Funding a Revolution
The Alamo Research Center houses many documents that help us understand Texas history. Often, these items come from different collections, but careful reading links them together and let us tell a story.
In October of 1835, tensions flared into outright fighting between Mexican and Texian forces at Gonzales. Texians also won a victory by capturing San Antonio de Béxar in December.
After Gonzales, delegates met for a Consultation but failed to achieve a quorum, or sufficient representatives to present a vote. By the time they were able to hold meetings later in 1835 and in January of 1836, it became clearer that Texas was likely to declare complete independence from Mexico. As rumors began to swirl about Santa Anna himself leading an army north to retake Béxar, leaders became aware that they had no funds with which to support a revolution. Their forces desperately needed supplies, but the provisional government had no money for arms, ammunition, fodder for the animals, food for the men, or pay. They also could not see a way to raise any significant amount quickly.
Several enterprising men realized that the provisional government did in fact have a form of vast wealth at their disposal. The wealth was in land. These commissioners hammered out an agreement to float a loan wherein Texas would offer investors prime land at fifty cents an acre. Stephen F. Austin, Robert Triplett, and William Wharton went to New Orleans to see if they could persuade businessmen there to take on the risk of purchasing land that the new government may or may not end up with the title to sell.
The first loan issued was for $100,000. A second was later offered that would bring $20,000. Unfortunately, the representatives at Washington on the Brazos later changed their minds about the land offering at fifty cents an acre as land values fell during the Runaway Scrape. This meant that the consortium of investors that the three Texian commissioners had arranged withdrew their interest and failed to purchase more than the first $20,000 of the original $100,000 loan.
With the failure of the Texian loan, private citizens offered what they could to help raise funds. The burgeoning Republic might have had no liquid capital at all without Robert Triplett advancing substantial sums himself in exchange for prime real estate on Galveston Island. The agreement with Robert Triplett was actually signed on a riverboat to Galveston after the government and Governor Henry Smith fled both Washington on the Brazos and Harrisburg in advance of Santa Anna’s army.
VF-TEXAS HISTORY—TexasRepublic 1836-1846—Appropriations-Expenditures
“The Finances of the Texas Revolution,” Eugene C. Barker, Political Science Quarterly, 19 (4), December 1904.
The Paper Republic, James Bevill. Bright Sky Press: Houston, 2009.
The Fiscal History of Texas, William M. Gouge. Lippincott, Crambo, and Co.: Philadelphia, 1850.
A Financial History of Texas, Edmund Thornton Miller. University of Texas: Austin, 1916.