Stephen F Austin to Horatio Chriesman, 06-19-1832

Summary: Advice for keeping Texas out of trouble.

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

Matamoros June 19. 1832

H Chriesman Esqr

Prest of the Ayuntamto

Dr Sir.

[I] arrived here a few days since, [and] as I must [be] in Saltillo by the 28 August when the Legislature will have its first or preparatory meeting, I have concluded not to return home until after the September session.

I am happy to hear that harmony prevails [among the people and that pros]pects of crops are good

The [political disturb?]ances in Mexico will I think end very favorably for the [cause] of liberty, and there is well founded cause io expect a republican administration after the next election. I [believe] the next President will [not] be a [militar]y man—in fact the power [of the mili]tary is dayly becoming more [weak? I] mean its moral power. All [the bes]t men of the nation are becoming [convinced] that there can never be harmony nor liberty, nor even a republican government] untill the military authority is subjected to the civil authority, and the army reduced. [I] believe this to be one of the main objects of what is called the Santana Party—that party will certainly get into power, and [if] there was only [a Th]omas Jefferson Am[erican?] to place at the helm, Mexico would be free and its republican institutions established on a solid basis—but where is such a man to be found—[certainly?] not in this nation. Guerrero ruined the old republican party by the incapacity of a part of his absurd * * * and dessol * * * principles of the whole of them. [Nor] will the Santana party do anything better [tho] I hope they will. If a man of the talents and habits and industry of Lucas Alaman could be found of the right political creed and sufficiently balanced, [of] honest and disinterested patriotism, [all would] go on well. We must however [hope for] the best. I think it very probable [that] Garcia Governor of Zacatecas, [will be] the president—if so he will pu * * * Juan Dios Ca[ñe]do[?] and make him secretary of state, decidedly the best one that [could] be selected.

I fear that not much harmony has or will exist between the military and civil authorities of Anahuac untill the new [state of ] things places the power where it ought to be in all republics, subordinate] to the latter. However I hope that nothing of a serious nature will occur. The course which ought to be pursued is a very plain one, and [a very sim]ple one, it is this— Every outrage, disorder arbitrary or illegal act of the military ought to be reported officially [with the evidence to the?] Chief of department—those who are [misused?] ought to go before the nearest alcalde, or any alcalde [the one of the municipality of Austin would be the best] and make a [clear] and full declaration in [writing?] under oath and * * * sustained?] by witnesses—this declara[tion an]d all the proceedings ought [to be re]corded in the judicial records [and co]pies sent to the Chief of Depart[ment] and redress ought to be asked but in the most respectfull manner. All acts of violence ought to be avoided and put down or stoped. But should [acts] occur of so flagrant a nature that public indignation could not be restrained, a thing which my knowledge of military opperations generally in Texas c[auses me] to fe[ar ma]y happen, great ca[re] must be taken not to do or say anything against the Govt, take gre[at] care and use great prudence on th[is] point. If any public act, or publication is made, head it with " Fidelity and [obedience to the laws and] the Constitution a[nd nation, or so]mething of that kind.

Let all your acts if any are made, begin with an article that in express terms declares the fidelity and rigid adherance of the people to Mexico, to the State, to the Constitution and System of Government now adopted etc—then go on to shew [what] particular outrages had be[en com]mitted state what they are by [acts?] committed and all the facts—[shew] that legal redress had been [requested?] in [vain?]—the laws were no longer respected—the guarantees of the Constitution no longer any safe guard and for these reasons, and not [through] disaffection to the government violence had [be]en or would be resorted to as the last and the only [reme]dy etc. But let all be done calmly, not one rash or abusive word ought to [be use]d—nothing that indicated passion or excitement or personal f]eelings or animosity of a personal nature against any one—let all be mild, decorous and respectful but clear and firm—in short let it be a plain, open and unvarnished statement of facts. Also anything of the kind that is done and all the facts ought to [be] published] in Spanish and english and more especially in Spanish and sent to all the free and liberal papers in the nation, and to the government. Also if any official complaints are made to the government they ought to be published in Spanish and English— [if th]is course be adopted you will at once see the great importance of having all such publications drawn up in pure and decorous language and in handsome stile—this is all important—for such papers [do not appoint a] com[mittee of] persons who have [not] a correct grammatical knowledge of the English language, or whose stile is inflated or bombastic or loaded with obscenities or a superabundance of useless words etc [it] would [be * * *] exposing the colony to ridicule [every] where—this is in fact all [import]ant— under that view of the matter I hope no one will take it amiss if I recommend you to call in the aid of P. W. Grayson, Doctor Archer, T. J. Chambers, and Mr. Alexander Greaves. Also Father Muldoon—the three last for the Spanish language in particular, and Mr. Greaves most particularly, f[or I know] that his knowledge of the Spanish is better than any mans in Texas—he is an elderly, a silent, and a calm and prudent man.

