Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

  • Not a critical or scholarly text but a reading text for a seminar

  • Gratefully adapted from http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6531/ (History Matters: U.S. Survey Course on the Web)

  • Changes may include paragraph divisions, highlights, spelling updates, bracketed annotations, &
    elisions (marked by ellipses . . . )

Juan Nepomuceno Seguin (1806-90)

[Tejano hero of Texas Revolution; Texas Senator, Mayor, Judge, and Justice of the Peace]

selections from

Personal Memoirs of John N. Seguin

[regarding Independence of Texas & Mexican-American War]

(San Antonio, TX: Ledger Book and Job Office, 1858)

Questions for American Minority or Immigrant Literature:  

1. How do Seguin's experiences and conflicts conform to Mexican-Americans as a "border people" embodying distinct national traditions or feeling conflicts of identity and belonging? Is Seguin a Texan or a Mexican? An American or a Mexican? What relevance to contemporary Mexican-American identity?

2. Note use of "adventurers" [1,3, 4] to describe non-Mexican peoples who "swarm" into San Antonio. How does this change or challenge the image of early Anglo-Americans in the Southwest as "pioneers" or "cowboys?" (Objective 7a. How does Minority literature help you see the nation's dominant culture differently?)

Questions for American Romanticism / American Renaissance:

1. How well does this text fit a traditional literature course geared more to style than a multicultural course for inclusion of under-represented writing traditions? (Classic, popular, & representative literature)

Seguin's experience and writing occur in the time period of the American Renaissance or Romanticism, most of whose literature was produced in Northeastern North America (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, etc.). However, this ascendant period of American literature coincided with the period of Manifest Destiny, when the United States expanded to the West Coast, primarily through the Texas Revolution and the US-Mexican War.

2. Can Seguin's writing be described as Romantic, or does such a description strain the term or concept to the point of meaninglessness?

3. How else might the inclusion of this text in American Renaissance or Romanticism be defended or not?

4. More explicitly, a generation or two ago Texas school curricula for a majority-white student population would not likely have included Seguin but instead would have elevated Anglo-Texians like Stephen F. Austin or Sam Houston. How has the narrative or characterization of Texas changed with its population? How prepared are teachers to tell a story that includes Anglos, Mexicans, Indians, and African Americans? What about the moral trade-offs involved in such stories?

Background: The social progress of the later 20th century brought representation in literature and history for African Americans, Native American Indians, and women and people of color generally. Mexican American and Hispanic literature has also gained some traction but

Personal Memoirs of John N. Seguin

[1] The tokens of esteem, arid evidences of trust and confidence, repeatedly bestowed upon me by the Supreme Magistrate, General Rusk, and other dignitaries of the Republic [of Texas], could not fail to arouse against me much invidious and malignant feeling. The jealousy evinced against me by several officers of the [military] companies recently arrived at San Antonio from the United States soon spread amongst the American [Anglo] straggling adventurers, who were already beginning to work their dark intrigues against the native [Mexican-American] families, whose only crime was, that they owned large tracts of land and desirable property.

[2] John W. Smith, a bitter enemy of several of the richest families of San Antonio, by whom he had been covered with favors, joined the conspiracy which was organized to ruin me.

[3] I will also point out the origin of another enmity [grudge] which on several occasions, endangered my life. In those evil days, San Antonio was swarming with adventurers* from every quarter of the globe. Many a noble heart grasped the sword in the defence of the liberty of Texas, cheerfully pouring out their blood for our cause, and to them everlasting public gratitude is due; but there were also many bad men, fugitives from their country, who found in this land an open field for their criminal designs. [*What implications does "adventurers" have compared to the dominant culture's standard characterization of such men as "pioneers?"]

[4] San Antonio claimed then, as it claims now, to be the first city of Texas; it was also the receptacle of the scum of society. My political and social situation, brought me into continual contact with that class of people. At every hour of the day and night, my countrymen ran to me for protection against the assaults or exactions [demands for payment] of those adventurers. Sometimes, by persuasion, I prevailed on them to desist; sometimes, also, force had to be resorted to. How could I have done otherwise? Were not the victims my own countrymen, friends and associates? Could I leave them defenseless, exposed to the assaults of foreigners, who, on the pretext that they [his countrymen] were Mexicans [i.e., not Americans or Texans], treated them worse than brutes [i.e., animals]. Sound reason and the dictates of humanity would have precluded a different conduct on my part. . . .

[5] 1842. After the retreat of the Mexican army under Santa Anna, until Vasquez's invasion in 1842, the war between Texas and Mexico ceased to be carried on actively. Although open commercial intercourse did not exist, it was carried on by *smuggling, at which the Mexican authorities used to wink, provided it was not carried on too openly, so as to oblige them to notice it, or so extensively as to arouse their avarice. [*"smuggling" implies a legal but impractical border.]

