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Seven Keys to Texas

Seven Keys to Texas

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Seven Keys to Texas

5/5 (1 évaluation)
181 pages
2 heures
Apr 1, 2014


The author of Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans explores the state’s unique mindset and culture.
Author T. R. Fehrenbach defines Texas as “a state of mind.” In The Seven Keys to Texas, he provides us with a seven-part framework for understanding this unique and ever-important state: its people, frontiers, land, economy, society, politics, and the change that has taken place and continues as Texas grows and develops. A must read for those who want to better understand Texas or create a vision for its future. 
Apr 1, 2014

À propos de l'auteur

During World War II, the late Fehrenbach served with the US Infantry and Engineers as platoon sergeant with an engineer battalion. He continued his military career in the Korean War, rising from platoon leader to company commander and then to battalion staff officer of the 72nd Tank battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to his military involvement, a young T. R. Fehrenbach, born in San Benito, Texas, worked as a farmer and the owner of an insurance company. His most enduring work is Lone Star, a one-volume history of Texas. In retirement, he wrote a political column for a San Antonio newspaper. He sold numerous pieces to publications such as the Saturday Evening Post and Argosy. He is author of several books, including U.S. Marines in Action, The Battle of Anzio, and This Kind of War.

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Seven Keys to Texas - T. R. Fehrenbach


During the 150th year of Texan Independence, many non-Texans have asked, why have Texans made this anniversary such a big occasion?

After all, other states have had their centennials and sesquicentennials of statehood, and many are much older in terms of settlement and entry into the Union.

The answer, of course, is in the title of the Texas Sesquicentennial itself: The Texas Sesquicentennial of 1986 does not mark Texas’ 150th birthday as a state but the anniversary of the Texas Declaration of Independence—it is a celebration of the fact that Texans declared their freedom from distant, arbitrary government, fought the issue on the battlefield, and made it stick. And for nearly ten years afterward, spurned by the United States and constantly threatened by Mexico, Texans maintained a stubborn sovereignty all alone, symbolized by its red, white, and blue banner emblazoned with a single star.

No other American state can boast that history; no other American state defeated a foreign power, put its flag on the high seas, was recognized as a sovereign nation by European powers, or came voluntarily into the United States as an independent country. After all, the first American independence was declared and fought by a baker’s dozen of British colonies, whose united population numbered ten times that of Texas in 1836.

This points up, though it is only part of the reason, the fact that there is something different and special about Texas and Texans, just as there is something special about Israel and Jews, or France and Frenchmen.

Texans, like Frenchmen and Israelis, have suffered history upon their own soil.

Although it is the largest territorially of the lower and historic forty-eight, Texas after all is only one state in a huge American nation. But its boundaries enclose something more than a mere administrative unit of the United States—which is the way many Americans actually see their states. Texas from the first has been a state of heart and mind. This may not be an entirely rational state, but then there is not much rational about being French or Jewish or belonging to any other people. Such senses of identity spring from the chemistry of blood and soil, of history and culture.

Texas has a true history, and it is much more than a mere record of economic development.

This is what this book is about. It is not of facts or figures about Texas, or Texas trivia, or an apology for the state. Nor is it Texas folklore or Texas brag. A full and growing literature of all those things exists elsewhere. This is a book about the chemistry of history as it worked in the giant crucible of Texas and an attempt to understand and explain the origins and causes of much of present Texas reality.

No one denies that there is a true Texas mystique. However, the origins of this are often obscure to other Americans. The notion that there may be a Texan ethnicity offends some Americans who can accept and admire almost any form of ethnicity except the Old American steeped in a sense of territoriality—which of course is a form of discrimination. But there is a sort of Texan ethnicity, American to the core, American in its origins, American in its intense patriotism, though in some ways divergent from the American mainstream. And at the same time that Texas is constantly changing under the influence and pressures of American society and government, Texans are also influencing and shaping the nation as a whole.

