Internationally acclaimed as our mastery of history is, we must admit our general ignorance heretofore of this brief but profound chapter in the American story. Upon being made aware, however, we were somewhat stunned (as so often we are) at the parrallels between then and now, and the lessons afforded those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
For in the eternal battle between tyranny and liberty; collectivism and individualism; centralism and federalism, our current status is not unlike that of Travis, Bowie, Crockett and the 182 other men who gave their lives at the Alamo fighting the forces of despotism. As the United Nations seeks to centralize global authority and nullify national sovereignty through its “Earth Charter”, as the European Union increasingly overrides the will of the electorate, as the Islamists openly declare their intent to enforce a global Caliphate, those of us who yet hold dear the principles of limited government, national sovereignty, individual liberty, and free enterprise find ourselves surrounded and quite possibly outnumbered.
Naturally today’s popular consensus will regard such sentiments as laughable. Indeed the story of the Alamo itself has been reduced by many to that of an embarrassing display of drunken male bravado in the face of overwhelming and – they would suggest - legitimate authority. Others claim it was a battle over slavery, with Mexican authorities on the side of right, for they had abolished slavery in 1829, well before their Anglo-European cousins to the north. (Nevermnind that the Mexican government allowed slavery once again six years later, just prior to the battle of the Alamo.) No doubt alcohol, bravado, slavery, even ethnic tensions played their roles in the blood bath of the Alamo and subsequent Texas Revolution, but clearly these issues existed on both sides of the firing line. The core drama at play here, as always, was that of tyranny versus Liberty.
Allow us to illustrate by briefly revisiting a few key aspects of this once well known tale.
In 1808 Emperor Napoleon of France put his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne. For most, nothing more really needs to be said. Nonetheless we shall continue. Shockingly, this appointment made a mess of things in Spain, ergo ties between Spain and her American colonies eroded, and a war for Mexican independence erupted in 1810. The rebels eventually emerged victorious with Spain recognizing Mexican independence in 1821.
As is the case with most such revolutions, however, (except – thank The Lord and George Washington - the American revolution) the victorious revolutionaries were quickly perverted by the power they had just won. Inaugurating the 187 year (and counting) fiasco that is the Mexican “government", General Agustin de Iturbide – one of the leaders of the revolution – was made Emperor of the new “Mexican Empire.” At this time, mind you, this empire was not an insignificant piece of real estate, comprised of more than 5,000,000 kilometers square stretching from the present day Oregon/California border to Panama.
What it boasted in territory, however, the Mexican empire lacked in substance. After just ten months of arrogant disregard for his new nation’s constitution, Iturbide decided to dissolve the government, prompting rebellion. He then reinstated it, prompting further rebellion. He then submitted his abdication, prompting further rebellion. He then fled the country, prompting his being declared a traitor. He then returned to Mexico, prompting his immediate execution at the hands of local officials.
Somehow, however, from the midst of this swirling vortex of ineptitude, a constitution establishing a representative federal republic of the people came into being: the 1824 Constitution of Mexico. It was this constitution and its promise of freedom, deliberately styled after the Constitution of the United States of America, which inspired multitudes of American and European settlers to emigrate to the the "Mexican Republic."
This experiment in self-government and free-enterprise yielded the usual results: thriving communities of increasing strength and prosperity. Settlers came in droves, bringing with them their customs and beliefs, not all of which were looked upon favorably by the Mexican officials. Ostensibly their objections were over the settlers’ tendancy to ignore laws regarding compulsory Roman Catholicism and the abolition of slavery. We suspect, however, a more fundamental impulse was at play – envy. Consider the words of French political writer and statesman, Alexis De Tocqueville, who was composing his classic Democracy in America at this very point in history:
“The territory of the Union (The United States of America) presents a boundless field to human activitiy, and inexhaustible materials for labor. The passion for wealth takes the place of ambition, and the heat of faction is mitigated by a consciousness of prosperity.
But in what portion of the globe shall we find more fertile plains, mightier rivers, or more unexplored and inexhaustible riches than in South America? Yet South America has been unable to maintain democratic institutions. If the welfare of nations depended on their being placed in a remote position, with an unbounded space of habitable territory before them, the Spaniards of South America would have no reason to complain of their fate. And although they might enjoy less prosperity than the inhabitants of the United States, their lot might still be such as to excite the envy of some nations in Europe. There are no nations upon the face of the earth, however, more miserable than those of South America.”
“Other inhabitants of America have the same physical conditions of prosperity as the Anglo-Americans, but without their laws and their customs; and these people are miserable. The laws and customs of the Anglo-Americans are therefore that special and predominant cause of their greatness which is the object of my inquiry.”
It was those laws and customs, and the prosperity they wrought, that incurred the wrath of the Mexican authorities, much as the success of the Jewish Palestinians enraged the Arab Palestinians in the 1920s (and does to this day.) Thus, in 1834, President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (the self-styled Napoleon of the West) rescinded the 1824 Constitution, dissolved the Mexican federation of free and sovereign states, and set about centralizing all power under his control in Mexico City.
Lo and behold, the Liberty Lovers – American, European, Mexican et al – who had chosen to live in Mexico because of Her freedom, rebelled when that freedom was taken away.
This is why 185 men held their ground at the Alamo, even when it became obvious that doing so meant certain death. Whether seeking the restoration of the 1824 Constitution, or out and out independence for a “Republic of Texas”, they fought to defy tyranny personified in Santa Anna, to slow if not stop his advance across Mexican Texas, and to appeal to the world on behalf of Liberty. This conviction was articulated clearly and profoundly by then Commander of the Alamo, Lieutenant Colonel Willam Barret Travis, in his letter to “The People of Texas and All Americans in the World”:
‘Fellow citizens & compatriots;
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country.
William Barret Travis”
Travis and his men held to this pledge. Unable to achieve victory, they fought to the death. Their courage, however, galvanized Texan forces who just 46 days later won independence for Texas under General Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto; their famous battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!”
Santa Anna was captured the next day. At one point during his confinement, he made a statement about his motives which revealed not only his own mindset, but which represents the mindset of “Centralists” immemorial in terms of their esteem for the freedom of man:
“It is very true that 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 the proper government for them, but there is no reason why it should not be a wise and virtuous one.”
Is this rationale for despotism, dripping as it is in arrogance and unconscious contempt for the unalienable rights of man, not echoed in the manifestos and statements of votaries of The State ever since? Do we not hear it, for example, in the United Nation’s so-called “Earth Charter?”
“In order to build a sustainable global community, the nations of the world must renew their commitment to the United Nations, fulfill their obligations under existing international agreements, and support the implementation of Earth Charter principles with an international legally binding instrument on environment and development.”
Did we not see it in Britain’s House of Commons’ betrayal of the people with their refusal to put the European Union Treaty to a referendum?
Does not the European Union itself increasingly see fit to ride roughshod over the rights and freedoms of the people it presumes to govern?
Are the statements of the Islamists not clearly in agreement that “despotism is the proper government,” a despotism of sharia law for all the world?
When Santa Anna’s forces first surrounded the Alamo, they raised the flag of no quarter and demanded immediate surrender. Travis and his men responded with a cannon blast. Today, through the gentle guises of environmentalism, multiculturalism, tolerance, international cooperation, community cohesion, and social justice that same demand is being made increasingly of Liberty Lovers worldwide. What shall our response be?
To the world we say: Herinner Alamo! Erinnern Sie sich an den Alamo! Souvenez-vous de l'Alamo! Remember the Alamo!