Between 1820 and 1827 approximately 1,800 U.S. citizens immigrated to northern Mexico as part of that country’s empresario program, in which the federal government granted foreigners land if they promised to develop and secure the region. Historians have long argued that these settlers, traditionally seen as the vanguard of Manifest Destiny, were attracted to Mexico for its cheap land and rich natural resources. Such interpretations have lent a tone of inevitability to events like the Texas Revolution. This article argues that the early members of these groups were attracted to Mexico for chiefly political reasons. At a time when the United States appeared to be turning away from its commitment to a weak federal government, Mexico was establishing itself on a constitution that insured local sovereignty and autonomy. Thus, the Texas Revolution was far from the result of two irreconcilable peoples and cultures. Moreover, the role that these settlers played in the United States’ acquisition of not just Texas, but ultimately half of Mexico’s national territory, was more paradoxical than inevitable.

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