Some Americans happen to be Texans in much the same way that some Britons are Scots and some Germans, Bavarians. While the contrasts are not as deep, and while Texans have been caught up in the same flaccid commercial cosmopolitanism that pervades America from coast to coast and like Scots and Bavarians swallowed up in a greater nation-state and culture, like Scots and Bavarians they have retained an essential identity.

Texans, in fact, have occupied something of the position of Scots within the British Empire: provincials who have provided frontiersmen, soldiers, entrepreneurs, and adept politicians to the greater society while remaining basically provincial. A Texan who goes to Washington or New York may make his mark on the nation, but he remains a Texan. And like Scots, Texans have been both admired for their qualities and detested as barbarians.

Today, this is important beyond the parochial concerns of historians and cultural anthropologists. Texas has always engaged the nation’s, and in some sense, the world’s, imagination, from the Alamo and the embattled Republic to the Cattle Kingdom and trail drives, from the Indian wars to the raw scent of crude oil at Spindletop. Hollywood from the first made Texas a favorite locale and theme. However, what was once colorful and heroic but only the prospect of an empire has now become an American empire indeed. Texas is one of a handful of truly imperial states, whose society, economy, population, resources, politics, and wealth increasingly decide the destinies of the entire American nation.

Texas is too important to be regarded or dismissed as quaint, provincial, or perverse.

In recent years Texas has grown at three times the national rate, and in Texas what has been called the American Dream has never died.

Americans tend to be present-minded and problem-oriented, impatient with the past, and like Henry Ford think history is bunk. But those who dismiss history will not be able to comprehend the present reality of Texas and Texans. They may even make the cardinal error of expecting them to be or act just like New Yorkers or Montanans.

The most important keys to understanding Texans, that majority which directs the economy and culture of the state, are historical perspectives. No one would try to understand Israel without some insight into the history of the Jews—and no one should try to understand Texas without some knowledge of its past.

I have used these perspectives to try to explain the present, and since history is a continuing process, perhaps shed some light on the future.

I hope they will prove useful to outsiders, newcomers, and for that matter, to some Texans, too.

Since the first, 1983, edition of Seven Keys, appeared, there have been changes in Texas, but most of these really follow the patterns of the past. The oil bust of 1981-82, followed by the severe local downturn of 1982-83, the slowing of the real estate boom and flattening of in-migration, only repeat old Texas cycles on a grander scale. Statistics have been updated, where available, and projections adjusted accordingly.

—T.R.F., January, 1986



Texas is a complex state, sprawling across at least five distinct geographical regions with different economies and lifestyles, and it contains every sort of people and subculture.

Texas is far less homogeneous than its image. One third of all Texans are members of minority groups as these are now defined. In 1980, the state ranked second behind California in its number of Hispanics, second in the concentration of Vietnamese, third in black population, and ninth in American Indians.

Texas is twelve percent black, a percentage that is declining. It is twenty-one percent Hispanic, representing a mostly Mexican twentieth-century immigration that is in no sense assimilated. The proportion of Hispanics has risen rapidly, due both to high birth rates and continuing immigration over the past decade. Black population tends to be concentrated in the southeast or north central regions, primarily in the Houston and Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan areas. Mexican-Americans remain along the border and Gulf coast, and more than half live in south-central Texas. In the national pattern, more than eighty percent of all non-whites are in metropolitan areas, with the great majority dwelling in the central cities, whether Houston, Dallas, or San Antonio.

In the white population there are very large elements of Germanic descent and important groups of Czechs and Poles.

However, the reality of Texas is shaped by another factor which makes the state seem far more homogeneous than many others.

A majority of Texans are still descended at least in part from Old American stock that entered the Mexican province, the Republic of Texas, or the State of Texas between 1824 and 1900. This majority, despite divisions by class, occupation, and region, still forms very much a single culture and consciousness, and more important, its ethos is dominant, except for a few enclaves, throughout the state. Cultural and economic domination have continued, in fact, where political power has been lost to other groups, such as the Mexican majority in South Texas.

