The Republic of Texas (República de Texas) was an independent sovereign country in North America that existed from March 2, 1836, to February 19, 1846. It was bordered by Mexico to the west and southwest, the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast, the two U.S. states of Louisiana and Arkansas to the east and northeast, and United States territories encompassing the current U.S. states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming to the north. The citizens of the republic were known as Texians. The Post Office Department of the Republic of Texas was formally created by an act of the Congress of the Republic of Texas, approved on December 20, 1836. While independent Texas never issued its own postage stamps, a set of fantasy adhesives were designed and printed in early 2015 by philatelist Kevin Blackston who operates Philosateleian Post, a private local post founded in Georgia in 2004 and currently based in San Antonio, Texas.
Texas had been one of the Provincias Internas of New Spain, a region known historiographically as Spanish Texas. Though claimed by Spain, it was not formally colonized by them until competing French interests at Fort St. Louis encouraged Spain to establish permanent settlements in the area. Sporadic missionary incursions occurred into the area during the period from the 1690s–1710s, before the establishment of San Antonio as a permanent civilian settlement. Owing to high Native American populations in the area and remoteness from the population centers of New Spain, Texas remained largely unsettled by Europeans, though Spain maintained a military presence, both to protect Christian missionaries working among Native American tribes, and to act as a buffer against the French in Louisiana and British North America.
In 1762, France ceded to Spain most of its claims to the interior of North America, including its largely defunct claim to Texas, as well as the vast interior which became Spanish Louisiana. During the period of 1799–1803, at the height of the Napoleonic Empire, Spain retroceded Louisiana back to France, which soon after sold the territory to the United States. The status of Texas during these transfers was uncertain, and not resolved until 1819 when the Adams–Onís Treaty ceded Spanish Florida to the United States, and established a clear boundary between Texas and Louisiana.
Starting in 1810, the territories of New Spain north of the Isthmus of Panama (including Texas) sought independence in the Mexican War of Independence. In the Texas area, many Americans fought on the side of the Mexicans against Spain during filibustering expeditions. One of these, the Gutiérrez–Magee Expedition (also known as the Republican Army of the North) consisted of a group of about 130 Americans under the joint leadership of Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara and Augustus Magee. Bolstered by new recruits, and under the leadership of Samuel Kemper (who succeeded Magee after his death in battle in 1813) the expedition experienced a series of victories against forces led by the Spanish governor Manuel María de Salcedo, the most significant of which was the Battle of Rosillo Creek, which convinced Salcedo to surrender on April 1, 1813. Salcedo was executed two days later.
On April 6, 1813, the victorious Republican Army of the North drafted a constitution and declared an independent Republic of Texas with Gutiérrez as president. Disillusioned with the Mexican leadership, the Americans under Kemper withdrew from the expedition and returned to the United States. The ephemeral Republic of Texas would come to an end following the August 18, 1813 Battle of Medina, where the Spanish Army would crush the Republican Army of the North, and reprisals against rebels in the area would engender a deep distrust of the Royal Spanish authorities; veterans of the Battle of Medina for the Rebel side would later be leaders of the Texas Revolution and signatories of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico some 20 years later.
Along with the rest of Mexico, Texas became independent from Spain following the Treaty of Córdoba and the new Mexican state was organized under the Plan of Iguala which created Mexico as a constitutional monarchy under its first Emperor Agustín de Iturbide. During the transition from a Spanish territory to part of the independent country of Mexico, Stephen F. Austin led a group of American settlers known as the Old Three Hundred, who negotiated the right to settle in Texas with the Spanish Royal governor of the territory. Since Mexican independence had been ratified by Spain shortly thereafter, Austin would later travel to Mexico City to secure the support of the new country in his right to settle.
The establishment of the Mexican province of Tejas (in English history books usually referred to as Mexican Texas) coincided with the Austin-led settlement, leading to animosity between Mexican authorities and ongoing American settlement of Texas. The First Mexican Empire was short lived, being replaced by a republican form of government in 1823. Following Austin’s lead, additional groups of settlers, known as Empresarios, continued to colonize Mexican Texas from the United States. In 1830, Mexican President Anastasio Bustamante outlawed American immigration to Texas, following several conflicts with the Empresarios over the status of slavery in the region. Angered at the interference of the Mexican government, the Empresarios held the Convention of 1832, which is considered the first formal step in what would later become the Texas Revolution.
