Stephen F Austin to Provisional Government, 11-30-1835

Summary: Views on subversion of Constitution of 1824. His policy has been to separate Texas from Mexican political squabbles by organizing local state government. Review of military history since October. Appreciation of the volunteer army

San Felipe de Austin Nov. 30 1835

To the Provisional Government of Texas.

I have the honor to report to the Provisional Government that in obedience to the call of the Representatives of the people met in General consultation, appointing me a commissioner to proceed to the U. S. of America, I left the volunteer army that is besieging Bexar on the 25, and arrived at this place last night and am ready to leave the country in the station which has been assigned to me.

Col. Edward Burleson was elected by the volunteers comprising the army to succeed me in the chief command. I have the satisfaction to say that the patriotism which drew together the gallant volunteers now in service before Bexar and at Goliad is unabated. They left all the comforts and endearments of home to defend their constitutional rights and the Republican principles of the Federal sistem and constitution of 1824, and the vested rights of Texas under the law of 7th May of that year. Their basis is the Constitution and the Federal Sistem, but should these be destroyed in Mexico and the decree of 3d of October last passed by the Central party (a copy of which is herewith presented) be carried into effect, and a central and despotic government established where all the authority is to be concentrated in one person or in a few persons in the City of Mexico, sustained by military and Ecclesiastical power, the volunteer army will also im that event do their duty to their country—to the cause of Liberty and themselves, as honor, patriotism, and the first law of nature may require.

That every people have the right to change their government is unquestionable: but it is equally certain and true, that this change [to] be morally or Politically obligatory must be effected by the expression of the will of the community and by legal and constitutional means: for otherwise the stability of the government and the rights of the people would be at the mercy of fortunate revolutionists, of violence or faction. Admitting therefore that a central and despotic strong government is best adapted to the Education and habits of a portion of the Mexican people, and that they wish it, this does not and cannot give to them the right to dictate, by unconstitutional means and force, to the other portion who have equal rights and differ in opinion.

Had the change been effected by constitutional means or had a national convention been convened and every member of the confederacy been fairly represented, and a majority agreed to the change, it would have placed the matter on different ground, but even then, it would be monstrous to admit the principle, that a majority have the right to destroy a minority, for the reason that self preservation is superior to all political obligations.

That such a government as is contemplated by the before mentioned decree of 3d October, would destroy the people of Texas, must be evident to all, when they consider its geographical situation, so remote from the contemplated centre of legislation and power, populated as it is by a people who are so different in education, habits, customs, language, and local wants from all the rest of the nation, and especially where a portion of the central power, have manifested violent Religious prejudices and jealousies against them. But no national convention was convened and the constitution has been and is violated and disregarded.

The Constitutinal authority of the State of Coahuila and Texas solemnly protested against the change of Government for which act they were driven by military force from office and imprisoned. The people of Texas protested against it as they had a right to do for which they have been declared rebels by the Government in Mexico.

However necessary then the basis established by the decree of 3d of Octobr may be to prevent civil wars and anarchy in other parts of Mexico, it is attempted to be effected by force and unconstitutional means. However beneficial it may be to some parts of Mexico, it would be ruinous to Texas. This view of the matter presents the whole subject to the people. If they submit to a forcible and unconstitutional destruction of the social compact, which they have sworn to support, they violate their oaths, if they submit to be tamely destroyed they disregard-their duty to themselves and violate the first law which God stamped upon the heart of man, civilized or savage, which is the Law, or the right of self preservation,.

The decree of the 3d October therefore if carried into effect evidently leaves no remedy for Texas but resistance, secession from Mexico and a direct resort to natural right.

Such I believe to be the view which the volunteer army late under my command have taken of this subject, and such in substance the principles they are defending and will defend. That they are sound and just and merit the approbation of impartial men of all nations, I sincerely believe.

It may be out of place to speak of myself in such a communication as this, but I deem it to be due to say that I have faithfully labored for years to unite Texas permanently to the Mexican confederation by separating its local government and internal administration so far as practicable from every other part of Mexico, and placing it in the hands of the people of Texas, who are certainly best acquainted with their own local wants and could best harmonize in legislating for them. There was but one way to effect this union with any hopes of permanency or harmony, which was by erecting Texas into a state of the Mexican confederation. Sound policy and the true interests of the Mexican republic evidently required that this should be done. The people of Texas desired it, and if process [proofs] were wanting, but they are not, of their fidelity to their obligations as Mexican citizens this effort to erect Texas into a State affords one which is conclusive to any man of Judgement who knows anything about this country, for all such are convinced that Texas could not and would not remain united to Mexico without the right of self government as a State. The object of the Texians therefore in wishing a separation from Coahuila and the erection of their country into a state was to avoid a total separation from Mexico by revolution. Neither Coahuila nor any other portion of the Mexicans can legislate on the internal affairs of Texas— It is impossible— This country must either be a State of the Mexican confederation or must separate in to as an independent community or seek protection from some power that recognizes the principles of self government. I can see no remedy between one of these three positions and total ruin.

