Stephen F Austin to Martin, 09-14-1832

Summary: Statement of settlement with heirs of J. H. Hawkins.

Statement presented to ------ Martin, relative to the settlement of the business between S. F. Austin and the late J. H. Hawkins

In Novr. 1821 a contract was made between S. F. Austin and J. H. Hawkins, relative to settling the colony originally contracted to be settled by Moses Austin, the father of the said Stephen F. Austin.

A partnership was also formed between the said S. F. Austin and the said Hawkins for certain purposes: this partnership expired by the death of Hawkins in 1823.

At the time of forming that contract, it was supposed that something could be realized out of the settlers; and an arrangement was made for them to pay 12 1/2 cents pr acre for the land they received, Austin to be at all the expense. This arrangement was totally destroyed by the interference of the Govr. of Texas in 1824. A large sum was lost by Austin for surveys which were made up to that time, and meanderings of the river.

In May 1824 the Govr. of Texas interfered with the said first arrangement, and established a fee-bill. None of these fees belonged to Austin; and he had no right to use any of them. One hundred and twenty seven dollars, 50 cents, were allowed to the Commissioner, including his milage from Bexar to the colony; 30 dollars to the Govt.; and 8 dollars for the Title. The Commissioner relinquished to Austin the third of his fees.

Austin was appointed by the Govt, to administer the local government of the colony in all its branches, civil, judicial, and military, without any salary. He also had to attend in person to all the land business. Besides this he kept an open house and was compelled to do so: his house was always full, for the first six years, as is well known to those who were here then. It is also well known, that he had constant visits from the Tankaway, Lipan, Beedi, and other Indians; and the situation of things required him to make them large presents.

These expenses were not all: he paid for expresses, furnished provisions, and amunition, and many other things for campaigns against the Indians. He was compelled to keep an office, and a Secretary, and Clerks, acquainted with the Spanish and English languages—It will be remembered that, at that time, every thing was dear—Cows at from $20 to $30 each; pork from $9 to $10; beeves from $25 to $80 a head; corn from one to two dollars the bushel; etc. The expenses of his household were not less than $2000 a year: his office including the Secretary's salary, stationery, etc $1500. a year: presents to Indians $500 a year. To all this is to be added a variety of other expenses, such as expresses, guards, and supplies for Indian expeditions. Also he had a heavy surveying debt to pay, as above stated. Besides these expenses, there are many others which can not be mentioned.

A large amount of the fees never has been collected, and never will be. Also a considerable amount was lost that was received in herdes, which died or were stolen by the Indians. Twelve head were stolen at one time, ten of them mules, at Buckner's old place on the Colorado.

But even supposing that the fees had all been collected and in money: the whole amount of the Commissioner's fees on 300 families at $127.50, is $38,250—of this one third was relinquished by the Commr to Austin, which is $12,750 which would not have half paid the expenses of the local govt, and other expenses of the colony from 1823 up to 1828, the time when the Ayuntamto was established; to say nothing of a compensation for Austin's services, and a deduction of more than one half for property payments at an excessive value.

It will be remembered that Austin received no salary from the Govt., nor any allowance whatever for the local government of the colony, that all the labor, expense, danger, and responsability rested on him alone:—all the vexations, labyrinths of the colony—matters with the government, and with the settlers, who were several times in a state of rebellion against him, and always complaining and abusing him, because they had anything to pay: he had to bear all this patiently, as the salvation of the colony required it. The facts as to advances made by Hawkins are as follows:

The Schooner Lively, a small vessel of about 30 Tons, was purchased for $600 in Novr. 1821: of this sum Austin furnished $400, which he borrowed from Lovelace and now owes, with the interest— The Lively brought out 17 or 18 men, emigrants, and provisions and tools. I do not know the whole amount of her outfit; but it is very evident that it could not have been much. The Lively landed the emigrants at the mouth of the Brazos, and was lost on Galveston Island. William Little had the charge of the men who came in the Lively: I never saw any of them until after my return from Mexico in 1823, owing to their having landed in the Brazos instead of the Colorado, to the mouth of which latter river I went to look for them, agreeably to appointment in Decr, and Jany. of 1821 and 1822; and not finding them I proceeded to Bexar and thence to Mexico. The men who came in the Lively became discouraged, and all returned to the U. S. except two or three.

For a part of the expences to Mexico, I drew on Hawkins; for I had between 300 and 400 dollars of my own money which I brought with me from New Orleans in doubloons. I lost my memorandum and account book at Monterey, on my return from Mexico, and cannot state what was the amount of my drafts on Hawkins; but they were not for a large sum:—I lived very economically, and even endured privations to save expense. I raised $100 in Mexico by the sale of my watch.

