Stephen F. Austin to Lucas Alaman, 01-20-1824

Summary: Review of the history of his undertaking, analysis of difficulties, and suggestion of remedies.

Brassos River Province of Texas.

January 20th. 1824

Most Excellent Sir

Having left the City of Mexico before the arrival of your Excellency it was out of my power to present myself in person and explain to your Excellency as I wished to do, the motives which induced me and those who have accompanied me to become inhabitants of this Nation; And as my own future welfare and that of my family, as well as the prosperity of the new Colony which I am establishing in this Province will entirely depend on the protection and favourable opinion which the Government of our Adoption may be pleased to extend to us, I hope it will not be deemed an intrusion if I now take the liberty of introducing myself to your Excellency and of Supplicating the good opinion and protection of Your Excellency and of the Supreme Executive Power towards the Infant Establishment which after a series of difficulties, heavy expences and constant labor for three years past I have finally Succeeded in forming in the heretofore unsettled deserts of this Province

As Your Excellency entered upon the high duties of Minister of Relations subsequent to the period when my business was finally completed in that Department by His Excellency Don Jose Ignacio Illueca on the 14th. of April 1823 it may not be superfluous succinctly to recapitulate a short history of its Origin and progress up to this time referring Your Excellency to the Official Documents on file in that Ministry to Confirm my Statement.

My late Father Moses Austin a native of the State of Connecticut in the United States became a citizen of Louisiana and of the Spanish Nation in the year 1798 and enjoyed the confidence and protection of that Government until the Cession of that Province to the United States. Urged by the advice of his friends and yielding to the Solicitude of many of his neighbours who wished to obtain permission to establish themselves in this Province he visited the Capital of San Fernando de Bexar in the month of December 1820 and made application through the local authorities of this Province to the Superior Government for permission to settle 300 families in this Province, which was granted by the Superior authorities of the Oriental Internal Provinces , and the corresponding orders for carrying it into effect were issued on the 17th January 1821—In compliance with these Orders the then governor of this Province Brigadier Don Antonio Martinez (at present a resident in the City of Mexico) dispatched Don Erasmo Seguin (at present a deputy in Cortes from this Province) to Nachitoches to meet my Father and conduct him and the families that were to accompany him to the place of their destination in this Province.—Unfortunately my Father fell a victim to the uncommon fatigues of his first journey to Bexar, and died shortly after his return to his Family, of an Inflammation in the breast occasioned by exposure in an Inclement Season in the extensive wilderness between Nachitoches and Bexar— Immediately after this melancholy event I hastened to meet my much esteemed and Honorable Friend Don Erasmo Seguin at Nachitoches and accompanied him to Bexar where I received from Governor Martinez the necessary instruction relative to the Contemplated Colony; I then returned to Louisiana, and in the month of December 1821 removed the first families and commenced the Settlement, and then hastened to Bexar to receive the further instructions of the Government-— On my arrival at that place I was advised by the Governor and my other Friends to proceed direct to Mexico and lay the subject before the Sovereign Congress and receive from that Source the authority to make the Titles to the Settlers for their Lands— I accordingly departed for Mexico and arrived in that City in April 1822

Shortly after my arrival the political convulsions which existed during the short reign of Iturbide commenced, which delayed any decision on my business untill the 18th of February 1823, when I received the final Decree of the Emperor bearing date on that day, the original of which is on file in the Ministry of Relations— Not wishing to leave Mexico after having spent so much time and money, with even a shadow of doubt remaining as to the validity of my Authority I awaited the event of the revolution in favour of liberal principles, and after the fall of Iturbide I presented to the Sovereign Constituyent Congress the Decree which I had received from the Imperial Government praying for a Confirmation of it by Congress And on the 10th of April 1823 that Body unanimously approved it, passing it to the Supreme Executive Power for their Approbation, which was given on the 14th. of April same year, And I immediately after departed from Mexico for this Province. On my arrival in the Colony which I had commenced nearly two years before I found that most of the Emigrants discouraged by my long absence and the uncertainty in which they had been for such a length of time had returned to the United States, and that the few who remained hard pressed and harrassed on every side by hostile Indians and threatened with the horrors of famine in consequence of the drougth were on the eve of breaking up and leaving the Province. Encouraged however by my return we persevered through the Complicated and appalling difficulties which surrounded us on every side untill the new Crops yielded us Bread. Since my arrival I Have been most industriously laboring in Conjunction with the Baron de Bastrop the Commissioner appointed by the Government of this Province in Conformity with the decree above mentioned, in completing the affairs of the Colony and hope to make a finish of them in a few months more tho' owing to the many unfavourable reports propagated by those who returned and my delay in Mexico many of the families who originally intended to remove have not come which has produced some delay in Completing the 300 families which I am permitted to settle in this Colony.

