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The Americas 59.1 (2002) 121-122

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Texas by Terán: The Diary Kept by General Manuel de Mier y Terán on His 1828 Inspection of Texas. By Manuel de Mier y Terán. Edited by Jack Jackson. Translated by John Wheat. With Botanical Notes by Scooter Cheatham and Lynn Marshall. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000. Pp. 312. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $40.00 cloth; $19.95 paper.

The loss of Texas, or, more correctly, that part of Mexican territory that now makes up the State of Texas, was of transcendent importance to the young Mexican nation. Heir to Spain's North American claims west of Louisiana, independent Mexico faced a United States that had successfully deprived Spain of all its eastern borderlands provinces by 1821. Ironically, in their desperation to stymie Anglo-American expansionism, Mexico's leaders turned to the very people they had most to fear from, frontier farmers from the United States, to populate and develop Texas into a productive Mexican province.

Enter Manuel de Mier y Terán, scientist, military man, nationalist, native of Mexico City, graduate of the prestigious San Carlos College of Mines, and partisan of José María Morelos. Having subscribed to Agustín de Iturbide's Plan of Iguala, he was elected to the first constituent congress and served on its colonization committee, later serving as minister of war in 1824. He was more than well-qualified for his appointment as head of the commission that President Guadalupe Victoria named to investigate conditions on the Texas-Louisiana frontier, to establish the boundary between Mexico and the United States, and to give the central government some idea of the resources of the sparsely populated and little understood region.

Texas by Terán makes available for the first time the general's own diary of the expedition, along with some of his related correspondence and writings by others that help round out Mier y Terán's incomplete portrait of Mexican Texas in 1828-1829. Most of the diary itself will be of limited interest to most students of the period, although environmental historians and geographers will find valuable source material in it. At those points where the general deviates from mere record-keeping to pondering the transformations then underway in Texas, and in his correspondence with the president, ministers, and other officials, Texas by Terán offers much, however. An astute observer, Mier y Terán quickly came to understand the challenges faced by Mexico in Texas. As a pragmatic individual, he just as quickly understood the severe limitations of his country's resources in confronting those challenges.

The introduction and epilogue by Jack Jackson offer insights into the Texas question generally and Manuel Mier y Terán's role on the frontier and the consequences of his inspection specifically. Because the general started his diary only as he departed San Antonio for the Louisiana border, Jackson offers the views of other members of the inspection party and of an Anglo-American visitor to gain some familiarity with what was the largest settlement in the province. In the epilogue the central issue becomes Mier y Terán's influence on the redirection of national policy toward Anglo-American immigration, particularly with regard to the Law of April 6, 1830. This legislation, orchestrated by the conservative minister of state Lucas [End Page 121] Alamán during the brief presidency of Anastacio Bustamante, aimed at halting colonization from the United States, making the settlers pay their fair share of taxes, and better integrating Texas into Mexico's economy. Placed in charge of accomplishing these goals with inadequate resources, and increasingly despondent over the political upheavals that shook the center of the country, Mier y Terán finally surrendered to a long struggle with depression and poor health and took his own life. As Jackson points out, Mexico lost the one man best equipped to deal with the increasingly complex situation in Texas.

Texas by Terán, for anyone interested in...


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