Stephen F Austin to Thomas F Leaming, 06-14-1830

Summary: Reasons for undertaking to colonize Texas, and difficulties encountered. Worked noiselessly to avoid exciting apprehensions of Government. The present law of April 6, 1830, does not apply to his colony. Friends inserted provisions exempting from its operation colonies already established. Desires to remain subject to Mexico, but fears that time may force separation from Mexico, in which case he would favor independence if Texas had sufficient population. Suggests Swiss and German colonists. His map designed as a bait to promote colonization by spreading information about Texas.

San Felipe de Austin 14 June 1830

T. F. Leaming Esqr.

My dear Sir, It has been a long time since I had the pleasure of hearing from you by letter. My brother in law James F. Perry paid me a visit in april last and will remove his family to this colony in the fall he expects to visit Phia this summer and will call on you— I have as yet heard nothing of the Map of Texas, since I forwarded it the surveys have been considerably extended and I could now form a much more accurate map, tho the one I sent gives a very correct general idea of the country and is fully as correct as the first maps of new countries usually are and I think more so, it cost me great labor and trouble and considerable expence— My object was not individual profit, it was to bring this country forward into public view, for it has been literaly buried in obscurity up to the last year—

Respect for the opinions and last will of my father caused me to explore Texas in 1821. I was both delighted and astonished to find it to be the most favord region I had ever seen. Its fertility and natural resources, so far exceeding any thing I had imagined, determined me to devote my life to the great object of redeeming it from the wilderness.

It was a heavy undertaking for a young, inexperianced and very poor man—My first step was to study the character of the Mexicans and ascertain their ideas and views as to Texas— I found they knew nothing about it, and were profoundly ignorant of its real value, and also that they considered it next to impracticable to form a settlement in its wilderness without the aid of a very strong Military force for garrisons to keep the indians in check. I also discover that strong prejudices existed against the North Americans owing to the conduct of some who were engaged in the revolutionary expeditions that had entered Texas at various times since 1811, I saw that all the efforts to get foothold here by means of such expeditions had failed and ended in defeat and ruin, and I believed they always would fail, These observations convinced me that the only means of redeeming this country from the wilderness was by peaceful silent, noisless, perseverence and industry, and that the axe, the plough and the hoe would do more than the rifle or the sword. under these impressions I began and have pursued the main object with a degree of patience and perseverence which nothing but its vast importance to the civilized world could ever have given me fortitude to continue through so many years of hardships and amidst so many discouraging obstacles— The worst is now over and the few clouds which seem to hang over us are mere shadows when compared with those which have passed. I have laid a sufficient foundation for others to build on, and a prudent course will make this country one of the finest in the world.

The measures lately adopted by the Mexican Govt, prohibiting the emigration of North Americans, affords a striking proof of the nesesity of the silent course which I have pursued in bringing forward this settlement. I have never sent any notices or publications respecting it to be printed in the news papers untill lately, when I first began in 1821 merely put in a notice in the Orleans papers that I was authorised to settle 300 families and barely said enough to draw a little attention, last year I found that the Govt, were begining to become suspicious that this country was of more value than they had supposed it was, Genl Teran passed through here, and saw it. I found that something must be done to draw emigration and I determined to have the Map published as the Most effectual means of operating on an intelligent people, and the least dangerous with the Mexicans, for not many of them know any thing about maps —unfortunately about this time "Americanus" and other publica- tions appeared and Texas became A general topic of discussion in the U. S. papers This roused the attention of the Mexican Govt, and excited their jealoucy that the U. S. were determined to take this country by force right or wrong, and this mistaken notion has produced the law of 6 of April last prohibiting emigration from the U. S. and suspending all the contracts of colonization, except in the colonies that are " established "— this clause was crowded in by my friends to cover this colony (for mine is the only one that is established) and under it I shall be able with good management to keep open the door for some time longer, and perhaps untill a new order of things takes place,

