A. 6. Sonora Asks Federal Help
By the middle 1830's the frontier forts had fallen on evil days as a result of all the socio-economic factors outlined previously and the effective offensive of a resurgent southern Athapascan enemy. An index of the disintegration of the frontier posts may be found in the appeal made to the central government by Sonora's federal congressional delegation for the 1835-1836 term. The deputies pointed out that the presidial companies suffered serious desertion and the entire frontier was depopulating as settlers fled from continual Apache depredations (Velasco 1850:86). The state's representatives focused upon scapegoats rather different from the factors described above, however, in keeping with their cultural tradition of individualism and with the knowledge of their times. They tended to blame the commandant-generals of the state and the post quartermasters and the quartermaster system for all the ills of the frontier, unaware of the many 559broader and more powerful social processes at work draining the strength of the frontier.
"There is nothing which demoralizes troops more than arrears in their pay, lack of equipment and other aids," accurately observed the Sonoran deputies. They asserted that reinforcements generally had reached the commandant generals after the evil events calling for them had happened, and they had been dissipated in meeting necessities of the moment, leaving the backlog of necessity in the frontier posts unremedied. Thus a retrograde movement was accelerated until the posts had been reduced to a nullity, one disorder producing another (ibid., p. 92).
The Sonoran congressmen harkened back longingly to the late colonial presidial system as their economic ideal. Back when the captain of a com-pany could not open the post cash box without the key of the quartermaster and the key of the chaplain, neither he nor any of the other two had much chance to raid company funds. In the "good old days" equipment, cereals and other goods were supplied the troops in good quality and at a discount of up to twenty per cent under the current uncontrolled price. Furthermore the authority of the adjutant inspector over the quartermaster's operations had made it difficult for the latter to establish a monopoly on the supply of goods or to fix prices. The "good old days" were gone forever, lamented the Sonoran deputies (ibid., p. 93).
The day-to-day policy of meeting executive needs opened the door to all sorts of disorders and abuses. Alert businessmen 560had taken advantage of the situations which arose to sell sheeting ten or twelve per cent higher than its value in the open market. Farmers tacked an extra peso or two on the going price of grain per fanega, hiked the price of horses from six or seven pesos per head to eight (ibid., p. 94).
Prompt financing of the frontier troops would have gone far toward alleviating the situation and improving the defense of Sonora.
7. Sonora Prohibits the Sale of Government Property
The straits in which the presidial troops found themselves as a result of the breakdown in the pay system and responsible command is indicated by the fact that the Sonoran acting governor had to promulgate heavy penalties to attempt to halt the frontier soldiers from selling their very weapons for cash to sustain themselves! One of the Elías Gonzalez tribe, Rafael, was acting executive head of the state when he published this order on August 10, 1837. The state commandant-general had informed him that many of the presidial troops were selling their arms to private individuals for cash, a practice which could soon leave the posts completely defenseless!
In an attempt to remedy the situation and maintain frontier defenses, acting governor Elías Gonzalez resorted to repressive measures rather than trying to rectify the basic causes of the poverty of the frontier garrisons. He prohibited 561any inhabitant of the state from purchasing any weapon from soldiers of the presidial forces (Elías G., Aug. 10, 1837, Art. 1).
Trying to recover lost guns, the acting governor decreed that individuals who had already bought arms from presidial soldiers should return them within three days after publication of his decree either at the capital or to the nearest post commander if they lived in or near forts, or within eight days of publication if they resided elsewhere. They would be reimbursed for the price they had paid for a weapon if it did not exceed the legitimate value of the arm (ibid., Art. 2).
Those who attempted to retain weapons they had purchased from presidial soldiers were subject to seizure of such arms without recompense (ibid., Art. 3).
This decree was an excellent example of the typical reaction of Mexican officials in attempting to remedy effects rather than treat causes, either through inability to discern true causes or inability to act even if the real causes were recognized.