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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has been digging deeper in recent days as questions persist regarding alleged White House job offers to Rep. Joe Sestak in exchange for his withdrawal from the Pennsylvania Senatorial primary battle with Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat Arlen Specter. Read more:

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Republicans Begin to Feud as Campaign Goes Negative reports that New Mexico GOP chairman Harvey Yates has stepped into the increasingly negative primary fray developing between Allen Weh and Susana Martinez. At issue are the ads Weh is running against Martinez. Read here:

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With the raging controversy over the Arizona border security law continuing unabated I was reminded of a chapter in an unpublished manuscript of mine. What a difference a hundred one hundred seventy-five years can make in perceptions of border controls.

Santa Anna -- In the General's Charge is a historical novel about the the remarkable life and times of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The excerpt below is Chapter 46. It is essentially a discusion of Mexico's border issues with the United States.

Chapter Forty-six ~ Foreigners
At an altitude of eight thousand feet, the city of Zacatecas offered its occupants a remarkably comfortable and mild year-round climate. In the middle of the sixteenth century, the mines of Zacatecas had begun to produce great quantities of silver for the Spanish Crown. Visitors found the terrain within Zacatecas to be choppy and irregular with streets both winding and short—all largely due to the city’s location at the foot of an imposing and barren mountain range. There was great civic pride in the city, and generally the sidewalks and streets were kept clean of trash and debris. The mining wealth in Zacatecas even provided for a number of ambitious building projects over the years: including quite a few large, impressive buildings for local operations such as the post office and mint. Although the city had no cathedral, a splendidly constructed and expensive church was erected on the main plaza. In the broadest but not inaccurate terms, the inhabitants of the city were traditionally very independent and protective of legal rights. Local leaders had a reputation over the years of disdain for excessive control by any outsiders.
When on May 9th, 1835 Governor Francisco García of Zacatecas assessed the ranks of his defending army, he counted nearly five thousand men. Against Santa Anna’s approaching and estimated thirty-five hundred soldiers, Governor García felt confident of his chances for success.
Camped several miles outside of Zacatecas, Santa Anna met with Colonel Jaramillo. “Can you get word to General Andrade?” Santa Anna asked.
“Yes, sir. We have a man dressed in civilian clothing ready to take him any message.”
“I’ll write him a brief note letting him know that his life is in grave danger, as well as his career, if he and those men under his command do not stand down.”
“Our scouts tell us we’re just a few miles away from Andrade’s position outside of Zacatecas, General.”
Later that evening Jaramillo called from outside the general’s tent. Santa Anna was in bed with another one of his adolescent conquests picked up from a village on the march to Zacatecas. The general was irritated by the interruption. He reluctantly climbed off of the girl, pulled on his trousers, and met Jaramillo outside.
“Sí, Jaramillo, what is it?”
“Our messenger just returned from the outskirts of Zacatecas. He brought this note back from General Andrade.”
“Wait here,” Santa Anna said before retreating into the tent. Santa Anna lit a candle and glanced over at the coarse hair and youthful pulchritude of the swarthy girl who, smiling, awaited his return to bed. He grinned and turned to read the note signed by General Andrade. It promised that Andrade’s troops would not offer much resistance and that Governor García of Zacatecas supported this concession.
The general returned to Jaramillo. “Inform the officers that we’ll meet tomorrow morning and plan to attack Zacatecas the day after.”
“Sí. Good night, General.”
Santa Anna grunted. He had already begun to withdraw back to his tent. Jaramillo knew full well what transpired inside the general’s quarters; the colonel shrugged and disappeared into the night.
On the second day, May 11th, Santa Anna’s troops cut through the Zacatecas militia swiftly and brutally. Unfortunately for the regular army under Santa Anna’s command, there was one artillery platoon under the direction of a German-born officer named Harcourdt that offered sustained resistance to the general’s attack. The unit which Harcourdt commanded inflicted an alarming number of casualties on Santa Anna’s force and provided multiple withering volleys of artillery fire.