You will of course perceive that all I have said on this subject is predicated on the fear, that cireumstances may drive some of the people on Trinity to desperation—if so and the cause is just, the sympathies of the colony will be enlisted—it cannot be [prevented] and indeed I believe it ought not to be, for all outrages against law, justice and good morals are attacks upon the whole community, however low or * * * the individual may be who is personally assailed.

There is one point which must be kept in view, which is that by the constitution and laws [of the nation] and of the [sta]te the military are not subject to the judicial power; they are a privileged order, and cannot be tryed by a civil judge for any offense—a most infamous and unrepublican principle,—but [allowed by?] constitution and law, and as such must be sacredly respected—[an] alcalde, or judge, cannot punish a soldier—keep this in view—take care and have all the law as well as all the justice on your side, for you see that under this military system what is law is sometimes very far from being justice—the rule which I have given to the [state?] and gen- eral govt, and to all others with whom I conversed as to the people of Texas is as follows— "They will adhere to Mexico and rigidly execute their duty to the constitution and laws, and religiously observe [their] oaths [as] Mexican citizens—but at the same time they will with great pertinacity [do] their duty to themselves and to their neighbors as members of one political community— If their rights are violated, they will seek legal redress in a calm and peaceable and constitutional manner—if that fails and—or [is] treated with contempt they will then and not before, seek redress by any means in their power of an honorable and open nature for they will not tamely submit [to] illegal outrages—also they consider an in[vasi]on of the constitutional rights of one man, as an attack [on the] whole community.

If I know the people of Texas, as I think I do, I am confident that they will prove by their acts and declarations the above is correctly applied to them and especially the first clause of it.

My own individual motto has always been adherence and fidelity to Mexico. Under the influence and guidance of [this] motto I have been enabled to [succeed] in securing to the settlers of my col[ony] all the benefits they [have] obtained [as far as?] I have had an agency in procuring them, and I will here, as I have often before, recommend it as [the] standing motto of the colonies, and [a]s a general and standing popular toast—[It would?] tend to remove the unj[ust prejudices an]d suspicions which m[any] good men among the Mexicans have had, and will thus pave the way for our permanent prosperity, by the removal of restrictions—Also it will have a good effect at home, as a [poi]nter, a rallying point, a point d'appuit for p[ubli]c opinion, which is all important in any community, to produce union and unity of action and of purpose and besides all this, it is required of us by our oaths as Mexican citizens.

Another of my fixed rules of action as to Texas generally is that with respect to her rights she must always act on the defensive and never on the offensive.

