From the Annals of Racism – In 1840, the Congress of the Republic of Texas determined that the presence of any more free black citizens in the Republic was utterly intolerable. As such, the Congress passed the racist Law of February 5. These legislators (which included many of the founding fathers of the Republic) were apparently concerned that the presence of any more than the very few free blacks in the Republic would somehow affect the status of slavery. And after all, the protection of slavery had been a major motivating force for the revolution as slavery was outlawed in Mexico in 1829 by its partially black President Vicente Guerrero. The law declared that all free blacks who had entered Texas after the Texas Declaration of Independence must leave the Republic within two years or be declared slaves for the rest of their lives. Free blacks already in the Republic before Texas independence would continue to have all the rights of their white neighbors – which in practice they did not.
From the Annals of the Abolitionists – In 1829, Mexican President Vicente R. Guerrero issued the Guerrero Decree which abolished slavery throughout the Republic of Mexico except the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This was a major spark for the Texas Revolution as many Anglo settlers had brought slaves with them and were opposed to abolition. The role of the preservation of slavery as a cause of the revolution has been understated in Texas history for as long as Red can remember. It was far from the only cause, but there were approximately 5000 enslaved persons out of a total of about 38,000 people (not including Native Americans) living in Texas at the time of the revolution. After winning independence, the Constitution of the Republic of Texas of 1836 provided:
All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state of servitude… Congress shall pass no laws to prohibit emigrants from bringing their slaves into the republic with them, and holding them by the same tenure by which such slaves were held in the United States; nor shall congress have the power to emancipate slaves; nor shall any slave holder be allowed to emancipate his or her slave without the consent of congress, unless he or she shall send his or her slave or slaves without the limits of the republic.
From the Annals of Emancipation – In 1829, Mexican President Vicente R. Guerrero issued the Guerrero Decree. The decree abolished slavery in the Republic of Mexico. It would be another 46 years before Mexico’s northern neighbor would do the same via the 13th Amendment. With the Decree, Mexico enacted what Padre Hidalgo had originally decreed with El Grito in 1810—the abolition of slavery in Mexico.
Guerrero’s hatred for slavery was probably linked to his own Mestizo origins. Being of mixed race – including African heritage – Guerrero refused to identify himself with as being of a particular ethnicity. He referred to himself as an “Americano” and his only loyalty was to his patria and not with any caste or class of the Mexican nation.
The Guerrero Decree was not well received among the freedom-loving, slave-owning, Anglo residents of Texas who were determined to hang onto their slaves despite what decrees might be issued in Mexico City. Anglo resistance to the abolition of slavery was a major cause of the Texas Revolution only six years later.
A Translation of the Guerrero Decree
The President of the United States of Mexico, know ye: That desiring to celebrate in the year of 1829 the anniversary of our independence with an act of justice and national beneficence, which might result in the benefit and support of a good, so highly to be appreciated, which might cement more and more the public tranquility, which might reinstate an unfortunate part of its inhabitants in the sacred rights which nature gave them, and which the nation protects by wise and just laws, in conformance with the 30th article of the constitutive act, in which the use of extraordinary powers are ceded to have thought it proper to decree:
1st. Slavery is abolished in the republic.
2nd. Consequently, those who have been until now considered slaves are free.
3rd. When the circumstances of the treasury may permit, the owners of the slaves will be indemnified in the mode that the laws may provide. And in order that every part of this decree may be fully complied with, let it be printed, published, and circulated.
Given at the Federal Palace of Mexico, the 15th of September, 1829.
Vicente Guerrero To José María Bocanegra