The Law of April 6, 1830

By: Dr. Bruce Winders, Alamo Director of History and Curation

The Spanish had encouraged limited immigration into Louisiana while the region was under its control (1763–1800). Spanish officials hoped that allowing foreigners to settle in their territory would result in a grateful and loyal population. The results seemed favorable, and in 1820, officials decided to extend the policy to Texas. After exerting its independence from Spain the following year, the new nation of Mexico adopted colonization as the means to both secure Texas and set the territory on the road to prosperity.

Manuel de Mier y Terán (1890) by Thomas S. C.

The influx of immigrants into Texas from the United States, which began as a trickle, soon became a flood. After conducting an official tour of Texas in 1828, General Manuel Mier y Terán, warned his government that quick action was required to keep Texas in the Mexican federation. Americans were settling in their own communities, essentially recreating life as they had known it in the U.S. and often making little effort to adapt to or adopt Mexican culture. If this process continued, he contended, the result would be a demand by Americans living in Mexico to reunite with the United States. Even if this did not happened, Texas would increasingly turn to the north and away from the rest of Mexico.

Decreto de 6 de Abril de 1830 [Law of April 6, 1830], Republic of Mexico, 1830, Broadside Collection, Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

In response to Mier y Terán’s report, the Mexican Congress passed the Law of April 6, 1830. The legislation consisted of eighteen articles designed to increase Mexico’s hold over Texas. At its heart was a ban on further colonists from the United States, as well as a crackdown on slavery in Texas. The law also called for the establishment of a series of new forts manned by convict soldiers, who would provide the labor needed for construction of the forts and roads connecting the new forts to other communities. Several articles of the law affected trade and taxes, placing restrictions on the colonial economy. Additionally, the law encouraged Mexicans from country’s interior to move to Texas by offering land and financial assistance.

The Law of April 6 came too late to prevent the events that Mier y Terán had foreseen. Mexico lacked the resources to create the strong military frontier required to control Texas or to relocate large numbers of Mexicans there. The prohibition against colonists from the U.S., the restrictions on trade, and the presence of convict soldiers created friction between the colonists and Mexican officials. The 1832 Anahuac Disturbance, which brought William B. Travis to the attention of this fellow colonists, was a direct reaction to the law and its enforcement. Within a few years, colonists working through the legislature of Coahuila y Tejas and by direct appeal to the national government succeeded in have most of the articles in the law reversed.

Mier y Terán did not live to see his predictions come true. In July 1832, despondent over events in Texas and the region’s future, the general committed suicide by falling on his sword while at the town of San Antonio in Padilla, Tamaulipas.