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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

THE BOUNDARIES OF TEXAS

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
In the old days it was said that you could identify a six-ounce Coca-Cola bottle with your eyes closed just as soon as your hand closed around it. Similarly, I expect most Texans have the outline of the shape of Texas securely nitched in some cranial crevice. But how did Texas come to be bordered as it is?

Boundaries became relevant long after the arrival of Spaniards, who at first claimed everything in the Western Hemisphere. Gradually, they accepted the presence of the French and English on the North American continent, but only reluctantly, and for a long while they were determined to keep those "foreigners" at bay.

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, Spain conceded that France controlled the Mississippi Valley. To hold the French as far east as possible, in 1716 Spain established five missions in East Texas and one in what became western Louisiana. That was Texas' first "boundary."

A century later in 1819, a more formal arrangement was made with the United States, Spain's new neighbor. The Adams-Onis Treaty set the west bank of the Sabine River from its mouth to an intersection with the thirty-second parallel, then due north to the Red River, west also its course to the intersection of the 100th meridian, then north to the Arkansas River, as eastern and part of northern boundaries.

That generally takes care of the east and north, and of course the Gulf of Mexico is the boundary on the southeast. The Rio Grande became the boundary between Mexico and Texas at the end of the Texas Revolution, and this was confirmed by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican American War in 1848.

Remember that the Rio Grande turns north a little to the west of his Big Bend, so for a few more years Texas included half of New Mexico and Colorado and even part of Wyoming. But Texas surrendered claims in those areas west of the 103rd meridian, north of the thirty-second meridian (from El Paso eastward to the 103rd meridian), and north of 36 degrees, thirty minutes (the northern edge of the Panhandle).

This shrunk Texas about forty percent, but it was a recognition of reality. New Mexicans strongly resisted being in Texas, and few people occupied Colorado. What sweetened the deal was the federal government paid Texas $10 million for the land money. That was 1850. Think, now, of the ad valorum tax that could be raised on all those condos in ski country. Maybe we could get rid of the sales tax!


Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical >
August 17, 2003 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.
 
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