[6] In the beginning of this year, I was elected Mayor of San Antonio. Two years previously a gunsmith, named Goodman, had taken possession of certain houses situated on the Military Plaza, which were the property of the city. He used to shoe the horses of the volunteers who passed through San Antonio, and thus accumulated a debt against the Republic [of Texas] for the payment of which he applied to the President to give him possession of [these] buildings . . . , which had always been known as city property. [i.e., the new government (Republic of Texas) appears more sympathetic to Goodman than to the previous establishment of San Antonio.]

[7] The board of Aldermen passed a resolution to the effect that Goodman should be compelled to leave the premises . . . and consequently directed me to carry the resolution into effect. My compliance with the instructions of the Board caused Goodman to become my most bitter and inveterate enemy in the city.

[8] The term for the mortgage that Messrs. Ogden and Howard held on my property, had run out. In order to raise money and comply with my engagements, I determined to go to Mexico for a drove of sheep. But fearful that this new trip would prove as fatal as the one already alluded to, I wrote to General Vasquez, who was then in command of the Mexican frontier, requesting him to give me a pass. The tenor of Vasquez' answer caused me to apprehend that an expedition was preparing against Texas, for the following month of March.

[9] I called, a session of the Board of Aldermen, (of which the Hon. S. A. Maverick was a member,) and laid before them the communication of General Vasquez [Rafael Vasquez (1804-54), Mexican general whose forces occupied San Antonio in 1842], stating that according to my construction of the letter we might soon [see] the approach of the Mexicans [i.e., military forces] .

[10] A few days afterwards, Don Jose Maria Garcia, of Laredo, came to San Antonio; his report was so circumstantial [detailed] as to preclude all possible doubts as to the near approach of Vasquez to San Antonio. Notice was immediately sent to the Government of the impending danger. In the various meetings held to devise means of defense, I expressed my candid opinion as to the impossibility of defending San Antonio. I observed, that for myself; I was going to the town of Seguin, and advised every one to do the same.

[11] On leaving the city, I passed through a street where some men were making breastworks [fortifications]; I stated to them that I was going to my ranch, and thence to Seguin, in case the Mexican forces should take possession of San Antonio.

[12] From the Nueces river, Vasquez forwarded a proclamation by Arista [Mariano Aristo (1802-55), president of Mexico], to the inhabitants of Texas. I received at my ranch, a bundle of those proclamations, which I transmitted at once to the Corporation of San Antonio.


map locating Seguin (star)
& San Antonio



Nueces River location

[13] As soon as Vasquez entered the city, those who had determined upon defending the place, withdrew to Seguin. Amongst them were Dunn and Chevallie, who had succeeded in escaping from the hands of the Mexicans, into which they had fallen while on a reconnoitering [scouting] expedition on the Medina. The latter told me that Vasquez and his officers stated that I was in favor of the Mexicans; and Chevallie further added that, one day as he was talking with Vasquez, a man, named Sanchez, came within sight, whereupon the General observed: “You see that man! Well, Colonel Seguin sent him to me, when he was at Rio Grande. Seguin is with us.” He then drew a letter from his pocket, stating that it was from me. Chevallie asked to be allowed to see it, as he knew my handwriting, but the General refused and cut short the interview.

[14] On my return to San Antonio, several persons told me that the Mexican officers had declared that I was in their favor. This rumor, and some threats uttered against me by Goodman, left me but little doubt that my enemies would try to ruin me.

[15] Some of the citizens of San Antonio had taken up arms in favor of the enemy [Mexico]. Judge Hemphill advised me to have them arrested and tried, but as I started out with the party who went in pursuit of the Mexicans, I could not follow his advice.

[16] Having observed that Vasquez gained ground on us, we fell back on the Nueces river. When we came back, to San Antonio, reports were widely spreading about my pretended treason. Captain Manuel Flores, Lieutenant Ambrosio Rodriguez, Matias Curbier, and five or six other Mexicans, dismounted with me to find out the origin of the imposture [deception, fraud]. I went out with several friends leaving Curbier in my house. I had reached the Main Plaza, when several persons came running to inform me, that some Americans were murdering Curbier. We ran back to the house, where we found poor Curbier covered with blood. On being asked who assaulted him, he answered, that the gunsmith, Goodman, in company with several Americans, had struck him with a rifle.

