As I chip away at the book, it's becoming increasingly clear to me that there's no way to understand modern Texas without understanding how it came to be. Here's William C. Davis, in the epilogue to his history of the Texas revolution, Lone Star Rising:

In the end that tradition of what made it all happen in 1835 and 1836. Of course, men in Texas then answered a host of imperatives to take their rifles and muskets and stand against what they chose to perceive as tyranny. All interests are ultimately selfish, even what is called patriotism. No doubt a few really did hope to precipitate a revolt in order to gain the large land holdings promised by those fraudulent Monclova grants. No doubt, too, others agitated principally out of a desire to expand slavery, or because they resented being ruled ultimately by brown-skinned peoples whom they thought racially inferior. Some sought the quick profits of plunder from a regime they thought too disorganized and distant to defend itself, and no doubt some wanted a new and independent polity in order to achieve high station for themselves.

None of these influences brought about the Texian revolt, however. Rather they all operated on the fringes of the overwhelming causes. The term "manifest destiny" still lay a few years in the future when the "Come and Take It" gun first barked at Gonzales, yet the unstoppable dynamic behind that phenomenon was already well in train for a generation before. Americans began that century determined to head west in quest of land, opportunity, and a life less fettered by the restraints of Eastern society, including the growing power of government. They wanted to direct their own affairs in their own land, a wish coincidentally identical with that of the liberals in Mexico with whom the immigrants so long made a rocky common cause. Denying that autonomy was bad enough, but when councils in Mexico City repeatedly proved themselves incapable of providing efficient rule thanks to internal instability, revolutions, distance, and simple neglect or ineptitude, the situation in the colonies became intolerable. After a decade of experience taught them that Mexican rule meant seemingly capricious lurches from right to left and back again, when they saw the organic law either ignored or unable to maintain itself, and when their own voice in the councils that determined their affairs seemed so weak, Texians' ancestral instincts awakened.

And that was before they even had a chance to read any Edith Wharton, or before Spindletop gave Texas a glimpse of a richer future. It starts to seem like a pretty straight line from 1836 to Rick Perry talking about how he wants to make Washington as inconsequential in your life as possible. It's not perfect, but I like this

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