National popular politics in early independent Mexico, 1820-1847

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Thus, the entrepreneurial mindset, which Weber and Resendez have identified in some capacity, entirely permeated the frontier in the s and s, often fusing with other pervasive cultural forces and discourses. The expedition was certainly a result of such a fusion. Poyo, ed.


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Jackson, ed. Texans desired to tap into markets, sell cheap manufactured products, and rapidly accumulate capital and wealth in the form of silver bars or coinage. By , individuals across the Southwest composed a vast market network with Santa Fe as its hub, but certain circumstances prevented Texans from attaching itself to the regional economy. Moreover, this thesis will, like the work of Brooks and Menchaca, contribute to the ongoing conversation of identity formation on the borderlands in the early nineteenth-century.

Looking at the motivations of the various individuals on the expedition, the project will explore how identities were shaped by the market craze; however, it is important to discuss the economic undertones of the expedition in conjunction with other factors that composed and influenced identity on the borderlands, such as race, ethnicity, and religion.

This synthesis of analysis will appear in my second chapter, where I consider how the members of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition embraced, rejected, or ambivalently acknowledged the market economy and whether other parts of their identity took precedence. Beginning with historians such as Carroll and Loomis, the scholarship really failed to give the expedition any meaningful place in the history of the U.

More recent historians have begun to consider what actually motivated and contributed to the organization of the expedition, but still, the ill-fated journey has not been properly contextualized within the broader economic occurrences in borderland history. In this particular conversation, I am asking new questions: how did changing frontier economy manifest itself in the Texan Santa Fe Expedition? And, secondly, what does the expedition reveal about the state of the market economy in ? It is not enough to outline the narrative, sketch biographies of the members, or view it strictly through the scope of Texan history.

I argue that the expedition offered a potential solution to the economic struggles of the Republic of Texas. In relation to both the Southwest market network and international trade, Texans failed to generate commercial partnerships outside of their nation. In another sense, the expedition emerged as an opportunity for Anglo-Texans to construct an empire and develop into an Anglo stronghold. The market revolution in the antebellum United States has inspired fascinating scholarship. This early nineteenth-century market network of the Southwest thus emerged in a perfect climate, as the economies of the United States and Mexico began to operate under a more modern form of capitalism.

Finally, I use entrepreneurship to describe a general attitude of those who subscribed to the market economy.

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More specifically, a model frontier entrepreneur was concerned with accumulating capital by purchasing cheap goods, selling them for a profit, and repeating the process. As it often took some time to save up enough money to do business full-time, aspiring frontier entrepreneurs often worked various seasonal jobs throughout the year.

The three chapters are designed to present the argument in distinct layers. More specifically, each chapter outlines a particular problem in Texas and how the Texan Santa Fe Expedition offered a solution. The first chapter will explore the failing Texan economy and the commercial aims of the expedition.


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The second chapter will focus on the Manifest Destiny rhetoric that justified the primary motive of market access. The final chapter will add yet another layer to the story of the expedition with a discussion of the intense international contest for economic dominance of the borderlands. Gilje, ed. Martin, ed. The printing presses of Texas and parts of the United States devoted columns of their newspapers to speculation and general commentary on the upcoming journey. Interest in the political and economic ramifications of such an excursion captivated a continent that was quickly undergoing a drastic market revolution.

Coinciding with the economic transformations of the early nineteenth-century was the blazing of new overland trade routes, one of which was the Santa Fe Trail that connected mineral-rich Santa Fe with St. Texans watched the frontier partnership between Americans and Mexicans flourish well into the s. As citizens of a new nation that had yet to establish stable and profitable connections abroad, Texans felt that they needed to become part of an emergent transnational market economy to compete globally with the United States, Mexico, and the European powers.

Texan politicians, merchants, and entrepreneurs hoped that a road to Santa Fe and its potential incorporation into the nation would provide the capital necessary to transform the Republic of Texas into a commercial giant. Isolated from the centers of their respective states, frontier residents entered into a market capitalism that allowed them to acquire basic commodities and become economically significant to Mexico and the United States.

Juan Mora-Torres argued that, prior to the establishment of the U. Goods manufactured in Europe or the industrial centers of the United States departed from frontier boomtowns, such as St. Louis and Independence, beginning in the s. Transportation costs often determined whether or not a trip to Santa Fe or Chihuahua made fiscal sense, but a chance at accumulating incredible profits attracted steady interest from merchants and entrepreneurs.

