Stephen F. Austin to B. W. Edwards, 09-15-1825

Summary: Interpretation of the colonization law. Analysis of his difficulties as empresario.

San Felipe Sept. 15. 1825

B W Edwards

Dr Sir On a reexamination of the Colonization law of the 24 March last under which the new Colonies are to be settled I find that a wrong impression had been made on my mind as to the quantity of land which the Empresarios are entitled to—I think I told you that no one could hold as grantee, more than Eleven Leagues, but this applies to grants to individuals, in speaking of Empresarios the 12th Article of the law says the Empresarios shall receive (5) five Sitios (Leagues) of pasture land and (5) five Labors of farming land for each hundred families he introduces and settles in the State, but this premium can only be recd for Eight hundred families, and the Empresario who in virtue of the number of families he introduces receives more than Eleven Leagues is obliged by the 13th Article of the law to alienate the excess over Eleven Leagues within twelve years

In regard to Mr. Harrisson I will state to you the difficulty that presents itself to giving his heirs a title to land requesting at the same time that you would point out any course that in your opinion will obviate the difficulty—

The authority under which titles in this Colony are granted was originally given by the Emperor on the 18 Feby 1823 after he was dethroned this decree or grant of the Emperors was presented by me to the Sovereign Constituent Congress and it was approved by them on the 11 of April and passed to the Supreme Executive Power for their approbation, and approved by them on the 14 of April 1823—The law of Colonization under which this Colony is settled requires that the land should be cultivated within two years from the date of the deed—Now the difficulty is this—wheither or not a grant can be made to the name of Harrison as he was dead before the date of the authority under which the grants are made—A grant to his heirs who are not in the Country nor never have been might be objected to on the ground that they were not Settlers, nor inhabitants of the Country, tho. I think such a grant ought to be good on the ground that the heirs as the representatives of Harrison would have been entitled to the land had the grant been made to Harrison before his death and in equity, his death, before the titles could be issued, ought not to deprive his heirs of the land he would have recd had he lived a little longer—-but doubts may arise on the subject— Another plan that I have thought of is to grant a tract to Some inhabitant of the Country in trust for the heirs, for instance to you, in trust for the heirs of Harrison

