Stephen F Austin to Thomas White, 03-31-1829

Summary: Character of the Texan settlers will bear comparison with those in any frontier community. Explains that reports of bad character are spread by persons whom he has expelled from the colony.

San Felipe de Austin March 31.1829

Dr Sir,

your letters of 31 Janry came to hand yesterday and I hasten to answer the enquires you make relative to this country

You express great solicitude as to the discription of population that will inhabit Texas— On this subject a mistaken idea has prevailed in most parts of the United States, particularly as to this colony— In 1822-3 when I returned from Mexico to go on with the colony I found that some bad men had entered this section of country and I immediately adopted measures to drive them away which were effectual, but which drew down upon me the full force of the Malice and enmity of All that class, and they were not idle in fabricating and circulating every species of falsehoods and evil reports about this colony which ingenuity and baseness could invent—they denounced me as the tyranical agent of a despotic government and endeavourd to blacken the characters of the settlers here generally— The most of those who were expelled by me from here, stoped on the Sabine frontier or passed over into Louisiana, Many others of the same class who intended to have removed to this colony and were thus prevented, united with those who were expelled, to blow the clamor about this Govt and to blacken every thing appertaining to this colony, and in this way good men have been deceived and even detered from removing here. I lay it down as a rule that has never yet had an exception, that whoever is governed by common rumor or report about this colony, will form erronious opinions and be deceived—

I have not been understood in every instance by the people here as I ought to have been, they have growled and grumbled and muttered, without knowing why, or without being able to explain why— but it has not arisen from moral depravity or because the people are bad, on the contrary it arose from a principle which is common to all north Americans, a feeling which is the natural offspring of the unbounded republican liberty enjoyed by all classes in the United States; that is, jealoucy of those in office, jealoucy of undue encroachments of personal rights, and a general repugnance to every thing that wore even the semblance of a stretch of power. This feeling is correct when properly guided by an enlightened judgement, capable of discriminating between a necessary and rigorous discharge of official duty and an abuse of it— And here I confess the people are somewhat defective, tho not more so than the mass of the people—" the multitude " are in the United States,

Ninety nine times out of one hundred, an officer who discharges his duty rigorously and firmly in the U. S. is denounced by the multitude as a tyrant, and he generally sinks under the denunciation, unless shielded by the accidental or substantial brilliancy of his acts, or by the amiable suavity of his manners, or by a talent to concilliate popular favor at the expence of candor and truth

The Settlers of this colony taken en masse are greatly superior to any new country or frontier I have ever seen, and would loose nothing by a comparison with some of the oldest counties of Many of the Southern and western States—this I state as a positive and incontrovertable fact-—true it is that some of them have " growled " at me for expelling or rejecting bad men, and they have gone,so far as to clamor because bad men have been rigorously handled— It arose from a defect of judgement, and not of the heart—there is a much greater want of men of sound and enlightened and experianced judgement—than of sound and pure materials to form a happy community in this colony—tho I will always contend that in this particular we are not behind the great mass of the people of the United States—in proportion to our numbers, we are as enlightened, as moral, as good, and as " law biding" men, as can be found in any part of the United States, and greatly more so than ever settled a frontier

The policy which the Mexican Govt has uniformly pursued towards the settlers of this colony, has been that of a kind and liberal and indulgent parent—favors and privileges have been showered upon us, to an extent that has even caused some to doubt their reality; and hence have arisen many vague and unmeaning suspicions as to the validity of oar land titles etc-— All such suspicions are vague and unmeaning and groundless.

In the month of may and perhaps in next month the whole of the country bordering on the coast from Galveston bay to La Baca river on Matagorda bay will be open for settlement—no grants can be made nor even promises of grants, untiil the person who applies has first removed his family and has actually become a settler—he cannot first pick out a place, and get a promise that it will be retained for him and then go back and bring out his family—and no one can be admitted without producing the certificates and proof of character required by law— The person you speak of called William Knight came to this colony some time ago, and the treatment he met with affords a pretty fair specimen of public sentiment here—he came here in very great apparent distress—stated that he had been shipwrecked and lost his all etc,—he was taken by the hand a subscription was made up for his relief—he was clothed and fed and attended to in sickness— Our cabbin doors were thrown open, and the hand of liberal and generous hospitality was extended to him, as it is to all strangers and travellers— Accident discovered the gross imposture he had practiced, and nothing but a precipitate night saved him from severe punishment.

The fears you have of being robbed etc are all groundless— I will only make the remark that when you come here, you will be astonished to see all our houses with no other fastening than a wooden pin or door latch, even stores are left in this State—there is no such thing in the colony as a stable to lock up horses nor pens to guard them in, they roam in the prairies—the "Mustangs" or wild horses, are the only robbers that are feared—

I thank you for the caution you give me as to the men of bad character who have started to this country, My intentions are to admit none but good men, but I have been frequently deceived, and no doubt shall be so very often in future—tho shall try to guard against it—

This colony is very flourishing, and now is the best time for emigration— I have certain assurances of an increase of 3 or 400 families next fall, and the sooner you and your friends get on the better chance you will have of making a good selection of land— Stock is high and you would do well to bring out a large stock of Cows in particular—or heiffer calves and yearlins

The disturbances in Mexico do not affect us here—we have nothing to do with them—all that is necessary here is to keep harmony amongst ourselves—and to work hard—

Stephen F. Austin [Rubric]

To Mr Thomas White

[Addressed:] Mr Thomas White San Martinville Attakapas Louisiana