Stephen F Austin to Mary Austin Holley, 07-19-1831

Summary: His labors and responsibilities to settlers; plans for Texas; immigration strong; indented servants. Slavery must be settled positively.

San Felipe de Austin, July 19,1831.

My Dear Cousin

I see by your letter to Henry that you are looking towards Texas, and have even made up your mind for a permanent removal to this Colony. It is needless for me to say that I shall be happy to see you here and anxious to serve you, for I hope you are satisfied of that fact without any assurance from me. You will think us somewhat in the wilderness perhaps; but our ideas on this as well as on most matters, are comparative, and dependent on habit and disposition. To me, this country does not now seem like a wilderness. I saw it ten years ago when it was so in fact. Most of the habits acquired in what is called civilized and refined society, which I once may have had, have pretty much worn off long since; though I do not wish you to understand that I have become a bear, or a Comanche: And the strongest proof I can give that I have not is, that the idea of your removal here, and of the society which will of course spring up under the influence of your wand, gives me more real pleasure than anything which has occurred for some years.

May we not form a little world of our own where neither the religious, political, or money-making fanaticism, which are throwing the good people of our native country into all sorts of convulsions, shall ever obtain admission? Some philosopher, or dreamer, has called man a bundle of habits. I think he would call the North American of the present day a bundle of extremes—rather loosely tied together, for they dash round the political, religious, or some other compass, as it were by fits and starts, without any apparent reason.

Let us unite a few choice families and make a neighborhood as we say in this country. Abundance of such substantial and wholesome food as sound health and useful exercise require will never be wanting. Most of the things called luxuries are inventions or phantasms of the imagination. We can invent and give reins to the fancy in this country as well as any where else; and can supply our own luxuries in case we cannot get a regular supply of them from Paris, London, or New York. In short I think we can live happily if we choose to do so.

The emigration to this Colony for the last year has been of a very valuable character, in general, and well calculated to advance the Country. I have lately had many assurances of emigration from Virginia (my native State) of the first class of people. Many of the old families of the Old Dominion have planted their tobacco until their land has become old, and worn out. Their old pride will never let them down to a moderate style of living so long as they remain in that country but here they would take a new start, and make first rate settlers; for, in general, they are a high-minded, liberal, and honorable race, too fond of politics to be happy in any country, but I hope they will leave their politics behind them, as an appendage to their worn out land.

From New York the prospect of emigration is good. Texas has made quite a stir in that quarter—and though some embarrassments lie around The Galveston Bay Company, owing to their having mistaken the law, and started wrong foot ahead, yet I think with prudence the difficulties can be gotten over, in a great measure, and we shall have a large emigration from the Eastern States.

On[e] of the strongest proofs of the want of a correct idea of this Colonization business, in most of those who have attempted it, and failed, or met with embarrassments, is, that they should suspect me of any unfriendly disposition toward them, or towards their enterprizes. Nothing can be more unjust, or more at variance with the plainest dictates of common sense than such a suspicion.

I began here, ten years since, alone, unaided by influential men, and almost destitute of capital. With one exception, and of small amount, I owe no obligations to any one out of this country for my success, but I do owe a great and heavy weight of responsibility to my settlers, and to my adopted Government. Would I be doing my duty to the former to involve myself and consequently their interests (for circumstances have made their interests and my acts, even private ones, in a great degree inseparable) in serious difficulty by identifying myself with the views of an individual, or a company, who were in any manner in collision with the Mexican Government? I see by a clause in Mr Treat's letter to Henry, that the Newyork company charge me with being unfriendly to them. They know nothing at all of the business they have undertaken, and still less of me, and the general principles by which I am governed, or they would never suspect me, or any permanent settlers of Texas of a wish to keep back emigration or the improvement of the Country.

The difference between others who have attempted colonization in Texas and myself is this. Their object has been speculation only. My object has always been, and still is, to settle and improve the country, regardless [of] whether I made a fortune or not. Judging of my views by their own, and knowing nothing of the Colonization Law, nor of the vastly superior advantages of my Colony over any other part of Texas, it was very natural in them to suppose that competition would be unpleasant to me. They know me not. If to make a fortune had been my object I should have been enjoying myself in Europe, or where I pleased, with wealth, and all that wealth can give, and Texas would now, and forever be, as I found it—a wilderness, and many of the capitalists of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore etc: would have been gulled out of thousands.

A moneyed fanatic would say that I have followed a shadow, for a fortune I have not made as yet, but I shall have a competence and am satisfied- The credit of settling this fine country and laying the foundation for a new Nation which at some future period will arise here can not be taken from me; and that part of my family who have ventured to follow me will be sufficiently provided for. Your brother Henry for instance, has eleven leagues of land, title indisputable, for it is a special grant direct from government All he has to [do] is to remove his family here this fall and settle permanently in the Country, take care of his land, and it will make his children independent. But his family must come this fall or the title will be defective; for another mistaken idea of the New Yorkers is that land can be held here by persons who live in the United States. This is so far from being true that a man who lives here and his family is elsewhere cannot hold land except as a single man; and even that is doubtful, for his domicil must be here, and that is considered to be where his family resides.

There is a vast opening in this country for emigrants. The old inhabitants of Louisiana would be well received by this Government if a number of the French Creoles would apply to the Mexican Consul for passports to remove to this Colony, or request him to write officially to the Government in Mexico on the subject of an emigration from Louisiana it would aid me some in my efforts to get the law of 6th April 1830 stopping emigration from the United States, modified or repealed.

Negroes can be brought here under indentures, as servants, but not as slaves. This question of slavery is a difficult one to get on with. It will ultimately be admitted, or the free negroes will be formed by law into a separate and distinct class—the laboring class. Color forms a line of demarkation between them and the whites. The law must assign their station, fix their rights and their disabilities and obligations—something between slavery and freedom, but neither the one nor the other. Either this, or slavery in full must take place. Which is best? Quien Sabe? It is a difficult and dark question.

I am spinning out a long letter, and I fear a dry one. But as you are about to remove here as a colonist I thought it would be satisfactory for you to know as much of the matter as possible, and as some of your New York friends are in the Company operation you might let them know that their ideas of my unfriendliness are all wrong. My motto is Fidelity and gratitude to the Mexican government; and to he true to the interests and welfare of my colonists. I will never deviate from this motto as long as I retain my senses. Within the sphere of this duty any person may command me, but beyond that I wish to be looked upon as a direct and open enemy.

I will set apart a league of land for you and hold it in reserve until next winter or spring, and then if you remove here the title will be made out and delivered to you, which is all the law will permit. Besides this should you fancy a situation for a settlement in any of my own land you shall have one, for the land you get from government can be settled by a tenant

On the first of December I leave for Saltillo, the seat of Government for our State, 550 miles distant, and shall from necessity be absent at least seven months—perhaps, a year, for I think of visiting the City of Mexico before my return. Let me know, before that time, all your wishes in relation to this country, and what I can do for you, or any of your friends who may wish to settle here. Henry says you wrote to me. I never received a line from you, and have now written as though a month, and not twenty five years had intervened since we met or had any communication. I hope you will follow my example, for it will be my greatest pleasure to hear from you.

Stephen F. Austin