B. W. Edwards to Stephen F. Austin, 07-21-1826

Summary: Describing abuse of justice at Nacogdoches and persecution and misrepresentation of his brother, Haden Edwards.

Nacogdoches July 21st 1826

Colo Stephen F. Austin

Sir, After an absence of several months from this province to the United States, where I was detained much longer than I had anticipated in consequence of continued and serious indisposition, I returned to this place about the 1st of April last; and, much to my astonishment and mortification, found everything in disorder and confusion in this section of the Province. I had it at first in contemplation to return back to the United States, and to abandon this country forever; believing it my individual interest to do so; but in consideration of the motives that induced me here, which was the happiness and prosperity of hundreds, more than myself, and the consequent effect that my abandonment of the Country, and my return to Mississippi would have produced upon my numerous friends not only there but elsewhere I determined to remain, for a time at least, an idle spectator of passing events, that I might be the better able to determine upon a course for myself, which was to be decisive of the fate of so many of my relatives and friends, whose confidence in me, in this enterprise, imposes a responsibility, truly awful indeed—I have now been here three months and upwards, hoping that order and confidence would be restored to this distracted community; believing that the Government would bestow that attention to it, which its present condition so promptly and so imperiously demands.—but alas!—every mail brings, as it is said (for we have no publication of government documents here) additional cause of confusion amongst the people, and consequent distrust of the rights and security of Americans on this side of the Sabine river; and the events of every day seem productive of new excitements against the civil authority here, in consequence of proceedings and decisions, believed to be incompatible with a republican government, and contrary to the fundamental principles of the constitution of the country—From those considerations, I came to the determination, a few days since, after mature reflection, to return to my native country, where I have a sure guarantee of my rights, and security of my person and property. I was preparing to carry this determination into effect, when I recd a letter from Haden Edwards at Natchitoches, whose return I was daily expecting, informing me of his intended absence for two or three months to the U. S. of the North, and requesting me to take charge of his colony until his return, and to do the best I could for his interest and the benefit of the Grant—This request, together with the wishes of my friends here, have influenced me, for the present, to remain longer, hoping that some change may take place in the present aspect of affairs.—

Thus you see, I have taken upon myself a charge of much responsibility, which is greatly augmented by the peculiar embarrassment of the affairs of this Colony, and which is not a little increased by my ignorance of the Castilian language, and my want of information in relation to complaints and charges against my brother, which seems to be almost the sole cause of all the difficulties existing here- Having always felt a deep interest in the success of the Americans in the Province of Texas, and being personally interested myself in its advancement, I should have opened a correspondence with you immediately upon my arrival here but for the unfortunate misunderstanding that appeared to exist, much to my regret and astonishment, between you and my brother

Although I could not believe that any just cause of difference could have been intended on either side; yet delicacy, under existing circumstances, forbid that I should write to you in relation to the affairs of the Colony, so long as there was a possibility of an unfriendly feeling on your part against him and his Colony. Having received an assurance on the part of my brother, that there was no disposition on his part to commence hostilities, and that he had on the contrary desired nothing more than a friendly understanding with you, as well as all the Empresarios, I was not a little gratified to learn from Colo Leftwich, and more recently from our friend Colo Pettus your declarations of amity and friendship, which does away [with] any restraint, I may have heretofore laboured under, in consulting with you upon the affairs of the country of our adoption—

In consequence of the confusion into which every thing is thrown, relative to the affairs of his grant, my brother, I suppose, thought it best to make a tour through some of the states with a view of obtaining settlers as soon as possible, by means of interesting men of influence and capital in his grant. This he will do even at a great sacrifice of his interest, if necessary. I was opposed to this expedition to the States at this time, and exacted a promise from him before he set out to Natchitoches that he would defer it until he could bring things to some issue with the government, which I had hoped would have been done by this time.

