TEXAS was formerly one of the Mexican possessions, though a distant province; being,as was generally admitted, one of the many conquests of Fernando Cortes, in the sixteenthcentury. At the period of its subjugation, it was inhabited by savages of the worst description. Prior to the year 1690, a French colony occupied a small district; but they were subsequently driven out by the Spaniards, under whose jurisdiction the country remained, with few or no intervals of agitation, sunk in the obscurity and lethargy of despotism, until the abdication of Charles VI. of Spain, in 1808. At this time, the people of Mexico began to assert their claim to the privilege of self-government; and in 1810, an open rebellion against the European authorities ensued. In 1813, a national Congress issued a declaration of independence; but a civil war raged for several years among various parties, upon the question as to what form of government should be established. At one time, the imperial party prevailed, and Mexico became an empire. This continued but for a brief period : a new system, organized like that of the United States, was adopted, and Mexico became a federal republic, Texas constituting an integral member. A series of revolutions succeeded, during which Texas separated itself from the confederation, achieved its independence by the battle of San Jacinto, in 1836, and erected itself into a distinct republic. A constitution was formed in the same year, and the first elections under the same were held forthwith. In 1845, after a prolonged controversy, Texas was annexed to the United States, and admitted into union therewith, by a joint resolution of both houses of Congress, ratified by the Texan people. Boundaries and Extent. — This state is bounded on the north by portions of New Mexico, Nebraska, and the Indian Territory ; on the east by the Indian Territory, and by the State of Louisiana, from the latter of which it is partially separated by the River Sabine; on the southeastand south by the Gulf of Mexico; on the south-west by the River Bravo del Norte, dividing it from the Mexican possessions; and on the west by the same, and by New Mexico. It lies between 26° and 36° 30' north latitude, and extends from 94° to 105° west longitude. It is of very irregular form, and is computed to contain about 237,320 square miles; a portion of the original area claimed by Texas, when a republic, having been set off by Congress, at the time of its admission as a state, in the formation of the Territory of New Mexico. Government. — The existing constitution of the state guaranties the right of suffrage to every free white male, 21 years of age, after a residence of one year in the state, and six months in the district where voting. The executive officers, who can serve but four out of any six years, are elected for terms of two years by a plurality of the popular vote. The secretary of state, treasurer, and comptroller are chosen also for two years, by the legislature in joint ballot. Senators are chosen for four years, one half the number retiring from office every two years; the whole number not to be less than 19, nor more than 33. Representatives, not to exceed 90 nor fall short of 45 in number, are elected biennially; and the sessions of the legislature are held at like intervals. Persons concerned in duels are disqualified from holding office. Grants of money for internal improvements, &c., cannot be made without the sanction of two thirds of both houses. The laws are to be revised once in every ten years. Homesteads are exempted from forced sales for debt. The real and personal property of a wife is protected from seizure for the payment of the husband's debts. Corporations are not to be created with banking powers. The state cannot subscribe for stock in private corporations, nor borrow money, nor contract debts in time of peace to an amount exceeding $100,000, unless by a two thirds vote of the legislature. No law for the emancipation of slaves can be passed, without consent of owners, arid the payment of full compensation. The introduction of slaves as merchandise may be prohibited. Owners of slaves may be compelled by law to treat them with care and kindness; and in cases of refusal or neglect, the slaves may be taken and sold for account of the owners. Slaves may have a trial by jury when charged with crimes greater than petit larceny, and are protected against abuse or loss of life equally with the whites, excepting when engaged in a revolt. Judiciary. — The Supreme Court comprises a chief justice and two associates, appointed for six years, who hold sessions annually, between June and October, in not more than three places within the state. It has appellate jurisdiction, but is under legislative control in criminal cases and appeals from interlocutory judgments. The District Courts are eleven in number, each having its local judge, appointed for six years, and holding sessions