quantity of supplies fell into the hands of the Texans, and these also were sold at auction. Members of the Texan army gave notes for their purchases to the amount of $1,271.99, and later these were charged against their account for service. As a source of ready money the public land was a failure, too. In May, 1836, President Burnet authorized Thomas Toby & Brother of New Orleans to sell five hundred thousand acres at fifty cents an acre, but practically no sale was found for it. In another way, however, the public domain was very valuable many volunteers were attracted from the United States by the liberal land bonus which the government offered them.
Finally it was decided to issue treasury notes, and Mr. Gouge thinks cheating none too harsh a term to apply to this expedient of the government. The act was approved January 20, and provided
that the Treasurer shall immediately cause to be printed in a neat form and shall issue, in discharge of claims against the Government and drafts against the Treasury, the amount of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in Treasury notes, ... specifying on the face thereof, that they shall be received in payment for lands and other public
Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council, 229; Report of Treas. urer, November 28, 1835, to March 1, 1836, Comptroller's department, in Miscellaneous Papers of the Treasury Department, 1835-1836.
Ibid., 241. s Auditor's report, January 8, 1836, Comptroller's department, in Miscellaneous Papers of the Treasury Department, 1835-36. Archives of Texas, D, file 26, no. 2591.