National Popular Politics In Early Independent Mexico, 1820 1847

Market capitalism, then, had gripped the Southwest for nearly three decades by the time the United States and Mexico ended their war. The pull of the frontier market economy began to gel communities, nations, and capital to transnationalize the U. S-Mexico borderlands without a U. Historians David Weber and Andres Resendez have offered the most complete studies on the commercial transformations of the early nineteenth-century borderlands.

Their seminal works remain informative, but some questions remain unanswered. How did Americans, Texans, indigenous peoples, and Mexicans operate within the borderland market economy? Moreover, how did they attempt manipulate the markets to their advantage? How did the independence of Texas affect the dynamics of the market economy? How did Texans try to gain an economic foothold in the borderland commercial networks?

While capital and goods rapidly circulated around the Southwest frontier, the economy of the Republic of Texas struggled at the onset of the s. Port cities, such as Galveston, experienced little business. Commodities produced internally found few international outlets and foreign manufacturers typically sent their goods to American ports. Simultaneously, the government increased the production of paper currency, which, in turn, resulted in a drastic decrease in the value of the same money.

According to one Texan, the national currency was valued at 50 cents to the United States dollar in There was thus a lot at stake in the Texan Santa Fe Expedition. At its core, the expedition was an economic mission organized to solve the commercial problems of the Republic of Texas. However, the historiography dealing with the expedition has not given much attention to how economically-focused its goals were.

Historians, many of whom wrote in the middle of twentieth-century, have generally composed either meticulous micro-histories of the expedition or biographies of its military leaders and political organizers. The situation surrounding the Republic of Texas and the Texan Santa Fe Expedition of reveals an economic transformation that swept across the borderlands. A lucrative system of market capitalism had developed in the Southwest and trade networks that included Mexicans, Americans, and Indians bound people together. However, Texans, except for the few who successfully traded and smuggled on the border, were largely excluded from the profitable web of borderland commerce.

Individual identity dissolved into anonymity, commitment into contract, vocation into work, a living into a wage. This transformation struck the Southwest with the opening of the Santa Fe Trail and the independence of Mexico thus ending mercantilist obligations. Lamar, known for his aggressive expansionist policies and his stance against annexation to the United States, sought to integrate the Republic of Texas into this capitalist market economy.

To accomplish this, he received approval from Congress in to formally open up trade along the Rio Grande. Moreover, he encouraged the peopling of frontier counties with trade incentives and plots of land. To the West, where the threat of Indian raids always loomed, Lamar opened trade as well to the residents of northern Mexico. The Significance of Santa Fe Indeed, Texans believed that Santa Fe rightfully fell within the boundaries of their nation, but the real value of the isolated New Mexican town was that it had grown into a center of commerce. Conveniently positioned between the frontier towns of the United States and the center provinces of Mexico, Santa Fe developed into the trading hub of the Southwest market economy.

Prior to Mexican independence in , the residents of northern Mexico were victimized by the restrictions of Spanish mercantilist policies. Eager for access to the most basic goods, New Mexicans took advantage of the lax restrictions of the new Mexican government and welcomed merchants from the United States. In , William Becknell blazed the trail to Santa Fe from Missouri and brought with him manufactured goods—clothes, tools, furniture, etc.

Originally, Santa Fe served as the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail, but during the s it morphed into the epicenter of a growing transnational commercial network. Under Spanish rule, the frontier and the northern provinces of Mexico, such as Chihuahua, operated at a dysfunctional level due to the exploits of merchants from the heart of Mexico and a failing Spanish economy. Necessities and manufactured goods poured into Santa Fe, while mules and silver bars went back East with the American caravans.

By the end of the s, the trade had stimulated the emergence of a class of Mexican entrepreneurs and merchants.

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Even the commercial juggernauts of the central provinces concentrated heavily on frontier business ventures. As a result of domestic competition in New Mexico, American merchants traveled the extra distance to the Mexican provinces of Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, and Sonora in order to accrue the same kind of profits. Conversely, in an effort to strike American markets more directly, Mexican traders began to make the trek to Missouri and further cut Americans out of the network.

Understanding the important position of Santa Fe within the trading networks, New Mexican officials made sure that American merchants conducted their business fairly. The easiest and most effective way of doing this was by imposing duties on incoming goods. Josiah Gregg, a frontiersman who frequented the Santa Fe Trail, recorded even the smallest details concerning the nature of the exchanges between Mexicans and Americans. The increasing duties in the s and s signify two important shifts within the borderland market economy: the improving strength of the domestic Mexican economy and, in a similar vein, the establishment of Santa Fe as the central hub in the Southwest trading network.

Simultaneously, as American merchants began their early exploits In the s, American fur trappers discovered an abundance of beaver in the New Mexican hills.