Land was the focus of the 1860 election

The prevailing issue in Nueces County in 1860 was land. No other issue concerned the Mexican American community and the old time settlers. Juan Cortina's raids or the looming clouds of secession may have distracted the newcomers, but land was the central focus for the old-timers, both Mexicans and Anglos.

The owners of the land grants, their families, and their ranch hands were vitally interested in ensuring that the land stayed in Mexican hands. This solidarity among Mexicans of all classes was described by a later writer as a yearning “for membership in a community that exerted …pressure on individuals to think in group terms and contribute to collective goals through political action. Solidarity thus came to be viewed as a key resource for political engagement…” 

Candidate John McKinney’s role in the Saviego case was not lost on the Mexican American of Duval County – Charles Lovenskiold and Felix Blucher must have made sure of that. The Saviego case illuminated to Mexican Americans, “the importance of combining political and legal strategies for the continuing promotion and preservation” of their rights.

In addition to the Saviego threat, other incidents support the notion that land was the focal point of the election. Accusations that Lovenskiold was behind a bill in the legislature to increase taxes was probably mischaracterized since no such bill was approved in 1860. What the Texas Legislature did approve was the important piece of legislation affording a mechanism to clear land titles south of the Nueces River. In all probability, Lovenskiold got behind this bill. 

On February 18, 1860, the Ranchero received a letter from an “admirer” in Austin informing the newspaper that a bill to quiet titles west of Nueces had passed the House but final passage was far from certain. The writer promised to send the newspaper results on how the votes for the legislation broke down if it passed, in order to, “show you who your friends or rather those for justice and who are sectionally (sic) bigoted and illiberal. Some of the opponents are devotees at the shrine of ambition… it is a measure of tardy justice to your section of the country.” 

Finally, four cases involving land grants in Duval County came before the court in December 1860. Since his election was still very much in doubt, McKinney recused himself from the cases and asked Judge Edmund J. Davis of the neighboring Twelfth Judicial District to hear them. The future reconstructionist governor ruled in favor of the landowners in all four cases. 

The Precinct 9 voters may not have had their votes counted in the end, but they certainly achieved their ultimate aim in the courts.