After my arrival at this place, finding things in their present train, I urged him to open a correspondence with the different departments of the Government, and to ask an investigation into his conduct without delay. This he accordingly did more than two months since; but as yet no reply to any of his communications, except a letter from the Political chief, not regarding his request and remonstrance against false accusations, and the characters that have made them, whose infamy is established by certificates of the highest character, transmitted to him. Order after order has been transmitted here, containing censure of Haden Edwards, without any inquiry into the truth or falsehood of the accusations, presumed to be made against him; and no list of charges furnished him even, to give him an opportunity of self defence—In the first place orders have been recently reca here by the Alcalda (as it is said) that Haden Edwards was not entitled to charge any thing for lands. A more recent order says, that all contracts already made may stand; but that none hereafter made will be good, and that any person here- after contracting to pay said Edwards for lands shall forfeit them and be ordered out of the country—A later order still says, that said Edwards shall refund whatever he may have recd for lands, making it the duty of the Alcalda here to compel him, should he refuse—Another order a few days ago says that this town shall have its original jurisdiction, (which is said to extend to the Sabine on the East and nearly to the Trinity on the West etc) and that the Junto alone and not the Empresaria shall dispose of said lands within said district—The last order said to be recd by tuesday's mail directs the Alcalda to inform H. Edwards that unless he changes his conduct (without informing him what it is complained of) that his grant will be taken from him and that he will be held amenable to the tribunals of the country—These two last orders if directed by the government—if not forged or misrepresented here, speak an awful warning to Americans!!—" There must be something rotten in the state of Denmark"—

Whether here or elsewhere prejudice against Haden Edwards has preponderated over justice in some department—I am slow to believe that those orders have eminated from the government itself. It cannot be, that the fundamental principles of a free constitution, cemented by the blood of thousands is thus early trampled under foot, and its most sacred principles violated in the persons of Americans, after being invited into this country with a guarantee of their rights and liberties—I have strong reasons to believe that there have been some forgeries of papers here, and there exists too much evidence of the fact, that letters have been broken open, directed to my brother before he recd them—This is my only hope of the fate of the colony and consequently of the country—If the government can divest Haden Edwards of half his grant, they can divest him of the whole in the same manner; and if they can, in violation of the constitution, confiscate or declare a forfeiture of his property, they can in like manner divest every other Empresario of his rights: and what security can any American feel, should this be the case, in the tenure he may hold under them, or even the government itself?—

This is a question of serious import, and one that seems to be coming home to the bosom of every reflecting American in this section of the country, friend or foe, who is apprised of said orders, said to have been recd here. The fact is my friend, I am becoming alarmed at the present indications of distrust and excitement, that is manifesting itself every day among the Americans in this section of the province—I am too well acquainted with the character and feelings of the Americans not to feel uneasy at the present state of things. It is reported and believed that Been has a grant to the Nuteral lands; and yet the Alcalda is letting out said lands to his favourites, suffering them to take the improvements of others, while some rely upon obtaining their titles through Been or his commissioner, and all doubtful of the security of their lands eventually— What so much adds to this confusion, is the abuse of justice and the continual outrage upon the rights and liberties of the Americans by the civil authority of this place, aided and supported by the celebrated James Gaines, and his followers, who seem determined to put down every man, who will not bow in adoration to him, and who has independance to be a freeman. This man by much affectation of patriotism for this government, and by inducing the people to believe his influence very great with the governor etc obtained a standing with them, that has made him truly formidable to his enemies- Having been active with others in organizing two regulating companies, the object of which was no doubt laudable at first and has done good, he now makes use of this auxiliary aid to oppress and bear down every man, who is obnoxious to him, or who does not approve of his policy of throwing the whole country into commotion, which he has done, for no other purpose than for his groveling political views and self-aggrandisement.

