Resistance in Texas
Digital History ID 579
Juan Nepomuceno Cortina
A second proclamation appeared in a Brownsville newspaper, where it was introduced by the following letter from the editor.
September 30, 1859
To the Mexican inhabitants of the State of Texas:
...We invite the attention of the people abroad to his pretension that the Mexicans of this region (we suppose he means from the Nueces to the Rio Grande) "claim the right to expel all Americans within the same."
He [Juan Nepomuceno Cortina] professes to be at the head of a secret society, organized for this object. He claims modestly for his co-villains all the virtues, especially those of gentleness, purity, and liveliness of disposition. This he says of himself and his followers who, after stabbing and shooting into and beating the dead bodies of Mallett and Greer and McCoy, slain in the fight between a portion of his forces and thirty rangers at Palo Alto, on Sunday last, and after having in like cowardly manner treated his prisoner, young Fox, after he had surrendered his arms when surrounded, descended to such depth of degradation as to dismember the bodies of the slain in a manner so disgusting as to be too horrible to tell....
And these men are the graduates of the presidios of Mexico and the penitentiaries of Texas, he himself for years under indictment for murder, for cattle stealing, and other crimes, and his whole clan now engaged in wholesale robbery, horse stealing, and murder. A river frontier and the absence of a treaty of extradition renders it an easy thing in a country not closely settled and full if impenetrable chaparral for the outlaw to escape trial at law. So these people have defied justice on either side of the river, and now, banded together in an imposing army, nought but the heavy arm of the Union can put a stop to their villainy. He has heavily recruited from the outlaws of Mexico despite the vigilance of the constitutional authorities, who detest his crimes....
None of them have any legal title to citizenship. The United States Supreme Court, in the case of McKinney vs. Savriego, decided that the 8th article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had no reference to Texas, and this is the only one in that treaty which confers citizenship. They could not have been citizens of Texas when annexed, because they were "adhering to the common enemy," and thus excluded from citizenship by its fundamental laws. None of them have ever been formally naturalized, and so they remain without the pale of American citizenship. A very large proportion, many think a majority, are residents of Mexico, if anywhere, having in this country neither properties nor homes, nor anything but their own crimes to entitle them to any recognition under our laws. All the complaints insinuated in this production are utterly without foundation. These men live usually by horse stealing--by industry never. They have never been robbed of any property, but many times have imposed on honest men with stolen animals.... Yet he has now under him quite an army, entrenched in a well-constructed fort, defended by cannon, with experienced reactionary officers to direct his military operations, while his will is obeyed by his hundreds implicitly and unreservedly. Is this so to remain? He is a foreigner, levying war against the State and Union within their borders, and flying a foreign flag above his fortress of American soil, and yet fifty men are all the soldiers that within two months have been vouchsafed by our government to put down this rebellion, or repel this invasion--call it by what name you will.
...There are, doubtless, persons so overcome by strange prejudices, men without confidence or courage to face danger in an undertaking in sisterhood with the love of liberty, who, examining the merit of acts by a false light, and preferring that of the same opinion contrary to their own, prepare no other reward than that pronounced for the "bandit," for him who, with complete abnegation of self, dedicates himself to constant labor for the happiness of those who suffering under the weight of misfortunes, eat their bread, mingled with tears, on the earth which they rated.
If, my dear compatriots, I am honored with that name, I am ready for the combat.
The Mexicans who inhabit this wide region...encounter every day renewed reasons to know that they are surrounded by malicious and crafty monsters, who rob them in the tranquil interior of home, or with open hatred and pursuit; it necessarily follows, however great may be their pain, if not abased by humiliation and ignominy, their groans suffocated and hushed by a pain which renders them insensible, they become resigned to suffering before an abyss of misfortunes.
Mexicans! When the State of Texas began to receive the new organization which its sovereignty required as an integrate part of the Union, flocks of vampires, in the guise of men came and scattered themselves in the settlements, without any capital except the corrupt heart and the most perverse intentions. Some, brimful of laws, pledged to us their protection against the attacks of the rest; others assembled in shadowy councils, attempted and excited the robbery and burning of the houses of our relatives on the other side of the river Bravo; while others, to the abusing of our unlimited confidence, when we intrusted them with our titles, which secured the future of our families, refused to return them under false and frivolous pretexts; all, in short, with a smile on their faces, giving the lie to that which their black entrails were meditating. Many of you have been robbed of your property, incarcerated, chased, murdered, and hunted like wild beasts, because your labor was fruitful, and because your industry excited the vile avarice which led them. A voice infernal said, from the bottom of their soul, "kill them; the greater will be our gain!" Ah! This does not finish the sketch of your situation. It would appear that justice had fled from this world, leaving you to the caprice of your oppressors, who become each day more furious towards you; that, through witnesses and false charges, although the grounds may be insufficient, you may be interred in the penitentiaries, if you are not previously deprived of life by some keeper who covers himself from responsibility by the pretense of your flight....
Mexicans! My part is taken; the voice of revelation whispers to me that to me is entrusted the work of breaking the chains of your slavery, and that the Lord will enable me, with powerful arm, to fight against our enemies, in compliance with the requirements of that Sovereign Majesty, who, from this day forward, will hold us under His protection. On my part, I am ready to offer myself as a sacrifice for your happiness; and counting upon the means necessary for the discharge of my ministry, you may count upon my cooperation, should no cowardly attempt put an end to my days....
A society is organized in the State of Texas, which devotes itself sleeplessly until the work is crowned with success, to the improvement of the unhappy condition of those Mexicans resident therein; extermination their tyrants, to which end those which compose it are ready to shed their blood and suffer the death of martyrs.
Source: U.S. Congress, Difficulties on the Southwestern Frontier, 36th Congress; 1st Session, 1860, House Executive Document 52, pp. 70-82.
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