I have had two difficult tasks to perform here, one to manage the Govt, and the other to manage the settlers, of these, the latter was by far the most difficult— I do say that the North Americans are the most obstinate and difficult people to manage that live on earth, tho I have had many " backwoods men " and " rough fellows " to do with. Emigrants from europe are not prohibited, and I sometimes think that Swiss and Germans will promote the prosperity of this country much more than North Americans— They will introduce the culture of the vine, olive etc. they are industrious and moral, they have not in general, that horrible Mania for speculation which is so prominent a trait in the english and North American character, and above all they will oppose slavery— The idea of seeing such a country as this overrun by a slave population almost makes me weep— It is in vain to tell a North American that the white population will be destroyed some fifty or eighty years hence by the negros, and that his daughters will be violated and Butch[er]ed by them— "it is too far off to think of—" "they can do as I have, take care of themselves "—" something will turn up to keep off the evil" etc, etc, such are the silly answers of the slave holder—to say any thing to them as to the justice of slavery, or its demoralizing effects on society, is only to draw down ridicule upon the person who attempts it— In the begining of this settlement I was compelled to hold out the idea that slavery would be tolerated, and I succeeded in getting it tolerated for a time by the Govt. I did this to get a start for otherwise it would have been next to impossible to have started at all, for I had to draw on Louisiana and Mississippi, Slave States, for the first emigrants— Slavery is now most positively prohibited by our Constitution and by a number of laws, and I do hope it may always be so.

I have passed a truly slavish life here for nine years, my constitution is much broken, my health bad, and my days are probably drawing towards a close, but I can claim some credit for what has been done towards laying a foundation for the formation of a rich and I hope a happy communityTexas no longer belongs to the wilderness—whether it will ultimately remain attached to Mexico, or unite with the north, or form an independent nation, is all mere matter of conjecture, If slavery is excluded, I think the latter the most probable—but if it is admitted, Texas will become what all slave countries are and of necessity must be destitute of physical force and dependent on some other power even for the preservation of its internal tranquility—in short it must have a prop to lean upon, for no slave country can stand alone—

I think that much good might be done by a series of publications in the National Gazette on the emigration of Swiss and Germans to Texas—also against the admission of Slavery here—against annexing it to the U. S.—in favor of its adhering to Mexico as long as the federal constitution stands and no longer, but then to set up for itself, under the protection of the U. S.— you will of course perceive that this letter is not for the public eye— I have wished to give you as a relative, some idea of my labors and views here, they are pure— I will die sooner than violate my duty to this government, and if it would let me work I would make Texas the best state that belongs to this nation, but my dear sir the truth is that the Mexicans cannot sustain a republic-— The present form must fall and what is then to become of Texas ? we are too weak to set up for ourselves, unless under the protection of our powerfall neighbor— and the protection which the strong affords to the weak is much to be feared-— If we had population, our course would be a very plain one, but we have it not— Territory we have to form a snug republic,— I am in hopes the federal system may stand a few years longer and that by that time we shall get in some thousands of swiss, Germans, etc, and North Americans—the emigration is still uninterupted to my colony and there will be a great accession of strength this fall—

S. Rhoads Fisher of your city has paid us a visit and can give you much information as to this country—-

I sent you a pamphlet sometime since containing translations of the laws of colonization etc—if you have not recd it you can get one from John P Austin, (Austin and Tayleur) New York, or from Arch. Austin same place—you will see by the law that what I stated to you relative to the impositions attempted by D. A. Smith, Stephen Wilson etc was correct—the publications of those men had its effect in producing the law of 6 of April last. Had all other impresarios gone to work in good faith as I did, Texas would now have had a very heavy population, but I am the only one out of near 80 who engaged to settle colonies who has done any thing, except harm they have not brought one family to the country, nor advanced one step.

I have but little knowledge of my mothers family I idolised my beloved Mother and altho I know none of her Philadelphia family connections personally I have towards them all the affection of a relative— Will you do me the kindness to send me by Mr. Perry a short historical sketch of my mothers parentage and family and of my maternal relations who are alive, where they live, their names etc I have a great desire to visit the U. S. and I have no doubt it would restore my health, but I am tied down here now, by many heavy and perplexing duties, and to tell the truth I am too poor as to money) to bear the expence— I have land but it will not sell yet—notwithstanding, I do not dispair of seeing Philadelphia before I die—.

I think I was called after Benjamin Fuller who married a sister of my mothers,— who inherited his fortune? he promised my mother to leave it to me— If I had it now I would make Texas much the better by it—

I hope Tanner may make a fortune out of the map, if so, he must send me one [of] his best bound general Atlasses—

you may have some curiosity to know my age, I was born in Wythe county Virginia November 3. 1793

very cordially your frend and relation

S. F. Austin [Rubric]

I regret to say that James Austina son of Aunt Margarette died of consumption here a short time after his arrival from Missouri, he was nearly gone when he reached here—


[Addressed:] Thomas F. Learning Esqr. Philadelphia Pen.