A Woman Before Her Time

Jane McManus Storm Cazneau was born in Troy, New York, in 1807, but after a failed marriage and being named in Aaron Burr’s divorce, she came to Texas in 1832 with her brother

Jane McManus Storm Cazneau from Ancestory.com

Jane McManus Storm Cazneau from Ancestory.com

Robert McManus in an attempt to improve the family’s shrinking fortune. Although she received a contract from the Mexican government to settle families in Stephen F. Austin’s colony, she apparently lacked the funds to get the enterprise off the ground. The German colonists that she landed in Matagorda refused to go farther inland and that seemed to be the end of that adventure. It was not, however, the end of Jane’s land speculation and her interest in the future of Texas. She was a prolific writer, and one of the causes she trumpeted in her columns for East Coast publications was Texas independence from Mexico. She also tried to sway U.S. public opinion in favor of annexing the Republic of Texas.

During the Mexican-American War, Jane served as the first female war correspondent and the only journalist to issue reports from behind enemy lines. She was sent to Mexico as an unofficial representative of the New York Sun editor Moses Beach’s secret peace mission, which was endorsed by President James Polk. Her expansionist interests showed clearly as she began promoting the annexation of Mexico as a way to bring peace.

Jane married William Leslie Cazneau, Texas politician and entrepreneur in 1849, and lived with him for a time in Eagle Pass, a town on the Rio Grande that Cazneau founded in order to open a trade depot and investigate mining potential. She wrote of her experiences in Eagle Pass; or Life on the Border, and she continued to write editorials.

William Cazneau was appointed special agent to the Dominican Republic in 1855, and the Cazneaus settled there on their estate, Esmeralda. Jane continued writing her columns and books that advocated her expansionist philosophy, and the couple invested heavily in property all over the Caribbean.

texashistory.untSome writers, including Linda Hudson, author of Jane’s biography, Mistress of Manifest Destiny, credit Jane with being the first writer to use the term “manifest destiny” in one of her columns. It has been difficult to trace her use of the term since her editorials were handwritten, often unsigned, and she also used the pen names Storm, Cora or Corinne Montgomery. Nevertheless she was such a strong advocate of manifest destiny that she bought into the New York Morning Star in order to use the publication to editorialize for the expansion of the south and of slavery into Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. She was not in favor of the South seceding from the Union because she believed that the division would weaken the United States and slow its expansion. She also stood to lose on her land investments if slavery and its spread to the Caribbean came to an end.

Her influence was widespread; she socialized and corresponded with James Polk, James Buchanan, Jefferson Davis, and Horace Greeley. Former Republic of Texas President, Mirabeau B. Lamar dedicated his 1857 book of poems, Verse Memorials, to Jane Cazneau.

The Cazneaus fled to another of their properties in Jamaica in 1863 following the destruction of their estate after Spain returned to the Dominican Republic. However, after Spain left the island, the Cazneaus returned and assisted President Andrew Johnson in his efforts to acquire a coaling station at Samaná and President Grant’s effort to annex the Dominican Republic.

William Cazneau died in 1876, and two years later Jane, the woman who often used the pin name Storm, was lost in a storm while sailing from New York to Santo Domingo.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “A Woman Before Her Time

  1. Another tremendous slice of social, political and economic history,
    Myra, and the fascinating character of Jane McManus dominates every aspect – quite a woman! I went to school with a John McManus, the McManuses i believe hailed from clare on the west coast of Ireland and were usually involved in commerce and trade; Jane would’ve fit right in and then there’s the other very important dimension to her, her prolific writing.
    Once again, Myra, you’ve educated and entertained me greatly. Thank you
    john

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s