This very man, aided by a Spaniard here named Sepulver [Sepulveda] of infamous character, as well as himself; as the records of Louisana bear witness, after acting with the utmost duplicity towards my brother, has been the chief cause of all the evils that now exist here, so much to the detriment of the country, and the almost entire loss of confidence by the moving population of the United States, who have been preparing to emigrate to this Province. It is he and this said Sepulver that set themselves to work, upon the arrival here of Haden Edwards, to create the alarm and to arouse the prejudices of the Spaniards and even the American, upon which they have predicated a thousand falsehoods, and fabricated the many unfounded charges, made to the government, which seems to have been taken for granted without an examination into the truth or falsehood of the accusations—Having established himself now as he supposes in the affections and confidence of the Political Chief, he assumes the character of dictator, and arrogates to himself the privilege of sending every man into banishment, who will not kneel to his majesty, and acquiesce in his corrupt and tyrannical proceedings. We have just heard that he has decreed the expulsion of Judge Williams, and Mr. Elisha Roberts, two of the most wealthy, intelligent, industrious, and useful citizens in the whole Province; but this, together with other transactions of late, have developed to the people his real character and designs, and, if I am not mistaken, he is now tottering upon his throne.—I have been thus particular in reciting the conduct of this man, because, contemptible as he is in talents and character, he has done more to produce confusion here by falsehood, intrigue, the abuse of Empresarios, and of the Baron de Bastrop; and by the necessary effect of the loss of confidence in the government itself than every other man in the Province of Texas—The fact is, the Alcalda, his brother in law, in [is] guided by him in all his proceedings, being very ignorant himself, and a stranger to any national feelings towards his native country, as, I am told, is his boast—Twice since I have been here have the Militia, from the Aish Bayou, been ordered to this place, under false pretexts of its being the request of the government, and of making treaties with Indians etc., when the only object indeed, was, in reality, to increase and to create anew excitements, and, if possible, violence against my brother to favour the designs of this petty demagogue, who makes it his boast, that he will be the first member to Congress from this section of the State. It seems now that the different chiefs of the tribes of Indians in this section of the Province are to be assembled at this place in a few days (for what purpose God only knows), at the request of the Alcalda and his mighty counselor!—I was informed by Genl Wavell while here, that Capt. Hunter the Indian agent, appointed by the government for that purpose would be here, about this time, to form treaties with all those tribes for the security of the country—What then can be the policy of the Alcalda's tampering with them prematurely, I cannot conceive!—

As to the administration of justice here, I can, through such a medium, give you but a faint idea—Suffice it to say, that it is such however as is alone conducive to the interest of the officers, and subservient to their private feelings against those, who are obnoxious to them. Twenty and twenty five dollars costs is not an unusual fee bill, or rather a charge, in a single suit.—In short the darkest period of the reign of Ferdinand does not equal the despotism, that prevails here now!—

Col. Austin, these abuses and outrages upon the Americans will not be tolerated long!! The rumbling of the volcano has already become audible around us, and if any accident should cause its explosion in any part of its surface, not all our efforts could arrest its progress.

It is upon you then, that I mostly rely in preventing the storm that seems to be now coming in. It is your interest, it is mine, and that of every Empresario in particular to prevent, if possible, such a state of things—

You already know my views, relative to this country, and how much it has been my hope and wish that it would peacibly fill up with enterprising Americans, without any interruption to their enterprise, or premature collision with the authorities of the country— But sir, I confess I am alarmed at the present aspect of affairs in this quarter—I know the American character too well to feel indifferent to what is passing here—Once shaken in their confidence of this government, an outrage upon the rights or person of one influential American will produce a spark of ignited matter, that will kindle into a conflagration, which, we cannot doubt, will immediately extend itself to the sympathies of the people of another Government—It has been from these considerations, that I have been inclined to abandon the country, because I could see no advantage that was to result from an event so probable—so inevitable—without a change in affairs—

I have been thus free in my communication to you in consequence of our former confidential conversations in relation to the affairs of this Province, and in consideration of the mutual interest, we must both feel in every thing relative to it, and conducive to its advancement and prosperity. I have already told you the motives, that have influenced me to continue any longer in this country, and I have opened this correspondence with you in the most friendly confidence, hoping to receive from you every information and advice as to what steps had best be taken on my part, in the present attitude of affairs—

I am pleased to learn that matters are progressing better with you at present; but rely upon it my friend, that their continuance there, and indeed the fate of the whole country depends upon the speedy adjustment of the affairs of this colony—I am sensible of the importance of a personal interview with you; but this at present is impossible—I hope to hear from you as soon as possible—I should deem a private conveyance much safer then by mail—Accept my best wishes for your success, and believe me

B. W. Edwards

P. S. The Americans have been under the impression, that they were exemp, under the colonization law, from taxation for ten years; yet they are told now, that Orders have come on, requesting them to pay Sepulver the most exorbitant prices for stamp-paper, which seems necessary to give validity to any instrument of writing between individuals, for money or what not—An acquaintance of mine a few days since was compeled to pay $6 in making a transfer of a negro, estimated at $400. Pray write me your views upon this subject—

B W E_