Stephen F Austin to James F Perry, 11-06-1834

Summary: Almonte's report on Texas has created favorable feeling for Austin. Reflections on his past policies. Faults of North American character

Mexico Nov. 6 1834

My dear brother and Sister,

Your letters by Messrs. Grayson and Jack were a great relief to me, and afforded me more gratification than I have experienced for a long time. How anxious I am to be with you, and settle myself along side of you on a farm free from troubles or other matters. Had I cared as much for my own individual happiness and welfare as I have for that of Texas and its inhabitants I should now be enjoying a quiet and comfortable life, as the rest of you all in that country are. But no one ought reasonably to expect to effect any important object of a public nature without labor and suffering of some kind, and if he sustains his honor unblemished, and has the consciousness of having done his duty, he ought to bear all with patience and fortitude. I have this consolation—I have done my duty to the people of Texas so far as it was in my power to do it, and I have not in anything departed from my duty as a good and faithful Mexican citizen, as the decission of the tribunal in my case will attest (as I believe in a short time more) so that you must not suffer yourselves to be unhappy on my account.

Since the arrival of Col. Almonte there is evidently a very favorable change in my favor—incorrect opinions and erroneous ideas which have originated in false rumors and reports circulated by the enemies of Texas, have been corrected by Almonte's statements. He speaks of Texas impartially and so far as I can learn very favourably, and I have no doubt that he is exerting himself all he can in my favor. The forms of judicial proceedings in this country are so very complicated and slow, that I cannot say with any certainty when my case will be brought to a conclusion. I think however that I can assure you, that it will be in all next month at most and that the result will be a full and complete acquital, so that I shall probably be able to reach Monclova in all the month of January or beginning of February. I shall in all probability complete two years absence from home. They have been, so far, painful ones to me. Such as I would not have passed for any individual benefit whatever.

I hope the past events will have a good and salutary influence in making every body in that country more disposed to reason and reflect [ion] before they yield to excitements. I have always been of the opinion that a silent and quiet course was the true one for Texas. I wished to see it grow up in tranquility like an oak sapling in the midst of a thick forest, which protects it while slender and weak from the storm, until it rears its head above the rest with a sturdy trunk and firmly rooted foundation, that enables it to defy the storms, and rely upon its own matured strength. The excitement of the last few years forced me out of that quiet and silent policy much against my judgement—but it was unavoidable, I could not help it. Those excitements were not without sufficient cause, if the causes were to be tested solely by abstract principles, but I believed them to be impolitic and ill timed. The prosperity of Texas was much too near my heart to see it, even by probability, jeopardised in any manner. There were men of influence in various parts of this nation who were willing to paralise the progress of Texas, but they could not attack it, without cause, or at least a plausible pretext. I wished to avoid giving them such a pretext— On the other hand there were many ambitious men who wished to figure and become "great men" by means of commotions or revolutions in Texas in which they expected to rise and make fortunes as leaders, out of the hard earnings of the old settlers, who would have been the mere instruments of such leaders, and their victims. I wished to save the old settlers, who had suffered so much to redeem that country from the wilderness, from such friends and from the evils of commotions. My ambition has been of the silent, and not the boisterous kind. I preferred seeing a new log cabbin and field rise up in the wilderness, to making a noise as the leader, or participator of an excitement or revolution.

There has been for the last three years a painful conflict in my own mind, between the ideas and principles of abstract right which influenced many, and caused the past excitements; and what I believed to be the true policy and interest of Texas. This conflict, added to the influence which my personal friends had over me, has caused me much unhappiness, and perhaps it has at times given to me the appearance of wavering. I have felt for Texas as a parent feels for its only child when he believes it to be in danger.

When viewing the subject on this general and broad scale, such men as Chambers, Robinson [Robertson] and others, who I am told have been trying to undermine and ruin me during my imprisonment, are entirely overlooked. I view them as the captain of a noble ship does the worms who are eating into the sides of his vessel at a time when the waves are driving him upon a rocky shore. The greater danger absorbs the lesser. But they are notwithstanding worthy of attention—a worm hole can sink a ship. I have heretofore believed that Chambers had acquirements and a knowledge of the Spanish language that would enable him to be useful to Texas, and for this reason I have been disposed to see him advance, and be imployed in public matters. The idea which my friends all had, that he was my personal enemy had no weight with me so long as I believed he could be of public utility. But if he has spent the last winter to intrigue at Monclova for the purpose of keeping me in prison, and of wheedling this simple Govt out of sixty leagues of land for two years services as judge, and entangling all the upper country so that no man of common sence will settle there—if he has been doing all this, he certainly is not the man I believed him to be, and so far from serving Texas, he is calculated to do nothing but harm. I never condemn any one hastily or without evidence—that he has much boyish ambition and vanity I always knew, but that properly directed, I thought might be made useful to the country, after a little experience had tempered it to the standard of sound and patriotic and rational and manly ambition. When I reach Monclova I can folm an opinion as to these matters, and untill then I shall suspend it.

