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The Opening of Frontier Trade

No sooner was the order issued to permit the opening of the trade than enterprising traders from the United States and elsewhere began to interest themselves in it, even if it might entail smuggling into Mexico. "The Texas-Mexican smuggling business engaged my attention most strongly," recorded Gustav Dresel, a young German businessman traveling in the New World.[8]  Accordingly, Dresel left New Orleans on July 12 for Matagorda on the southwestern frontier of Texas, a desirable point from which to conduct trade with the Mexicans who came there to buy goods to smuggle into the northern states. However, in less than a month, President Houston was writing the Secretary of War from Nacogdoches "that it might be well for the Sec[retar]y of State to apprise the Commandant of the French Fleet" off Mexico concerning the smuggling going on in the vicinity of Corpus Christi, "and intimate to him that it might be judicious for him to despatch one or two small armed vessels to cruise on our coast between Copano and Brazos de St. Iago so as to detect any smuggling that may be attempted in contravention of the Blockade" of the Mexican ports. "This Government," he continued," will not connive at any infraction of National Laws, nor has it any disposition to elude the measures of France, so far as she may deem necessary to prosecute retaliating measures against Mexico."[9] 

The French blockade compelled the inhabitants of the Río Grande country to look to a new quarter for their supplies. They were not only willing to trade far and risk much, but to pay well in specie for what they bought. At this time, there were only two or three mercantile establishments at San Antonio and prices there were not reduced by competition. The Mexican traders were willing to pay the prices, however, and the influx of specie excited the imagination of many, encouraging others to embark in the trade. The same was true in the other frontier communities toward the coast. Aransas was taking a sudden spurt of growth with several new families moving in, the opening of a hotel, and the erection of several buildings, "with as much apparent confidence and zeal as if this place were removed far within

8. Max Freund (trans. and ed.), Gustav Dresel's Houston Journal: Adventures in North America and Texas, 1837-1841, pp. 22, 27.

9. Sam Houston to G. W. Hockley, Nacogdoches, Aug. 4, 1838, in Domestic Correspondence (Texas), 1836-1846, ms.; Writings of Sam Houston, II, 266-268; see also R. A. Irion to Sam Houston, Department of State, City of Houston, July 28, 1838, in Department of State Letterbook, no. 1, ms., pp. 41-42.

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