semiannually. They have original jurisdiction in criminal cases, and in suits involving $100 and upwards. If punishments in cases of crime be not specifically defined by law, they are to be determined by the jury. In equity causes, each party has a right to demand a jury. Judges are nominated by the executive, and confirmed by a two thirds vote of the Senate. Education. — The nucleus of a school fund has been formed, by a constitutional provision, requiring the reservation of ten per cent, of the annual state revenue derived from taxation, as a permanent fund for the maintenance of free public schools. Public lands granted forschool purposes cannot be leased for longer terms than 20 years, nor alienated in fee. The important subject of education has, however, as yet, occupied no great share of the public mind. Some schools, of tolerable repute, are supported in the most populous settlements; and a late writer asserts that there are, also, some colleges in the state ; but this report is scarcely
sanctioned by any collateral authority. It is supposed, nevertheless, that the state contains fewer free persons over 20 years of age, who can neither read nor write, in proportion to the whole population, than any other of the Southern States of the Union. Finances. — Texas is burdened with a heavy public debt, partly entailed upon the state by the late republic. The ostensible amount of its liabilities, in December, 1849, as reported by the auditor and comptroller, was upwards of $11,000,000, the par value of which is rated at about one half that sum. The revenues of the state were estimated at $110,000, consisting of a tax of $92,000 upon real and personal property, valued at $46,000,000, and a poll tax amounting to $18,000. The average annual expenditures of the state may be set down at $100,000. Surface, Soil, &tc. — The appearance of the surface of the country is described as that of a vast inclined plane, gradually sloping from the mountainous elevations in the west, towards the sea-coast on the south-east, and intersected by multitudes of streams, flowing in a southeasterly direction. It may be considered as omprehending three several divisions, each differing in some respects from the others. The first, commencing at the sea-coast, and extending inland from 50 to 100 miles, is a level and exceedingly fertile region, with a rich alluvial soil, exempt from those stagnant quagmires and lagoons which usually characterize the shores of the Southern States, beautifully wooded on the river borders, and abounding with extensive pasture lands, covered with an exuberant growth of native grasses and herbage. The next is a region of greater extent, presenting an undulating surface, composed chiefly of grassy prairies, interspersed with compactly timbered forests. The soil here rests upon a substratum of limestone and sandstone, and is of excellent quality. The third and loftiest region, situated among or near the great chain known as the Mexican Alps, consists partly of tracts of productive table land ; but the mountain sides are also prolific in almost every variety of trees and shrubbery, while the intervening valleys, enclosing rich bottom lands, are extraordinarily fruitful, capable of repaying the toil of the husbandman a hundred fold. Indeed, the entire area of this immense state may be said to present, naturally, one of the most admirable countries on earth for agricultural purposes. The state is well wooded throughout. Among the trees most common are live oak of superior quality, other descriptions of oak, hickory, elm, walnut, sycamore, many varieties of acacia, cypress, caoutchouc, &c. The uplands also produce ample supplies of cedar, pine, and similar forest-trees. Fruits and garden vegetables, of every desirable sort, are cultivated with great ease and success. Peaches, melons, grapes, and other fruits known in temperate climates, are raised in profusion; and figs, oranges, lemons, dates, pineapples, olives, and other tropical fruits abound in the southern parts of the state. The products of the field consist of cotton, (the great staple,) maize, wheat, rye, barley, and other grains, the sugar-cane, potatoes of each kind, &c. Rice and tobacco are grown to some extent in different quarters ; and among the indigenous plants are indigo, vanilla, sarsaparilla, and many medicinal shrubs. As a grazing country, Texas is exceeded by few or none of her sister states. Vast numbers of cattle, horses, mules, sheep, and swine are raised upon the prairie lands, receiving or requiring but little human care. Buffaloes and wild horses range the prairies in immense droves; and the deer, the bear, and other game, are every where abundant. Rivers. — In addition to the rivers which form portions of the state boundary, the chief streams are the Neches, Trinity, Brazos, Colorado, San Antonio, Guadaloupe, and Nueces, with their countless tributaries, all flowing towards, and ultimately