Stephen F Austin to Wily Martin, 05-30-1831 [1833]

Summary: Many alarming rumors in Mexico concerning intention of Texans to revolt. He has dissipated most of the uneasiness. Customhouses must be reestablished and Austin has pledged people to support the collector. Has changed attitude toward slavery. Texas must be a slave country. Hopes for State organization with consent of Coahuila.

Matamoras, May 30, 1831 [1833]

Capt. Wiley Martin :

On my arrival here, things were rather a bad aspect, but they have totally changed for the better. It was believed that Texas had declared independence, and that John Austin was organizing an army to fight the Mexicans. I am told there is also some excitement in Mexico, and that the State got all excited, and have sent commissioners to Texas.

The Com. Gen'l Filisola, is a blunt, honest, candid and prompt soldier. He has been over thirty years in service; has been Com. Gen'l. at various times, with important powers entrusted to him,— and what is rather uncommon, he has not made a fortune. His principles are liberal and republican, and he wishes that the practice of all the authorities should conform with the true spirit of the Constitution and the laws. Says that there is a great want of moral honesty, and great abuses in the revenue. He is the friend of the farming and agricultural interests—a decided enemy of smugglers and lawyers, for he thinks they demoralize the community by placing temptations before weak or avaricious persons etc. He will be unpopular with all who wish to make money by evading the law. He thinks well of the idea of making a State of Texas, and has a good opinion of the Colonists in general, but believes they have more enemies amongst themselves than any where else. The reason he thinks so is, that he says a quiet and prudent course is the best for them and a rigid adherence to all the laws, so long as they are in force, etc. They are gaining yearly, and the republican principle[s] they have been accustomed to, are also gaining all over the nation, so that a little patience will place all right without any difficulty etc.

He has orders to reestablish the custom house and garrisons, and is compelled to do so. The former will be done, the latter, probably not until fall; and I am of opinion not to the extent then that was contemplated a month ago.

Geo. Fisher goes back as collector. I assure you that he is now a new man, it is the interest of the country to sustain him, and I request my friend, that you will unite in support of what I recommended on this, and all other matters in my letter to the Ayuntamientos.

The quantity of tobacco that has been smuggled from the ports of Texas, has made a great noise all over the nation, and the violation of the custom house laws in Texas, are made a pretext for similar violations elsewhere. The enemies of Santa Anna are making a great handle of these Texas matters, to injure him and destroy his popularity. They say he has lost Texas, and is the cause of the destruction of the public property there, the ruin of the forts, and the insults which it is reported the Mexicans have received there, etc.; and that he is now unwilling or unable or afraid to punish such acts of outrage, etc. Much is said by his enemies on the subject.

I am told that Santa Anna and his friends are very much enraged at the colonists, and blames them for the Anahuac expedition; says they had some cause to complain, but they went to work in so headlong and passionate a manner to get redress, that they placed themselves in a worse situation than they were before, because they put weapons in the hands of their enemies, and injured and mortified their friends.

Amongst other things, it is reported that there are a number of American Generals in Texas, who are inflaming the people against the Mexicans, and that the common talk is about independence, fighting, and abuse of the Mexicans, etc.

It is also reported that the alcalde and the ayuntamientos of Austin treat the State authorities with contempt, and do not even acknowledge the receipt of the official correspondence, and never pretend to answer it, or comply with the laws. Amongst so many rumors and lies, it is not to be expected that I should escape. It is reported that I was the author of the Anahuac expedition, and of all John Austin's acts. The Santa Anna party are irritated at that expedition for they say it put the current in motion and was the cause of all that passed. I am told I shall be roughly received by Santa Anna at first. This I do not believe, for nothing could be more unjust than to accuse me of being the author of that expedition. However, all this can be corrected and placed on its true basis by a statement of facts; for I believe the irritation has proceeded more from the handle or pretext it gives the enemies of Santa Anna to abuse him, than from a belief that there was no cause for complaint.

You could not have a correct idea of how matters stood, unless you were informed of all these reports and sayings, and for this reason I have mentioned them.

I think it best to harmonize with the State commissioners so far as it can be done, without yielding the principle of a State Government.

I am told that Coahuila would consent to the separation, if the money now due for land already granted was secured to Coahuila, they say that Texas has paid nothing as yet, to defray the expenses of the State etc. For my part, so far as I am interested as a citizen of Texas, I am willing to yield this point and to pay to Coahuila all that is or may be due for all land where titles are actually issued. This would not include the floating eleven league tracts not located, nor lands in colonizing contracts not settled, but would only embrace all where the possession was actually given and the title issued before the final separation.

That money is a mere trifle compared to getting a State, and I can assure you it will be very difficult to get a State without the consent of Coahuila, and very easy to get it with her consent.

I merely make the suggestion to you of harmonizing as much as possible with Coahuila, for if the State Government should apply to the General Government, or to the other States for aid to inforce its laws in Texas, the General Government would hardly dare to refuse it in the present critical state of things.

