Those of us who support and promote independence for Texas have grown used to the flippant comments:
• “An independent Texas? So, how’d that work out for ya in 1836?”
• “Secession — because it worked so well in 1860, right?”
• “Didn’t Texas ASK the United States to be admitted in 1845 because it couldn’t survive on its own?”
The barbs are clever and simplistic. And since they’re delivered over and over again in essentially the same fashion, you almost have to wonder if they’re not scripted into someone’s talking points.
However, that they have a hard time responding to my observation: “This is 2013, not 1836, 1845 or 1860. It’s a different world.”
The critics of Texas independence can’t seem to wrap their minds around the fact that while we venerate our history, the modern Texas independence movement is not about the past — it’s about the present. The world, and Texas, have changed considerably since the 1800s. The nation of Texas which couldn’t survive on its own then could do just fine these days.
Those opposed to Texas independence aren’t limited to acid-tongued liberals who are reveling in the subjugation of freedom to establish their progressive Utopia. There is also a lot of opposition from within the conservative ranks, primarily from politicians with aspirations for federal office; they still think they can “fix” Washington.
And the critics are right, to a point. Texas had no business being an independent nation in 1836.
For starters, the population of Texas simply was not large enough to claim and hold territory the size of which the fledgling Republic tried to claim. There were fewer than 100,000 people in Texas when San Jacinto ensured independence, but Texas claimed more than 300,000 square miles of territory — that’s a ratio of less than a third of a person per square mile.
Texas might have been able to develop on its own, had its parent nation surrendered its claim. Mexico invaded Texas three times during the Republic era and preyed constantly on Texas commerce. The resulting military expenditures as much as anything left the thinly-populated Republic bankrupt at the time of annexation in 1845.
The first U.S. Census to include Texas, in 1850, showed only 212,592 citizens — still less than a person per square mile. There was a surge in population over the next few years, and the 1860 Census noted 604,215 residents — not counting the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache. When Texas seceded from the Union in February, 1861, there was some sentiment for remaining independent instead of joining the Confederacy, but a powerful slave-owning lobby pushed Texas to become the seventh Confederate state a month later.
That, as the critics point out, is history. And I agree.
But the critics need to realize that was then — and this is now.
Texas these days comprises of upwards of 26 million people — a much better people-per-square-mile ratio, and a far larger tax base to run an independent nation on.
Texas sends more than $100 billion per year in taxes to Washington and — aside from recent “stimulus” funding years — has always been a “donor” state, sending out more money in federal taxes than it receives in federal services.
By itself, Texas would rank 12th in the world in gross domestic product economically. Recent estimates from studies conducted by the University of Texas-San Antonio indicate that within a decade, Texas could surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading producer of oil and gas — and that could happen even faster as liquefied-natural-gas transportation technology makes natural gas production more profitable.
Sam Houston won Texas independence at San Jacinto with around 900 semi-trained militiamen and farmers. Today’s Texas is a lot better protected.
An independent Texas The Texas Army and Air National Guard comprise more than 200,000 trained men and women — using equipment that Texans paid for already with their federal taxes. Add some 10,000 members of the Texas State Guard, the state’s non-federalizable militia, which is composed primarily of veterans. And one in six members of the active-duty Armed Forces claims Texas citizenship.
The most dramatic transformation, however, from the Texas Republic to Texas in 2013 has been in the evolution of a culture which is truly “national” in nature.
The Texas population in 1836 consisted of Anglo immigrants not only from the U.S. but from several European countries (a handful of them being slave-owners), a small native population of Spanish-speaking descendants of colonists from the Canary Islands (the Tejanos), and various Indian tribes. Each of those groups had little traffic with the others.
Today’s Texas is far more diverse ethnically, with the Anglos so long in control of the state now ceding demographic leadership to Tejanos. Elements of Anglo-European, Tejano and southern Black cultures have intermingled and created something unique.
The famous “Texas drawl,” for example, shares some kinship to the dialect spoken in other Southern states but stands out as unique, especially when engaged in conversation with Southerners; Texans tend to add many Anglicized Spanish terms, for example.
Texas cuisine is unique enough to have acquired its own name: Tex-Mex. People in North Carolina and Missouri actually think “barbecue” is done using pork — something no self-respecting Texan would countenance. Tex-Mex has given us the breakfast taco, fried pickles, chicken-fried steak and dozens of other unique taste-tempting treats.
More importantly, Texans have developed a national character which is instantly recognizable anywhere in the world. Texans tend to believe in personal responsibility and less reliance on government. We’d rather lend our neighbors a hand, rather than see them stoop to accepting government handouts. Texans have, and have always had, an independent streak in them — a willingness and determination to buck the system.
The critics like to dredge up the War Between the States every time they hear the word “secession” — but the modern Texas independence movement pointedly eschews any connection to the notion of taking up arms or joining a revived Confederacy. The Texas secessionists are instead seeking to achieve their ends by the same method the critics and the U.S. government have championed around the world: self-determination.
Interestingly enough, the same folks who have vigorously supported self-determination and independence for Kosovo, the Ukraine, Latvia, Scotland, Catalonia, South Sudan and literally dozens of other nations around the globe — want to deny Texans their right to do the same thing.
You’re welcome to believe you can still “fix” our federal government — or even that there’s nothing wrong to fix. But quit trying to convince people that today’s Texas nationalism can’t get a grip on the past, when it’s actually you who can’t get a grip on the present.