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Federalist Wars: First Phase

Long before this (on April 24, 1838) the desirability of putting the trade already developing on the frontier adjacent to Mexico on a legitimate status and bringing it under regulation was pointed out by the Secretary of War, Barnard E. Bee, in his report to Congress. Bee urged Congress to give "prompt attention" to regulating the trade between the inhabitants of San Antonio and the Mexican population beyond the Río Grande. "Much of the specie which is now passing through Matamoras to the United States," he declared, "would find its way here in exchange for Tobacco, an article indispensable to their comfort, and you would thus conciliate a class of harmless inhabitants, who would imperceptibly attach themselves to our institutions, whilst you would be opening new sources of wealth to our population."[53]  Another question which he posed concerned the boundary of the republic. "As we claim to the river Río Grande," he asked, "are not the inhabitants as far as that boundary . . . as subject to the jurisdiction of this Government, also [entitled] to its protection and encouragement?" He also recommended that the Mexican families who had fled from Texas during the revolutionary disturbances of 1835-1836 be permitted to return if they wished to do so, as some had already indicated.

In the meantime, trading parties of Mexicans from Laredo and other Río Grande towns were beginning to arrive daily, first, at San Antonio and, later, at Goliad, Victoria, Matagorda,[54]  Lamar, San Patricio, Houston,[55]  and other points, bringing in specie, horses, sugar, and flour which they exchanged for tobacco, various items of merchandise, ammunition, rifles, and firearms of every description. The trade in firearms with the country's avowed enemies did not set well with many Texans, but the merchants of Béxar and elsewhere were not averse to making a fast dollar, even if it might mean the spilling of their own or some fellow-citizen's blood at some future date. The traders arriving at Matagorda early in December 1838, were described as being of "much more general intelligence than is usually found among the straggling drovers who visit our Republic for traffic."[56]  Among them was a Frenchman who had lived for several years in Mexico.

53. Report of the Secretary of War, Barnard E. Bee, to the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas, War Department, April 24, 1838, in Army Papers (Texas), ms.

54. Matagorda Bulletin, Dec. 6, 1838.

55. Max Freund (trans. and ed.), Gustav Dresel's Houston Journal: Adventures in North America and Texas, 1837-1841, p. 37.

56. Matagorda Bulletin, Dec. 6, 1838.

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