Stephen F Austin to Conventional Committee, Unknown [Prior to 04-01-1833]

Summary: Address of central committee to convention. Reciting reasons for separation of Coahuila and Texas.

Gentlemen of the convention,

The central committee of safety and correspondence which was established by the late convention, and by whose request the present convention has assembled, beg leave to offer their sincere congratulations on your arrival at the theatre where you are to exercise the high and important duties which devolve upon you as the representatives of the people of your several districts.

Believing that your deliberations will be fraught with important results to the interests of our common country, the committee deem it a duty they owe you, as the delegates of the people to make a brief exposition of the reasons which have operated on them in calling this convention, and in doing this, they wish it to be understood, not as attempting to dictate to this convention the course it should pursue in the least degree, nor to prescribed limits to its action, but to give a satisfactory explanation to you, and through you to the great body of the people of Texas, of the causes which have impelled them to the exercise of this responsible duty.

The situation of Texas, is such as to give rise to great anxiety and even alarm in the heart of every person who inhabits it, or feels any interest for its prosperity or welfare.

The whole of this country, with the exception of the small towns of Bexar and Goliad, has been settled and redeemed from the wilderness within a few years by the enterprise of immigrants who removed to it in consequence of the express and earnest invitation of the Government, contained in the national and state colonization laws. Those immigrants have uniformly evinced their gratitude to the government and nation of their adoption for all the acts of kindness and liberality that have been extended towards them, and they have faithfully performed their duty as Mexican citizens, and fulfilled the intention and spirit of the colonization laws, by settling the country, defending it from hostile indians, or other enemies, and developing its resources, thus giving value and character to a large section of the Mexican territory which was before wild and almost unknown. They have introduced agriculture and the usefull arts and commerce, and if as has been said by a celebrated author " that man deserves well of his country who makes a blade of grass grow where none grew before ", how much more do the people of Texas deserve from their country who have so materially added to the national grandeur, phisical force and resources. The people of Texas ought therefore to rely with confidence on the government for protection, and to expect that an adequate remedy will be applied to the many evils that are afflicting them.

The invitations in virtue of which they came here, and the guarantees of the constitution and laws, evidently contain a pledge on the part of the government, that they should be governed in accordance with the spirit of the free political institutions of the Mexican republic, and in the manner best adapted to the local situation and necessities of Texas. The right of the people of Texas to represent their wants to the government, and to explain in a respectfull man- ner the remedies that will relieve them cannot therefore be doubted or questioned. It is not merely a right, it is also a sacred and bounden duty which they owe to themselves and to the whole Mexican nation, for should evils of great and desolating magnitude fall upon Texas for the want of competent remedies, the people here would have cause to accuse themselves of neglect for not making an effort to procure such remedies, and the government would also have cause to complain, that a full and frank and timely representation had not been made and a remedy solicited.

It is very evident that these considerations have influenced the people of Texas in all they have done up to the present time. They have been governed by the desire to do their duty faithfully to the Mexican nation and to themselves. In the discharge of this duty the people and civil authorities of Austins Colony made a respectfull and humble petition to the General and State governments on the 18 day of Feby 1832 setting forth the evils that were afflicting this country. The inhabitants and civil authorities of Bexar, the ancient and present capital of Texas, also made a very able and energetic represention on the same subject on the 19th of December last,2 Numerous other representatives have been made at various times by all the Ayuntamientos of Texas, and on the first of October last delegates of the people of Texas met in convention at this Town and unanimously resolved that it was expedient that the political union between Coahuila and Texas should be dissolved and that Texas should be organised as a separate State of the Mexican confederation as soon as the approbation of the General government to that effect could be obtained. That convention accordingly memorialised congress on the subject, and elected an agent to go to Mexico in order to forward the views of the people of Texas in obtaining the sanction of the general government. But the continuation of the intestine commotions which have raged within the bosom of the Mexican republic for more than twelve months past, and which threaten'd a total overthrow of the established institutions of the country, prevented the memorial from being presented in accordance with the intentions of the October convention.

That convention adopted many other memorials and resolutions, amongst the most important of which was the provisional organization of the militia, as a precaution against contemplated attacks upon our exposed frontier by the many tribes of hostile indians who inhabit the northern and western parts of Texas; and the establishment of the central and sub-committees of safety and correspondence throughout the country all of which were rendered inoperative by the decree of the governor of the state of Coahuila and Texas, who declared the proceedings of the convention null and void, and ordered the several committees to dissolve.

At the time when this committee determined to convoke the present convention, they took an impartial survey of our federal relations and of our local affairs.

They beheld the Mexican confederation torn and broken asunder by political parties each of which sustained its pretentions to the supreme executive power of the nation by force of arms. Civil war raged in every part of the Mexican territory and in looking upon the face of the nation nothing was to be seen but confusion and bloody discord—Brother contending with brother in deadly strife for mastery in political power. They saw that the constitution of the republic, that instrument which they had been taught to look upon as the sacred charter of their liberties was alternately violated and set aside by all parties, and that all the constitutional guarantees were merged for the time being in military power. They saw the constitutional period for the election of President and vice President of the nation and of members of Congress, pass by, and at least one third of the states refuse or neglect to hold the elections. The future presented the gloomy prospect that the days of constitutional freedom had been numbered to the Mexicans, and that we should ere long see the waves of anarchy and confusion close forever over the wreck of that Mexican republic. The disorganization of the government was so extreem, that even the leaders of the liberal party who have been contending for the restoration of constitutional liberty, and whose cause was espoused by the people of Texas, and generously defended with their blood and treasure, found themselves conpelled to lay aside all the established forms, and to renovate the constitution by violent and unconstitutional means.