When I started for Mexico, I sent into Hawkins my negro man Richmond, a stout healthy negro, about 28 years of age: he was worth $800.

On a fair statement of this whole matter, what benefits or aid, have I derived, in the settlement of this colony, from Hawkins?

He aided in fitting out the Lively: he furnished the amount of my drafts for the expenses to Mexico: he could not have been of much aid in sending out emigrants, for he died before there was much emigration. The money which he spent for the goods that Littlebury Hawkins brought out, and a vast sum in the negro speculation of which John Botts had the management, had nothing to do with the colony; and I was in no manner concerned in those speculations, nor ever had any control over them. Both these persons arrived after I departed for Mexico, and left before I returned.—Neither am I accountable for an enormous interest account which, I am told, Hawkins paid in New Orleans, to raise money for the expeditions of Littlebury Hawkins, and John Botts.

In the contract with Hawkins I acknowledge to have received four thousand dollars, but the truth is I had not then received that amount, and never have received it up to this time. For, as I before observed, all that ever was spent for the benefit of the Colony, that I have any knowledge of, was the outfit of the Lively, and the amount of my drafts for the Mexico trip: and out of that the $400 dollars I borrowed from Lovelace, and over $300 which I had of my own money, and the value of my negro Richmond, and $100 for my watch, making about $1600 ought to be deducted.

As I before observed, none of the fees that were collected in the first colony, belonged to me of right; a part of them were given to me; but necessity compelled me to use much more of them than the portion thus relinquished:—and I thus may yet become entangled in an endless and ruinous labyrinth. Up to this time Hawkins is entirely clear of all responsibility as to those fees thus used by me. I have always been very cautious not to implicate any part of his landed interest in any way. I have been a true and paternal guardian of the interests of his heirs in this country, and I have kept his part of the land entirely clear. I have not even sold any more of it, than was absolutely necessary to give value to the balance, and to comply with the law by having the land settled; and this has subjected me to the abuse and slander of persons who wished to get places near Brazoria, and who have spared no pains to try and prejudice public opinion against me. I have, in fact, from the beginning of the Colony struggled alone in this wilderness, undergoing all sorts of privations, and my life often embittered by the unjust clamors, slanders, and abuse which I have been compelled by circumstances to bear. No pecuniary remuneration could, or ever can, recompense me for the last ten years.

If the fees, received from the Settlers in the first Colony, as above stated, are now to be considered as partnership property, Hawkins must also become liable for all the responsibilities which I am, or may ever be, liable to for having used more of those fees than I had a right to. Also a fair statement must be made of all the expenses of the local govt, of the colony, of the losses by bad debts, robbery of Indians, office expenses, losses by surveying, and a yearly compensation to Austin for his services. The gross amount of all this must be made up: then the amount of the fees which Austin was entitled to receive by the relinquishment of the Commissioner, must be made out, and deducted from the gross amount of the expenses. It will then be found that a large balance of many thousands will be due to pay those expenses, and the balance will bo a charge against the partnership land, and would consume a large part of it.

But this is not all. Hawkins would also have to be liable, in union with Austin, for all the responsabilities that may arise, owing to Austin's having used more of the fees than the amount relinquished to him by the Commissioner. In short, it would place Hawkins' estate in the situation in which I am now placed; that is liable to be harrassed as long as I live, and involved in an endless labyrinth of difficulties; and besides all this, there are matters connected with this business which are in the highest degree confidential and cannot be explained without a breach of faith.

I have probably done nearly as much to benefit individuals as ever was done by any one man in America who acted in the humble sphere of an unpatronised, unprotected, and private person. I have been instrumental in laying a broad foundation for the fortunes of many thousands. The enterprise has succeeded, and begins to attract notice; but no one knows, or seems to care, or to ask, how, or by what means, or through whose instrumentality it has been brought about. The only idea most persons seem to connect with the matter is, that of a mammoth speculation; and they say that Austin, in doing so much for so many, must have done a great deal for himself. Thus the most erroneous impressions, and the most unjust rumors, are set afloat. Ingratitude, jealousy, and suspicions are always active and vociferous.

What benefit has Austin received from the fees of the first colony ? There are six leagues and a half, and two labors, of land which were acquired by purchases from the settlers out of these fees, and deeded to my brother J. E. B. Austin because there was no judicial officer in the colony but me, before whom the deed could be acknowledged. The titles for a part of this are doubtful. I have also used a part of those fees to pay some of my old debts, but I have also used a large amount of the proceeds of my last contracts that Hawkins had nothing to do with, to satisfy the debts that were properly changeable to the first colony: and consequently if the fees of the first colony are to go with the partnership accounts, all I have paid out of my last contracts on account of the first colony, must be charged to that colony.

