Stephen F Austin to Richared Ellis et al, 06-16-1830

Summary: Interpretation of law of April 6, 1830. Law and constitution against slavery will be rigidly enforced. Austin approves of this. Does not want Texas to become a slave country.

San Felipe de Austin June 16 1830


You have no doubt seen published in the news papers of the United States, the law of the 6th of April last passed by the Mexican Congress relative to foreign emigration and other matters. The 10th article of that law declares that no variation shall be made in those colonies already established. My colony is established, and no legal impediment will of course be interposed to the removal to it of those who have contracted to become settlers; for they properly belong to the colony as much as those who are here.

The law requires that passports should be brought by the emigrants from a Mexican consul, and this must be done— The government has ordered most positively that the 13th article of the State constitution shall be rigidly inforced, and I am of the opinion that Texas will never become a Slave state or country. I will be candid with you on this point, and say that I hope it never may.

You will recollect that the 13th Article above alluded to is in these words— No person shall be born a slave in this state, after the publication of this constitution in the capital of each district, and six months after the publication of this constitution, the introduction of Slaves shall not be permitted under any pretext. The constitution was published in may 1827. Since then the legislature has passed a law guaranteeing contracts, (not contrary to the laws of this state) made in foreign countries, so as to permit families to bring the necessary and indispensable house servants and labourers. This provision will be highly useful to the country without the least danger of doing any harm for no one will be willing to risk a large capital in negroes under contracts with them, for they are free on their arrival here, and can only be held to labour by contracts, as servants are all over this nation, and in other free countries.

In the commencement of this settlement, I was in favour of the limited admission of slaves—- My reasons were, the difficulty of procuring hands in the beginning for the necessary purposes of farming, and the necessity of holding out inducements that slaves might be brought, in order to give the settlement a start, and to draw emigration, a truly difficult thing to do at that time. It was an up-hill business to get a settlement under way by any means, in the midst of an entire wilderness infested with hostile Indians. The reasons for a partial toleration of this evil, have now ceased, and the true prosperity and happiness of Texas require; that an everlasting bar should be interposed to the farther introduction of slaves. Those already in the country, are to be slaves for life, unless purchased by government, and freed in that way. This is just—-for the law permitted their introduction. Their descendants are, of course, free— Measures have been taken to exclude free negroes and Mullatoes, not indented servants; so that there is no danger of being crowded with that class, which is probably a worse nuisance than slaves. I cannot believe that any reflecting man, either in Texas or out of it, can seriously wish that slavery should be entailed upon this country.

To those who do not reflect, I would say, u take your pen-—put down the number of slaves now in the slave states—calculate their increase for eighty years at the known ratio of augmentation— Calculate the extent of country to which they are, and must be confined, and its capacity to support human beings—- Then calculate the number of white population and their increase-—deduct from said increase, the emigration of whites to other countries; (no such deduction can be made from the increase of blacks, for they cannot emigrate,) compare the two sums, and then suppose that you will be alive at the period above mentioned, that you have a long-cherished and beloved wife, a number of daughters, grand daughters, and great grand daughters;—would no fears for their fate, a horrible fate; intrude themselves upon your pillow, and overcloud the evening of your life???—

If Texas is wisely and prudently managed, it will be saved from the overwhelming ruin which mathematical demonstration declares must overtake the slave states; and the white population will find within the Mexican limits a refuge; without being driven to the frozen regions of the north. To talk to some of the slave holders about justice, humanity, etc, would be talking to a deaf man, but I will not believe that any one can look on the future which the above calculation presents, without shuddering—

The law of the 6th of April gives permission to foreign vessels to engage in the Coasting trade from the colonies to the ports of Matamoras and Tampico and Vera Cruz. It also admits all kind of provisions and lumber, free of duty, into the ports of Matagorda and Galveston, for two years. No duties of any kind will be collected, except tonage, until after the expiration of the law of 1823, exempting Texas from duties for seven years from its publication in the Capital of Texas— It will expire in November next.—

You will be pleased to communicate the contents of this letter to the emigrants who have contracted to remove to this colony from your neighbourhood.

S. F. Austin [Rubric]

To Mess. Richd Ellis Geo. Sutherland Anthony Winston R. R. Royal, etc etc—

The colonists in Texas have been well and munificently treated by this Gvt and are satisfied and contented with their situation— the most undisturbed harmony and tranquility prevails through out all Texas Genl Teran is shortly expected on here with some troops and some evil minded persons have circulated reports that his object is to oppress the colonists— Those reports are without any real foundation in truth, and have no effect here, but as rumor flies on the wings of the wind it may waft them to you—but pay no attention to them— those who bring their families here, and can produce evidence that they belong to a contract on colonization which is in legal opperation, and who can also bring unequivocal evidences of good character, have nothing to fear—