December 16

This Day in History

Old West

Dec 16, 1826:

Edwards declares the Texas Republic of Fredonia

In an act that foreshadowed the American rebellions to come, Benjamin Edwards rides into Mexican-controlled Nacogdoches, Texas, and proclaims himself the ruler of the Republic of Fredonia.

The brother of a corrupt backer of an American colony in Texas, Benjamin Edwards made the bold (and perhaps foolish) decision to rebel against the Mexican government while his brother was away in the United States raising money for his colony. Under the empresario system—which was created by the Mexican government in the 1820s to encourage colonization of its northern provinces—men like the Edwards were allowed to settle Anglo families in Texas. However, many of the Anglo settlers retained stronger ties to the United States than to Mexico, and Benjamin Edwards hoped that many former Americans would support his attempt to split from Mexico. Accompanied by a force of about 30 men, Edwards seized a stone fort in Nacogdoches and declared that the new "Republic of Fredonia" was now independent of Mexican control. Edwards claimed his new nation extended from the Sabine River to the Rio Grande River, and would be governed under the principles of "Independence, Liberty, and Justice."

In a bid to build up a defense against the Mexican soldiers who were on their way to quell the rebellion, Edwards quickly negotiated an agreement with the Cherokee Indians offering to share Texas in exchange for military aid. Edwards was less successful in winning the support of the local Anglo and Mexican inhabitants of Nacogdoches, in whose name he was supposedly acting. When the Mexican militia approached Nacogdoches six weeks later, Edwards' ill-planned revolution quickly disintegrated and he fled to the United States for sanctuary.

While short-lived and premature, Edwards' Fredonian Rebellion nonetheless reflected the growing tensions between the American colonialists in Texas and their Mexican rulers. Less than a decade later, in 1835, other Texans followed in Edwards' footsteps and staged the far more successful revolution that established the independent Republic of Texas.

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