Aside from the brave German and his men, though, the Zacatecans were thoroughly disorganized and even timorous once the fight and actual shooting began. The experience of Santa Anna enabled him to deftly cut off the local militia’s avenues of retreat, and within a couple of hours many hundreds of General García’s soldiers simply surrendered; while still hundreds more fled after only a brief engagement. However, Santa Anna was furious when he spoke directly to General Andrade after the battle was won.
“Your communication indicated there would be only token resistance,” Santa Anna growled when Andrade was brought to his command post.
The overweight General Andrade admitted fault: “It should have been easier. That German in charge of artillery—Señor Harcourdt—did not follow my orders. Before I realized what was happening, he was bombarding your men.”
Santa Anna eventually calmed down and accepted Andrade’s explanation that Harcourdt had merely been an overzealous and lone German immigrant who refused an inevitable defeat.
Satisfied that the opposing general was now in complete submission, Santa Anna called Colonel Jaramillo into his meeting with Andrade. After the introductions, Santa Anna turned to Colonel Jaramillo and spoke: “All foreigners captured with arms here are to be summarily executed. There will be no exceptions. I want this to be a lesson to all non-Mexicans who make trouble in my country. Your men can administer any other punishment you deem appropriate—even to the unarmed foreign men. It’s time we took a stand against these damned foreigners.”
Not long after Santa Anna’s swift victory, it thus became clear that his own troops would not be disciplined or held accountable if they chose to pillage the city of Zacatecas. So pillage they did. In the days ahead, Santa Anna’s soldiers slaughtered a large part of the foreign-born and non-native male population—which of course excluded most mixed-blood and Spanish-speaking citizens descended from the colonizers and conquistadors who first murdered and reined in the true indigenous people of Mexico. In addition to the miniature genocide: property was stolen or destroyed by fire and violence, and rapes of local women were frequent. The days immediately following Santa Anna’s victory over the Zacatecan militia were, as one inhabitant put it, “Infierno en la Tierra.”

A short time following Santa Anna’s vanquish and his triumphant return from battle, word reached him that a small boat carrying fifty rebels from New Orleans had landed at Tampico. The revolutionaries had apparently expected a more receptive greeting by fellow outraged rebel federalists in support of their incursion into Mexico. Instead the men were captured by Santa Anna’s supporters and executed on his orders. With the so-called Tampico Expedition having failed, the country’s president and ranking general turned his eye to the north. Santa Anna felt it would soon be necessary to set another example and demonstrate the sovereignty of the government’s will (or at least his version of that will). He began making plans for troops to move on Béxar to crush the Texans, whom he and his advisors suspected were likely to be in open rebellion at any time.

August, 1835: “Am I doing the right thing?” Francisco asked out loud after they had ridden silently in the wagon for a couple of miles, as his wife and son trailed behind with Lorenzo in the second, fully packed wagon. The Moyas—primarily Rebecca—had just experienced a tearful goodbye parting with Beatriz and Ray upon Francisco’s now fully enacted decision to temporarily move his family back to the Sandoval’s more safely located hacienda.
Elizario Sandoval held the reins gently and looked at his son-in-law. “You’re the one who first read that letter from Father Cervantes and then showed it to me, Francisco. With what we see and hear when we talk with men like Juan Seguin and José Antonio Navarro and even Father De La Garza, I also believe that there will be serious trouble here before long,” he confirmed. “Living in a house near a presidio full of armed soldiers during hostilities is a bad idea.”
“It’s an inescapable conclusion,” Moya added.
The two men silently rode along for a few more minutes before Francisco asked: “If there is a rebellion here, which side will you take?”
“I think of myself as a Mexican first—and a Texan second,” Sandoval explained.
“I feel the same way.”
“However, Gómez-Farias is my very good friend; and to be honest with you, Francisco, I’m not at all pleased with the way Antonio López de Santa Anna betrayed him.”
“I’ve noticed that the general, el Presidente, is sometimes the type of person who switches loyalties when it suits his interests.”
