Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Happy Texas Independence Day

If heaven isn't Texas, pardner, I don't want to die.
The Austin Lounge Lizards,
"One more stupid song about Texas"

March 2 is Texas Independence Day, which always leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's a painful reminder that Texas was the only state to twice fight wars over slavery -- the March 2, 1836 Declaration of Independence, expressly authored on behalf of the "Anglo-American" population, was a reaction to Santa Anna's decision in December 1835 to abolish slavery in Tejas. After 1829, Tejas was the last Mexican state where slavery was still allowed. (Sam Houston's first two acts as Texas president in the fall of 1836 were to re-enact slavery and to send a representative to Washinton to request entry to the union as a slave state.)

On the other hand, I always enjoy recalling that my beloved home state was founded by folks whose criticisms of the government were that:
every interest is disregarded but that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the everready minions of power, and the usual instruments of tyrants.
That's from the Texas Declaration of Independence (link via Vince). Can you imagine a Texas politico so openly criticizing the government's deference to religion in the current environment? A lot of folks on the religious right have spent a great deal of time trying to demonstrate that the United States was founded to be Christian nation. While I don't agree, there's occasional fodder in the historical record for them to make a case. I'd like to see somebody make that case for Texas.

Also, given my own interests, I'm appreciative that a primary criticism of the Tejanos was the Mexican government's approach to criminal justice:
It incarcerated in a dungeon, for a long time, one of our citizens, for no other cause but a zealous endeavor to procure the acceptance of our constitution, and the establishment of a state government.

It has failed and refused to secure, on a firm basis, the right of trial by jury, that palladium of civil liberty, and only safe guarantee for the life, liberty, and property of the citizen.
And lest we think Texas' founders would have all been Ron-Paul-style libertarians, check out this complaint calling for government support for public education:
It has failed to establish any public system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources, (the public domain,) and although it is an axiom in political science, that unless a people are educated and enlightened, it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty, or the capacity for self government.
The folks who founded this state weren't all heroes, though their collective effort was heroic. But their motives and actions were a mixed bag. That said, they were products of their time, and judging them by 21st century values seems especially unfair. Plus, many of their motives were perfectly legitimate and would be justified today -- for example, revolting against an unfair criminal justice system or the failure to fully fund public schools.

But for a proud Texan, that's why, for me, most years, March 2 represents a day of reflection more than celebration.

No comments: