The original Thirteen Colonies have a legitimate claim to be the cradle of liberty for all Americans, with Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Virginia having particularly strong cases. But another part of America has a proud and too often ignored history of proclaiming liberty throughout the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.
Another March 2nd has come and gone with barely a mention of it here in Texas. For those not fluent in Texas history, March 2, 1836 was the date of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Now, granted there were some mentions in the local newspaper and some celebrations throughout the state but overall the date passes largely unnoticed.
The brave words of our beloved state's Declaration of Independence are not quoted by schoolchildren or state opinion journalists. My own local paper does make mention of the date in the "On This Date in History" section alongside "1923 - Time Magazine debuted." But there was a fun program at the site of the signing with re-enactors living as settlers of the age. From the declaration come some beautiful words proclaiming the logic of liberty:
"When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression."
In 1820, Moses Austin negotiated land grants for settlers with the Spanish government in San Antonio. His son, Stephen F. Austin proceeded to bring settlers into the area with the promise of 1,280 acres for families at 12.5 cents per acre. The next year Mexico won its independence from Spain and re-negotiation of the land grants began, even though the "Texians" had joined in the fight for Mexican independence. Originally, the newly established Mexican government was supposed to be a liberal federalist democracy. However. the new government led by Valentin Gomez Farias so angered religious leaders and conservatives that another rebellion quickly ensued, led by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Santa Ana, previously a leader in the fight for Mexican independence, now declared Mexico unfit for democracy and declared himself dictator. When captured by General Sam Houston at the battle at San Jacinto, Santa Anna was recorded to have said:
"...it is very true that I threw up my cap for liberty with great ardor, and perfect sincerity, but very soon found the folly of it. A hundred years to come my people will not be fit for liberty. They do not know what it is, unenlightened as they are, and under the influence of a Catholic clergy, a despotism is the proper government for them, but there is no reason why it should not be a wise and virtuous one."
The Texas War for Independence and the American War for Independence were fought for the same ideals: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But Texas took particular note of one issue: without the right of personal property and the right to defend it, liberty becomes a moot point. Personal private property is integral to what makes the United States of America the great nation it has become, despite the original Declaration's ignoring of the concept.
Our Texas Independence Day has been overshadowed for years now by the holiday, Cinco de Mayo, a day scarcely even noted in Mexico, but for some reason adopted in America as a celebration of Mexican ethnicity. This follows the East Coast pattern of St. Patrick's Day for the Irish, Columbus Day for the Italians, and the bluntly ethnic Puerto Rico Day, unadorned with any great personage or event as an excuse, celebrated in New York City as a means of giving parade parity to a major ethnic bloc.
Cinco de Mayo is not a celebration of Mexican independence or liberty. Rather it is a celebration of a Mexican dictatorship defeating the army of the French dictatorship, that of Napoleon III in 1862.
Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Texas are a month-long extravaganza with the local grocery chain offering sales on all your Cinco de Mayo needs: chips, salsa and Corona beer. Ad flyers fill Sunday papers and mailboxes across Texas and the entire Southwest. There are Cinco de Mayo sales on everything imaginable - picnic sets, grills, coolers, cars and trucks. There are town festivities, park festivities, family festivities. It rivals Super Bowl Sunday as a major event in the gustatory calendar. A day like March 2nd just doesn't have the castanet clacking, magenta and green can-can skirt-swishing allure of a May 5th celebration. And it's sad to say that unless the rowdiness of a "Come and Take It!" or a "Draw a Line in the Sand" party of an Alamo burndown stirs in the hearts of Texans, we may doom our own good fortune of liberty.
As noted in our Texas Declaration of Independence:
"When, in consequence of such acts of malfeasance and abdication on the part of the government, anarchy prevails, and civil society is dissolved into its original elements. In such a crisis, the first law of nature, the right of self-preservation, the inherent and inalienable rights of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases, enjoins it as a right towards themselves, and a sacred obligation to their posterity, to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their future welfare and happiness."
America continues to draw immigrants from all over the world, because the liberty we have unshackled enables humans of all hues to live better, happier, richer lives. Texas, for its part, draws people from all over the world and all over America to our own brand of freedom and opportunity. Located as we are on the Southern border, a share of these arrivals have not bothered with the formalities demanded, and due to "acts of malfeasance and abdication on the part of the government, anarchy prevails" on the border.
Unless we defend the cause proclaimed in the Texas Declaration of Independence as a superior ideal, Mexico will never change and we will cease to be.