Missions and War
The Spanish had taken its northern territory of Texas for granted. Other than exploring the land they hadn’t tried very hard to build permanent settlements. And they didn’t expect any of their European neighbors to the northeast to care about this land ether. That was until they found the remains of the French Fort Saint Louis on the Texas coast in 1689.
Spain now saw that the Texas region could be the gateway for their enemies into their very lucrative central Mexico. They decided to use a method of colonization that had been successful for them in the past. This method was to build a string of religious outposts of Catholic Missions throughout their northern and western territories. Although the first mission in Texas was founded in 1632, it wasn’t until the discovery of the ruins of the French fort that the Spanish stepped up their program of establishing missions in eastern Texas. In all twenty-six missions would be built in Texas. In 1718, the first of five missions to be built on the banks of what is now the San Antonio River was founded by Father Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares. He named his mission San Antonio de Valero; however this mission would later play a greater role in Texas’ history by another name.
While Spain was seemly firming up their control of northern Mexico with the building of missions, just thirty-six years later a major conflict in the east would further set the stage for the battle for Texas. In the middle 1700’s English Colonists where moving west from the east coast, and the French where moving east from the Mississippi River Valley. They collided again and again in the Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia regions. These threats to English claims caused Britain to declare war on France in 1756. This would be called the “French and Indian War,” or also “The Seven Year War.” This was just a continuation of the imperial struggles between these European rivals that had been going on for centuries. The French and Indian War would last from 1756 until 1763.
At first the French and their native allies gained the upper hand with a series of quick battle victories. Even a young British officer named George Washington met defeat from the French. The British were hampered in their efforts in fighting this war by a lack of interest back in England and petty rivalries amongst the American Colonies. This changed when William Pitt the Elder, the Earl of Chatham became prime minister of Britain. Pitt saw that in defeating France in the Americas would be a key in building a global British empire. Borrowing heavily to finance the war, he paid Prussia to fight the war in Europe and loaned money to the Colonies to raise troops to enter the fighting. In 1758, the British won their first battle, followed by others. Spain joined with France in the war, then letting Britain to seize both French and Spanish territories worldwide. With the fall of Montreal in 1760, France lost their Canadian claim. With the loss of Canada and other territories France and Span sued for peace in 1763, ending the war. At the peace conference Britain got Canada from France and Florida from Spain. In the agreement Britain did let France keep Louisiana.
Now the American British colonies had complete control of the entire eastern seaboard of North America and the Mississippi Valley. Only a thin section of land from Louisiana north to the Canadian border remained in French hands and Texas, the southwest and California to Spain. There would be other results from this war that would later have defining effects on the future of the thirteen colonies, and the Native Americans. Those would be the forced repayment of the war loans by the thirteen colonies, and the treatment of Native Americans, who had allied with the French.