The committee turned from this view of our national affairs to that of the local internal situation of Texas which has not materially changed since the last convention. The political system under which Texas has heretofore been governed, tends to check the growth of the country, and to produce confusion and insecurity, rather than to extend protection to lives liberty and property. The unnatural annexation of what was formerly the province of Texas to Coahuila by the constituent congress of the Mexican nation, has forced upon the people of Texas a system of laws which they do not understand and which cannot be administered so as to suit their condition or to supply their wants.

The Alcaldes who are the highest judicial officers in Texas and have unlimited jurisdiction in all cases, are elected annually by the people, and those who are ignorant and corrupt and without re- sponsibiliiy are as liable to be chosen as the wise, the virtuous and the responsible. This remark is justified by the fact that the office is without emolument and is extreemly burdensome, and will therefore seldom be sought by those who are best qualified to fill it. In all civil cases there is an appeal to the supreme tribunal of the state at Saltillo a distance of near seven hundred miles from the inhabited parts of Texas. There are but few men in Texas who are qualified to prepare cases for the supreme court and when appeals have been taken they have generally been sent back several times to be reformed so that decissions in such cases are seldom had. It has become proverbial in Texas, that an appeal to Saltillo is a payment of the debt. It amounts to a total denial of justice especially to the poor, and this is the frail tenure by which the most important rights of the people of Texas are suspended.

The manner of trying culprits for high criminal offences is such that it amounts to no tryal at all. The tryal by jury is not sanctioned by law, and the rights of the accused are committed to an alcalde who is ignorant of the formulas of the laws, and of the language in which they are written who prepares the cause for the judgment of the supreme tribunal in Saltillo, thus the lives, liberty and honor of the accused are suspended upon the tardy decission of a distant tribunal which knows not nor cares not for his suffering, and the rights of the community to bring offenders to speedy and exemplary punishment are sacrificed to forms equally uncertain and unknown. The formula required by law in the prosecution of criminals is so difficult to be pursued that most of the courts in Texas have long since ceased to attempt its execution. The tryal by jury has been attempted in some of the municipalities, but being unsupported by the sanction of law it also has failed of success. A total interegnum in the administration of justice in criminal cases may be said to exist. A total disregard of the laws has become so prevalent, both amongst the officers of justice, and the people at large, that reverence for laws or for those who administer them has almost intirely disappeared and contempt is fast assuming its place, so that the protection of our property- our persons and lives is circumscribed almost exclusively to the moral honesty or virtue of our neighbor.

The people and authorities of Bexar in their representation in December last speaking of the judiciary system in Texas use the following strong and conclusive language.

"In the judiciary department there never has been any adequate organization and it may be said with just cause that in this department there is not and never has been any government in Texas."

Besides the evils which menace Texas for the want of a judiciary there are others of no less appalling effects. This country is in danger of being inundated by bands of northern Indians who are removing from the east side of the Mississippi to Arkansas on our borders. Also the Comanche, Tahuacana and other tribes of native Texas indians have recently become hostile and are committing depredations on the frontiers. But [it] is unnecessary to enter into details—enough is said in the representation of Bexar by the declaration that there is not and never has been any adequate govt in Texas.

Judging from the past, it must be considered a vain hope to look to the State government of Coahuila and Texas for a redress of grievances, or a remedy of wrongs. We have twice beheld the mortifying spectacle of the corrupt mob of the Capital driving the legislature by force to adopt measures, unconstitutional in themselves, insulting to the inhabitants of Texas, and disregardful of their rights, The general neglect of the state Legislature of all the important interests and rights of Texas and their repeated violations of the constitution are very clearly and energetically set forth in the Bexar remonstrance of last December. There seems to be no cause to expect any favourable change towards Texas in the politics of Coahuila. But even supposing there were the legislature that would suit Coahuila would be pernicious in Texas. No organization can be devised under the constitution of the State of Coahuila and Texas that would suit the two extremes, separated as they are more than 400 leagues, a great part through a wilderness that cannot be passed without imminent danger from hostile indians, The dissimilarity of habits occupation and language also present still greater difficulties than the distance. These difficulties are hard to reconcile for the reason that the state constitution requires that all general laws shall be the same throughout the whole state, There cannot therefore be any organization of the judiciary for Texas materially different from that of Coahuila.

In this state of things the committee considered themselves bound by a solemn duty to call on the people of Texas through their representatives to meet in general convention with full powers to deliberate on the present distracted situation of our infant country and to adopt such constitutional measures as in their wisdom they may deem necessary In exercising this highly responsible duty the committee did not act unadvisedly or without the most mature deliberation, and they did not call this convention untill they were satisfied that a large majority of the people of Texas were in favor of applying for a well organized state Govt as the only remedy for existing evils.

The law of the constituent Congress of 7 May 1824 evidently contemplates that Texas should form a separate State The 2d article of that law is in the following words as translated " Coahuila and Texas shall also form another state, but so soon as the latter is in a situation to figure as a separate state, it shall inform congress thereof for its resolution."

The right which this law confers upon the people of Texas to inform congress when they are in a situation to figure as a State, and to apply for admission into the Union is certainly very clear and unequivocal.

What method may be the best to obtain a remedy for the many evils which afflict Texas, can only be determined by the wisdom of the convention. Trusting that your deliberations will be conducted with that zeal for the public welfare which the common good of our adopted country requires and that they will tend to that happy issue which all so confidently anticipate, the central committee take leave of the convention by depositing the power which they have exercised for a time in the hands of those who gave it.