Stephen F. Austin to Felipe de la Garza, 05-27-1823

Summary: Asking definition of his authority to administer justice, make war on hostile Indians, and issue clearances to vessels; and that his rank in militia be determined and a port legalized.

The Supreme Government having authorized me to effect the settlement of a colony, which I proposed to establish in the Province of Texas, under the regulations which have been prescribed to me, and communicated to your Lordship, through his Excellency, the Secretary of State and Home Affairs; some doubts arise in my mind as to the best method of preserving order in the settlement. My difficulties are upon the following points:

1st Whether the authority given me to administer justice while the government of the settlement is organizing, extends so far as to empower me to punish Capital Offences committed within its limits; such as Murder, Piracy on the coast, Theft, aiding the hostile Indians to wage war against us, etc., or whether, the said authority is merely to arrest the offenders, and send them to Bexar. If the latter, tell me upon what fund I should draw to defray the expenses incurred by their transportation, and if the former, what rules are to be observed, in order to conform with the laws of the country.

2nd Whether I can or cannot make war against the hostile Indians, and to what extent.

3rd What rank I am entitled to in the National Militia, and what are the rules and regulations under which I have to organize the same. The Government authorizes me to organize the colonists into a body of this kind, but did not define either of these points, and both of them are very essential. The Secretary of State informed me verbally that this Government would regulate this matter. The force of the Colony should consist at least of one Battallion: Its extent and isolated situation exposed not only to the attacks of the Indians, but also to the aggressions of evil disposed persons requires a prompt and effective organization of the only arm of defence which has to sustain it; all of these considerations induce me to ask that some system may be established for my government, and also my rank, which should be sufficient to command the Captains in the Corps.

4th Inasmuch as, at the present time and until the colony shall be well established, there may be an absolute necessity of bringing from New Orleans, by sea, Provisions, utensils, goods and household furniture for the use of the Colonists, it appears to me indispensable that this Government should make a port of Entry provisionally of one of the Harbours on that coast authorizing me at the same time to furnish such vessels so trading to the Colony with a clearance, for without this requisite these vessels might be considered at New Orleans as engaged in a clandestine and illegal trade, and consequently deprive the colonists of these resources so necessary to their support and prosperity. For the want of topographical information, I cannot now designate the place on the coast best adapted to this purpose, but this I may be enabled to do after conferring with the Commissioner who has to be appointed for the other purposes treated of in my Commission. I have no private wish to gratify, my only object in propounding these questions is to promote the best interests and the prosperity of the Colony in particular, which ought to coin- cide with that of the whole Province of Texas and the welfare of the nation. The will of the Government in this as in all other cases shall be my own, and for this reason I have considered it my duty to consult with your Lordship on the subject above referred to, soliciting your decision in the matter, that I may punctually execute your orders, which I feel assured will be in consonance with the accustomed beneficent intentions of the Government. God protect your Lordship many years.

Stephen F. Austin.

Monterey, May 27th 1823.

[To Felipe de la Garza, Comandamte General of the Eastern Interior Provinces.]