“—I know. And I also know it would be foolish for me to ever hold you responsible for any of Santa Anna’s actions, even those against my friend, Gómez-Farias. Besides, I understand el Presidente is more of an acquaintance than a friend to you.”
Francisco agreed and then mentioned: “But what about men like Señor Seguin and Señor Navarro? They seem likely to hold Santa Anna responsible for his actions against Stephen Austin.”
“These are difficult times for us all, amigo. It was my friend, Gómez-Farias, who threw Stephen Austin in jail—not Santa Anna,” he reminded. “Still I can’t find fault with Señor Seguin or Señor Navarro.”
“What would Father De La Garza say if he heard you speak this way?” Francisco asked. “It’s obvious that Father De La Garza finds a great deal of fault with both Seguin and Navarro.”
“Like Santa Anna, Father De La Garza has his own agenda, amigo.”
“What do you mean?”
“Father De La Garza is not like your Father Noriega. I mean, I don’t know Father Noriega all that well—just what I learned in Mexico City and what you’ve told me about him. But it seems to me that Father Noriega is more a servant.”
“A servant?”
“Sí. He serves the Lord. While Father Marcelino does work for Santa Anna, you’ve made it clear how he never compromises his own integrity. He spends almost all of his days helping others and saving souls,” he explained.
“And Father De La Garza?”
“De La Garza is much more interested in worldly treasures.”
“What makes you say this?”
“Please understand that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with profit,” Sandoval said. “You and I operate our enterprises for profit. But a priest is different because he takes vows. With vows come responsibilities as well as privileges. And I do not think it’s proper for a priest to spend most of his energies using his privileges to accumulate personal wealth.”
“Father De La Garza is wealthy?”
“There’s much about this area and the people here that you’ve not yet learned, amigo. For one: Father De La Garza has become one of the wealthiest men in this part of Texas.”
“Sí. And he’s not the least bit interested in surrendering his clergy privileges which create opportunities for him to personally benefit—even if ending those privileges is part of a more enlightened approach to government.”
“You mean you think he’s an ardent centralist because it’s in his financial interest to do so?”
“—It is in the church’s interest to remain an integral part of government. That way it can dominate the most critical areas of life and commerce.”
“So you do have some sympathy for those who might rebel.”
“I have a lot of sympathy for their political views,” he admitted, “but I chose not to take up arms against my own government.”
“Still it may be pretty difficult to stay out of this fight,” Francisco observed.
“To remain neutral, we’ll have to become very adept diplomats,” Sandoval said and shook the reins at the team to increase the pace.

In the form of an exhausted and disheveled, curly-haired traveler, Stephen F. Austin took his place as a welcome dinner guest at the table with José Navarro and Juan Seguin at the Navarro hacienda. The three men dined outside on the patio in the warm September night. Lamps and a few candles had been lit by the servants, but the pale, bright moon was already risen high enough over the horizon for the hovering lunar Cyclops to shed sufficient light on the dinner and planned course of events. Austin had finally been released under a general amnesty in Mexico City earlier in the summer, and he had returned directly to South Texas where he now dispatched a much-needed meal.
“So it’s your conclusion that open rebellion is the only course of action remaining?” Seguin asked.
Austin took another bite of his steak and nodded. Seguin and Navarro exchanged a look.
His cleft chin moving up and down with his square jaw, Austin chewed and swallowed the last of his food before elaborating. “By the way, that was some very fine cooking good,” Austin complimented. “You can imagine the kind of food I’ve lived on the last year and a half,” he explained.
Navarro and Seguin appeared more than sympathetic.
“Well as you gentlemen know,” Austin continued, “I’ve always been a strong supporter of the Mexican government—ever since the early days of colonization. I did my best to moderate the rebellious thinking of the immigrants coming here from los Estados Unidos.”
“And our attitude has been the same—up until now,” Navarro said.
“Yes. But I think we also agree that the actions of the Mexican government and President Santa Anna have left us no other viable options other than to declare our independence.”