There are the so-called Anglos. Anglo is a word frequently misunderstood outside of the Southwest. It should never be equated with WASP. It is true that most white Texans are Protestant and Anglo-Saxon in the sense that this term is used in the United States (meaning an amalgam of Northern European races). But the term Anglo-American, or Anglo-Texan, indicates a full participation in the English-speaking American culture as contrasted with adherence to the still-Spanish-speaking Mexican way of life. By this definition, and it is an important one, ethnic groups as diverse as Irish Catholics, Jews, Lebanese, Norwegian, Chinese, Greek, German, Czech, and Polish Americans in Texas are all Anglos and consider themselves such.

The roots of Modern Texas lie in the British Isles, in an ethos that largely failed in Europe but was successfully transmitted to America, and above all, the American West. But if the racial stock and ethos of Texans came largely from the British Isles, the present Texan consciousness was made primarily in America. Texans are less a people transplanted from various parts of Europe or the world than they are a people made in America out of an historic experience.

For the Texans are a people who made their own history. If they carried their language, religion, and much of their cultural baggage across the Atlantic, they created their own consciousness on the passage through the Appalachians, down the Mississippi, through the forests, and across the plains. And they made their mythos in Texas.

And this is the history and mythology that Texans look back upon, not to some dim memory of the old country. Anglo-Texans, even the newly arrived, do not see themselves as refugees or heirs to some vanished foreign grandeur but as conquerors or the heirs of the conquerors of the American continent—and many of them see that conquest, not 1776 and all that, or the War Between the States, which interrupted it, as the transcendental fact of American history.

In this respect Texan consciousness differs profoundly from that of the present inhabitants of Massachusetts, not one in eight descended from Americans who were sometimes forced to kill Indians or be killed by them. It also differs considerably from that of urban residents in the North or Midwest who came, or whose forebears came, directly from the old country to the neighborhood and who know their ethnic history, if at all, only from story or song, having no blood memory of it.

The majority of true Texans, those who make the reality of modern Texas, may live in modern Dallas condominiums or remote ranch houses near the Rio Grande, but they all stem by blood or tradition from that vast trans-Appalachian trek that resulted in the wresting of North America from the wilderness, the Indians, and the Mexicans.

To doubt that experience is to question the whole meaning of their existence, and outsiders should clearly understand this.

The early Texans descended from clans and families, heavily Scotch Irish, who deserted the panoply of Europe, despising its hierarchies and social organism, who also spurned the tidewaters of eighteenth-century British America with its governments, tithes, and taxes, and who plunged into the wilderness. These folk sought land and opportunity, surely—but they were also consciously fleeing something: a vision of the world in which community or state transcended the individual family and its personal good.

These frontier people poured through the Alleghenies by the thousands while the Revolutionary War was being fought, conscious of that conflict only because of British intrigues among the Indians. They had small interest in the civilized America of the Atlantic slopes with its laws and lawyers; they looked inward instead of outward for their destiny.

They spilled over the eastern mountains, at first in defiance of British mandates, later of the wishes of the American government which followed them. How little they thought of government itself is shown by their willingness to leave American jurisdiction, first behind the mountains, later in Spanish and Mexican Texas.

They saw the Indians and forests as obstacles. If French colonists tried to blend with the forest, and the Spaniards with the Indians, the American frontiersmen pragmatically determined to remove both.

The people who began to enter Texas in the 1820s when the Mexican government offered them land on fabulously favorable terms, whether rich or poor were pioneers born out of pioneer stock, restless, ruthless in their ambitions, and rootless until they found what they were looking for. They were already molded and in many ways brutalized before they came, for the Indian wars were not invented in Texas; they began on the Eastern slopes and were cemented in hatred along the old American frontier between the Appalachians and the plains.

Ninety percent of the Americans who entered Texas in its formative years came out of the Southern states and derived from this older frontier. Half, and more

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