In December and January last I act[ed] under the rigid guidance of this [rule] I think [now?] that there was a [strong?] determination to break up the * * * [of] American settlers, and that any plausible pretext would be taken hold of to march an army into that [coun]try. I formed this opinion from t[he a]cts of the Govt, and * * * since * * * and * * * [line totally gone] * * * [circum] stances which occurred in the * * * department in November—the appointment of Fisher, is w[as] known was obnoxious and unpopular—it must have been known that his order or decree of 24 Nbvr. last relative to the com- merce or the Brazos river was high[ly] vexatious—one fixing the custom house at Anahuac, instead [of Galv]eston where the law really placed it—also the 20th article of that decree which subjected vessells then in the river to its vexatious restrictions was retroactive and illegal from the face of it—a vessell may have been six months in the river, with cargo all distributed over the country and sold six months before the custom house [was] established, and still by that arti[cle it] could not have gone to sea untill [the] master owners etc [wen]t to An[ahua]c and presented manifests, and paid the duties which were not due nor collectable when the vessell came in and discharged. The whole thing in [fact] evidently carried upon its face an intention [to irri]tate and to [make difficulty it] must have been supposed that it [would cause?] difficulty. The nation was then at peace its phisical f[orce the]n was not para[ly] sed by internal wars, nor by the fear of external invation and the whole power of the republic would have been brought to bear upon Texas. Al[so a]t that time the press [of] Mexico was muzzled. There was no liberal party, no opposition to raise its voice in favor of justice, and the prejudices of the mass of the people were against all foreigners—we should have appealed to justice in vain.

I believed we would be attacked. [I] have since been most positively assured that there was no such intention—be it so but that does not change the mat[ter] as to us in Texas—situated as we then were for anyone who had an eye to p[erceive?] ever [woul]d believe that there w[as no such?] intention. In this state of things, [situated as I was with reference to the colony and to public opinion both at home and abroad so far as anything was [know]n of me, it was my duty to prepare for the general defense. So far as I c[oul]d, I acted [on this principle?] until th[e arrival of the] mail which came in at that time brought the news of [Sant]anas affair at Vera Cruz. I also had some other information of a peculiar nature which had its influence with me. I [be]came convinced that Texas could not be attacked by the Govt, for the want of [phy]sical force to do it, and also because the influence of liberal principles was gaining ground too fast in Mexico, to give the administration any time to work an unjust attack upon anyone. So soon as I was [convince]d of this, the necessity for preparations [at on]ce ceased, and then agreeably [to the] rule before stated all further [preparations would have been impro[per im] politic and even highly [immor?]al for we ought not in any case to [act o]n the offensive. B[ut] much had [bee]n said—something had been done—and much had been written— to [un]say, undo, and unwrite all this was awkward and embarrassing, for at a superficial view it looked like inconsistency *** I did not [hesitate to set?] to work undoing*** in fact got up the memorial as much with a view to allay public feeling by giving something for hope and expectation to feed upon, as for any other cause. I mean the memorial as it was finally adopted and not as it was at first [contemplated.

Thus things have turned out—we adopted a very wise course—I believe the best that could have been taken under the peculiarly difficult circumstances and doubts in which we were placed. If Texas will now keep quiet, and so [try to?] convince all that the people do not [want to] seperate but are truly firm adhe[rents to] the constitution and to the inte[grity of] the Mexican territory all w[ill turn] out right and that country w[ill] be a [flour]ishing state of the Mexi[can] confederation and a firm [and] efficient supporter of Mexican [li]berty and of its national rights. This is the station I wish to see that country occupy and the one which I have no doubt it will occupy.

This [letter is for the in] formation of the Colony generally but not for [publi] cation—su[ffer n]one of it to g[et] into the newspaper, for altho it contains nothing which I have not said either in writing or verbally to th[e la]st to the state and National govt I have no desire to be figuring in the newspaper.

[I] have heretofore informed you [that I] would not consent to be a candidate for reelection to the legislature. I now again say the same and wish that this fact be stated in the newspaper for the information of all.

[Pres]ent my respects to Mrs. Chrisman [and to] each of the members of the Ayunto, [and to] all others. Write me fully to Saltillo [how you] are getting on.

[I saw] Genl. Teran the first of this month [at Ta]mpico—he speaks very favorably of T[exa]s and in the most friendly terms. I presume you have [ere] this received the law extending the time two years for introducing certain things free of duty into Texas. By some strange whim whiskey is admitted—and yet iron and farming [tools] and furniture are not—[yet it is a] cu[rse] the others are indispensable and ***

May heaven [bless you] all and the Colony is the sincere prair of your friend and Humble Sert

S. F. Austin [Rubric]