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HISTORICAL – Sam Houston: The Vision of Danville

A newspaper announced Sam Houston’s proposal for a Mexican protectorate, which was delivered in Danville, Texas.

A newspaper announced Sam Houston’s proposal for a Mexican protectorate, which was delivered in Danville, Texas.

In 1858 Texas was awash in unrest. Talk of Civil War abounded, while Indian Wars in the north along the Red River mirrored Mexican Civil War-induced conflict along the Rio Grande to the south. In September of that volatile year, Sam Houston, by then a lame duck U.S. Senator, was making a pitch for the governor’s chair of his beloved Texas. The site of this pitch was the then-thriving town of Danville just a dozen miles or so north of Conroe. Here, Houston wove into a campaign speech the promotion of the most audacious venture his fertile imagination ever conceived.

This venture entailed nothing less than the U.S. inflicting upon Mexico protectorate status. A few months before Danville, on Feb. 6, his proposal to the U.S. Senate for a protectorate over both Mexico and Central America had met defeat by a 33-16 vote. He had, consequently watered down the proposal to just Mexico in a subsequent Senate speech on April 20. It was this latter idea that he sought to keep alive even as he ran for governor of Texas.

Lest Houston’s idea seem preposterous, consider the condition of socioeconomic disrepair then encroaching upon Mexico. Just 14 months after his Danville speech, in December 1859, Houston would become governor for a second time. During that same month, in desperation, Mexico would offer the U.S. authority approaching that of a protector.

To the accompaniment of U.S. troops on the scene, the proposed McLane-Ocampo Treaty proffered the U.S. perpetual rights of transit across the Mexican Isthmus of Tehuantepec. It was politics of the Civil war – not demands of Mexico – that would doom the treaty. To the Mexicans, fear of foreign encroachment from Europe left the U.S. as the lessor evil.

As governor, from December 1959 until deposed for his pro Union views in March 1861, Sam Houston honed his strategy. His plan came close to activation as U.S. troops were ordered temporarily to the Mexican border in March 1860. Indeed, even as he was making the decision that aborted his governorship the next year, there were men at arms ready to follow him into Mexico; by then, however, Houston deemed the window of opportunity closed.

His motives, historian Water Prescott Webb, among others, believes were laudable, centered as they were on bringing Americans, north and south, together via the common goal of generating stability in Mexico – as an alternative to engaging each other in Civil War.

With visions of this grand project, Sam Houston dazzled the gathering at Danville in September 1858. Could the U.S.’s intersectional war have been delayed a while longer, what a difference the intriguing message from Danville might have made.

Author Robin Navarro Montgomery, Ph.D., is a member of the Montgomery and Walker County Historical Commissions, chair of the latter and author of numerous books and articles.
Contact him at zippoboo@aol.com.





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