Father, not son, deserves place in Texas history

Erasmos Seguin took his seat in the Mexican constitutional assembly on Dec. 11, 1823 as the one deputy from the province of Texas.

Stephen F. Austin could not have made a better friend in 1821 than the patriarch of the Seguin clan. Sent by the governor to welcome Moses Austin back to Texas, Erasmos met instead the young foreigner who hoped to pick up where his dead dad had left off.

The first official to acknowledge Stephen’s legal claim to the land granted Moses, Erasmos Seguin went the extra mile by pleading the American’s case before skeptical and unsympathetic superiors. He also opened his home to Austin and his brother, who learned Spanish from their patient host during the long stay under his roof.

Two years later at the constitutional assembly, deputy Seguin spoke out for Texas. His expert politicking produced several important compromises essential to the successful settlement of the province, including exemption from the strict new anti-slavery statute.

Erasmos was a dedicated democrat, who never wavered in his opposition to the dictatorial rule of Santa Anna. When government troops occupied San Antonio in October 1835, the cruel commander forced the 53-year-old critic to walk the 30 miles home as punishment for his defiance.

Erasmos passed the baton to his oldest son Juan, who did the family proud in the struggle for independence. Organizing an all-Mexican company after the Battle of Gonzales, he fought bravely at Concepcion in the first serious skirmish of the insurrection and convinced many conscripts to defect. His gallantry under fire at San Jacinto in April 1836 earned a promotion to lieutenant colonel.

As military chief of San Antonio, Juan Seguin with the invaluable aid of his respected father calmed the fears of the Mexican inhabitants. Elected to the Republic senate in 1838, he was an eloquent exponent of racial harmony and a bilingual legal system. At the peak of his popularity, the Guadalupe County community of Walnut Springs honored him by changing its name to Seguin.

Soon after Juan was elected mayor of San Antonio in January 1841, a vicious rumor threatened his promising career. Anonymous gossipmongers accused him of sabotaging the Santa Fe Expedition, a reckless attempt to annex New Mexico, by tipping off the Mexican military. This supposed subterfuge resulted in the capture and cruel incarceration of more than 300 Texans.

Early the next year, the hit-and-run seizure of San Antonio by a Santa Anna strike force destroyed Juan’s already tarnished reputation. The officer in charge sealed his fate with a public expression of affection for the alleged amigo.

The embattled mayor tried to ride out the political storm but was finally forced to resign. Instead of retiring to the family ranch, he left Texas in a huff.

When Mexican invaders reoccupied San Antonio five months later, Texans were stunned to see none other than Juan Seguin leading the pack. His staunchest supporters could not explain away the damning fact that the former hero had gone over to the enemy.

Relentless Rangers kept an eye peeled for the turncoat, an officer in Santa Anna’s cavalry, throughout the Mexican War. To their regret and his relief, their paths never crossed.

A personal appeal to Sam Houston secured permission for Juan to return to his homeland in 1849. Despite the rock-hard feelings of most Texans, not a hand was raised against the outcast.

Four years after his father’s death in 1858, unpredictable Juan was back on the other side of the border. The romantic appeal of another revolt was irresistible, and he answered the call of Benito Juarez.

A decade and a half later, Juan once again chose to be a Texan. Overlooking his checkered past, the tolerant state government okayed a generous pension for the 67-year-old exile.

But even in old age Juan could not stay put. In 1883 he moved to Nuevo Laredo, where his son served as mayor, and applied for an annuity from his adopted country. Ironically the request was rejected by unforgiving bureaucrats, who cited his controversial contribution to Texas independence.

Juan never ran out of implausible excuses for his erratic behavior. To the bitter end, which came in Mexico at the age of 83, he blamed his mistakes and misfortune on Texas.

During and after the Texas Sesquicentennial, Juan Seguin was completely rehabilitated. At the climax of this public-relations campaign, the intersection of Loop 610 and Highway 225 in Houston was christened the “Juan N. Seguin Memorial Interchange.”

The steadfast father that stood by the Anglo-American colonists through thick and thin has been forgotten, but the wishy-washy son who never could decide which side he was on is now the Seguin everyone remembers.

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