Stephen F. Austin to Maria Austin, 01-20-1821

Summary: Hardships of the family. Business depression in New Orleans. Friendship of Joseph H. Hawkins.

[New Orleans, January 20, 1821.]

Elias Bates arrived here this day in a Steam Boat from Alexandria ; he went as far as the Sabine and heard that Father had arrived at St Antonio and was to be back at Natchitoches by the 15th of February; he was well. I know nothing as to my father's objects or prospects. Elias will remain in the country until my father returns. As to Bryan and Sister my heart bleeds for their troubles—if I can be of any servise to you or them let me know it, and I will go home; I will do anything that is right. My reputation is all I have on earth, if that is destroyed I can be of no use to you or any one else, and there will no longer [be] a necessity of my remaining either in this Country or any other.

I came here with a hope of getting employ; I offered to hire myself out as clerk, as an overseer, or anything else, but business is too dull here to get into business. There are hundreds of young men who are glad to work for their board. I met with Kenner; he said he would befriend me, but I have not seen him since. In this state of things it was my good fortune to get acquainted with Joseph H. Hawkins Esqr. (formerly of Lexington Kentucky) who gave me employ in an office. He is a man who in every respect is an honor, and an ornament to the human race. He has kindly advanced me money enough to purchase a few groceries for you and sister, which I have shipped on board the Velocipede Capt. Beckwith; enclosed is a Bill of lading; and I will send $10 in a letter by the boat toward paying the freight; this is all I can do now—when I earn some more I will send another supply and will try to keep you and Bryan's family supplied with sugar and Coffee at least.

Mr. Hawkins is a lawyer of the [highest] standing in this place- he is not rich—but he has a most generous heart—he has made me this offer—if I will remain with him he will board me, permit me the use of his books, and money for clothes, give me all the instruction in his power until I am well fitted to commence the practice of law in this country—for my board and the use of his books he will charge nothing, and for the money he advances he will wait until I make enough by my profession to repay him; an offer so generous and from a man who two months ago was a stranger to me, has almost made me change my opinion of the human race. There are however two obstacles in the way; one is that I shall earn nothing to help you with, for at least 18 months; another is that perhaps those I owe in Missouri may prosecute here; it will do them no good I have nothing—all the property I had in Arkansas, I gave to Father. If I am left alone a few years I may get up and pay all off; it will take me 18 months to become acquainted with civil law which is in force in this country and learn the French language-—that once done I then shall have the means of fortune within my reach. I am determined to accept of Hawkins offer.

I have been engaged in aiding to edit a newspaper, the "Louisiana Advertiser " I have sent some numbers to Post Master Herculaneum which you now doubt can get

Your Son