Stephen F Austin to General William H Ashley, 10-10-1832

Summary: Describing recent events in Texas. Texas wants to be a state of Mexican confederation. Annexation to United States undesirable unless on terms agreeable to all parties. Conditions may bring independence.

San Felipe de Austin (Texas)

October 10, 1832.

Genl Wm H. Ashley

Dr Sir, It is long since we have seen or heard of each other by any direct intercourse, but I judge of you by myself when I say that you have not forgotten your old townsman we have spent too many pleasant hours together in Potosi for them to have passed away from your remembrance,

Sam P. Browne and John Rice Jones with their families are here permanently settled, also my brother-in-law, James F. Perry, and several others from Washington County; from them and other sources I have heard of your prosperity and success in private and in public life, which was highly gratifying to me.

My lot has been cast in the wilderness—a pioneer—you may readily imagine that the change was a considerable one for me. I recollect your taste for bear hunting and that I wondered at it, for at that time mine did not incline much to such rude sports, though I also recollect that when you and R. T. Brown and myself were out on the Boons Lick road as commissioners to examine it, he killed a large bear and I snapped at one and killed a cub, and I thought it might be very fine sport—it was very exciting at least. I am not now a good hunter, but I have entered much more into the spirit of the thing than I then did and no longer wonder at your fondness for the sport There is a freedom, a wide and wild and elevated range of thought, as well as of action, in rambling over the verdant prairies, and gentle undulations of Texas, where every living thing you see gives evidence of equal freedom by scampering and bounding before and around you, which persons who have all their lives elbowed their way through crowded streets, know nothing about—I no longer wonder at the attachment of the savage for his native forests, or at his despair at seeing them felled before the desolating sweep of civilization—desolating indeed to the happiness, and the home of the natives. But so it is— Nature has given to the whites, and to the red man a place on earth, and habit and education, or superior intelligence, or accident, or what you may please seem to have so regulated matters that their interest should run in opposite directions—a shock is, of course, the consequence, and power settles the affair, whether justly or not is a question which belongs exclusively to theorists, for the reason that the current of events in this particular can not be stopped. It has flowed on, and onward it will flow, until the Indians are swept from existence as a people and amalgamated with civilization.

It is more than eleven years since I entered this country. It then was a wilderness, but it is not so now. We have advanced very considerably and far enough to advance rapidly.

The situation of the Mexican republic at this time is such that in all human calculations the destiny of Texas will depend mainly upon itself. Our political affairs are assuming an aspect of the most intense interest. This fair and highly favored country, in many respects, presents an anomoly in the history of new settlements—that it should have remained unpeopled, unexplored, and even unknown except in name so long—that it should have been redeemed from a state of nature and its advantages developed by individual enterprise alone—-that a few pioneers should have resisted military misrule and removed to the west side of the Rio Brazos del Norte all the garrisons of regular troops—that we now sustain the constitution and laws of our adopted country and are true to our duty as Mexican citizens, although the whole nation is convulsed by factions and revolution, the social compact virtually dissolved, and the constitution a mere name, violated as it is from one end of the republic to the other, and morally destitute of power to restrain military usurpations or to bind the confederation together, that events may possibly leave us with the rights of possession to a country of sufficient extent for a nation, and in a situation which will justify our taking care of ourselves without violating any moral or political obligation whatever,—or that we may be driven to attempt a political revulsion for causes which justice will sanction. That Texas should be thus suspended, as it were upon the current of events, all taken together present rather a new, and I think an interesting picture.

The agency which the first settlers have had in developing the resources of Texas, must always afford to them a gratification of the highest character. Humble as the honor may be considered by many who are revelling in the " horse mill round" of wealth in populous cities, I as one of those settlers, and as a leader of Texas pioneers, prise it very highly. This country is much more valuable than was ever supposed. I have seen the best part of North America from Boston to the City of Mexico, and I have no hesitation in saying that Texas has moie advantages in fertility of soil, climate, and locality than any section of the country I have ever seen. I am well aware that the mere idea of a wilderness carries with it in the minds of many, the frightful picture of savages, wild men and beasts, and barbarism, but those who associate those ideas with the population of Texas, do us an injustice and deceive themselves.

We have just had a convention of all Texas, native Mexicans and foreign settlers—all united as one man. We have asked for a State government and a repeal of the laws restricting emigration. What will be the fate of our application I know not. It may be said that we stre too few for a state. To this it may be replied, what cannot or will not determined enterprise effect? In December 1821 I arrived on the Brazos River with about 20 families in the center of a wilderness, surrounded by hostile indians and far remote from all resources. We were then called madmen and our total destruction was predicted. Those 20 have grown to many thousands. The idea of a State at this time, is much less bold than was the idea of success at that time, with so feeble a beginning.

We have done our duty faithfully as Mexican citizens, and will continue so to do. Whatever may be the view which the Mexican government may take of the past, we can with honest truth say, that our consciences are clear. Should the future drive us into an attitude of hostility in defense of what we have so dearly earned, the public opinion of good men, I think, will acquit us of all wrong— we shall then expect that the sympathies which cheered the struggling Greeks and Poles—that sanctioned the independence of Spanish America—that applaud the liberals of France, and the reformists of Great Britain, will also cheer the humble watch fires of our undisciplined militia, and if necessary soon swell their ranks to a respectable army. The settlers of Texas are disciplined in toils and privations, in hard enterprise and contempt of danger, in constitutional principles and in honest industry, but they are untrained in the art of regular warfare—they have never been the tools of oppression nor the engines of destruction. The sons of the North may be buried in Texas, but they cannot be driven from it—neither do I think such a thing will be attempted—it would be a blind and mistaken policy This country, as a state of Mexico, would prosper— it would be of great service to the nation, and add much to the national strength and resources—it is not our interest to separate if such a thing can be avoided, unless indeed we should float into the Northern Republic with the consent of all parties ourselves included.

Perhaps the milliners on one side and the spirit of revolution on the other, may split matters into fragments and leave us to ourselves here in the centre.

Whatever may be the fate of Texas, it must always excite the interest of those who have seen it, for it is a very favored country.

I have scribbled you a long letter, with all the careless freedom and frankness of an old acquaintance. I think you must feel some interest for this country and for your friends and countrymen who are in [it] and I am certain you will do us all the good you can. Write to me on the subject. Has this out-of-the-way section ever occupied any place in the attention of the magnates of Washington?

If you answer this I shall think you are willing to renew our old acquaintance and will continue to give you the Texas news.

Stephen F. Austin [Rubric]