The Superior Government in the Decree above alluded to, gave me authority to administer justice, and preserve good order in the colony untill its Organization was Completed— This part of my duty has been attended with many embarrassments owing to the absolute want of copies of the laws and forms— I Have however in every instance Conformed to the laws of this Nation where I could ascertain them, and where I could not, or where they did not apply to the cases arising of our peculiar situation, necessity has compelled me to adopt provisional and temporary regulations which are only entended to operate untill the laws can be procured and translated into the English Language—

The Situation I am placed in near the Frontiers of two Nations, and surrounded on every side by hostile Indians and exposed to their attacks and to the no less vexatious pilfering and robbing of Those Tribes who profess friendship but steal whenever an occasion presents, renders my task peculiarly laborious and difficult and requires a most severe and efficient police to keep out and punish fugitives and vagabonds from both nations, And I have experienced some difficulty on this subject owing to the want of more full and ample authority relative to the Punishment of Crimes— The Commanding General of Monterrey ordered me by his Decree bearing date the 16th day of June last to condemn Criminals to hard labour on public works untill the superior Government should decide on their cases and to punish them in no other way. But a difficulty arises in executing this Order— We are from 40 to 50 leagues from Bexar, and have no jail, no Troops to guard Prisoners, and a Condemnation to hard labour without an adequate guard to enforce the Decree is only to exasperate a Criminal, make him laugh at the laws and civil Authorities and turn him loose on Society to Commit new depreciations, for nothing has a more disorganizing effect than a weak and inefficient administration of the laws, as it discourages and disgusts the Good and well disposed and Emboldens evil men and renders them arrogant and audacious— I Have therefore in some cases been driven to the painful alternative of either permitting a Criminal to escape unpunished or of taking upon myself the responsibility of inflicting corporal punishment

If those difficulties could be removed by vesting authority in some tribunal here to punish by Corporal punishment, and in case of foreigners, banishment from the Province I think it would greatly tend to the harmony and good order of this part of the Province

I Have made it a rule not to admit any settler who does not produce the most unequivocal evidence of good moral character and industrious habits, and I will vouch for those received by me that they will not prove undutiful nor ungrateful Citizens and Subjects of the Nation which has so kindly received them— As a proof of our readiness to aid so far as we are able towards the support of the Government we have notwithstanding the Infant state of Our Settlement impoverished as it is by the difficulties we have had to encounter voluntarily contributed upwards of 500 fanegas of Corn towards paying the Expences of the Deputy in Congress and other necessities of this Province.

Before I left Mexico I presented a Petition to Congress praying to be admitted to the rights of Citizenship of this Nation, but I never heard whether it was acted on or not— I expect to spend my Life in this Nation, and if the new Constitution does not declare all persons actually established in the Nation at the time of its adoption, Citizens, (as I presume it will) or if the Grant made to my Father to settle in this Province, previous to the Independence, and my own removal in the first year thereof will not entitle me to the rights of Citizenship. I should wish if deemed worthy of that honor to procure Letters of Citizenship

I hope that Your Excellency will pardon me for troubling you with so long a Letter, but as I before observed the future fate of myself and followers must depend on the good opinion and protection which the Government of our adoption may be pleased to extend to us, And as settlers of the Colony look to me as their organ of Communication with the Governor I have deemed it my duty to explain our Situation and progress up to this time— It is also of the utmost importance to me individually that the Government should know me as I really am, for I have spent all I am worth on this enterprize— I have labored most faithfully for near three years in those unsettled deserts exposed to every danger and hardship and fatigue; My whole future prospects and what is dearer to me still, my name and Character depend on the Success of my Arduous Undertaking, and I need not Comment on the great benefits which will result to this Province from my labours in furnishing force to aid in repelling the hostile Indians, resources to support the Government, and Agriculturists and Mechanics to bring into active operation the occult advantages and riches of this heretofore deserted and uninhabited portion of the great Mexican Nation; And in the increased value which my Colony will give to the public lands in its neighborhood in the event of those Lands being sold for the use of the Government, and the facilities it will afford in forming the new Settlements— The wisdom of Your Excellency will discover all these things; neither need I recapitulate the extent of our sufferings and losses in forming a settlement in a wilderness nor the vast expence and difficulty which I as the head of the first Colony which has been attempted by foreigners in this Province, have undergone, as they must also be evident to the superior penetration of Your Excellency— I then close this long letter with the prayer that Your Excellency will be pleased to take this first effort of Colonization within the Mexican nation since its glorious Emancipation, under your protection and patronage, and that you will have the goodness to assure the Supreme Executive Power of our good disposition towards the Government of our adoption, and that we are at all times ready and willing to aid all in our power in defending the Independence and Liberty of the Mexican Nation— With Considerations of the highest Respect— I Have the Honor to be

Your Excellencys Most Obedt. and Humble Servant

Estevan F. Austin [Rubric]

To His Excellency Don Lucas Alaman Minister of Exterior and Interior Relations, etc., etc.