“His Soul in the Land of the Greaser Band:” John L. Haynes and the Tejano Antebellum Era, 1846-1861
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This first scholarly study of mid-nineteenth-century U.S. military and political leader, John L. Haynes, takes us beyond a land in conflict, three bloody wars, one man’s steady evolution from slaveholder to abolitionist, and reveals a public service record that challenged Texas’s systematic exclusion of Spanish-surnamed persons. A Freemason, Cotton-Whig editor, Mexican War veteran, merchant-filibuster-insurgent, land agent, state legislator, brigadier-general, Southern dissenter, Civil War commander of the First Texas Volunteer Cavalry (Union) who led a 600-man Latino guerilla regiment across the Texas-Mexico borderlands and thru the Louisiana swamps, a key founder and the first state chairman of the Texas Republican Party, and lawyer, Haynes’s public service record awakens a dormant portal in the contemporary study of Texas history. In that, his pro-Latino land-adjudication agency and political activism provided a platform for Hispanics to challenge an elitist “egalitarian ideal” and antebellum-era new order that denied them equal protection; by encouraging Latino activism in American institutions— a century before the U.S. Supreme Court case of Hernandez v. Texas (1954). In analyzing Haynes’s life and “Scrapbook,” letters and documents on microfilm, period newspapers, and his public service record at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas, this thesis argues that Haynes’s doctrine of individual liberty, the making of his conversion to abolitionism, and Unionist sentiments developed from five major factors: his merchant border gamble, war-time combat, marriage into a Quaker family, economic prudence, and his internalization of and respect for Spanish-Mexican Fronterizeros culture and history. Haynes’s land agency in South Texas offers us a rare glimpse into a sociological consciousness raising campaigning that identifies Hispanics as full-fledged citizens and places the concept of class distinction at the center of land-grant adjudication; four generations before Gus Garcia and his colleagues argued that Americans of Latino origin were treated as “a class apart.” In the 21st Century, the now known story of Haynes’s strong political will to shield Tejano land claims and human liberties through his weaponization of a turbulent Tejano historical struggle, shatters the nuanced Anglo-centric historical narrative that systematically excludes the first settlers of Texas.