Another difficulty in the matter is as regards myself individually— promises are made for the whole of the 300 families and to admit more I must necessarily cut out some who have been promised— this subjects me to abuse from a certain class of the Settlers as you have seen and heard from personal observation—tho this I disregard and will arrange it in that way if it is considered satisfactory, or if no other plan can be adopted I can secure half a League to his heirs by giving that much out of my own individual property and rather than his heirs should think that I was unwilling to do all in my power to let them have the land I will do so—The claims to land here are rather novel in their nature and are not generally understood out of this Colony and for this reason I am no doubt frequently blamed where I would not be if the facts were known— My task has been a very complicated and difficult one—the Govt have added to my dificulties by not compelling the Commissioner to remain here untill the business was completd. and thus throwing the whole burthen and responsibility on me alone unaided by any support whatever other than such as I could draw from the slender resources of my own judgement—for I have not been furnished with any code of written laws, any detailed instructions— My authority it is true was very full and ample, too much so for it vests me with discretionary powers in regard to the reception of settlers the Govt of the Colony the distribution of lands which necessarily subjects me to sencure jealousy or envy from some quarters, let me act as I would those powers were also under the control of a superior power, so that I have in many instances been compelled by the most imperious circumstances to deviate even from my own judgement—that I have committd errors I readily admit, indeed I must have been more than human had I not committed any placed in the situation in which I have been, in some instances I have yielded up my own judgement in an individual case to what I considerd the Genl interest of the Settlement, perhaps it was an error to have done so, but the motive was a good one. Some of these cases have been taken hold of in the abstract and have drawn on me sencure and misrepresentations—One great difficulty under which I have labord is that the Settlers are unacquainted with the language and nature of this Govt—There are no interpreters but myself and my secretary and consequently no way for them to know the orders of the Govt but through one of us—this places me in a truly unpleasant situation for you know that it is innate in an American to suspect and abuse a public officer whether he deserves it or not— I have had a mixed multitude to deal with collected from all quarters strangers to each other, to me, and to the laws and language of the country, they come here with all the ideas of americans and expect to see and understand the laws they are governed by, and many very many of them have all the licentiousness and wild turbulence of frontiersmen added to this when they arrive here the worst of the human passions avarice is excited to the highest extent and it directs the vanguard in their attacks on me, jealousy and envy direct the flanks and maliciousness lurks in the rear to operate as occasion may require, could I have opposed them by showing a law defining positively the quantity of land they were to get and no more and a code of written laws by which they were to be governed I should have had no difficulty—but they saw at once that my powers were discretionary, and that a very great augmentation to their grants could be made, and thus the colonization law itself and the authority vested in me under that law holds me up as a public Mark to be shot at by every one. If a person gets a League he knows that more could have been granted and he is therefore dissatisfied and instead of thanking me for what he gets, abuses me for treating him unjustly because he does not get more—In this State of things all who approached me as friends and offerd advice, were interested advisors, precidents were established by the power that controled me contrary to my wish and judgement, and those precidents were sufficient to involve me in endless difficulty-—for example in the case of Groce the Political chief of the Province himself whose orders I [am] bound to obey designated ten leagues as the smallest quantity that he ought to have, this produced general dissatisfaction, every man in his own conception was as much entitled to ten leagues as Groce, and because he did not get it, I was abused—but it was not my fault, and had I given Groce less and treated the wishes of the Political Chief with contempt or disrespect and soured his mind would it have benefitd the genl interests of the Settlement any? I was in his power and subject to his orders and my fate and that of the Colony were linked together and could not be separated—had I managed so as to loose the confidence of the officers of the Govt embarrassment might have been thrown in the way by them that could have destroyed the settlement)—Another difficulty that I have had to contend with is that my temper is naturally rather hasty and impetuous—the good of the Settlement required that I should control it and disregard the iddle slander of those who abused me from malice, from misconception, or from interested views—for one rash act in a moment of passion in my cituation might have jeopardised the welfare of many—also my disposition as I have when too late discovered is confidential unsuspicious and accomodating to a fault and therefore open to impositions—it is said by philosophers that he is a wise man who knows himself and he who governs himself is certainly still wiser—few such men appear in this world I am not one of those and never expect to be.—my temper has met many tryals and knowing it as I think I do I give myself some credit for governing it as well as I have, tho my friends have blamed me for being too mild. I may have errd on that extreme for fear of falling on the opposite one, but I deemd it the safe side to err on and I still think so considering the temper and dispositions of the people with whom I had to deal for among the ignorant part of the Americans indipendence means resistance and obstinacy right or wrong—this is particularly the case with frontiersmen—a violent course with such dispositions might have kindled a flame that would have destroyed them and the settlement entirely.

for it was with great difficulty that after more than one years unremitting exertions that I obtained the consent of the Govt to progress with this Settlement. One great objection was that they considered the Americans a turbulent people, difficult to govern and predisposed to resist and abuse their public officers—any commotions amongst ourselves here would have had a direct tendency to strengthen this unfavourable opinion and would opperate against the prosperity of the settlement, and probably [would have] the effect to prevent any more grants and I knew that a number were pending—but it has been impossible to avoid some difficulties, a few turbulent men in a Settlement can make much noise—This little affair of Kinnys is not at all calculated to benefit any one, he has behaved in a way which merits contempt and disapprobation of every good and well disposed Settler, for without any necessity of such a course he has indirectly attempted to weaken the confidence of the settlers in their titles and in me—If I do wrong his remedy is with the Govt and I alone ought to be punished but he would sacrifice the interests of the whole Settlement to gratify a pique. I am ready to show at any time that what I have done in the affair has been correct, and that I have done injustice to no one, but I will never condescend to notice Kinny, were I to answer every hound who barks at me I should soon become a hound myself and should deserve to be barked at

I have had an unpleasant and unhappy life time of it but I look forward to better days and a better population and have the consolation to reflect that I have done my duty to the Settlers and to the Govt so far as my situation would permit and I think in the end they will all acknowledge it.

[Endorsed:] rough copy of letter to B. W. Edwards 1825