Stephen F Austin to Mary Austin Holley, 12-29-1831

Summary: His dreams and ambitions for Texas. Conception of his task and how he has carried it out. Country now hampered by suspicions of the Government, but expects to change that. Opposed to separation from Mexico; lack of proper means for independence, and union with united States objectionable.

Brazoria, December 29, 1831

Dear Cousin,

Henry returned yesterday and gave me your welcome letter. Yes; my friend, there is a pleasure in meeting with congenial feelings and tastes and sympathies, that few—very few—in this cold and selfish world can appreciate and enjoy. It is therefore like the diamond to the miser—invaluable.

I entered upon the busy stage of life with ideas of human nature, which, had they been true, would have made this Earth a paradise. My temperament was sanguine and confiding, my sensibility acute. The early part of my life was spent happily in the quiet enjoyments of home; and in the dreams of youth unpoisoned by ambition; unruffled by care, unclouded by a true knowledge of man. The world was to me what the veiled Prophet of Khorassan was to his blind devotees. My angel Mother, and my nobleminded and kind hearted father were my first standards of human nature. In the ardor of young hope I supposed the rest of the world to be something like them. It was a childish dream after my twentieth year the silver veil began to rise;—gradually—for the impressions of my whole life—short as it had then been—were not to be shaken off at once. Pecuniary troubles swept away my father's ample fortune, and broke up our family home. Ever ardent and persevering he conceived the idea of a settlement in Texas which I was destined to accomplish.

I entered this country with my ideas of the perfectability of human nature but half corrected, I labored with faithful intentions, and as disenterested views of general good as circumstances and my capacity permitted. I had never learned the value of money, at least that value which the world gives it: and the hope of amassing wealth was not the principal incentive that led me here. For the first time Ambition kindled its fires in my breast, but I think I can with truth say that the flame was a mild and gentle one, consisting more of the wish to build up the fortunes and happiness of others, and to realize my dreams of good will to my fellow men than of the overbearing spirit of military fame, or domineering power. My ambition was to redeem this fine country—our glorious Texas—and convert it into a home for the unfortunate, a refuge from poverty, an asylum for the sufferers from selfish avarice.

Here the hand of nature had spread her bounties with such profusion that the most indigent, with moderate industry, could make a support. The poor, but honest, man's cottage would not be looked down upon with contempt from the lofty attics of the lordly palace, for in that particular there would be perfect equality.

I took upon myself the task of getting secure and valid titles for their land, and to furnish each emigrant with solid grounds on which to build the hopes of his family, and his humble "forest home" Avarice was as incompatible with such views as I trust it has ever been foreign to my heart. Had I fixed an unreasonable value upon my labors and been rigid in exaction, or been led away by the mania for speculation, none but the wealthy would have been benefitted. My still youthful imagination (I was but 28 years old) became enthusiastic. I had read of the withering march of the blood-hounds of war over the fairest portions of the old world spreading fire and famine and desolation and death in their course, and sweeping whole nations from existence—all to promote the happiness of mankind. I could not understand it, but I could understand how that happiness might be promoted by conquering a wilderness by the axe, the plough, and the hoe.

Thus I entered Texas. Is it surprising that, with such feelings— the " Silver veil" but half raised—I have too deeply suffered from the ingratitude of the few who returned me abuse and curses for my hard and painful labors to build up their fortunes ? I did feel it. And there have been moments when I have been threatened with misanthropy.—moments only, for, like the withering blasts of the Sirrocco, they could not have been longer endured. It was but the weakness of human nature, and as such may be pardoned. I looked around for some congenial minds to unburden my own. Judging by my exalted and unnatural standard I saw but selfishness, envy, jealousy, false pride disappointed vanity, and vindictive, furious revenge. It soured, disgusted, and sickened me. In this unhappy frame of mind I lost my good, and dearly beloved brother, my sister was settled for life in Missouri, as I thought, and I began to feel like an isolated, lone being. Reason and reflection had done much toward correcting this morbid and baneful excitement, and I began to look upon my fellow beings more as they deserved, though when prostrated by sickness, with a fevered brain it still comes over me, as you have perceived in some of my letters.

