Stephen F. Austin to Anastacio Bustamante, 05-10-1822

Summary: American traders encourage hostility of Comanches and Lipans against Mexicans. Three routes of trade. Indians can be pacified by breaking off this commerce, supplying in its place a licensed trade under direction of Mexican Government, and strengthening the settlements of Texas.

Mexico May 10. 1822

The knowledge which I have obtained during my residence in the Province of Texas of the situation and disposition of the hostile Indians who are harrassing it, having enabled me to make some observations on the causes of that hostility, and some reflections as to the surest means of terminating it by a lasting peace; and feeling a deep interest in the welfare of that province and of the nation generally; I beg leave to submit a few remarks on this subject to your Excellency as the superior political head of the Eastern division of the nation, feeling confident that your Paternal solicitude for the happiness of the Provinces under your command will insure a favorable reception to any well founded suggestion calculated to ameliorate their condition, and that your natural goodness of heart will appreciate my motive and pardon me for attempting to advise on a subject of such importance

The war with the Comanches and Lipanis Indians owes its origin to the Revolution in the Province of Texas in the year 1812—those Indians and many others, being employed at that time by the Insurgents to fight the Royal forces. After the defeat of Toledo at the River Medina and the dispersion of his army, many of the old Inhabitants of Texas fled to the United States and settled in the neighborhood of Nachistoches where they are now living; some of these inhabitants being well acquainted with the Comanches and Lipanis Indians and with the country they inhabitated, united themselves with the American Traders at Nachistoches and opened a contraband traffic with those, and other Indians living in the Province of Texas taking out Goods and receiving Horses and Mules in exchange—This trade was found to be very lucrative to those engaged in it, and the Indians finding a good market for their Horses and Mules, were encouraged to prosecute a plundering war against the frontiers of Texas, Quahuila, and Nuevo Santender, robbing those Provinces of Horses and Mules to sell to the traders for Merchandise and this traffic having continued up to the present time is the real cause of the continuation of the Comanche war— It therefore being a war of individual interest to the Indians will never cease until that interest is distroyed, by stoping the Indian trade as it is now carried on, and confining it to a particular channel where it would be under the immediate control of Government

There are three routes by which mules are introduced into the United States from the Comanches—one is by Nacodoches, another is by Pecon Point on Red River above Nachistoches, and the third route is to the north by way of the Kansas River to the Missouri River, the trade on this last route is principally carried on by Indians from one nation to another until the mules reach the Missouri where they are bought by American traders

The first route by Nacogdoches can be easily stoped by a Garrison at that place—the second route by Pecon Point can also be stoped by a Garrison on the bank of Red River oposite the mouth of the Kiamiche River where there is a good situation—oposite to this place within the limits of the United States there is a settlement of about two hundred families who are included within the limits of a district of country which has lately been ceded by the United States to the Choctaw Indians, those settlers would willingly remove and settle round the Fort at Pecon Point and in a short time would supply the Garrison with Provisions—

The third route to the north by way of the River Kansas to the Missouri is more difficult to stop, the only effectual way of doing it that I can see is by representing the iniquity of this trade to the Government of the United States, and getting an order from that Government prohibiting their citizens from buying Horses or Mules introduced from the Comanches either by this or any other route—It is an established principle in the law of nations, and one that has been repeatedly recognized and enforced by the United States that where two nations are at peace, the Citizens of one, can not fit out within its limits, an expedition with an intention of making war, or aiding to make war against the other—now this principle will apply to the Comanche trade—The United States and this nation are at peace, and are united by the strongest ties of friendship—The traders from the United States fit out expeditions to the Comanches and other nations of Indians who are at war with this nation, and not only furnish them with arms and amunition to carry on the wars but actually hire them to pillage the frontiers by purchasing the fruits of that pillage—and therefore, these trading expeditions are fitted out for the express purpose of annoying a nation with whom the United States are at peace, and is evidently contrary to the above principle of the law of Nations—

Another view of this Subject is that this trade is a species of land Piracy which is carried on by those traders against the Citizens of this nation, for it amounts to the same thing whether those traders plunder Mules themselves, or hire the Indians to do it—I therefore have no doubt that if this subject was represented to the Government of the United States, that a law would be passed which would effectually stop this iniquitous traffic—

After the avenues by which this trade have heretofore been carried on are closed, there will still be two other important objects to effect before a permanent peace can be relied on, One is, the establishment of a regular system by which those Indians could be supplied with Goods, and other necessary articles which they have heretofore received from the American traders, and without which they will not be satisfied—The other is, to strengthen the Province of Texas by fostering the settlement which is already formed on the Colorado and Brazos by me, and encouraging the introduction of more settlers

In conversing with the Baron de Bastrop, and several other citizens of Bexar on this subject I suggested several methods of regulating the Indian trade,—One was to incorporate a Company to whom the whole Indian trade of Texas, and of the Rio Grande Del Norte should be given—This company by having fixed laws for its regulation could concentrate and control the Indian trade, and thereby prevent abuses.—Another method was for the Government to establish factories at convenient points, where constant supplies could be kept for the Indians. And a fourth plan was to grant Licenses to Individuals to carry on said trade each trader to furnish his own capital and to be independent of each other—of these plans I think the first one by the incorporation of a Company the best, for if a liberal charter was granted to the company and foreigners permitted to hold Stock in it, I have no doubt that a sufficient Capital could be raised in the United States to effect all the objects required, and the trade could be Managed so as to be profitable to the Company, and usefull to this Government—Should this plan meet the views of the Government I would submit the outlines of A Charter which I think would embrace all the objects necessary, and should the charter be granted I could be of some use in aiding to raise the Capital by inducing Merchants in the U. S. to take the Stock.

There is one thing more necessary besides regulating the trade to insure a lasting peace with the Indians, and that is to strengthen the settlements of that Province, so as to enable it to overpower and subdue the Indians, if they still continue hostile this can be done, and the whole frontier of the Eastern Provinces defended with little or no expense to the nation

If the government will grant me the privilege of settling the district of Country designated in my Memorial, I will obligate myself as stated in my memorial to organize the settlers into Rifle Companies and arm them, and to hold them in readiness at all times to march against the Indians within said Province whenever called on—These companies will be sufficient in conjunction with the regular troops and militia of the Province to subdue the Indians and keep them at peace.

[The following paragraph Austin deleted]

The organizing of these Rifle Companies with arms ready for service, and the other services mentioned in my memorial, which I have agreed to render the nation, I hope may be considered a sufficient equivalent for the privileges asked for in that memorial- Having been the first who commenced the settlement of Texas I feel great anxiety that the settlement should succeed and my experience on this subject, and the examples which history afford of the difficulty of forming a settlement in a wilderness has convinced me that the first establishment in a wilderness Inhabited by Indians cannot succeed unless it is very strong, and under the direction of one individual, for a multiplicity of directors in the same establishment will produce confusion and division, and there will neither be that security or progress in improvement which would arise from system union and consert in all the motions of the settlers a thing which can only be produced by assigning the formation of the first settlement within particular limits to one person—

The welfare of the new Settlers which I have brought into Texas is closely connected with these subjects We are all equally interested in procuring a peace with the Indians, I therefore offer my services in any way that the Government may want them towards effecting this desirable object, or in any other manner in which I can render any service to the nation

With considerations of the most profound Respect I am your Excellencys most obt. Humble servt.

Stephen F. Austin