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Frontier Raids, Threats, and Counter-Threats of Invasion

respectable citizens." The other, and larger group, desired much the same privileges of retaliation, but wished to make a distinction between Mexicans east of the Río Grande, who were friendly, and those who were not. The friendly rancheros and others of unsuspicious character engaged in trade should be permitted to continue that trade, while all others should be annihilated or expelled beyond the Río Bravo. It was Bell's belief that a majority of the people of the western country favored a policy of closing the trade, "basing their objections to it mainly on the idea that it increased the channels of observation and intelligence from Mexico, and exposed the frontier more openly to the depredations of marauders."[31]  There seemed to be no question but that some of the traders were later recognized in the ranks of the marauders, but the dangers from spy activity on the part of incoming traders would appear to have little weight so long as Mexican citizens, whose government was at war with Texas, continued to reside in Texas. "I frankly confess I have not been able to see the full force of the opposition to the existence of the Trade," declared Bell.

It certainly has its evils; but many of the inhabitants of the West are its beneficiaries, from a supply through it of various articles which they need, and which at this time they cannot procure elsewhere. Most of them ride Spanish horses and mules, with Spanish Saddles -- wear Mexican Blankets, and it is not unusual to see and handle Mexican Plata; all procured in the way of Trade. With such a force as has been suggested, the Trade might go on, for the present, with some advantage to the west; and with a proper scrutiny into the manner of conducting it, I believe that many of the citizens now arrayed against it, would waive their opposition.

Any force ordered out by the War Department, he thought, should be well organized and with very definite and restrictive orders concerning the trade and distinction to make between friendly rancheros and suspicious and irresponsible Mexicans. He felt that if the government announced its policy in positive and unqualified terms, the people of the west would give their full cooperation in carrying out that policy. He, therefore, recommended raising and stationing on the frontier from 150 to 200 volunteers, or drafted men, enrolled for three months' service, unless sooner discharged. These men, or "rangers" as they were called, were to be well armed, mounted, and equipped to

31. P. Hansbrough Bell, Adjt. Genl. Militia, to Branch T. Archer, Secretary of War & Navy, City of Austin, Oct. 4, 1841, in Army Papers (Texas), ms., copy.

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