On the eve of war, the American settlers in the area outnumbered Mexicans by a considerable margin. Following a series of minor skirmishes between Mexican authorities and the settlers, the Mexican government, fearing open rebellion of their Anglo subjects, began to step up military presence in Texas throughout 1834 and early 1835. Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna revoked the 1824 Constitution of Mexico and began to consolidate power in the central government under his own leadership. The Texian leadership under Austin began to organize its own military, and hostilities broke out on October 2, 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales, the first engagement of the Texas Revolution. In November 1835, a provisional government known as the Consultation was established to oppose the Santa Anna regime (but stopped short of declaring independence from Mexico).
The postal system of the Republic of Texas had its beginnings in October 1835, when a special committee of the Permanent Council was appointed to establish mail routes, and John Rice Jones was named postmaster general. The first route was from San Felipe de Austin to the headquarters of the army, to Bexar, to Velasco, and to Cantonment Jessup, in the United States. Cantonment Jessup was in Natchitoches Parish, 379 miles from New Orleans.
On March 1, 1836 the Convention of 1836 came to order, and the next day declared independence from Mexico, establishing the Republic of Texas. Determined to avenge Mexico’s honor, President Antonio López de Santa Anna vowed to personally retake Texas. His Army of Operations entered Texas in mid-February 1836 and found the Texians completely unprepared. Mexican General José de Urrea led a contingent of troops on the Goliad Campaign up the Texas coast, defeating all Texian troops in his path and executing most of those who surrendered. Santa Anna led a larger force to San Antonio de Béxar. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission killing all of the Texian defenders. Santa Anna’s cruelty during the battle inspired many Texians — both Texas settlers and adventurers from the United States — to join the newly created Texian Army under the command of Sam Houston.
For the next month the Texian Army steadily retreated towards the border with Louisiana; terrified civilians fled with the army, in a melee known as the Runaway Scrape. On March 31, 1836, Houston paused his men at Groce’s Landing on the Brazos River, and for the next two weeks, the Texians received rigorous military training. Becoming complacent and underestimating the strength of his foes, Santa Anna further subdivided his troops. On April 21, Houston’s army staged a surprise assault on Santa Anna and his vanguard force at the Battle of San Jacinto. The Mexican troops were quickly routed, and vengeful Texians executed many who tried to surrender. Santa Anna was taken hostage; in exchange for his life, he ordered the Mexican army to retreat south of the Rio Grande, ending the revolution.
In 1836, five sites served as temporary capitals of Texas (Washington-on-the-Brazos, Harrisburg, Galveston, Velasco and Columbia), before President Sam Houston moved the capital to Houston in 1837. The first flag of the republic was the “Burnet Flag” (a gold star on an azure field), followed in 1839 by official adoption of the Lone Star Flag. The next president, Mirabeau B. Lamar, moved the capital to the new town of Austin in 1839.
The second Congress of the Republic of Texas convened in October 1836 at Columbia (now West Columbia). Stephen F. Austin, known as the Father of Texas, died December 27, 1836, after serving two months as Secretary of State for the new Republic.
On March 3, 1837, US President Andrew Jackson appointed Alcée La Branche American chargé d’affaires to the Republic of Texas, thus officially recognizing Texas as an independent republic. France granted official recognition of Texas on September 25, 1839, appointing Alphonse Dubois de Saligny to serve as chargé d’affaires. The French Legation was built in 1841, and still stands in Austin as the oldest frame structure in the city. Conversely, the Republic of Texas embassy in Paris was located in what is now the Hôtel de Vendôme, adjacent to the Place Vendôme in Paris’ 2e arrondissement.
The Republic also received diplomatic recognition from Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Yucatán. The United Kingdom never granted official recognition of Texas due to its own friendly relations with Mexico, but admitted Texan goods into British ports on their own terms. In London, the original Embassy of the Republic of Texas still stands, and there is a restaurant with such a name west of Trafalgar Square. Immediately opposite the gates to St. James’s Palace, Sam Houston’s original Embassy of the Republic of Texas to the Court of St. James’s is now a hat shop, but is clearly marked with a large plaque and a nearby restaurant is called Texas Embassy. A plaque on the exterior of 3 St. James’s Street in London notes the upper floors of the building (which have housed the noted wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd since 1698) housed the Texas Legation.
