Stephen F. Austin to Jose Antonio Saucedo, 07-17-1826

Summary: Asks instructions concerning procedure for legal separation of husband and wife.

I am under the necessity of consulting Your Lordship in relation to a legal case which arose in this jurisdiction, and to request you to give me your instructions as to the mode of proceeding which will be in conformity to the laws of the Country.

One of the colonists behaves so badly toward his wife and family, that she can not bear his ill usage any longer. He is a drunkard and if there are no means of preventing him, will soon squander all the property they have. The family is composed of his wife and three daughters; the property consists principally of slaves, furniture and cattle, to the amount of 7 or 8,000 dollars, all of which belongs to the wife, as is shown by legal titles of possession. He received land here as a colonist, but having neglected to cultivate it as is required by law, he forfeits his right. Now, she wishes to be separated from him and to take possession of her property for her own and her children's support. He refuses to permit her to do so, and threatens to take the negroes to the United States of the North; she is even apprehensive of her personal security. I have neither jail nor guard, nor the means of securing men of his character and disposition. In his intoxication he treats me and the other public officers of this jurisdiction with contempt.

As I am unacquainted with the law in such cases, and the form of proceeding therein, I request your Lordship to instruct me on the subject; and, also, to tell me what I have to do with those who, when intoxicated, abuse, and speak contemptuously of the authorities. If such conduct is tolerated all respect will be lost and good order can not be enforced. The actual cause of these offences is, that these men are aware that we have no means of confining them, and, they say, the laws do not allow the punishment of flogging, and they have no money to pay a fine. What am I to do with such bad characters, who ought to be punished for disturbing the peace, and appearing, publicly, in a state of drunkenness?

God and Liberty.

Stephen F. Austin.

San Felipe de Austin, July 17th 1826.