Stephen F Austin to Commodore David Porter, 02-16-1829

Summary: Urging him to apply to government for a grant of land in Texas. Description of the country; population, cattle raising, cotton, opportunities for developing trade with England, which resents tariff of the United States, coasting trade, and foodstuffs.

San Felepe de Austin 16 Feb. 1829

Dr Sir:

I had the pleasure of seeing Capt. A. Thompson of the navy during his visit to the coast of Texas last fall, and in a conversation with him I learned that you had it in contemplation to procure a grant from Government on the Guazacualco river with the view of establishing a number of families, and the Cap. suggested the possibility of your giving a preference to Texas when fully apprised of its advantages in point of soil, locality, and temperature. Never having seen any part of the Guazacualco country I cannot pretend to a correct opinion as to its relative advantages or disadvantages when compared with Texas, and can only say that the discription I have recd of it from several intelligent men who professed to have explored it has left an impression on my mind that, as a country, Texas is greatly its superior. It is true that our climate will not admit of the culture of coffee or cacao, and other tropical productions but we can boast of the quality and abundance of our cotton crops and sugar and all the other productions of Louisiana and Mississippi succeed very well. The pasturage, or "range" as we term it, is certainly superior to any thing I have ever seen in any country, and the facilities for raising Cattle horses, mules, sheep and hogs, etc. almost exceeds credibility. The general appearance of this country is pleasing and in many places beautifull, being diversified with extensive broad Prairies clothed with the most luxurient growth of grass and groves of timber, rivers creeks streamlets and elevated undulating tracts. The latter, in general commence from thirty to fifty miles from the coast and extend far into the interior before the country becomes hilly The facilities of interior navigation are considerable and susceptible of extensive improvements, and no country is better adapted for the cheap construction of good roads, our harbors will not admit vessels of the largest class, but are sufficiently deep for brigs and the smaller class of merchant ships and are very safe and secure from gales The climate of Texas I deem to be decidedly superior in point of health and salubrity to any portion of north America in the same parallel The margins of our rivers in common with all the rivers of the world are somewhat subject to fever and agues and other complaints incident to similar situations but I think that the practical experience of seven years justifies me in saying that the rivers of Texas are less liable to diseases than any river of the U. S. below latitude 36. Situations back from the rivers, or near the Coast are remarkably healthy—

The munificent and liberal policy of the Govt towards emigrants has drawn many very worthy and valuable settlers from the United States of the north and they bring with them the enterprise, perseverance and industry which forms so prominent a trait in the national character of our native country. When I Commenced this settlement in 1821. Texas was an uninhabited desert. This colony at the present has about 3000 inhabitants and settlements are extending in other sections. The great interprise and industry of the north American emigrants must and will make this a rich and valuable country. We shall next year be able to export a considerable amt. of cotton and it is considered by many that if the " Tariff System " is continued by the Govt of the U. S. a discrimination will be made by G. Britain in the article of cotton which will give to that of other countries a decided advantage in the English market over the United States—be this as it may the planters of Texas can compete with those of the U. S. for the means of subsistence here can be raised cheaper and no capital of consequence will be required, at least for several years, to procure land. And besides this labor here will produce more than in any part of the U. S. within my knowledge, not even excepting the Red River country, owing to the superior fertility of our soil.

Should the suggestion made by Cap Thompson, that you might possibly prefer this country to Guazacualco be correct, and you should wish for information as to any particular sections I will take great pleasure in affording it so far as may be within my power. I believe that the country embraced within the following limits has not been granted to any Empresario, that is, begining at the Mouth of the San Jacinto River and folowing up it ten leagues (which is the extent of the reserve made by the law of 18 August 1824 of lands bordering on the coast thence Eastwardly following the said reseive line to the 20 league reserve, thence northwardly following this last line to the main road leading from Nacogdoches to Nachitoches, thence Eastwardly along that road to the Sabine, and down the Sabine to its Mouth and along the coast to the mouth of San Jacinto— The 20 league reserve line spoken of is also agreable to the Genl colonization law of 18 Aug. 1824 which reserves ten leagues on the coast and 20 leagues on the boundary line of the U. S.

The above tract is about 120 miles north and south and 60 east and west and will admit of good settlements. The Naches and Trinity rivers run through it both navigable and they both afford good pine cypress and cedar oak and ash timber in abundance and numerous situations on creeks for Mills. The proximity of this tract to the U. S. would cause it to settle rapidly— The Naches discharges into Sabine Lake which may be connected with an eastern arm of Galveston Bay by a cut of not more than two or three Miles through low prairie as I am told.

I expect that a cousin of mine Mr John Austin will visit vera Cruz shortly with the Schooner Eclipse for the purpose of procuring a Mexican register in proper form. A provisional pasport has been issued for her by the Comt Genl Bustamte which I am informed is sufficient to carying the cargo from here she is owned entirely by Mexican citizens We shall be able next year to supply a considerable amt. of Beef Pork, lard, Bacon and peas and Butter and Sweet Potatoes should those articles be wanting for naval supplies, they perhaps may be had on better terms from here than from any other quarter of the Mexican territory—¦

With the most sincere desires for your health and happiness I have the honor to remain your Most Obt. Sert.

[Indorsed:] Letter to Commodore Porter