Historical Articles

7. Senator Juan N. Seguin

By Bill Neeley

Lt. Col. Juan N. Seguin, Commander of Texas forces at Bexar, took a well-deserved vacation after risking his life and fortune for freedom from tyranny. In the fall of 1837, as the Tejano colonel prepared to take his family to New Orleans, he could breathe a sigh of relief. He and his extended family had survived Santa Anna's assault against their way of life. Tejanos living on the frontier adjacent to the United States exchanged goods and ideas between the two cultures, and democratic impulses, already resonating in San Antonio, developed as American immigrants shared their views with Tejano leaders.

Certainly the hero of San Jacinto would have died, as he said in his eulogy at the burial of the remains of the Alamo defenders, before subjecting himself to the rule of Santa Anna. The Mexican dictator had marched to Texas in the first place to squelch any sign of republican thought by killing those who opposed him as he had done in the Yucatan and Zacatecas. The narcissistic dictator, in defending his actions, said, "I threw up my cap for liberty with great ardor, and perfect sincerity, but very soon found the folly of it. A hundred years to come my people will not be fit for liberty. They do not know what it is, unenlightened as they are, and under the influence of a Catholic clergy, a despotism is a proper government for them."

Juan Seguin vehemently disagreed. He was a Mexican Catholic himself and also a republican. The Tejano colonel had made that clear to Santa Anna as he observed the captured "Napoleon of the West" grovel before General Sam Houston while pleading for his life. Victory was sweet, and so was repose in the salons, restaurants, and gardens of New Orleans. Upon returning home to his stone house on military plaza, Seguin learned to his surprise that he had been elected to represent Bexar as Senator in the Congress of the Republic of Texas. Seguin resigned from his military command on May 14, 1838 and took his seat in the Senate of the Second Texas Congress.

Senator Seguin's legislative priorities were the welfare of the widows and orphans of the Alamo and having the laws of Texas translated into Spanish. His Alamo welfare bill passed, but the translation effort failed, much to his chagrin. It was an ominous sign that native Tejanos of Texas were destined for second class status in the generations to come. Even Seguin would be affected by the abrupt change from the old life he had known in Spanish and Mexican Texas to the uncertainty of being part of a small minority increasingly devoid of power in the new republic. The years ahead would pose a challenge for Senator Juan Seguin and the people he served.

The above is excerpted from A Tejano Knight: The Quest of Don Juan Seguin by Bill Neeley. Copyright © 2017 Bill Neeley. All rights reserved.

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