Monterrey, January 14, 1834.
Señor Don Rafael Llanos.
My dear Sir : In times of political disturbances like those of the
past year it is difficult to have any relations whatever with political
affairs without becoming entangled in some way or other, now with
parties, now with individuals, now with the authorities. Thus it is
that I have fallen into the net, and was arrested on the 3d of this
month by order of the minister of war, and depart in a few days for
Mexico as a prisoner.
From what I have said to you in our conversations concerning
Texas, you will have understood that that country was exposed to
anarchy for the want of adequate local government. During the
winter of last year there was strong sentiment, in fact, for an
organization of the local government, always as an integral part of the
The energetic representations of the ayuntamientos and towns of
Bejar and Coahuila, dated December 19, 1832, demonstrate with
sufficient clearness the evils of Texas and the aroused feeling of those
towns over the torpor of the population and the backwardness of
Texas through inadequate legislation and the neglect of its best and
dearest interests. The great majority of the people expressed their
opinion in favor of separation from Coahuila, and their
determination to so organize if there were no other remedy. The Convention
framed the memorial of April 13  to the general
government, asking that Texas be erected into a state of this federation,
and nominating me to carry it to Mexico. It appears that since
then some ayuntamientos have changed their opinion because they
believe that the people ought not to have petitioned for erection
into a state under Article 2 of the organic law of the General
Constituent Congress dated May 7, 1824, without the previous consent
of the Legislature of Coahuila and Texas. But they do not mean
to be understood by this as being content with their situation. They
desire radical remedies, and only believe that they have mistaken
the means to obtain them. Concerning this point, it must be said
that at that time (November and December, 1832) Texas was almost
in a state of nature as to government—and perhaps one would not
venture much in saying that the whole republic was in the same
situation,—so that the wisest were divided in opinion whether or
not we had a legitimate government, or whether the Constitution
I did not know of this new attitude of the ayuntamientos until
November 5  at the conference of ministers called by the
President, at which you assisted, when Señor Blanco brought it out.
I therefore acted in conformity with the instructions given me by
the convention in April.
In Mexico I did all that I could to obtain the prompt and
favorable dispatch of the petitions of Texas, or busied myself to obtain
such things as the repeal of the 11th Article of the law of April 6,
1830, exemptions from the tariff, the regulation of the mails, the
payment of the presidial companies; in short, anything to calm
and content the people of Texas.
At the beginning of October I was discouraged and irritated by
an incident or bad news or a mistake which occurred then, and lost
hope and patience, and in that moment wrote to the ayuntamientos
of Texas recommending that they consult among themselves in order
to organize the local government in union and harmony, in case the
General Congress did nothing to remedy the evils of Texas. I had
also an other reason which influenced me to make this
recommendation: at that time, the result of the revolution was, in the opinion
of many, doubtful, and I knew very well that the inhabitants of
Texas were decided to revolt rather than submit to the domination
of the Church party. In such case it would have been much better
for the interest of Texas, of the popular party, and of the republic
that it be organized in union and harmony, by agreement and
approbation of the local authorities and under their direction than to
proceed by means of a popular uprising without the intervention
of any authority.
Thus my recommendation was entirely conditional, subject to
the developments of the future, a precautionaiy measure and
nothing more. As soon as Arista surrendered and the 11th Article of the
law of April 6, 1830, was repealed, I informed the ayuntamientos,
and in so doing believed that I had revoked the recommendation
made in my letter of October, because it was made under the
supposition that nothing would be done.
I understand that I am arrested for having written that letter of
October to the ayuntamientos, and that the governor of the state is
my accuser, but I do not know certainly whether this is true or not.
