Western Expansion, Manifest Destiny, and the Mexican-American War

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Why did the Mexican government attract settlers to Texas and what were the terms of their land grants?

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Mexico's government sought to strengthen its tenuous control of its northern territories. At the time, Mexico was a new nation. It had just secured its independence from Spain in 1821 after a decade of conflict. As a fledgling nation, Mexico wanted to consolidate its grip on all of its territory—including...

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Texas. Mexico's control of Texas faced two potential threats: hostile native Americans and an increasingly assertive United States.

The General Colonization Law, passed in 1823, was Mexico's plan for the settlement and population of Texas. Immigrants to Texas were typically exempt from paying Mexican taxes. Ambitious businessmen, known as empresarios, were encouraged to bring in 100 or more families.

By 1830, Mexico's attempt to populate Texas had ended, and further immigration was prohibited by the Mexican government. Approximately 30,000 settlers had arrived, but they did not embrace Mexican culture. Mexico's government had hoped that Mexicans from other parts of the nation would move to Texas. But the overwhelming majority came from the United States. In general, these new settlers did not speak Spanish and were not Roman Catholic. Most of the settlers were pro-slavery, and Mexico abhorred slavery. Among these American settlers was the illustrious Stephen Austin, the "Father of Texas."

American settlers continued to arrive in the 1830s. They resented Mexican control, and they revolted. Although Mexico won the famous battle at the Alamo, it lost the war, and Texas became independent in 1836.

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The Mexican government won independence from Spain in 1821, but a decade of war had left the Mexican economy in ruins. Unemployment was high, and people were leaving the country in search of better opportunities. Fearing either Native Americans or foreign powers would take advantage of their weakness to annex parts of Texas, the Mexican government wanted to secure its holdings in the region.

The Mexican government could not afford to station a sizable army in the north, and it did not have sufficient population to send settlers to Texas. Therefore, it decided its best path was to open the territory to people from other countries, such as the United States. It stipulated that these settlers or colonists become citizens of Mexico and convert to Roman Catholicism. The Mexican government tried to curtail slavery by allowing slaves to be brought in but declared that any children of slaves born on Texas soil were free.

Mexico attracted US settlers to Texas, though it often had to overlook the fact they were Protestants.

The government contracted with Moses Austin in 1821 to find 300 Catholic families to begin a colony in Texas. Other colonists also arrived from the states. However, the Mexican government soon realized that its lax immigration policies were causing problems. Settlers from the US were glad to get land in Texas, but many had no interest in becoming Mexican citizens. Ironically, the very policy that Mexico had hoped would tie its northern lands more closely to it backfired. Americans who had settled in Texas went to war to annex the land for the United States and won the war.

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After gaining independence from Spain in 1821, the new Mexican federal government hoped to attract settlers to its vast territories in what is now Texas and the southwestern United States. These lands were isolated, sparsely populated by Mexican settlers, and they generated very little revenue for the Mexican government. This was actually an issue that predated Mexican independence—the Spanish government had invited American settlers to Texas before. So the Mexican government offered land grants to men known as empresarios. These men would receive lands that would in turn be settled by immigrants. Families who settled there were supposed to receive a little under 200 acres of land and were only liable for taxes after they had settled, or "improved," the land. Two stipulations became problematic, to one degree or another. The first was that settlers were supposed to be Roman Catholic. The empresarios generally overlooked the fact that many settlers were Protestants. The Mexican government also outlawed slavery by declaring all children of enslaved men and women brought into the territory to be free. These terms, and the degree to which they were honored by all parties involved, would change over the years following Mexican independence. These changes contributed to the outbreak of the Texas Revolution of 1835.

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Texas changed from being under Spanish colonial control to part of independent Mexico in the early 19th century. While the Mexican government assumed responsibility for property claim and titling methods, the previous system had not been too rigid in northern Texas. When foreigners were allowed to own land, many U.S. settlers moved west from Louisiana. Their ownership was largely respected under the new Mexican leadership, with influential American landowners such as Stephen Austin keeping their land and attracting more settlers. New arrivals (empresarios), often agreed to perform law-enforcement duties and loyalty to Mexico in partial exchange for their land grants. In particular, families were desired, and terms allowing women to hold grants were instituted. Eligible women, however, were mostly widows, however, or women wealthy enough to support the homesteading costs.

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The Mexican government wanted to attract settlers to Texas. The Mexicans wanted to promote the growth of Texas so they offered land grants to interested people. One of the people who received a land grant was Moses Austin. When he died, his son, Stephen Austin, took over the land grant. About 300 Americans settled on the land granted to the Austin family.

The Mexican government placed conditions on receiving a land grant. The settlers had to agree to obey Mexican law, learn Spanish, become Catholic and become a citizen of Mexico. In return, they would get a land grant at reduced prices and pay little or no taxes for several years.

Eventually, more Americans came to Mexico to get land grants. Tensions grew between the Americans and the Mexicans, eventually leading to the Texan war for independence from Mexico. In 1836, the Lone Star Republic was created when Texas got its independence from Mexico.

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