emptying into, the Gulf of Mexico, after passing generally through the estuaries so numerous along that coast. These bays, being commonly obstructed by sand bars or narrow strips of land, do not afford convenient harbors, except for vessels of small draught. Steamboats drawing 12 feet of water can enter and ascend the Sabine; and the Rivers Neches, Trinidad, and Brazos are navigable, or similar craft, from 50 to 300 miles. The San Antonio and Nueces afford no navigation of importance; and the Colorado, though a fine stream, is obstructed near its mouth by a large raft, which in course of time will probably be removed, when vessels may pass up to Austin, the state capital, 220 miles from the gulf. The Rio Grande del Norte, on the south-western border, is a noble stream of some 1800 miles in length, and is already becoming a great commercial channel, though occasionally impeded by shoals and rapids. Internal Improvements. — Although admitting of unbounded improvements in facilities for internal intercourse, Texas can as yet boast of very few such advantages in the shape of railroads or canals. A railway, to connect Galveston Bay with the River Brazos, through Houston and Harrisburg, is in progress, and the iron for 30 miles of the route is already provided. Another is in contemplation, to extend from San Antonio to the Gulf of Mexico. A canal from Galveston Bay to Brazos is also in course of construction. Minerals. — Silver mines formerly existed in the north-west part of the possessions of the late republic, but no deposits of that metal have been discovered within the limits of the present state. Excellent coal, and iron ore, abound in most of the inland districts. There are great quantities of nitre in the eastern quarter; there are multitudes of salt springs and lakes, from which large supplies of salt are procured ; and bitumen is found in various localities. In all parts of the state except the low alluvial region, there is plenty of granite, limestone, gypsum, &c. Manufactures. — Nothing of great public importance has yet been effected in this branch of industry. Thus far the labors of the inhabitants have been principally confined to pursuits connected with agriculture, and to the preparation of their products for market as raw material. Few or no articles for exportation have as yet been fabricated in the state. Indians. — The territory and its neighborhood is still infested by hordes or remnants of tribes of savages, most of whom subsist by predatory incursions, often of the most destructive and sanguinary character. Efforts are in constant progress to reduce these marauders, by various methods, to a state of comparative peace and amity; but until the country shall have become more densely peopled, this desirable result will not probably be effected. Population. — The civilized inhabitants of Texas comprise emigrants from all the other states of the Union, besides the descendants of the original Spanish settlers, and persons in whom Mexican and Indian blood is blended. The former class, in all probability, compose a majority of the present population, which, by the census of 1850, was as follows: Whites, 154,100; free colored, 331; slaves, 58,161; — total, 212,592. Climate. — Texas is represented usually, by those who have travelled or resided in it, as possessing a delightful climate ; and as being remarkably healthy in every part, with few exceptions at particular seasons. The wet and dry seasons, as in California, constitute the winter and summer. The former commences in December, and continues until March; the residue of the year, which is the dry season, comprehends spring, summer, and autumn. Severe cold weather never marks the winter season, and snow is very uncommon, except upon the mountain peaks. The heat of summer, although intense, is greatly modified by the regular and brisk breezes which prevail daily from sunrise until about 3 o'clock, P. M.; and throughout the year, the nights are said to be invariably cool. Between April and September, the temperature varies from 63° to 100° Fahrenheit, the average range at noon being about 83°. In summer, intermittent fevers are commonly prevalent in the low lands upon the Gulf coast, though rarely assuming an epidemic character. Religion. — Among the descendants of the earliest settlers, the Roman Catholic is of course the prevailing religion, as in New Mexico. But since the revolution, which resulted in the severance of Texas from Mexican sway, other Christian denominations, of almost every class and name known in the older states of the Union, have multiplied and flourished; and the cathedrals erected by the devotees of the pope are now vastly outnumbered by the churches and other houses of worship occupied by Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, &c.
John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America… (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 138-141.