Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History

First Advisor

Stephanie McCurry

Abstract

This dissertation examines the thousands of Anglo-Americans who immigrated to Mexican Texas during the years following its independence from Spain. Long assumed to be the forbears of Manifest Destiny, it argues instead that these immigrants demonstrated a sincere desire to become Mexican citizens, that they were attracted to that country as much for its political promise as for its natural resources, and that they in fact shared more with their northern Mexican neighbors than with their compatriots in the northeastern United States.

Drawing chiefly from the personal papers, diplomatic correspondence, and newspapers of Anglo settlers and their Mexican allies, this dissertation exposes a political irony at the heart of the United States’ imperial rise - that it had to do with that country’s early political weakness, rather than Mexico’s, and that the people most responsible for it were in fact trying to escape US dominion, not perpetuate it. It argues that Mexico offered a viable and attractive alternative to the US. Rather than seeing Mexico’s commitment to regional sovereignty and local autonomy as its chief failure, this project argues that it was precisely what attracted these immigrants to Mexico and formed the basis of their loyalty.

Yet, if Mexico’s weak central government was its strength in the 1820’s, it would be the source of conflict and secession by the 1830’s and 1840’s. But Mexico was not unique in this regard. Indeed, this project recasts the US Civil War as part of a longer and more expansive experiment in extreme federalism by arguing that Texans seceded from Mexico for many of the same reasons that they and the rest of the South would ultimately secede from the United States. Thus, throughout the early part of the nineteenth century, the dominant geopolitical arrangement of the northwestern hemisphere was not primarily national. Rather, the southern United States and northern Mexico formed a semi-autonomous region united by its inhabitants’ shared commitment to regional sovereignty, martial citizenship, forced labor, and free trade; and one that presented the possibility of a geopolitical arrangement very different from that which ultimately emerged.

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