Stephen F. Austin to Unknown, 09-28-1825

Summary: Referendum on war with Comanches, Wacoes, and Tahuacanas. His own views are in favor of neutrality if it can be maintained, awaiting settlement of Robertson's and DeWitt's colonies.

In Consequence of the depredations commited by the Weco or Tahuacana Indians in stealing horses from the frontier of this Colony great excitement has been produced, and some of the settlers express a wish to commence open war with said tribes. On hearing of the Comanche War at San Antonio, I wrote to the Chief of Department on the 20th of Augt Stating the situation of this Colony and our illy prepared state for War, owing to our scattered settlements our weak numbers, the scarcity of Arms, Amunition and Horses fit for long and active service such as an expedition into the Indian Country etc and asked permission for this settlement to avail themselves of the friendly dispositions of the Indians to remain Neutral.

Subsequently I received an order from the Military Commandant dated 21st. Augt to attack the Wacos without delay and destroy their Villages, this order was suspended by another dated the 26th of Augt by which I am informed that a body of Comanches was at the Waco Village and the attack directed by the order of the 21st was in consequence suspended untill I should hear of the departure of the Comanches but repeating the injunction to attack the Wacos, the first favourable opportunity, the 8th of September I acknowledged the receipt of the two last mentioned orders and availing myself of the descretion given in the last one as to the time and mode of Commencing the War, I informed the Military Commandant, that in consequence of the number of sick and the necessity of gathering our crops it would be impossible to commence hostilities at present and that I should therefore wait an answer to my proposition to the Govt of the 20th of Aug* relative to a State of neutralship before any offensive measures should be adopted. It may be proper to state that the Military Commandant has ordered me in case I take any property from said Indians to give him an account thereof that he may determine what shall be done with it, this is the substance of what has passed betwen me and the Govt on the subject. If the Govt in answer to my proposition of the 20th of Augt repeat the order for war positively the only subject for consideration will be the most efficient plan of conducting it, If they leave it discretionaly with us to commence War or not, several points of great importance present themselves for the mature and deliberate consideration of the settlers. In this state of things I have deemed it my duty to lay the subject before the inhabitants of each Militia district for their consideration, opinion and advice, the course determined on by the majority shall be adopted, it is therefore of the highest importance that the subject should be fully and maturely discussed and deliberated in order that the united voice of the Colony may be known and that the course which is agreed on shall be carried into effect and supported by the unanimous exertions of every man.

The propositions which present themselves for the consideration of the people may be reduced to the following heads—Should the Govt repeat the order positively for War.,

1st What is the best plan of defence for the frontiers? Will a chain of block houses be nessisary if so at what points, how are those to be determined on, how are the expences of building them to be defraid, by the people of the imediate neighbourhood or by general contribution, will it be nessisary for the settlers to abandon their farms, and embody at such block houses, if so what will be the best course to compel those who refuse to embody, and any other ideas connected with this part of the subject.

2nd Will an expedition to the Indian Towns be expedient, if so what is the least number of men that ought to go how soon could it be fitted out, whether they should all be mounted or part on foot, how many days provisions ought they to start with—

3rd Will it be good policy to send for the Lepan and Tankaway Indians, to join us in such expedition, those Indians will doubtless do some good as auxilleries but if we apply to them for aid we shall have them to feed and support, we must tolerate them to live in the settlements, and if so must expect them to steal our hogs and corn and kill some of our cattle for they will say we are bound to feed them as they are fighting for us—

4th Could the men from the lower settlements be safely drawn from there on account of the Karankaway Indians or would it be most prudent to conclude a peace with these Indians so as not to have two frontiers to defend at the same time—

Should the Government give us discretionary Power eather for War or Peace—

1st Is it most expedient to declare war at once, or to attempt a treaty of peace?

2nd If the latter what is the best course to obtain it, will it be best for me to go in person to their Towns, and conclude a treaty or send a deputation for that object, or to invite the Chiefs to meet us, at the San Antonio Road

3rd If I go or send to their Towns, how many men should compose the party: how soon ought it to Start? will it be best to send a messenger a head and notify them of our approach and object, and request them to send for the absent Chiefs.

4th Will it be best to demand the stolen horses, and make the restitution of them and the punishment of Tomlinsons Murderers, a condition of peace or War? or will it be best to say nothing about them and leave it for a future demand when we are in a better situation to enforce it?—

5th Or will it be best to complain of those depredations but without making a positive demand of restitution, because a positive demand if made and refused is of course a declaration of war, for if it is made it must be enforced—

6th Or will it be best to be governed by circumstances and the appearence of things after we see the Chiefs, and eather make the demand or not as those circumstances may require?

7 I wish the people of each Militia district to elect one person to accompany me if I go to treat with the Indians, for the purpose of forming a council or direct representation of the Colony, this person will be elected by each company when these propositions are submitted to them.—

The foregoing except the last article I believe embraces the most material points that have been talked of amongst the settlers, the last one is a proposition of my own,—- This is an important subject in our present situation and I wish the free voice of the Colony to decide what is the best source to be adopted—and with such a council as the one I propose I shall feel more Confidence—

Without wishing or intending to give my opinion as to the points submitted, it may be proper and nessisary for me to make some re- flections as to our present situation and future prospects—

The Government have authorized a new Colony of 800 families on the Brazosand Colorado Rivers above the San Antonio road from Tennesseeand Kentucky, and I have every reason to believe that by next April that Colony will be at least 200 strong. Will a war at this time with the upper Indians have a tendency to stop emigration to that Colony altogether? or to check it materially? also the Colony on the Guadaloupe is about commencing, will a war stop the settlement there or not? will a war stop emigration to this Colony? will it enduce any to move away? Can the people live in a state of war without forting and will they remain in the country if they are compelled to live in that manner?

The Wacos and Tawakanys are at peace and in close alliance with the Comanches, the Cherokees and all the Indians to the east of us, and I am creditably informed that these latter Indians are very much dissatisfied that their country has been given to the American Empresarios to be settled.— In this state of feeling is there not some danger that all the Indians in the Province may be induced to unite against the American settlements? If we destroy the Waco Villages will not the other tribes consider it as a warning of the fate that must in the end befal them if the american settlements progress? and is there no[t] danger that they may become alarmed and unite to cut us off in our infancy ? The history of the first settlements in the U. States, presents numerous and horible examples of such combinations, which in most instances might have been avoided by a greater degree of prudence and forbearance on the part of the settlers in the first years of their establishment—

No aid whatever may be expected from the Government, if we get into a war, we must get through it the best way we can, without expecting aid from any quarter— In this state of things the question which the people have to decide is whether it is better to submit to a few insults rather than risque bringing on a war with all the northern Indians by resenting them at this time I know that it is a difficult thing to control the passions but in such case as the present all passion should be set aside and cool deliberate Judgement should decide.— True it is we have received repeated Insults from the Indians which merrit punishment and great excitement and thirst for revenge exists in many persons, this is a correct feeling, but whether this is the proper time to seek revenge or not is a question which cool Judgement and not passion should decide—

San Felipe de Austin Sept. 28th 1825

Stephen F. Austin [Rubric]