There has been too much of the ardent, impatient, and inflamatory impetuosity of passion for the last three years in Texas, The people of the U. S. are ardent in everything, it is their national character, and what has raised that country to the unparaleled prosperity it enjoys, and Americans carry the same ardor and enterprise and love of freedom wherever they go. It is a noble trait of character, but at the same time there are situations and circumstances where Prudence dictates moderation and calmness. We are in that situation in Texas. The people of the Colony ought to seek their public servants amongst the most prudent men they can find—Men who have a firm and well established reputation for probity, calmness, intelligence, judgement and virtue. such men for example as Burnett, Grayson, Cap Martin, McKinney, Dr. Miller, J. H. Bell, etc. etc. a long list of good men might be made out. Those who are constantly trying to climb the skies without a ladder, must learn by experience that such a course will not do, before they can be useful to the country, or even to themselves. The people should recollect that the interest of the farmers and laboring part of the community is what ought to be looked to, and not the interest and ambitious views of young lawyers or impatient aspirants or inflammatory political adventurers who are always trying in all countries to make instruments and tools of the people. Young men of this class will be useful and very valuable members of society hereafter, when experience shall have fully matured their judgment and tempered their youthful ardor and taught them prudence. But untill then they are better calculated to do harm by keeping up excitements and filling newspapers with violent and inflamatory remarks than anything else. S M Williams has been a faithful and useful servant to the colony, and he and McKinney are very well calculated to be of great and essential benefit to the farmers as merchants, to export the produce of Texas, and give character and activity to our infant commerce. They richly deserve encouragement, and I sincerely hope they will receive it from all persons. They neither of them are grasping or gaping for office, and for that very reason they deserve to be employed tho as exporting merchants they can be of more advantage to the people than in any other situation, for they will secure a fair price to the farmer for his produce and give system and stability to the market as regular merchants do in all countries, and save the farmers from mere pedlars and transient dealers, who are an evil rather than a benefit.

I need not recommend to either of you, harmony with your neighbors and with all persons—because I know that your ideas on this subject are the same as mine—public good and individual happiness depends very much on harmony between the members of a community, and especially of a new and rising community. There might be a very good society below Brazoria including both sides of the river, and I see no substantial reason why there should not be harmony amongst the families of the opposite banks of so small a river. It has not been my fault or yours there is not, and it is to be hoped that those who have tryed to create party division there and in other parts of Texas will take a different course in future. It is my sincere wish and any advance towards such a happy State of things will be met by me with pleasure, as I have no doubt it also will by you. I expressed my ideas on this matter in a letter to McKinney the 18 of last month to which I refer you.

The beginning of last month I was rather in low spirits. I had heard so many bad reports for so long a time, and nothing favourable from Texas, that I began to doubt that the people of the Colony had totally forgotten and contemptuously cast me away. This idea did, what nothing else, not even a sentence of death could have done, it depressed my spirits. Since then all has britened—Grayson and Jack have arrived and I have heard from you all in Texas in a manner that shows that my well intended exertions to serve that country are appreciated. This fully compensates me for my sufferings. I have been called a cold hearted calculator by some, How little they know me. What they called cold hearted calculation, proceeded in fact from the warmth of my affections for those people. I feared they would injure themselves. Had I cared nothing about them, no such fear would have influenced me. The truth is I am not sufficiently cold hearted, for at times I suffer myself to be excited very much, my letter of 2d October 1833 to the Ayuntamto of Bexar is one proof of it. I can now look back and see many others of a similar kind. I opposed a territory for Texas last year in this place under my instructions, to do so, in true North American stile, that is with passion violence and irritation, and by so doing have involved myself in a tangled net, I might have done it mildly and avoided making so many enemies and such powerful ones.

I rely on you and Williams to attend to my private affairs. The last two years have cost me large sums of money and thrown me back very much in my own affairs. You can make such arrangements of my business as you think best. I am greatly in favor of keeping up the Chocolate bayou stock farm, and intend to spend some of my time there. The place is of 110 value except for stock, but is good for that purpose.

I hope you or my friends will never forget Mr. Jack and his family, and Mr. Grayson they are truly worthy men. I shall ever remember them with gratitude.

I cannot write to all, but wish you to remember me to all, and you can show this letter to such of my friends you think proper.

Remember me to all the children, tell them to mind their books and study hard and loose no time in idleness. I send Eliza a small pair of scissors, as an emblem of industry and the domestic virtues, which she will possess to a great degree if she will attend as she ought to do, the precepts and example of her parents, as I have no doubt she will do. Joe must be a good planter, Austin a good merchant and Guy a good Lawyer. Let them bear this in mind, also Steph F. must be a Lawyer. Remember me to Mr. Pilgrim. I am greatly pleased with him as a teacher. Remember me very affectionaly to Cousin Henry Austin and all his family. I hope to see him next spring, and that we shall all see better times in future.

Most truly and affectionately your brother

S. F. Austin [Rubric]

Since writing the above I have recd additional information which strengthens my opinion that my affair will terminate favourably—so that you must not be uneasy or unhappy on my account You must not suffer any extracts of my letters to be published. A short extract published by Williams in New Orleans, of my letter of 3 June, has reached here, and has been understood very differently from its true meaning and has injured me very much— let this be a caution to you all to keep my name out of the newspapers. The political state of this country is tranquil and I think will remain so. I do not believe that Genl Santana has any designs to change the form of Govt. I have confidence in him

S. F. Austin [Rubric]

Mr. James F. Perry near Brazoria