Seguin and Navarro again looked at each other, as if for the first time realizing the implications of Austin’s words; words which the two friends had been similarly arguing and declaring for so long.
“I have been here in Texas longer than either of you,” Navarro said. “It’s always been my hope that this day could be avoided. While the Anglos will be almost united in their support of independence, it will be different amongst the Spanish-speaking population here.”
“This conflict will pit brothers against brothers and fathers against sons, Stephen,” Seguin agreed. “I fear that most of the Spanish-speaking people will not support a rebellion, though at the same time they may not take up arms to fight with Santa Anna.”
“Even amongst the Anglos you’re going to find some opposition to open rebellion and unwillingness to take up arms,” Austin commented. “I suspect the vast majority of Anglos will remain uncommitted and await the outcome.”
“That’s probably true,” Seguin said. “Many Anglos who have come here from los Estados Unidos were encouraged to come here. And having received free land, they’re still very loyal to the Mexican government for opportunities they could never have obtained in los Estados Unidos.”
“I agree,” Navarro said. “Their loyalty is understandable. It will not be easy to raise a formidable army.”
“—Still we must remember that the recent actions by Santa Anna to become a virtual dictator are regrettable,” Austin remarked. “His behavior requires an appropriate response. If there’s no respect for the rule of law in Mexico City, then we must establish our own system based on a constitution that will be respected.”
Navarro and Seguin gave no argument.
“But we won’t have much time to prepare: I received word as I was leaving the capital that Santa Anna was sending his brother-in-law, General Martin Cos, with several thousand troops to land at El Copano and reinforce the garrisons at Goliad and in Béxar.”
“What are our plans?” Seguin asked.
“Santa Anna is forcing us to take action,” Austin explained. “The time for diplomacy passed while I spent eighteen months in that damn jail in the capital on those bogus charges. There must be an organized resistance here to this attempt at occupation. We need to start now.”

Francisco was on his return journey from another trip to El Copano when he stopped at the Hedger cabin in Goliad the following month. As his wagon pulled up to the front of their home, Beatriz responded to the sound of the visitor and appeared in the doorway. “Francisco!” she waved and then turned back towards her husband. “Ray! Francisco is here!” she called out in English.
Francisco climbed down from his wagon. Ray came out the front door with his son, Francis, already walking and following close behind. Ray and Beatriz had gone through some debate about the name for their son and whether to give him an English or Spanish name. They finally decided to name their boy after Francisco, though they opted for the more Anglo alternative: Francis, or Frank.
“How was your trip to El Copano, amigo?” Ray asked and looked at Francisco’s mostly empty wagon. “It doesn’t look like you bought very much this time.”
Francisco removed the harness from his mule and patted young Frankie’s head before shaking hands with Ray. “No. I didn’t buy much. The prices were too high this time, and the selection was pretty poor. But I do have some news for you, amigo—and it’s not good. A small fleet of ships came into the harbor as I was leaving. It was General Martin Cos arriving with several hundred of his soldiers.”
“Well I guess we’ve been expecting this for a few weeks now,” Ray said with regret.
Francisco took the mule off to a stand of thick grass near a tree and picketed the animal with rope so it would not wander off.
“—Did you talk to him?” Ray asked.
“No. I was ready to go, and I doubt he would have remembered me anyway.”
“He’s Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, right? I’d think anyone who’s a friend of his sister would be a friend of his . . . .”
“Maybe. But I didn’t want to answer any questions he might have asked of me. It’s going to be very difficult to stay out of the way of those soldiers for awhile.”
“You’re staying here for the night, aren’t you?” Beatriz came out to the porch to ask Francisco. The men and little Frankie made their way up the steps.
“Sí. But I’ll be leaving early in the morning.”
“Ray killed a deer today,” Beatriz said. “So we’ll be having venison steaks tonight with some squash picked from the garden.”
“It will be the best food I’ve had in days,” Francisco said. “—The best since the last time I was here.”
Beatriz smiled and went back to the kitchen of the relatively small cabin to finish preparing the evening meal.