I had become convinced that I could not find happiness in a general and extended intercourse with the world, nor in popular favor, nor office, nor honors, nor wealth, were all these within my reach And yet I was a social being. The life of a hermit is odious to me. I need a social circle—a few friends of congenial tastes the want of which left a void. That void is being filled. My sister's family, and Henry's, and Archibald's, and you—my friend, you,— how shall I ever thank you for venturing into this wilderness- how express the happiness of the ten days visit at Henry's—his family so lovely and blooming and cheerful, and his own tail figure and sea-beaten countenance smiling over them? Yes, we will be happy. Before you came I had begun to change the opinion that I was laboring here solely for others and posterity, and am now convinced that I shall enjoy some of the fruits of my planting. This is a powerful incentive to persevere and finish my labors, and finally wash my hands of all participation in public matters. We will then arrange our cottages—rural—comfortable—and splendid—the splendor of nature's simplicity. Gardens, and rosy bowers, and ever verdant groves, and music, books, and intellectual amusements can all be ours; and that confidence and community of feeling and tastes which none but congenial minds can ever know; all these, without excessive wealth we can have. Millions could not buy them, but the right disposition, with competence, insure them.

You say the world knows nothing of me. I have never sought for notoriety, nor extended fame, nor do I expect any thing of the kind. A successful military chieftain is hailed with admiration and applause, and monuments perpetuate his fame. But the bloodless pioneer of the wilderness, like the corn and cotton he causes to spring where it never grew before, attracts no notice. He is either cried down as a speculator, or his works are too unostentatious to be worthy of attention. No slaughtered thousands or smoking cities attest his devotion to the cause of human happiness, and he is regarded by the mass of the world as a humble instrument to pave the way for others. I feel thankful that my happiness does not depend upon the possession of fame. My ambition is to deserve and receive the approbation of the good, and I feel truly grateful to you for your kind intentions in this respect. But pray do not, through partiality, say too much.

On reviewing what I have written I fear you will laugh at my enthusiasm, and think I am suffering my fancy to wander in the Elysian Fields when every thing around ought to remind me that before I can enter them the Styx and Inferrms are to be passed. It may be so; but even that can not prevent enjoyment by anticipation.

I hope for the best, and must still believe that all our difficulties with the governt will be speedily and satisfactorily adjusted. I shall go home tomorrow and lose no time in communicating with the Government in such a manner, I trust, as to make all go right again, There must be a change of some kind, as we are now situated our commerce is anihilated; all emigration to the country is entirely stopped, and our hopes of prosperity totally overthrown. Do the people of my colony, or of Texas, or do I, merit this? No; we have been to this Government true as steel. And we have redeemed from a state of nature, and given value, and credit, and consequence to a large territory whjch they knew nothing about and which, comparatively, was valueless before. All this we have done under full authority from, and under the especial request of the Government, at the risk of our lives, and by years of sufferings and hardships, without the cost of one cent to the nation. Our fidelity and hard services, it seems, are to be rewarded by acts of arbitrary despotism, and a total disregard of the constitution and our just rights. Shut out from the civilized World, which, after ten years of struggling through cane-brakes, thickets famine, Indians and wild beasts, we were just beginning to get a glimpse of, we are to be condemned to the wilderness forever, and forever deprived of the consolation of dividing our homes and lands with our nearest relations and dearest friends who might, otherwise, emigrate and join us!

Never was a man more consciously scrupulous and faithful in the discharge of his duties to any government than I have been to the Mexican. I came here in good faith, have labored in good faith, and now there is a struggle between my desire to adhere to them and the indignant feelings which their acts create. I will exhaust all honorable means of obtaining the redress of our grievances. Should these fail the last resort will he adopted. One word from me now would anihilate every Mexican soldier in Texas. But I am opposed to all violence—all bloodshed—so long as there is even a plausible hope of avoiding such extremes. And I am opposed to a separation from Mexico, if the government will treat us as we merit, and as the true interests of the Country require.

Our situation is extremely delicate and interesting. To remain as we are, is impossible. We have not the right kind of material for an Independent Government, and an union with the United States would bring Negro Slavery—that curse of curses, and worst of reproaches, on civilized man; that unanswered, and unanswerable, inconsistency of free and liberal republicans. I think the Government will yield, and give us what we ought to have. If not, we shall go for Independence and put our trust in our selves, our riffles, and—our God. Adios