Stephen F Austin to John Durst, 11-17-1829

Summary: Advising memorial to government urging exemption of Texas from the emancipation decree. Argues that it is unconstitutional. Opposition must be temperate but firm. State officials are standing against it

San Felipe de Austin Nov 17. 1829

Mr John Durst


Dr Sir I have recd your letter by this days mail dated the 10th instant, on the subject of the decree of the President freeing all the Slaves.

You say to me in your letter "in the name of God what shall we do.— do for God's sake advise me on the subject by return of mail, we are ruined for ever should this measure be adopted "

What the people of Texas have to do, is to represent to the Government, through the Ayuntamientos or some other channel, in a very respectful manner; that agreeably to the constitution, and the colonization laws all their property is guaranteed to them without exceptions in the most solemn and sacred manner-— That they brought their slave property into the country and have retained it here, under the faith of that guarantee, and in consequence of a special invitation publically given to emigrants by the Government in the Colonizacion law to do so—that they have taken an oath to defend the constitution and are bound to do so. That the constitution of the state expressly recognises the right of property in slaves, by allowing six months after its publication for their introduction into the State—That they will defend it, and with it, their property.

There ought to be no vocifirous and visionary excitement or noise about this matter— Our course is a very plain one—calmn, deliberate dispationate, inflexible, firmness; and not windy and ridiculous blowing and wild threats, and much less any thing like opposition to the Mexican constitution, nothing of this kind will do any good, it will in fact be unjustifiable, and will never be approved of by me but on the contrary opposed most decidedly. I will not violate my duty as a mexican citizen.

The constitution must be both our shield, and our arms, under it, and with it we must constitutionally defend ourselves and our property.

The chief of department Dn Ramon Musquiz, has taken a firm and noble stand, he has suspended the publication of said decree, and has represented in a very able manner against it. If he should finally be compelled to publish and circulate it, the Ayuntamientos must then, take an unanimous, firm, and constitutional stand. The people will unanimously support them.

I know nothing of the men who compose the Ayuntamiento of Nacogdoches, if they are true patriots, and true friends to themselves and to Texas, they will not suffer that decree to be published or circulated in that municipality and they will take the stand I have indicated or some other that will preserve the constitution and our constitutional rights from open and direct violation

These are my ideas on the matter. I have said the same to my friends in Bexar, and when the decree arrives officially (which it has not yet) I shall say the same to the Govt—What I do in this matter will be done openly—Mexico has not within its whole dominions a man who would defend its independence, the union of its territory, and all its constitutional rights sooner than I would, or be more ready and willing to discharge his duties as a Mexican citizen; one of the first and most sacred of those duties is to protect my constitutional rights and I will do it, so far as I am able. I am the owner of one slave only, an old decreped woman not worth much, but in this matter I should feel that my constitutional rights as a Mexican were just as much infringed as they would be if I had a thousand, it is the principle and not the amount, the latter makes the violation more agravated, but not more illegal or unconstitutional

S. F. Austin [Rubric]

P. S. Let me know what your Ayto. will do—

S. F. A [Rubric]