“Let’s bring Frankie with us so we can go sit by the tree and have a cigar and some of that rye whiskey you gave me a few months ago,” Ray suggested.
“A little whiskey at the end of a long day is something I do not usually turn down.”
The men walked over to the large pecan tree west of the cabin and sat down in the grass not too far from the grazing mule. Frankie wandered away a few feet and occupied himself by collecting several scattered, fallen pecans with their dried and almost blackened shells.
Ray took the first drink from the bottle and handed it to Francisco. “George Collingsworth asked me to join the militia today,” Ray said and looked on at his son.
“What did you tell him?”
“I said I was gonna remain neutral.”
“What did he say to that?” Francisco asked and passed the bottle back to Ray after he had taken a sip.
“He laughed—said everyone would be forced to choose eventually.”
“He may be right, amigo.”
“I know he is.” Ray offered Francisco the bottle again. Moya shook his head, and Ray put the cork back in and laid the bottle in the grass. “But still I’ve no intentions of shootin’ anyone.”
“Except a highway man about to kill me.”
“—It was him or you, amigo. I didn’t have no time to be a diplomat that day. I asked him to drop his gun. He didn’t. I had no choice but to kill ’em.”
“And for that outcome, I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life.”
The men paused as a gentle breeze rolled through the grass and over their heads.
“—Why don’t you and your family come back to the Sandoval hacienda with me until this is all over?”
“I can’t do that, amigo. I’ve never owned any land or a home before in my life. I can’t abandon my home just ’cause of a little civil unrest.”
“I’m not asking you to abandon it, Ray. You could return after things are settled. And we have a lot of work at the Sandoval ranch right now. The Sandovals could keep you employed there for as long as you like.”
Ray hesitated. “No, Francisco. I can’t do it.”
“Listen to me, Ray,” Francisco said more emphatically. “Don’t stay here. It’s not worth the risk. General Cos is heading for Goliad right now as we speak. When he arrives here, there will definitely be trouble.”
“Sorry, amigo. I can’t leave.”
“You are stubborn.”
“Maybe,” Ray admitted.
“Then at least let me take your wife and Frankie to the hacienda,” Francisco offered. “There’s no reason for them to be exposed to the coming dangers.”
Ray thought for a moment. “You talk to Beatriz. If she agrees to go with you, I won’t object. My only reason for staying here is to protect the land that belongs to my family . . . . Anyway, it might be good for her to have the chance to visit Rebecca.”
Francisco watched Frankie gather the pecans into a small, dark mound. “I will talk to her after dinner,” he said.
The next evening Francisco arrived at the Sandoval hacienda with Beatriz and Frankie Hedger riding with him in the buckboard. When the mule-drawn wagon passed under the wood and iron arch bearing the Sandoval name, Rebecca emerged from the house. Her curiosity turned to joy when she recognized the two faces riding alongside with her husband. The two women were excited to see each other again, though Beatriz’s thoughts of her husband still weighed heavily on her mind. As the adults discussed the latest news and Francisco and a servant unpacked the wagon, Frankie and Elizario Jr. were a little less concerned about the latest current events and more interested in a chasing a tiny, skittish lizard that was loose in the front yard.
Only a few weeks after Beatriz and Frankie joined the Sandovals, news came to the Sandoval ranch that Captain James Collinsworth and his Texas militia had stormed the presidio at Goliad and defeated the several reinforcements left there by General Cos. It was a precursor to what was now an inevitable war.

Three days before Christmas, Juan Seguin approached the Sandoval hacienda on horseback. He was flanked by four heavily-armed men who served as members of his militia company.
Elizario Sandoval met him a few steps from the front door of the main house.
“Juan, it’s good to see you again,” Sandoval said. “Please, won’t you come in?”
Seguin dismounted his bay gelding. “I can’t stay, Elizario. I came to bring you some news and ask for your assistance.”
“I hope your news is good, Juan. It is just a few days until we celebrate the birth of our Lord,” he reminded. “Do we have more to celebrate?”
