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The Fredonian Rebellion of 1826: Causes & Effects

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

Haden and Benjamin Edwards were brothers with big ideas on how to make money in Mexican-controlled Texas in the early 1800s. However, despite their best efforts, their attempt failed in every imaginable way!

Haden Edwards and the Wild West

Have you ever watched a movie where the main character makes bad decision after bad decision and you can see his downfall coming, but he seems oblivious to what is going on? You cringe, because you know it's going to end poorly, but there's nothing you can do to stop it. As you read about the life of Haden and Benjamin Edwards, two brothers who settled land in a Mexican-controlled Texas, you will likely get this same feeling. Over and over, both brothers make poor decisions that become worse and worse through time. Before we get started, let's talk about how Texas was governed during this time.

Haden Edwards

On April 14, 1825, Haden Edwards received an empresarial grant from the Mexican government to settle 800 Anglo families in the Nacogdoches area of eastern Texas. The empresario system was created by Mexico in the 1820s to encourage colonization in northern provinces. Men like Edwards saw this as an opportunity to get rich! The Mexican government set a few requirements with the empresarial grants: leaders were to uphold previous land grants, organize a way to protect colonists, and obey the Mexican land commissioner. That doesn't seem too hard, does it? Let's see how the Edwards brothers did.

The Edwards Brothers Arrive

Haden and Benjamin Edwards arrive to their land grant and immediately start to make people upset. There were already some settlers legally living in this land (remember, one of the provisions from Mexico was that they would respect existing land grants). Haden offends these original settlers by making them show proof of their land claims. This isn't too terrible, and Haden has a right to do this, but he does so in a way that angers the old settlers. As a result of this one action, the old settlers dislike the Edwards and a rift develops between old and new settlers that grows over time.

Growing Tension: Alcalde Election

In December of 1825, the brothers hold an election for alcalde (the highest local government authority - like a mayor, but with additional judicial powers). This marks a high point of tension between old and new settlers. The old settlers select the candidate Samuel Norris while the new settlers select Chichester Chaplin (Edward's son-in-law) as their candidate.

Edwards maintains that Chaplin has won, but the old settlers are certain that the election has been rigged. So they take their case to the political chief in the San Antonio area. This chief reverses the decision and puts Norris into power.

The Alcalde Drama Continues

On November 22, 1826, three men (new settlers) seize Alcalde Samuel Norris and two others and put them on trial for oppression and corruption. Haden Edwards is among the men seized, but is released (people believe he was in on the plot). The other two are tried, convicted, and told they deserve to die, but are released in exchange for giving up their offices.

However, the Mexican authorities are obviously upset about this overt corruption. Mexican Lieutenant Colonel Mateo Ahumada is ordered to the area. Haden Edwards knows that he cannot win and declares his land independent, calling it the ''Republic of Fredonia.'' Haden and approximately 30 of his followers take over an old stone fort. Haden makes his brother commander in chief and signs a deal with the Cherokee Indians, saying that he will share Mexico with them in exchange for their help in battle. When the Mexican militia shows up six weeks later, the revolution ends quickly and Haden flees to the U.S.

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