Stephen F Austin to Samuel M Williams, 04-02-1831

Summary: Interest in passage of a general law for the government of territories. Slavery. Hold aloof from conflict between Madero and Bradburn. "In these matters say little or nothing, and nothing definite." Law excluding foreigners from retail trade.

[From Williams Papers, Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Tex.]

L[eona]. Viacario April 2. 1831

Dr Sir.

I have nothing of much interest to communicate. I refer you and Luke to my letters to Johnson and Williamson. I kept no copy of either of them, and may need the one to Johnson after my return, for which reason I wish you would request him not to let it be destroyed.

There is nothing new from Mexico of a political nature—Mexia has arrived there from New York and will be here in all this month, on the subject of the land company formed in New York.

Genl Teran writes on 21 ult. that he agrees with me in opinion that Bradburn has misconstrued the law as to tonnage duty—that he will examine into it and give an order to have all but the first refunded to S Rhoads [Fisher] and I have no doubt it will be done- he says that he probably will be here this month on his way to Mexico where he goes to visit his family.

I wish you to take the copy of the oficio that Jorge [Fisher] wrote about the free negroes, and burn it, that is I mean the copy that was signed by me, in case I ever signed any which I do this recollect to have done, and carefully keep the copy and letter on that subject which is in his hand writing don't neglect to do this before you forget it, and send him no papers of any sort—you did very right in not sending those he wrote for.

Padre Muldoon was still in Matamoros on the 21 March, but anxious to get on. I presume he will wait untill the Genl decides whether he goes to Mexico or to Texas.

This is holy week, of course nothing done in the Legislature, tho we have had any quantity of processions etc—the one last night which began at 8 and ended at 11—was beautifull—about 800 females walked in two lines each with a wax candle—the night was calm and dark—the lights made a fine display in these streets, some of which assend near 200 feet in half a mile.

We are at a law to prevent foreigners from retailing—at first I thought it would pass—I now think it will not. I shall oppose it in its present shape.

I am promised an officio to Arciniega by next mail in answer to the consulta about the restriction—he may go on and put them all in possession, without any fears. I shall have no difficulty of any sort with Boss [Teran?]. Close all the 4 of June Colony as fast as possible. I ought to go to Mexico with Teran if he goes, but how can I, without money, and required at home. I am undecided as yet as to this point, and rather think that if I had 500 dollars I would go on. Much depends on the organic law for the territories. I have written many sheets on this subject and on slavery to Mexico but there is nothing like being personally present. Let me know by return of mail (if time will permit) what Luke and Johnson and others think of my views about a territory and the manner of managing the slave question—don't fail in this, there will be time for it [to] get here by 1 of May. As to the Trinity business Madero has the right side of the question—of that there is no doubt—and in the end he will come out, if he is prudent. I am compelled to touch that matter cautiously for the colony has much at stake—too much to be embarked in the cause of another. It is a hard and unpleasant situation to be placed in. Some use may be made of the big colonizing business of New York, but that must also be touched prudently. In these matters say little or nothing, and nothing deffinite, as many smooth words without meaning as you please. By Rodrigues I sent forty titles, on which I have paid forty dollars cash which you must collect. Send out the Gonzales titles without delay get Pettus to attend to it.

Tell Arciniega that I have recd his letter of 8 March and will attend to all his requests. I fear that Hunters application is hopeless, on the subject of augmentations this Govt, will not yield. Matamoros is in a hubbub about its port. I shall try another iniciative on Tuesday (Monday is post day) for Matamoros and Matagorda. I have written direct to the Vice President and minister as to Galveston and Matagorda some time ago, also to others in Mexico—Poca importa—they cannot build a wall across them all, as I told the good folks here which they took very ill, for they say the law ought to be a wall—I answered so it is, but the law of nature has a just right to break down all walls that are violent and notorious public nuisances.

The act of the Ayto, which you sent me would have been very important if anything could have been done with the judiciary, but it is impossible. Shew Johnson and Williamson the article of the constitution about Jueces Arbitros, and remind Luke of my recommendation to him on that subject.

All harmony is at an end in the legislature, the Menudeo [retail] law has split us into three or four odd sort of lumps.

Remember me to Sarah and Eliza and my nephew Austin and Mr Hunter. I recd Austins letter and am much pleased with it, would have written by this mail but have not time—will try and bring him the poney and rigging he writes me for.

The Govr has issued an order as I am told, to the Chief of Department to report what colonies are commenced and how many families are recd in each. Be very particular as to this, and make out a corrected list, for the one on the old book is very incorrect- one fourth of them have left the colony and ought not to be counted. The certificates ought to be numbered differently, for otherwise mistaken ideas will arise—by examining the Genl law of 14 April 1828 you will see the importance of keeping a regular and correct list of the colonists and it will be still more important if the Menudeo law passes.

This paragraph to yourself only

I expect Henry Austin is in the colony by this time—-tell him to select his land without delay—he had the promise of tracts in the 10 League East of Brazos and must have the preference, but the best way is to give out the idea that all that land is hung up untill I return. I also want a good tract for Mrs Holly, widow of the late Doctor Holly, who will remove to the Colony next fall certain, and be the most valuable acquisition we have ever yet received, in the female line, or probably will receive. I shall get home the last of this month. I am glad to hear that Bowie is married.

P. S. Since writing the above I have had a long conversation with the Govr relative to Texas. [He] is a very just man, and will not consent to an unjust act, if he knows it. I am fully satisfied that the rights of the people east of my colony will be fully respected in the end provided they do not attempt in any way to seek redress by force or violence—that will totally ruin them, and they had better submit to temporary evils than bring greater ones on themselves. I am much better pleased with the Govr than I ever expected to be. During the session various causes and considerations prevented me from being as intimate with him as I have been since—also the statements of others misled me as to a part of his character.

I hope my ideas as to a territory are not misunderstood. I think I stated distinctly in my letter of 31 March, that the people of Texas ought not to move that question at present. I wish the Genl govt, to move it, we shall then have the advantage of making terms— that is we will agree if it suits us, and if not refuse, just as it may be expedient. I have more confidence in the present administration than I had—my faith in Boss [Teran?] is unimpaired and all will be right in the end. If the official publication is made in the U. S. papers stating that my colony is not included in the 11 Article of the law of 6 April, have it published in the Mexican [papers.]

If no notice has been taken of the retail law, let it pass off in silence.

Take care that the Ayto. do not entangle themselves by raising arbitri[os] not authorized by law, as I see they are about to do— the resolutions adopted as published in the paper of 14 April are illegal—the Ayto. can collect half the Taxes authorized by the 8 chapter of the ordinance as you will see by the law that was passed the last day of the session but you cannot tax anything not mentioned in that chapter. Be very cautious on this point. I proposed to give the Ayto. power to raise 8000 dolls, and assess the Tax as they might deem proper—it was objected to on the ground that no such discretionary power can be given, and I was compelled to accept of the law as it is or fail in toto

S. F. Austin

Shew this letter to Johnson or such parts as you please.