Internal politics of the Republic centered on two factions. The nationalist faction, led by Lamar, advocated the continued independence of Texas, the expulsion of the Native Americans (Indians), and the expansion of Texas to the Pacific Ocean. Their opponents, led by Houston, advocated the annexation of Texas to the United States and peaceful coexistence with the Indians, when possible. The Texas Congress even passed a resolution over Houston’s veto claiming the Californias for Texas. The 1844 presidential election split the electorate dramatically, with the newer western regions of the Republic preferring the nationalist candidate Edward Burleson, while the cotton country, particularly east of the Trinity River, went for Anson Jones.
The Comanche Indians furnished the main Indian opposition to the Texas Republic, manifested in multiple raids on settlements, capture and rape of female pioneers, torture killings, and trafficking in captive slaves. In the late 1830s, Sam Houston negotiated a peace between Texas and the Comanches. Lamar replaced Houston as president in 1838 and reversed the Indian policies. He returned to war with the Comanches and invaded Comancheria itself. In retaliation, the Comanches attacked Texas in a series of raids. After peace talks in 1840 ended with the massacre of 34 Comanche leaders in San Antonio, the Comanches launched a major attack deep into Texas, known as the Great Raid of 1840. Under command of Potsanaquahip (Buffalo Hump), 500 to 700 Comanche cavalry warriors swept down the Guadalupe River valley, killing and plundering all the way to the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, where they sacked the towns of Victoria and Linnville. Houston became president again in 1841 and, with both Texians and Comanches exhausted by war, a new peace was established.
Although Texas achieved self-government, Mexico refused to recognize its independence. On March 5, 1842, a Mexican force of over 500 men, led by Ráfael Vásquez, invaded Texas for the first time since the revolution. They soon headed back to the Rio Grande after briefly occupying San Antonio. About 1,400 Mexican troops, led by the French mercenary general Adrián Woll, launched a second attack and captured San Antonio on September 11, 1842. A Texas militia retaliated at the Battle of Salado Creek while simultaneously, a mile and a half away, Mexican soldiers and Texas Cherokee Indians massacred a militia of fifty-three Texas volunteers who had surrendered after a skirmish. That night, the Mexican Army retreated from the city of San Antonio back to Mexico.
Mexico’s attacks on Texas intensified conflicts between political factions, including an incident known as the Texas Archive War. To “protect” the Texas national archives, President Sam Houston ordered them removed from Austin. The archives were eventually returned to Austin, albeit at gunpoint. The Texas Congress admonished Houston for the incident, and this episode in Texas history would solidify Austin as Texas’s seat of government for the Republic and the future state.
There were also domestic disturbances. The Regulator–Moderator War involved a land feud in Harrison and Shelby Counties in East Texas from 1839 to 1844. The feud eventually involved Nacogdoches, San Augustine, and other East Texas counties. Harrison County Sheriff John J. Kennedy and county judge Joseph U. Fields helped end the conflict, siding with the law-and-order party. Sam Houston ordered 500 militia to help end the feud.
On December 20, 1836, the Post Office Department of the Republic of Texas was formally created by an act of the Congress of the Republic of Texas. John Rice Jones was postmaster general until he was succeeded by Robert Barr during Sam Houston’s first term as president of the Republic. When Barr died in October 1839, Jones was again named postmaster general, remaining in office until January 1841, when the Fifth Congress created the General Post Office as a division of the State Department, and a clerk was appointed to take over and perform the duties of postmaster general. Jones followed the United States plan of organization, acquiring its blanks for his guidance.
Jones’s task was complicated at the outset by the fact that the government failed to provide funds for carrying on the business. Appropriations to supplement postal receipts were made, however, beginning in 1836. The service was also supported by an act of December 21, 1836, which provided that any person with accounts against the post office department for transporting mail at any time during 1837 could take the same in land at fifty cents per acre by paying recording and surveying fees, provided that the land was located in tracts no smaller than 320 acres in the form of a square.
The first Texas rates established were 6¼ cents for twenty miles; 12½ cents for the second zone up to fifty miles; 18¾ cents for the third zone, up to one hundred miles; 25 cents for up to two hundred miles, and 37½ cents for further distances. Ship mail, presumably foreign mail, paid an additional fee of 6¼ cents. As Spanish money was used, the fractions created no difficulties for the service. These rates were for single letters, meaning one page — a sheet folded over, with the address on the front, known now as stampless covers; envelopes did not come into use until around 1845. Postmaster General Jones was not out of line as to rates, for it was not proved until some years later that lowering of rates increases activities to the point of probable profits.
