Governor Manuel Salcedo, in an 1809 report, estimated the population of Texas was approximately 4,000 people. In addition, there were 1,033 soldiers, most of them militia. Only about 353 of them were said to be veteran, Spanish soldiers. Most of the population were Indian, Hispanic, or both. The rest were largely Americans, French, and Irish. The Americans were first, second, or later generation from Europe, with a good percentage of them being Irish. Another report written in 1811 also described Texas as it was then. It is called the Ramos Report.

Irish Americans were moving south and westward from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky on to the Natchez Trace (a national road who had among its sponsors - General Wilkinson) and into Texas. There was also the influx of second generation Irish Americans from the settlements in Louisiana, where the Spanish settled Irish families. While the exact total is not known, it is clear that when one combines the Irish Americans with the Irish born, the percentage of Irish among the non-Hispanic and non-Indian population in Spanish Texas around 1800 was a healthy percentage. The Spanish remained concentrated in the Béxar and La Bahía areas. The major growth in the Texas population was from the immigrants coming into East Texas (which for 80 years exhibited an autonomous air to Spanish rule). Many of these immigrants were Irish or of Irish extraction. The degree of influence of the Irish increased in Texas. Add in those settlers of Scotch and Welsh ancestry to the numbers, and you can see the influence of Celtic peoples has long been underestimated by historians in the study of early Texas. Given this background, it is easier to understand Michener's observation that the Irish gave Texas its basic character.

To find the reason why the Spanish allowed this encroachment of their territory, one has only to read official dispatches of the day, such as this one from the Governor of Texas - It will be "necessary to overlook certain acts, and suspend the execution of some orders, until the moment of acting with vigor has arrived; such as to pass by the disobedience of Miguel Oroo, an American citizen who lives on the other side of the Sabine, and to tolerate the intrusion of some foreigners within our territory. To compel them to return to the United States would only create excitement, or induce them to join those who have established themselves in the territory provisionally declared neutral...."


In New Spain, there existed several distinct classes of people. The Spanish were called Peninsulares, as Spain is on the Iberian Peninsula. They were also derogatorily called, Gachupínes (which one translation says, meant wearers of spurs). The Spanish may have been called this because, though they never represented more than one percent of the population, they rode rough shod over all the rest. More accurately, they were probably called Gachupínes because they could afford large ranches and outfitted themselves with ornate spurs whose purpose was to make a point to the vaquero more than to the vaca (cow).

Another translation of the word Gachupine is `blockhead.' The Peninsulares (Gachupínes) controlled the government, the army, universities, the Church, and its missions. To give you an idea of how rare was the honor that went to Hugh O'Connor, consider that fifty eight of the sixty one Viceroys of New Spain were Peninsulares. Similar percentages among judges, bishops and other offices were all Peninsulares. The second generation, Spanish born in New Spain, were called Criollos or Creoles. This class also came to include other persons of all European ancestry born in the colonies, affluent Mexicans, royal blooded Aztecs, and individuals wealthy enough to purchase the position. Next came people of mixed blood, children of Spanish and Indian parents were called Mestizos. Educated or "civilized" Indians were also of this class. Then came the Indians, followed by the Mulattos who were of mixed blood, Spanish and Negro. The Zambos were of mixed blood between Indian and Negro. There were other groups smaller than these that included other combinations (Castizo- Spanish+Mestizo, Morisco-Spanish+Mulatto, Chino- Spanish+Morisco, Salta Atras-Chino+Indian, Lobo- Salta Atras+Mulatto, Gibaro- Lobo+Chino, Albarazado- Gibaro+Mulatto, Cambujo- Alabarazado+Negro, Zambaigo- Cambujo+Indian, and still others). Wealth and property was almost entirely in the hands of the smallest group, the Peninsulares (Spaniards). The next smallest group were their children, the Creoles. The Creoles were generally well educated and aware of the American and French Revolutions and, for the most part, liberal in their views.

The two largest segments of the population, the Indians and Mestizos, were as separated from power and property, the Gachupínes and Creoles, as a servant was from his master. The Gachupíne ruled authoritatively. The educated Creoles chafed under their autocracy. The Creoles were able to have both wealth and property, but without the power. The King and Spain, represented by the Gachupínes, lost some of the formal basis of their power when Napoleon placed his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne. The Gachupínes were seen as being vulnerable by the other classes in the aftermath of Napoleon's actions. The smell of revolution was in the air.

The Creoles demanded self-government, but were quickly suppressed and their leaders imprisoned. In 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla started what was to be the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Father Hidalgo was a Mestizo. He began an insurrection calling for no racial discrimination, redistribution of the land, and the end of Gachupíne rule. The beginning of his revolt, September 16, 1810, is celebrated as Independence Day in Mexico today. The revolt spread, and soon two of the Provinces next to Texas went over to the cause: Nuevo Santander and Coahuila. It was not to be, the only people actively revolting were the lower castes, a few soldiers, and some priests. The Army, Church, Gachupínes, and Creoles were united in their unwillingness to let the masses disenfranchise their status, and crushed the revolt.

The survivors spread out like sparks from a fire and set smoldering just under the surface. The smell of revolution was still in the air and some of the scents wafted into Texas and beyond.


In late 1810, American settlers inspired by events in Mexico and South America as well as by inaction on the part of the United States, attacked Baton Rouge, capitol of Spanish West Florida, rousted the loyalists and declared an independent republic from the Mississippi River to the Perdido River. Their flag was blue with a single centered silver star (this later changed to a white star). The settlers then petitioned Washington for admittance to the Union. Active in all this was General James Wilkinson. In April, 1813 Wilkinson showed Spain his duplicity when he captured, with force, Mobile and Fort Charlotte in Spanish territory. This was quickly allowed under the convenient theory that West Florida was in the original Louisiana Purchase (to the Pearl River), and therefore United States territory. Others, at this time, pointed out that Texas was in the original Louisiana Purchase as well and therefore should become a part of the United States.

