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The Opening of Frontier Trade

WHILE A NUMBER OF THE TEXANS were beginning to show an interest, late in 1837, in developing a profitable trade with northern Mexico, their government was reluctant to sanction the opening of trade with the settlements along the Río Grande and beyond. Those interested in developing such a trade believed that if it were opened, the trade through the port of Matamoros, with its high customs duties, would rapidly fall into the hands of the Texans. The existing Texan policy was assisting Mexico to raise enormous revenue through the port of Matamoros, when it should be designed to cut off the trade of that port, by diverting it through Texas to the enrichment of her citizens and the coffers of her Treasury Department. In spite of the attitude of the Texan government, a profitable trade with the Mexicans on the Río Grande began to develop along the western frontier of Texas.

By June 1837, business conditions at San Antonio were reported improving rapidly, owing to an increasing number of traders arriving from the Río Grande towns.[1]  Early in 1838 information was being received at Houston almost daily from the west confirming the report that a regular system of illicit trade was developing there with the Mexicans who sought to evade the French blockade of their coast, but there was interference from Texan military authorities in that quarter who sought to close the trade. The remarkable forbearance and friendly deportment of the traders, reported the Telegraph and Texas Register, "showed that they were desirous to renew their former intimate connections with our citizens. There was a cheering prospect that a friendly intercourse would gradually extend into the interior of Chihuahua and Tamaulipas, and eventually pave the way for a lasting peace." The fact that General Johnston sanctioned the military order was regarded as strong proof of its expediency, but, continued the editor of the Telegraph,

1. Telegraph and Texas Register (Houston), July 8, 1837.

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AFTER SAN JACINTO: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1836-1841
Joseph Milton Nance, 1963