On December 18, 1837, in an effort to increase revenue, the Republic of Texas Congress made the lowest rate 12½ cents for the first forty miles, 25 cents up to one hundred miles, and 50 cents for longer routes, still adding the 6¼ cents on ship letters. On January 28, 1841, Congress put an additional 50-cent fee on ship mail, but on February 1, 1842, rates were reduced to the previous scale. Various changes were made, almost yearly, on some form of mail, and changes in routes, as well as new rates, created considerable postal activity.
The records on receipts of the Post Office Department are incomplete. The postmaster general’s report for 1839 shows income of $12,512.84, and the 1841 report, covering a year from March 1840 to March 1841, shows income of $2,462.78.
It was not easy to move mail; according to the United States quartermaster general, even by 1851 there was not, in all Texas, New Mexico, California, or Oregon, a steamboat line, railroad, or a turnpike. What he meant, of course, was that there was no regular means of conveyance of these types suitable for his purposes. Almost all the movement westward was by slow-moving wagontrain, drawn by oxen or mules.
Among the interesting postmarks of the Republic period is one in two lines reading STEAM PACKET COLUMBIA as used on the vessel plying the Galveston to New Orleans route. The essential oval for any Texas collection is the marking employed at New Orleans, in the United States, for mail sent in and out of Texas via the Texan consulate at New Orleans. The oval reads: WM. BRYANT / NEW ORLEANS / AGENT OF THE TEXIAN POST OFFICE DT. or SAM RICKER…, etc. Both of these men served at New Orleans using an oval hand stamp for the purpose of recording mail. There was also a small oval hand stamp reading Agency of the Texian Post Office. New Orleans, and likewise a small oval reading Forwarded by William Bryan New Orleans. This was the only known hand stamp of a foreign government applied on mail in the United States and is an important marking for the United States cover collector as well as the Texas specialist.
John Rice Jones, in a review of his department, said he was authorized to establish fifteen mail routes. By the later part of 1835, Jones had made contracts for ten routes covering 988 miles, and by October 1, 1836, the Republic owed more than $1,600 to the various riders who carried letters and papers between the different route towns. Jones had to stop service on some routes because of financial difficulties. Contracts as entered into by the post office department were profit-making business ventures for a few of those who acquired them. A contractor would bid in and get a route for $1,200, then he would subcontract it to somebody who needed a job at $750 or $800.
On February 28, 1845, the U.S. Congress passed a bill that would authorize the United States to annex the Republic of Texas. On March 1, US President John Tyler signed the bill. The legislation set the date for annexation for December 29 of the same year. Faced with imminent American annexation of Texas, Charles Elliot and Alphonse de Saligny, the British and French ministers to Texas, were dispatched to Mexico City by their governments. Meeting with Mexico’s foreign secretary, they signed a “Diplomatic Act” in which Mexico offered to recognize an independent Texas with boundaries that would be determined with French and British mediation. Texas President Anson Jones forwarded both offers to a specially elected convention meeting at Austin, and the American proposal was accepted with only one dissenting vote. The Mexican proposal was never put to a vote. Following the previous decree of President Jones, the proposal was then put to a vote throughout the republic.
On October 13, 1845, a large majority of voters in the republic approved both the American offer and the proposed constitution that specifically endorsed slavery and emigrants bringing slaves to Texas. This constitution was later accepted by the US Congress, making Texas a U.S. state on the same day annexation took effect, December 29, 1845 (therefore bypassing a territorial phase).
In early 2015, Philosateleian Post — a private local post then based in Jacksonville, Florida — produced a set of five fantasy stamps using as denominations the original postal rates established by the Republic of Texas Post Office Department in 1836. Inspired by his recent purchase of an antique desktop stamp perforator, Philosateleia’s editor — Kevin Blackton — planned to create a number of fantasy stamps in addition to his regular local post issues. Blackston imagined what an initial set of Texian definitives might have looked like, using the common design of the lone star of Texas. The cinderella stamps were produced in sheets of 14, printed using ink jet on unwatermarked with water-activated dry gum, and perforated in a gauge of 12. The pins being rather worn due to the perforator’s age, a number of hanging chads are produced but the end result is still quite striking with a more professional appearance than most local posts (my own included).