All that I have done in this matter has been public and without
concealment. I wrote to the ayuntamientos officially, and not
confidentially or privately. I did not leave Mexico until December 10,
more than two months after writing the letter. I took leave of
the Minister, of the Vice President, and of my friends; travelled in
a coach with Deputy Don Luis de la Rosa as far as Lagos; and
thence by San Luis Potosi to Saltillo, presenting myself at the
moment of my arrival there to the Commandant General. I had
started by the most direct road to Monclova to see if it was possible
to obtain some laws for Texas in conformity with the
recommendations of the general government on the subject. I believe that if I
had been able to reach Monclova during the session of the
legislature, as I desired, it would have been possible to regulate the affairs
of Texas upon a basis satisfactory to Texas, to the state, and to the
general government. It would have been very easy to go to Vera
Cruz and embark for Orleans, if I had thought that I had
committed a crime that deserved punishment. The truth is that the hope
of accomplishing some good for the contentment of Texas caused
me to go by land, although the trip is much more severe than a
voyage to Europe.
In so far as there may be crime in having labored thirteen years,
spending a life of weariness, in peopling the wilderness of Texas;
in having spent my time and my money in a journey to Mexico to
obtain relief from the evils which afflict Texas and threaten its ruin
and even its separation from Mexico; in measures to save that
country from a violent revolution; in having assisted in establishing the
foundations for the prosperity and security of the frontiers of
Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas and the advancement of those
states in population, industry, and agriculture—in so far as there may
be crime in all this, I am a great criminal.
Without population in Texas the frontiers of the Eastern
Interior Provinces are worse than nothing, for they are an abandoned
field where the Indians may rob, kill, and destroy to suit their fancy,
without protection for the wretched people. It would be an
enormous expense to maintain garrisons and troops enough to restrain
the Indians even in a small degree in deserts so vast.
I have been accused of having magnificent schemes for Texas, and
I confess that I have had them.
My friend, I am a Mexican citizen, and as such I shall speak with
entire frankness: To suppose that the Mexican nation in its present
situation, immersed in clouds of prejudice, and backward in
everything, can advance rapidly of itself alone and reach the level of other
nations without drawing learning, industry, and population from
abroad is almost the same as to imagine that the Mexicans of the
time of Cortés could have advanced to where they now are without
knowing any other people or having had communication with any
other nation in the world. The United States of the North were
much more advanced at the time of their independence than the
Mexicans, and yet they needed learning, arts, and population from
abroad. Upon the same policy are based my schemes for Texas, and
for all the eastern frontier. It is depopulated; I wish to people it.
The population that is there is backward; I wish it to be advanced
and improved by the introduction of industrious agricultural settlers,
liberal republicans. I want the savage Indians subdued; the frontier
protected; the lands cultivated; roads and canals opened; river
navigation developed and the rivers covered with boats and barges
carrying the produce of the interior to the coast for export in
exchange for foreign products, thereby saving the precious metals
which are now our only medium of exchange; I wish to take from
my native land and from every other country the best that they
contain and plant it in my adopted land—that is to say, their best
inhabitants, their industry, and their enlightenment, so that the
eastern frontier which is now without population and in its greater
part almost without government, might present an example worthy
of imitation. These are the magnificent, and as it now appears,
visionary, plans which I have held for Texas, and for all this
frontier; and if there is a Mexican who does not wish to see them
realized, I must say that he does not love his country; neither wants
to see her emerge from the darkness of the fifteenth century nor
shake off the chains of superstition and monastic ignorance which
she is still dragging along.
Very little do they know me who believe that I have sacrificed the
best years of my life in the wildnerness of Texas to gain a fortune!
I have not gained it, and I could have lived in comfort in a settled
country. I entered Texas in 1821 an enthusiastic philantropist and
now at the age of forty I find myself on the verge of misanthropy,
tired of men and their affairs, and convinced that I wished to finish
in a few years the work of a century. I have seen the United States
of the North make every effort to attract population, knowledge, and
capital from abroad for its development. I have seen a wilderness
covered with a dense population in a few years, and new states
erected where at the time of my birth there was not a single civilized
person. I believed that it would be the same with the free and
nascent Mexican nation. I see that I was mistaken. Before Mexico
can develop in that manner she must pay the price by a moral
revolution in which shall be overthrown all the customs and the Gothic
politico-religious system set up by Rome and Spain to hold the
people in subjection like beasts of burden—such a revolution she
will have in a century but not in the life time of one man.