“I think it is good news, but I’m not sure how you will interpret what I have to say.”
“What is it, Juan?”
“We’ve defeated Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, General Cos, at San Antonio de Béxar. He’s been forced to surrender. As a condition of his surrender, he’s also agreed to return to Mexico.”
“Juan, my amigo, this is Mexico,” he reminded.
Seguin was unable to come up with a response to Sandoval’s comment. After an uncomfortable silence, Sandoval spoke again: “What can I do to assist you, Juan?”
“Are you aware that we are at war, Elizario?”
“Some are already at war, and some are still hoping for peace.”
“Everyone must choose a side, Elizario.”
“I choose to be in favor of peace,” Sandoval said, as Francisco appeared in the doorway and approached.
“Hello, Francisco,” Seguin said cordially.
“Hola, Señor Seguin,” Francisco said and shook Seguin’s hand.
Seguin resumed his conversation with Sandoval. “Are you aware of the Declaration of Independence of Texas?”
“I have heard some things about this document,” Sandoval admitted, “but I have not read it.”
“José Antonio Navarro’s signature appears on that document along with that of many other prominent men in Texas,” Seguin explained.
“Then it would seem that Señor Navarro has read the document,” Sandoval said evenly.
“—And what about you, Francisco?” Seguin asked. “Are you going to remain loyal to your amigo, President Santa Anna; or perhaps you’re going to attempt to remain neutral like your father-in-law? Can I convince you to join us in the fight for freedom?”
Francisco looked at Seguin and at the armed men on their horses: “Señor Seguin, I still consider myself a Mexican citizen.” He noticed Seguin stiffen somewhat. “I also consider myself your friend. I’ve taught language lessons to your children and the children of your workers, and I have benefited greatly from my relationship with you and your family,” he said respectfully. “You’ve made many purchases of goods from me since my arrival here in Texas. I trust that your purchases pleased you?”
“Francisco, that’s all true, but you’ve not answered my question.”
“Very well. I, too, consider myself a Mexican. Though also a very good friend of yours, I consider myself a loyal member of the Sandoval family above all else. And of this family, Señor Elizario Sandoval is the head—and I must respect his wishes. Since he wishes to remain neutral, I will do the same.”
Seguin’s expression grew stern. “If we need supplies for our forces, will you provide them?” he asked of Sandoval.
“Do you wish to purchase something today?”
“No—not today, Elizario,” Seguin admitted.
“When you require supplies, please return. Then we’ll see if we can accommodate you.”
“What about Santa Anna? Will you offer him supplies?”
“I will not offer military supplies to anyone, amigo. I will not offer them, because I don’t possess them. However, if someone comes looking for cattle or grains that we grow here on the ranch, I’ll see if I can accommodate their hunger.”
It was not the answer Seguin had hoped for, but he knew he would have to be satisfied with it for the time being. “I must return to San Antonio de Béxar now,” he said and moved back down a couple steps from the porch. As an afterthought, he looked at Francisco. “By the way, where’s your friend, Señor Hedger? It’s my understanding from Captain Collinsworth that he’s an excellent marksman. The captain would very much like Hedger to join his unit at Goliad.”
“—Ray arrived here at my hacienda earlier this week,” Sandoval interrupted. “He plans to remain here to celebrate Christmas with his wife and son.”
“It was my understanding that his wife and child came here some time ago.”
Francisco then spoke: “I brought them here the day after General Cos landed at El Copano.”
“You would have done well to have left them there in Goliad with Ray,” Seguin said. “We took possession of the presidio only a few days after General Cos came to Béxar.”
“We thought they would be safer here.”
“Perhaps,” Seguin conceded and moved back up the steps to shake hands with the two men before leaving. “I’m disappointed I couldn’t convince you to choose, gentlemen. But I will respect your neutrality for as long as I am able to, amigos.”
A moment later he was up on his gelding again. Soon the visitors had rounded their horses and were already galloping down the path and past the Sandoval arch—all leaving more quickly than they had come.