Stephen F Austin to Samuel M Williams, 02-19-1831

Summary: Influence of the Texas Gazette in correcting erroneous opinions concerning Texas in Mexico. Advice for its successor. Texas must hold aloof from parties. His own method of avoiding friction with Mexicans. Threatening situation foreseen; hands off. Muldoon

[From Williams Papers, Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Tex.]

Saltillo Feb. 19. 1831.

S M. Willams. Dr Sir

Yours of 25 Jany is recd and the letters enclosed except the one from my sister which I hope you will send by next mail as I am very anxious to see it.

I am much pleased with the new arrangement of the pap[er] tho I do not like the motto—Mexico es mi patria, would do better, for it will be as much as to say to people abroad "we have a country and are proud of it, and we are ready and willing to defend her rights," and it will remind our home folks whom they belong to. I recommend that [the] motto I have suggested be adopted, or something like it.

That paper must be conducted with great prudence, you have no idea there, what importance is attached, even to trifles, coming from the Austinians. That little establishment badly as it has been conducted, has been of great service to [Texas] and has had an agency in warding off some blows that were meditated against that country, for it has in some degree tended to correct some very erronious opinions as to the character of the new settlements and their feelings towards the Govt.

Last spring the idea was very general in Mexico that Texas was the Botany Bay of the U. S. and that the Govt, of the North was secretly encouraging the emigration of bad men and vagabonds, who were destitute of principle, for the purpose of enciting them to rebel against this Govt, and produce confusion on the frontier, which would have been a pretext to enter the country and put things to rights as Jackson entered Florida etc. This Govt, now believes that the settlers of my colony at least, are men of principle who will respect their oaths of fidelity, and will never forget that they have recd fortunes from this Govt, and favors which no other Govt ever extended to any people. The suspicions against the U. S. Govt, are also all removed. But what is deemed to be the dignity of this Govt, will not suffer it to move the repeal of the law of 6 April unless some prominent reason can be given for so doing. I wish the people of Texas to give such a reason by proofs of fidelity and attachment to Mexico and the best way of manifesting these proofs is through the news paper-— Let it be what its title [The Mexicon Citizen] professes. A Mexican defends everything that is mexican—but in genl terms, without being in favor or against political parties.

The parties of this country are not clearly defined and have not that definite and fixed character, nor permanency of purpose which parties generally have in other countries. Thus, since the to[t]al overthrow and imprisonment of Guerrero, a new party has sprung up composed of Guerreroists and Pedrassistas a most unnatural connection, for the former expelled the latter by the revolution of the Acordada, and it seems as tho they had now united to put down the present administration—that effected, the Guerreroists will perhaps enter the lists with Pedraza for the supremacy. If we enter into such a scramble we shall be like children in a mob, and as likely to be trodden upon by friends as by foes. Hence it is that situated as we are, it is dangerous to be classed as belonging to any party. Our neutrality injures neither, for our weight is of not sufficient importance to injure or benefit either materially, and it may gain us the good will of both, or what is of just as much importance to us, both will let us alone.

You are well aware that in my intercourse with this govt. I have followed a few fixed rules from which I have never deviated since 1821 when I first entered the country. In the first place I came with pure intentions. I bid an everlasting farewell to my native country, and adopted this, and in so doing I determined to fulfil rigidly all the duties and obligations of a Mexican citizen—- have endeavored to keep all the officers with whom I was in direct communication in a good humor, and to make friends of them. I have excused and even invented plausable reasons to justify or explain away all the political errors of my adopted countrymen. I have been silent as to all their defects, and lavish of praise where there was the least pretext for bestowing it, but at the same time decissive and unbending where a constitutional or vested right of vital importance was directly attacked. Rights of minor consideration I have paid no attention to, for bad feeling might be engenderd about trifles, that would jeapordise an important interest. To sum up all I have endeavored to do my duty as a Mexican citizen.

My native countrymen are blunt republicans, and do not always reflect sufficiently, and some of them have accused me of debility, want of firmness temporising etc. It was my duty to steer my precious bark (the Colony) through all the shoals and quicks [ands] regardless of the curses and ridicule of the passengers. I knew what I was about—they did not.

The law of 6 April was founded in error and unjust suspicions, but to have said so, would have been very impolitic, and highly injurious, for it would have wounded self love, pride etc. (dangerous things to touch among any people) and it would have strengthened the suspicions which produced the law for everything said against it would have been taken as evidence of disaffection. For these reasons in the remarks which were made in the Texas[Gazette] in June, July etc the policy of the Govt, was rather defended than condemned, and circumstances were stated to shew that there were reasons for that measure which justified it. This gratified the self love of its authors on the one hand, (a great point gained) and they were very much surprised on the other to see that the very people who were most injured by the measure, were the first to excuse and defend it. This caused inquiries to be made through various channels, as to the real characters of the settlers and their feelings towards the Govt, and the result has been very favourable as to my colony. This at once explains the reasons why so many more favors have been extended to that colony than to any other. The people at large know of no favors they have recd, neither do they know, nor can they appreciate what I have done for them for the past ten years, but you and I know that emigration to that colony could have been stopped, and that all the ports could have been closed, or a George Fisher with a guard put at each. These things ought to convince every reflecting man in that Colony that this Govt, will reward and properly appreciate all those who do their duty as Mexican Citizens, and who obey the laws and set their faces against confusion and illegal proceedings.