I must particularly call the attention of the provisional government to the volunteer army now in the field. That their services have been and now are in the highest possible degree useful and important to Texas is very evident; had this army never crossed the River Guadaloupe, a movement which some have condemned, the War would have been carried by the centralists into the colonies, and the settlements on Guadaloupe and La vaca would probably have suffered and perhaps been broken up. The Town of Gonzales had already been attacked and many of the settlers were about to remove. What effect such a state of things would have had upon the moral standing and prospects of the country altho' a matter of opinion, is worthy of mature consideration: and more especially when it is remembered that at that time the opinions of many were vacillating and unsettled, and much division prevailed. The volunteer army have also parallized the force of Gen. Cos, so that it is shut up within the fortifications of Bexar incapable of any hostile movement whatever, outside the walls, and must shortly surrender or be annihilated. The enemy has been beaten in every contest and skirmish, which has proven the superiority of the volunteers, and given confidence to every one. Our undisciplind volunteers, but few of whom were ever in the field before have acquired some experience and much confidence in each other and in themselves, and are much better prepared for organization and to meet a formidable attack than they were before.

The post at Goliad has been taken by the volunteers and the army deprived of large supplies which were at that place, and of the facilities of securing others by water thro' the port of Copano which is closed upon them by the occupation of Goliad. The enemy has been driven from the River Nueces by a detachment of the volunteers who garrison Goliad, and by the patriotic sons of Ireland from Powers Colony. More than one hundred of the enemy including many officers have been killed, a great many have been wounded, others have deserted, one valuable piece of brass cannon a six pounder has been taken and another preserved (the one that was at Goliad [Gonzales?] from falling into the hands of the enemy, three hundred head of horses have been taken and the resources for sustaining an army in Bexar all destroyed or exhausted, so that an enemy in that place is at this time more than three hundred miles from any supplies of bread stuffs and many other necessary articles, all this has been effected by the volunteer army in a little more than one month, and with the loss of only one man killed in Battle and one wounded, who has nearly recovered, before Bexar, one wounded at Goliad, and one at Lipanticlon on Nueces. In short, the moral and political influence of the campaign is equally beneficial to Texas, and to the sacred cause of the Constitution and of Liberty and honorable to the volunteer army [which] is composed principally of the most intelligent respectable and worthy citizens of this country and of volunteers from Louisiana and Alabama, of men who have taken up arms from principle, from a sense of duty and from the purest motives of Patriotism and Philanthropy, they have bravely sustained the rights of Texas and the cause of Mexican liberty and patiently borne the exposure and fatigue of a winters campaign during the most inclement wet and cold spell of weather known in this country for many years. The most of them are men of families whose loss would have made a fearful void in their community. They might have been precipitated upon the fortifications of Bexar which were defended by seven or eight hundred men and a number of cannon and taken the place by storm against superior numbers and Texas might and in all probability would have been covered with mourning in the hour of victory. On consultation with the officers in councils of war, it was deemed most prudent not to hazard so much in the commencement of the contest when a disaster would have been so materially injurious, and the sistem was adopted of wasting away the resources and spirits and numbers of the enemy by a siege, the ultimate success of which seemed to be certain, without any serious hazard on our part. That the fall of Bexar within a short time will be the result and with very little loss, I have no doubt.

I consider the volunteer army to be the main hope of Texas, at this time and until a regular force can be organized, and I recommend that it be sustained and provided for in the most effectual and efficient manner.

Before closing this communication, I deem it my duty to recommend to the consideration of the Provisional Government the situation of the inhabitants of Bexar and Goliad. The necessary and indispensable operations of the war, has compelled the army to make use of a considerable amount of their property, particularly corn, beef, cattle, etc. So soon as circumstances will permit I respectfully recommend that some sistem be adopted to ascertain the amount of the property thus made use of, and to provide for a Just compensation. This recommendation also extends to horses and other property lost by the volunteers.

I will present to the Government another report on a special subject of importance and have the Honor to remain

S. F. Austin