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There is good news and bad news in Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s block on Thursday of an online panel co-hosted by the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin on Forget the Alamo, a book that debunks big chunks of the Alamo myth.
The good news is that it has skyrocketed sales of the book. Before Patrick’s action and the publicity it sparked, the book, released a month ago, was ranked in the mid-500 on Amazon’s sales chart – a respectable position, but not spectacular. Patrick, a publisher’s dream, was the subject of nationwide publicity that pushed him up to 17th spot over the weekend.
On Sunday, it was ranked No.1 in Amazon’s American History category, beating the formidable book by Isabel Wilkerson Caste.
It’s great for the result of Forget the Alamo publisher of Penguin Press and for that of its three authors. If I ever publish a book, I should try to blow it up by Patrick.
More importantly, Patrick’s “cancellation” just hours before the event’s scheduled start will result in a much wider exposure of the book’s thesis. Those who registered for the event lost the opportunity to hear from the authors. But more magnitudes will have read the book, thanks to Patrick, and many will recommend it and pass it on to their friends and relatives.
So what’s the bad news? It is that Patrick’s action bodes very badly for the “world-class” Alamo Museum in San Antonio, proposed to be the jewel of the planned $ 450 million Alamo and Alamo upgrade. Plaza.
Patrick has pledged, as head of the Texas Senate, to “lead the fight” to secure the $ 200-300 million needed for the museum and other parts of the Alamo upgrade. A significant part of this sum will have to come from the financing of the State, on which Patrick has a virtual right of veto. If, as he tweeted on Friday, this Forget the Alamo“No-facts rewrite of Texas history has no place @BullockMuseum,” he’s unlikely to think the ideas in the book have a place at the Alamo Museum.
Even if Patrick somehow disappeared from the political scene, the tension between the popular perception of the Alamo that was forged in the creation myth of Texas would be in tension with Forget the Alamo. Many Texans don’t want to hear of slavery as one of the “rights” the heroes of the Alamo stood for, or the fact that William Barret Travis and Jim Bowie challenged General Sam Houston by staying at the Alamo, or that out there is substantial proof that Davy Crockett did not die in action but was captured and pleaded for his life.
The tension between myth and reality is especially strong in San Antonio, where the majority of residents are Mexican-Americans. Many have memories of school visits to the Alamo (as well as the John Wayne movie in 1960) where their ancestors were described as ruthless savages.
The real story is that some Mexican leaders joined in the fight against General Antonio López de Santa Anna, and the Anglo immigrant victory in Texas quickly led not only to a slavery economy, but also to fierce racism against Texans of Mexican origin. One piece of evidence can be found on the City of San Antonio website. From 1731 to March 9, 1837 – a year and three days after the fall of the Alamo – each mayor of San Antonio had a Spanish surname. With the exception of Antonio Menchaca in 1838 and Juan Seguin in 1841, it will take 144 years, until 1981, before Henry Cisneros becomes the next mayor by Spanish name.
It’s a fact. And is Forget the Alamo, as Patrick tweeted, “without fact”?
Such a statement would suggest the highly unlikely idea that Patrick read or asked an assistant to review the approximately 400-page book, including its 16 pages of fine print footnotes and its bibliography of some 112 books. and scientific articles.
As far as I know, Patrick hasn’t cited any factual errors, although I can help him. The authors’ fact checker – yes, unlike Patrick, they hired a fact checker – missed some geographic errors. For example, Brackettville, where Wayne’s film Alamo was filmed, is west of San Antonio, not south. Such an error hardly makes the book “without facts”.
For fun, I made a brief catalog of the facts in the book and saved them for Patrick to consider.
Page 22: Stephen Austin, the “Father of Texas,” was authorized by the Mexican government to recruit 300 American families to immigrate to Texas, but struggled if slaves weren’t allowed. He lobbied in Mexico City and won a law that undermines Mexico’s ban on slavery, allowing families to bring slaves, but not trade them. In addition, the children of slaves would be free. “Austin, elated, believed his efforts alone had won the day. To those worried about the restrictions in the law, he insisted it was the best deal possible. “No article of any kind authorizing slavery in the Empire would ever have been passed by Congress for some time,” he wrote to a supporter. It worked. Austin quickly filled its quota, mostly with cotton growers. “Of the 1,800 people living in the Austin colony in 1825, one in four was enslaved.
Citation: Andrew J. Target, Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).
Page 71: In 1835, the handpicked congress of Santa Anna abolished federalism, granting considerable powers to states, and “decreed that all Mexican states would be converted into military departments overseen by the (central) government . San Antonio settler Ben Milam sounded the alarm: “If the federal system is lost in Texas, what will our situation be like?” Worse than that of the most degraded slaves.
Citation: Benjamin R. Milam to Francis W. Johnson, July 5, 1835, Digital Austin Papers, http://digitalaustinpapers.org/document?id=APB4814.xml.
Page 180: A spiritual ancestor of Dan Patrick is dismayed in 1897 to learn that the University of Texas hired a Harvard-trained historian from South Carolina who had written his doctoral thesis and the subsequent book that criticized the Southern doctrine of annulment. Bay City State Representative Alexander Hensley “persuaded his fellow lawmakers to demand that college regents hire only professors” known to be sympathetic to the political institutions of the South “and to fire everything” not so nice teacher “. Regents at the university have promised “to hire Texans first, Southerners second, and professors from anywhere else only when absolutely necessary.” The professor in question, a committee report noted, assured them that he was not actually teaching such things.
Source: Resolution, June 8, 1897, of the Twenty-Fifth Legislature, called session, in Harry Y. Benedict, ed., A source book relating to the history of the University of Texas at Austin (University of Texas Bulletin 1757, October 10, 1917), 406.
I could go on, but you get the point. Although written in a popular style, Forget the Alamo is a serious history book. It is so based on the work of scholars that the reaction of historians mostly seems to have been a shrug that says, “So what else is new?”
Patrick calling it “without fact” is a clear admission that he has not read it. He should. He would learn something.