What benefit will Hawkins' estate receive for the advances he made in fitting out the Lively, and in paying my drafts for the Mexico trip, which was all he did advance that was of use to the enterprise ? The estate gets the half of 22 1/2 leagues of land. I get the other half, and I have done all the labor. In fact I have done every thing alone and without receiving aid from the personal services, or the capital, of Hawkins to the extent that was originally contemplated.

To recapitulate.

The first arrangement with the settlers, as to fees, was distroyed by the interference of the Govt of Texas. A new arrangement was made by the Govt as to the fees, which allowed Austin to receive none of them. The Commissioner relinquished a part of them to Austin. The part thus relinquished has been used by Austin for the joint benefit of the partnership; for by that means he has main- tained the colony without creating any charge against the partnership lands which are now clear.

Austin has used more of those fees than were so relinquished; and by so doing he is liable to be harrassed; and if Hawkins claims a part of those fees, he will have to bear his share of that liability: as also to bear an equal share of all the expenses of the colony, and to pay Austin for his services. This can not be done without taking a part of the premium land.

Austin never did receive $4000 for the use of the colony from Hawkins; and he did furnish about $1600 which, on a rigid settlement, Hawkins would be accountable for. Austin is not liable for the money spent in the expeditions of Littleberry Hawkins and John Botts; nor for the interest paid by Hawkins.

It would be the work of many years, and of endless expense, to bring this matter to a judicial or litigated settlement; and I am confident that such a settlement, in any court of justice, would in volve more than one half the premium land to square the accounts of the colony if they were justly, stated; besides the delay and expense.

I therefore think that in offering to divide the premium land, twenty two leagues and a half, and three labors, deducting the expenses of surveying it, I offer at least one half more than could be recovered in any court of justice. The original expenses of surveying the premium land are a just charge against it: they were paid by me in 1824 and 1825. More than this I am unwilling to do; and in doing this I consider that I am relinquishing a part of what justly belongs to me; for if a fair allowance were made to me, I should be entitled to a considerable portion of Hawkins' part of the premium land. The truth is, that I could have done all that I have done, had I never known Hawkins, nor received one cent, nor aid, from any quarter beyond my own resources.

Difficulties present themselves as to the manner of making this settlement. Ever since early in 1824 I have repeatedly requested, and urged often and often, that an Agent might be sent out to settle this business. The delay has not been of my causing, or of my seeking. Now after so long a period Mr. Martin is sent with very imperfect powers. George is not represented at all. The original contract between me and Hawkins is not produced: I never had a copy of it:—there was but one made out and that J. H. Hawkins retained. Edmund Hawkins, who is here present, is not competent to settle his own share of the business, for by the laws of this country he is a minor until he is twenty five years of age, and is therefore incompetent to bind himself, or any one else. He can not legally hold the land after it is divided: he will have to appoint a guardian in the manner prescribed by law, and this guardian will have to attend to this part of the business.

I wish to make a final settlement of this matter, and will do every thing to effect that object which will be legal and finally binding on all parties.

I make this statement to correct the erroneous impressions which the parties interested in this Business appear to have received from common rumor; and to show that, on my part, every thing has been done which circumstances would admit to protect the interests of Hawkins' estate. Also it ought to be remembered that I requested a settlement of this business since soon after Hawkins' death, and that I could long since have brought it to a settlement by a judicial process. The delay has been very injurious and very harrassing to me, but it has been beneficial to the estate.

There is another erroneous idea relative to the business of colonization in Texas. Many believe that actual grants are made by the Govt, of large tracts of land, or sections of country, to individuals who are denominated in the Law Empresarios; and that these individuals can sell this land. This is all a mistake. It is also wrong to call them grants: they are nothing more than Trusts by which the contractor or " empresario ", is constituted the agent of the Govt, to settle a certain number of families of a particular description, in certain designated limits, within a limited time. If he comply with this contract, he will then, and not before, be entitled to receive a certain quantity of land as a grant, which is called premium land, for which a special title is issued to him by the government commissioner. The settlers receive their titles direct from the Govt, through a commissioner, and not from the empresario. In the colonization law of 1825, the contracts made between the "empresario " and the settlers are guaranteed as valid, if not contrary to that and other laws; but in the colonization law of the 4th of Jany. 1823, under which my first colony was settled, there was no such guarantee.

San Felipe de Austin September 14 1832

Stephen F. Austin [Rubric]