Any James Bowie document is considered rare, even rarer when signed. However, although this one doesn’t bear his signature, it’s quite unique. It is the document granting him his Mexican citizenship. Written October 5, 1830, and signed with rubric by the then Governor of Coahuila y Texas, Rafael Eca y Músquiz, and Counselor, Santiago del Valle.
Translated it states:
“The governor of the State of Coahuila and Texas and to all of its inhabitants, let it be known that the said Congress has declared the following:
Decree No. 159 The Constitutional congress of the independent and free sovereign state of Coahuila and Texas graciously decrees the following:
The foreigner James Bowie is granted citizenship papers subject to the verification of the establishment of a cotton and wool weaving operations which he offers to put in the state.
It will be understood by the governor of the State for punctual publication and circulation. Given in the city of Leona-Vicario on the 30th of September of 1830. Ramon Garcia Rojas, Vice President. Mariano Garcia, Deputy Secretary. Vicente Valdez Deputy Supplemental Secretary.
Hereby place the seal, do publish, circulate and provide proper punctuality.
To the Mayor of Santa Rosa
(Signed) Rafael Eca y Muzquiz (co-signed) Santiago del Valle, Secretary”
Having bought the textile mill referred to previously, to fulfill his obligation to Coahuila, it’s not certain whether Bowie did or didn’t actually start his cotton and wool weaving business as promised.
Problem was that Bowie was larger than life, and he sometimes made up the rules as he went along. Whilst he forged a reputation as a man who could be trusted to defend a friend to the end, he could lower his values on other matters.
Although the early 1800s were a universe away from the “political correctness” of today, he and others like him made large sums of money in slave trading and land speculation. By today’s standards, this would make him unlikeable. By the standards of his time however, it made him just like most other men trying to get ahead.
During his life, Bowie was prone to being liberal with the truth when he felt like it, especially if it meant him getting what he wanted. His dowery presented to Alcalde Juan Martín de Veramendi was written by Bowie in the hope of being allowed to marry Veramendi’s daughter, Ursula. The dowery contains many bloated “inventions” of a nonexistent fortune and is proof of yet another chink in his already dented armour.
He did of course marry her, was deeply in love with her, and was grief stricken when in September 1833 she was struck down with cholera and died. Some say she was with child, others say that they already had two children.
Bowie was already well known as a notorious fighter and heavy drinker, but with her death, his drinking took to another level, resulting in sickness and unpredictable behaviour. It’s said that the reasonable and mild-mannered Stephen F. Austin was particularly irritated by his behaviour as Bowie was exactly the kind of man Austin feared would be attracted by Texas.
In fact, Bowie possibly had as many enemies as friends if the truth were known. He had a dense life story to be sure, too rich to do justice to here.
He had personal and possibly contradictory “interest” in many acres of land in Texas, though he wasn’t the only one by any means. When looking at the members of the General Council and the founding Texas government, there are many who had possible clashes of interest in a confrontation with Mexico.
Yes, James Bowie was a man of contradictions.
He was married into the Mexican high order via Ursula Veramendi and wanted to be a Mexican citizen. He also knew General Antonio López de Santa Anna and his officers quite well. Yet six years after he was granted his Mexican citizenship shown here, he made a stand with his fellow Texian volunteers.
Weak and bedridden due to suspected typhoid pneumonia, he met a particularly gruesome death, bedridden in the Alamo Low Barracks, at the hands of the, by then, bloodthirsty Mexican soldiers.