For more information on the Florida boundary issue go to this link >


In Texas, there was a plot to establish a Mexican republic. In January of 1811, Antonio Saenz led a revolt to overthrow the Royalist government. It was defeated quickly. Another attempt later in the year was successful. Juan Bautista de las Casas had Governor Salcedo and other Royalists arrested. He sent Saenz and others out to the settlements to spread the revolution and its propaganda. In 39 days de Casas so thoroughly alienated everyone, that the province was gratefully taken back over by the Royalist, Juan Manuel Zambrano. He in turn placed control of the government into the hands of the ranking Royalist military commander, Simón de Herrera, until Governor Salcedo could return from testifying at the trials of the rebels. The trials were held in Monclova. Among those assisting in testifying against Casas was Lieutenant Colonel Ygnacio Elizondo, the Presidio Commandant at San Bautista and the man who captured Father Hildago.


In late 1811, one of the leaders of Father Hidalgo's Mexican Revolution, José Bernado Gutiérrez de Lara, went to the United States to seek assistance. The Spanish Consul in New Orleans, Diego Murphy(Morphi), warned Spanish authorities about Gutiérrez in April of 1812. Gutiérrez visited with the U. S. Secretary of State, James Monroe shown in the graphic on the right.. Monroe is known to have Scottish forbears, and had an Irish connection as well. A direct descendant, James Monroe, married a native of Ulster. In 1805 James Monroe encouraged President Jefferson to seize Texas, claiming it to be part of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1811, as Secretary of State of the United States, he again considered taking Texas for the United States. He decided instead to back the plans of Gutiérrez. After meeting with future President Monroe, Gutiérrez met with President James Madison in 1812.

President Madison also has an Irish connection. His mother was Eleanor Conway. What was agreed to is not known; but we do know that Monroe assigned a diplomat, William Shaler, to follow events. We know that Shaler, who reported regularly to Monroe, recommended military assistance and on several occasions advanced Gutiérrez expense money.

James Madison

Gutiérrez was allowed to raise an armed expeditionary force in U.S. territory and was not disturbed by civil or military inquiries. West Point graduates were allowed to resign their commissions in June of 1812, and join the expedition, in spite of a possible war with England. One of these men was to become the expedition's leader, Augustus William Magee. Magee was an Irishman from Boston. He graduated third in his class at West Point.

Only a short time earlier as a Lieutenant in the United States Army, under orders from General James Wilkinson, Magee cleared the Neutral Ground of bandits and ruffians with U. S. troops. This was not an easy task. The men in the Neutral Zone were rough and tough. One location, Pecan Point on the Red River, had over 500 ruffians and rogues in it. Magee was assisted in this effort by Lt. Zebulon Pike, who only recently returned from the expedition ordered by Wilkinson to scout Spanish territory. For successfully clearing the Neutral Ground, Magee received a commendation from Wilkinson and was recommended by Wilkinson for an early promotion. The promotion was not allowed and was possibly a factor in Magee's decision to join the expedition. Most historians agree it was Magee who planned and put together the expedition to invade Mexico, and that he took on Gutiérrez for his connections both in Washington and Mexico. Others suggest it was Wilkinson who was behind it all.

The Neutral Ground became the staging area for the expeditionary force, or the Army of The Republic of The North, as the expedition was to be called. Gutiérrez was nominally the ranking officer as he was accorded the rank of a General, but the 33 year old Magee was the heart and soul of the operation. Magee was described by Shaler to President James Monroe in a letter dated August 18, 1812; "...24 years old, very tall, robust, of handsome appearance and countenance, a commanding appearance as an officer and a prepossessing manner. He is accompanied by a number of young men of respectable character and education. (He is) one of the best informed officers of his age in the American Army, ... qualified to add lustre to the American name in the career he has chosen." The announced intention of the Army of the Republic of the North was to take Texas from a weak Spain and give it to the United States before England took it for themselves. As we shall see, that was not the intention of Gutiérrez.

The Magee Expedition was very popular in the United States. A toast to the success of Magee's volunteers was given at a Fourth of July reception in Natchitoches that was sponsored by the American military and local Justice of the Peace. Present was an official representative of the Spanish government, Apolinar de Mazmela. Mazmela complained to U.S. authorities of the incident and apparent U.S. support of the Army of the Republic of the North. Diego Murphy, the Spanish Consul, at New Orleans kept up a steady complaint to the United States on the developing situation. The Spanish called Magee a filibusteros. In French the term is filibustier and in English filibuster. All these terms refer to an adventurer who engages in private military action in a foreign country. Its actual origin is a Dutch term that meant someone who would take anything not nailed down.

In response to the Spanish complaints, Secretary of State James Monroe sent a representative to New Spain. His emissary was a man known by the Spanish, he had accompanied Pike on his trip into Spanish territory. This man was a Scotsman, Doctor John Hamilton Robinson. Robinson was sent to New Spain to meet with the Commandante General of the Interior Provinces, Don Nemesio Salcedo y Salcedo. Robinson's mission was to complain to the Spanish about the goings on in the Neutral Zone and to inform Spanish authorities President Madison was very concerned. In truth Dr. Robinson's mission was to add confusion to all that was going on and to cloud the U. S. support for the Army of the Republic of the North.

For more details on Doctor John H. Robinson follow this link >