When Carlos III, King of Spain, needed to evaluate the effectiveness of his frontier outposts in Texas, he sent for The Marqués de Rubí, Cayetano María Pignatelli Rubí Corbera y Saint Climent, Barón de Llinas. This official, with the impossibly long name and title, is usually referred to simply as The Marqués de Rubí.
Born in Barcelona to a distinguished family, he was around forty-years-old when he arrived in Veracruz, Mexico, on November 1, 1764, as part of a royal effort to reorganize the defenses and military of New Spain. The following year, armed with a warrant to inspect the presidios and missions along the northern frontera, Rubí headed toward the northwest to Zacatecas and Durango to rendezvous with his escort and staff. For the next two years, 1766-1767, Rubí and his command proceeded to New Mexico, headed west to inspect the Spanish positions in Sonora, and then doubled back toward present-day Texas.
He crossed the Rio Grande into Spanish Tejas at Presidio San Bautista, moved north through the canyons of the upper Nueces River, and arrived at Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas on the San Sabá River in the summer of 1767. After inspecting San Antonio de Béxar, Rubí and his entourage pushed through present-day East Texas to the once important post at Los Adaes east of the Sabine River. By the time he returned to Mexico via the outpost of El Orcoquisac and Presidio La Bahia near the Texas coast, he had spent nearly two years on the frontera and had logged more than 7,500 miles.
Rubí recommended to King Carlos III that the Rio Grande be maintained as the forward line of presidios since it had essentially already evolved into that role, and that authorities should maintain garrison only among the clusters of settlements in New Mexico and at Béxar beyond that line. The change in territorial control in North America had rendered the East Texas positions irrelevant, and the Comanches clearly dominated much of the region above the Rio Grande.
To further consolidate the Spanish position, Rubí recommended a war of extermination against the Lipan Apaches that had infiltrated deeper into Mexico after having been pushed south by the Comanches, who would, in turn, be cultivated as Spanish allies. In his report, Rubí distinguished between the de facto frontier of the Rio Grande and the imagined frontier of an expanding frontier. Spanish efforts to increase their territory in North America, he argued, were over.
Rubí returned to Spain in the summer of 1768. Four years later, Carlos III accepted his recommendations, issuing the New Regulations for Presidios in 1772. These orders not only realigned the frontier presidios and organized their presidial troops, but also overhauled governance in the region with the creation of the Provincias Internas—the Internal Provinces—now that the Spanish empire stretched eastward to the Mississippi River.
Map of the Spanish frontier drawn by The Marqués de Rubí’s engineer, Nicolás de Lafora.