The general congress has adjourned and probably will not meet again until January next, so that my trip to Mexico was rendered measurably useless, and having been very much debilitated by a dysentery, or Cholarina, that is prevailing here, I had concluded at one time to postpone my trip for the present and I forwarded the memorial to the President through the commandant General by mail, so as to remove the bad impressions that existed in Mexico. I have this day heard of a vessel that is unexpectedly to be sent to Vera Cruz, the schooner Comet, and I shall embark on board of her and take the stage from Vera Cruz to Mexico. I am illy calculated at this time to stand the trip by land, and I believe that it would lay me up in this hot, dry country perhaps for the whole summer.

Nothing definite can be done about the State question, until Congress meets in January, unless there should be a called session, and they are always convened for special objects, and by the constitution nothing can be done in them but the special objects for which they are convened. So that all I can do is to talk with the President and Ministers and correct lies and false reports etc., and pave the way. I think I shall return in August, but if it appears to be necessary for me to remain until January, I shall do so.

The basis of my policy, so far as I had any thing to do with Texas matters, up to last July the time when I returned and found all in confusion, was this—never to put the interests of the settlers at hazard, and to rely more upon the regular and natural progress of things for remedies, than upon efforts to force them prematurely.

The settlers have earned what they have got too hard, and by too many years of hard labor and privation, to jeopardize all hastily—a war with the nation will be ruinous to them, for they will be destroyed and overwhelmed, eaten up by those who come from abroad to aid them in fighting their battles. They have more to dread from such friends, and from Indians, than from the whole Mexican nation.

Had I been an ambitious military leader, the reverse of this would have been my policy, and I would have aroused and led on the settlers, and inflamed them into a war and then made use of them (as all military leaders do of the people) to build up my own fame as a chieftain, success would have deceived the most of them and made me a great man, nominally. For I think that true greatness consists in doing the most good, and not in acquiring the most fame- when I entered Texas I laid it down as a fixed rule of action, to conquer that country with the axe, the plough and the hoe. Silently and gradually my ambition was to benefit all, and make use of none as mere instruments to build up myself and a few chosen band of leaders. Every military leader must of necessity be surrounded by a set of leeches who must be kept fat, and whose ambition must be gratified, and whims satisfied. All this is done by using the people as tools, or rather as food to glut upon.

I am the friend of farmers. The plough is my favorite weapon for conquest, and I am not the friend of the useless dupes in society. I look upon the most of military and professional men as useless. I speak in general of the masses as we find them.

Also, I have pursued concilliation as a system; both in the colony and out of it. I did so because a small spark kindles a great flame, and such flames always injure the farmers and working classes. Besides this, a child is easier destroyed in a conflict than a full grown man. My policy has displeased the ardent spirits in my colony, but I still think it was the correct one; and I see no necessity for abandoning it and adopting the reverse as a basis. Though, if it is abandoned, I shall go into the opposite extreme, and adhere to it as fully, and as obstinately, as I have to the system of concilliation, and perhaps much more so than some of those who are easily excited, and talk much about fighting.

Upon the whole, I think we have all got along wonderfully well, considering all things; and I have the fullest confidence in the most favorable results.

I have been adverse to the principle of slavery in Texas. I have now, and for the last six months, changed my views of that matter; though my ideas are the same as to the abstract principle. Texas must he a slave country. Circumstances and unavoidable necessity compels it. It is the wish of the people there, and it is my duty to do all I can, prudently, in favor of it. I will do so.

I think the General will send on Fisher with a few men by land. He is compelled to re-establish the customhouses, and I advised him to rely on the colonists to enforce the revenue laws. I am of opinion decidedly, that if Fisher's reports are favorable, there will not be any garrisons sent to Texas except on the frontiers.

It would take a sheet or two of paper to tell you the extent of the injury that was done to all Texas by the departure of Dudor [Duclor] from Brazoria. He was a Santa Anna officer.

When I look back, I am really mortified at some things. In the first excitement at Brazoria, Samuel Sawyer was a leader, and a great man—a right-hand man of J. B. McKinstre. Also, in Matagorda bay, one John Colbourne, who was concerned in the Boston packet, took a part in insulting the customhouse. Now, this Colbourne went to Mexico and cheated Mr. Parrot, an American merchant out of $3,500, by a forged draft in company with Girard. And yet the farmers were ready to fight all Mexico to favor the smuggling operations of such miserable scoundrels. Mr. McKinstre was the principal cause of Dudor's [Duclor's] leaving Brazoria, and he has done as much harm to Texas as any man in it. If the industrious men of the country will suffer themselves to be made the mere tools of peddling traders and hot-brained madmen, they will deserve to suffer.

Fisher ought to be sustained, and I hope all the past will be totally forgotten. See John Austin on this subject. As to Fisher, the fact is there were faults all round, on both sides. Farewell.

S. F. Austin.