[16a] A few minutes afterwards, Goodman returned to my house, with about thirty volunteers, but, observing that we were prepared to meet them, they did not attempt to attack us. We went out of the house and then to Mr. Guilbeau’s, who offered me his protection. He went out into the street, pistol in hand, and succeeded in dispersing the mob, which had formed in front of my house. Mr. John Twohig offered me a shelter for that night; on the next morning, I went under disguise to Mr. Van Ness's house; Twohig, who recognised me in the street, warned me to “open my eyes.” I remained one day at Mr. Van Ness's; next day General Burleson arrived at San Antonio, commanding a respectable force of volunteers. I presented myself to him, asking for a Court of Inquiry; he answered, that there were no grounds for such proceedings. In the evening I went to the camp, and jointly with Colonel Patton, received a commission to forage for provisions in the lower ranchos. I complied with this trust.

[17] I remained, hiding from rancho to rancho, for over fifteen days. Every party of volunteers en route to San Antonio declared, “they wanted to kill Seguin.” I could no longer go from farm to farm, and determined to go to my own farm and raise fortifications, &c.

[18] Several of my relatives and friends joined me. Hardly a day elapsed without receiving notice that a party was preparing to attack me; we were constantly kept under arms. Several parties came in sight, but, probably seeing that we were prepared to receive them, refrained from attacking. On the 30th of April, a friend from San Antonio sent me word that Captain Scott and his company were coming down by the river, burning the ranchos on their way. The inhabitants of the lower ranchos called on us for aid against Scott. With those in my house, and others to the number of about 100, I started to lend them aid, I proceeded, observing the movements of Scott, from the junction of the Medina to Pajaritos. At that place we dispersed and I returned to my wretched life. In those days I could not go to San Antonio without peril of my life.

[19] Matters being in this state, I saw that it was necessary to take some step which would place me in security, and save my family from constant wretchedness. I had to leave Texas, abandon all, for which I had fought and spent my fortune, to become a wanderer. The ingratitude of those who had assumed to themselves the right of convicting me; their credulity in declaring me a traitor on mere rumors when I had [evidence] to plead in my favor the loyal patriotism with which I had always served Texas, wounded me deeply.

[20] But before leaving my country, perhaps forever, I determined to consult with all those interested in my welfare. I held a family council. All were in favor of my removing for some time to the interior of Texas. But to accomplish this, there were some unavoidable obstacles. I could not take one step from my ranch towards the Brazos without being exposed to the rifle of the first person who might meet me, for, through the whole country, credit had been given to the rumors against; me. To emigrate with my family was impossible, as I was a ruined man, from the time of the invasion of Santa Anna and our flight to Nacogdoches, furthermore, the country of the Brazos was unhealthier than that of Nacogdoches, and what might we not expect to suffer from disease in a new country, and without friends or means.

[21] Seeing that all these plans were impracticable, I resolved to seek a refuge amongst my enemies [the Mexican nation], braving all dangers. But before taking this step, I sent in my resignation to the Corporation of San Antonio, as Mayor of the city, stating to them, that, unable any longer to suffer the persecutions of some ungrateful Americans who strove to murder me, I had determined to free my family and friends from their continual misery on my account; and go and live peaceably in Mexico. That for these reasons I resigned my office, with all my privileges and honors as a Texan.

[22] I left Bexar without any engagements towards Texas, my services paid by persecutions, exiled and deprived of my privileges as a Texan citizen, I was in this country a being out of the pale [bounds] of society, and when she [Texas?] could not protect the rights of her citizens, they seek protection elsewhere. I had been tried by a rabble, condemned without a hearing, and consequently was at liberty to provide for my own safety. . . .

REMARKS

[23] After the expeditions of General Woll, I did not return to Texas till the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. [treaty of 1848 ending the Mexican-American War] During my absence nothing appeared that could stamp me as a traitor. My enemies had accomplished their object; they had killed me politically in Texas, and the less they spoke of me, the less risk they incurred of being exposed in the infamous means they had used to accomplish my ruin. . . . The rumor that I was a traitor was seized with avidity [eagerness] by my enemies in San Antonio. Some envied my position, as held by a Mexican; others found in me an obstacle to the accomplishment of their villainous plans. The number of land suits which still encumbers the docket of Bexar county would indicate the nature of plans, and anyone who has listened to the evidence elicited in cases of this description will readily discover the base [vile, underhanded] means adopted to deprive rightful owners of their property. . . .

[24] I have finished my memoirs; I neither have the capacity nor the desire to adorn my acts with literary phrases. I have attempted a short and clear narrative of my public life in relation to Texas. I give it publicity, without omiting or suppressing anything that I thought of the least interest, and confidently I submit to the public verdict.

[25] Several of those who witnessed the facts which I have related are still alive and amongst us; they can state whether I have in any way falsified the record.

Source: Juan Nepomuceno Seguin, Personal Memoirs of John N. Seguin (San Antonio, TX: Ledger Book and Job Office, 1858), 18–27, 29–32.