The foregoing remarks are made as an introduction for what is to follow—you will soon find yourselves in an awkward and rather delicate situation in that Colony, and I thought it might shed some light upon the path which you ought to take, to explain fully the rules and policy I have uniformly pursued.

There are two points of collision in prospective in that country, both of them, East of my Colony. One is between Madero and Teran—The other between Zavala and Teran—or rather between the latter and a company who have contracted to settle Zavalas, Vielen and Burnetts grants—the Settlers are to be Germans, Swiss french etc—all Europeans—have nothing to do with these collisions- do as I have frequently been compelled to do—play the turtle, head and feet within your own shell—some of the people may curse and abuse—no matter—they abused me the best friend they ever had. Better break all the timber in Texas, than to break Boss [Teran?] for the former is plenty and can be replaced, but the lat[t]er being a fine texture is not to be found everyday. That colony is the heart of Texas; keep all sound there, and we shall gain the confidence of the Govt, and save the Country, but if you go to the extremities to try and cure diseases, you interfere with the head doctor, which he will take very ill (for all doctors are jealous of their prerogatives), and besides there will be danger of introducing disease into the heart, by infection.

XXX Whether the Genl Govt, has authority to annul Zavala's grant or not is no question for us to interfere with, neither have we anything to do with Madero's commission etc. those are matters between the interested parties and the Govt, with which my colony ought to have nothing to do, in any shape manner or form. My colony has cleared away the rude asperities of the wilderness—made Texas known—given it a station in geography—a place, and a distinguished one, in the class of desirable countries and has demonstrated its value, by developing its resources. In doing this, it has done enough to aid others who now wish to settle in that country, and they ought not to expect that we will unite with them in projects for forcing their way against the will of the Govt, or that we are to make common cause of their quarrels and collisions, and if they do expect it I hope they will be deceived, hope! I know they will, for there is too much sound common sense and too much honest patriotism in the people of Austins colony for them to be misled, or to deviate from the line of their duty as Mexican Citizens, and besides they have a great deal to loose, the others have much to gain but nothing to loose. XXX

But while, on the one hand, you avoid suffering yourselves to be made parties to the collisions which I have alluded to, against the Govt, also try on the other, not to take any active, or open, or any part at all in them against the new settlers— Be mere lookers on—say nothing—give no opinions—no advice—-take no part—have nothing to do with the matter at all—refer them to the Govt, but if Genl Teran issues any orders obey them. He is our main stay. You may rely upon it and he is worthy of our confidence and support. Don't let the paper be made the vehicle for venting the spleen or abuse of Madero or anybody else, make it a Dignified Calm Judicious " Mexican Citizen " adopt the motto I have proposed and adhere to its principles rigidly—all will come round right—many of the most influential men of all parties, in office, and out, in the City of Mexico and elsewhere have procured grants in Texas and more are dayly making. All these are true friends to the real prosperity of that country. We can make them our friends by adopting the policy I have indicated, or rather by following the policy I have always followed.

You can submit this letter to the Congress or to as many of my friends as you think prudent, and should any serious difficulty arrise and you should think that it would do any good to make my opinions known, you can have it done so far as Congress may judge prudent and correct, by means of an editorial article—that plan would do better than to make any extracts [f]rom this letter.

Padre Muldoon left some days since—he wrote me from Monterrey that he had recd his appointment of Cura de Austin from the Provisor, and I presume will soon be with you—his councils will be of service to you, and the colony, for I believe he has the true interests of that colony much at heart—he has some vanity, and I think a very benevolent heart, and pure intentions. I told him that Texas might be made a Bishoprick of in a few years, if we could get rid of the 13 article of our State Constitution,2 and the 11 Article3 of the law of 6 April. I am very much pleased with him, as a man, and much better as a Padre.

I have spun out a long thread and it is time to break off, which I will do by requesting you to remember me affcy. to Mrs. W. and Mrs. S. and to Luke [Lesassier], Willy [E. M. Williamson], Jack [one of three brothers—William H., Spencer, or Patrick C], [Oliver] Jones, [F. W._] Johnson etc, and take good care of my nephew Moses Austin Bryan, besides being the grandson and bearing the name of the man who was the first author of all our fortunes in that country, he is the son of a very favourite sister of mine. Hasta Cada Rato

S. F. Austin.

N. B. If times get very bad and public opinion should seem to waver, it might be well to publish the paragraph marked thus—[Inserted XXX XXX on each side as symbols did not transfer. DML] as an extract from me—tho all this left totally to the wisdom of congress.