Francis Cynric Sheridan, a young English diplomat, arrived in Texas on the last Sunday of the year 1839, with his dog Nelly.

He had been transferred from his post in Barbados to evaluate the Republic of Texas for possible recognition by England.

The Republic had already been recognized by France earlier in 1839. Although Sheridan was in an official capacity, he was not expected in Texas.

Recognition by England and the establishment of a commercial treaty were particularly important both to the Republic and England.

These considerations were put in doubt by the same issue that was impeding the annexation of Texas: slavery.

Strong anti-slavery sentiments in the eastern U.S. and in England were a formidable obstacle. Moreover, the President of the Republic, Mirabeaux Lamar, was in favor of Texas remaining a Republic and expanding to the west.

Sheridan’s opinion of the rough, uncouth republic was important, and he recorded his impressions in a diary and later in a formal report.

Sheridan’s ship overshot Galveston and ended up at Velasco due to severe weather and poor maps.

His ship could not get over the bar at the mouth of the Brazos River, so he was greeted by a small boat from shore that informed him that he was in Velasco, 45 miles from Galveston.

However, once introduced, Sheridan was treated royally by the rustic residents of Velasco, certainly a good first impression.

Sheridan noted of the boat crew: “they were a stout looking set of fellows, apparently careless of personal appearance – one gentleman having little more than a pair of earrings and a Bowie knife.”

Sheridan eventually made it to Galveston, Houston and Austin, staying about six months.”

Texans’ habit of chewing tobacco and spitting it anywhere greatly disgusted Sheridan. He noted “how universal and incessant is this practice. High and low, rich and poor, young and old chew, chew, chew, spit, spit, spit all the blessed day and most of the night.”

Sheridan recognized that this was a habit of Americans, not just Texans. Sheridan’s remarks were uncensored for his diary. His official report would not mention his observations on customs and culture.

In his official report, Sheridan did meet the issue of slavery head on. “The slave population is about 10,000….The laws of Texas guarantee to the citizen his right of property in and over his slave.

“No slave can however under the existing laws be introduced into Texas except those which may be removed from the U.S. The greater portion of slaves now in Texas has been drawn from” six southern U. S. states.

Sheridan thought that the recognition of Texas would not represent an extension of slavery because the climate and soil of Texas do not require the “constitution of a Negro.”

In his official report, Sheridan stressed the productivity of Texas in growing cotton and its value as a source of this commodity to the British textile industry.

“The cotton lands of Texas will yield three times as much cotton as the Carolinas or Georgia to the acre.”

In his comprehensive report, Sheridan also estimated the Texas manpower necessary to “check Indian depredations” at 500 men. His report was detailed and insightful.

Samuel May Williams and other Texans also stressed the importance of recognition and the benefits to England.

Because of Sheridan’s and other favorable reports on the Republic of Texas, Lord Palmerton, of England’s foreign office, decided in July of 1840 to extend recognition to Texas.

A commercial and navigation treaty was signed in November 1840, between England and The Republic.

Besides the immediate benefits to Texas, the treaty with England also had an effect on the U.S. Congress’s deliberations on the acceptance of Texas as a state.

The U.S. did not want to have an independent republic allied with England within its continental borders.

But, it took another five years and a new U.S. President, Polk, before Texas was allowed in as a slave state in 1845.

And another five years before its borders were finalized in the Compromise of 1850.

Herndon Williams is affiliated with the Bayside Historical Society and the Refugio County Historical Commission. He is the author of “Texas Gulf Coast Stories”, “Eight Centuries on the Texas Frontier” and “Luju and the Curious Wolf Cub.”

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