You have been my friend since 1821, and I owe you a frank
expression of my thoughts. In this letter I have told all my desires
and dreams for Texas. I was not born in a wilderness, and have
not the patience of the Bexareños and other inhabitants of this
frontier who are daily enduring the same dangers and annoyances
that their fathers and grandfathers and perhaps their great-grand-
fathers suffered, without advancing a single step or even thinking
of advancing. Death is preferable to such stagnant existence, such
I am very grateful to your brother, Don Manuel, I and to the
Commandant General, Don Pedro Lemus, and to all here for the
kindness which they have shown to me.
Please show this letter to Don Victor Blanco and to Don Teodoro
Rivarol and tell them that I put their letters for Monclova in the
I remain your very sincere friend, etc.
Estevan F. Austin.
P. S.—I wish you would also do me the favor to show this letter
to Señor Rejón. I should be sincerely sorry if that patriot and
eloquent defender of liberty and reform should have erroneous
ideas concerning this matter. I understand that the foundation
of the political creed of that gentleman is that we should proceed
firmly and unwaveringly with the system of radical reforms until
the life and habits of the mass of the Mexican people are entirely
in harmony with the form of government adopted by the nation.
This also is the object of my efforts in the little sphere in which
I have worked.
In the United States of the North the government was adapted
to established practices. In Mexico the process has been the reverse
of this. Here it is necessary to shape habits and customs to the
system of government; and it is due to this fact that the nation
has encountered so much difficulty in consolidating itself.
Customs are not changed or corrected by theories nor by oral or
written preaching, no matter how clearly reasoned and eloquent
it may be, without some practical and palpable application to the
life and understanding of the mass of the people. I wished to
make this application in Texas, and so, progressively, throughout
the Rio Grande frontier; at the same time strengthening the political
and economic relations of that remote section of the Republic with,
the other states by direct representation in Congress, by improved
roads, and by interior and coasting trade.
Taking a general and impartial view of the matter, with the
government settled, it is very evident that it is not to the interest
of Texas to separate from Mexico even if she were free to do so.
But on the other hand it is well known that men are influenced more
by petty local annoyances or grievances in the present, even though
temporary, than by the hope of great benefits in the future. One
may call the grievances of Texas temporary, but they are not petty;
they are very serious. And it is from this that opinions arise that
there is a conflict between the union of that country with Mexico
and its progress and happiness. This opinion is erroneous, for
nothing is easier than to remove that conflict and remedy the present
local evils in Texas by an organization of its local government in
conformity with the experience and particular needs of that
country—that is, to erect it into a state of the Mexican Federation.
Doing this will fulfill, moreover, the object and the principles of
the federal system, and will carry forward the important work of
reforming the ancient customs of the people which conflict with
the system, because there are none of these customs in Texas, and
it is not possible to conceive that there will ever be any such.
Men of large conceptions are always exposed to attack as
visionaries, ambitious and selfish schemers, deserving of suspicion, or
something else, particularly if their plans look to general and
philanthropic improvements, because there are few who labor for anything
but their personal interest. In the colonization of Texas I have
wanted to make a personal provision for myself and for my family,
and if he who sows is entitled also to reap the harvest, I deserve it;
but at the same time I have wanted to confer upon my adopted
country a general benefit by peopling and redeeming from its savage
state an important part of its territory.
I have labored in good faith, exposing myself to all sorts of
burdens and responsibilities for the good of my country; but at the
same time I have duties to the settlers who have emigrated to the
wilderness through my influence; and they owe a duty to themselves
and to their families—the duty and the right of self-preservation.
And if there were no other way to fulfil it but to separate from
Mexico and join the United States of the North, or maintain
independence, it is very clear that it would then be their most sacred
duty to attempt it.
All that has been said by rumor and prejudiced reports about
projects in Texas for separation from Mexico is false. There have
not been and are not now any such projects. What is wanted there
is an organization of the interior government in order to avert
disorders, disturbances, and divisions which would undoubtedly
terminate in a revolution.
I have said and I believe that Mexico should either establish the
local government of Texas or sell it to the United States of the
North, in order to get some profit from it before losing it, and the
Mexicans with whom I have talked and who thoroughly understood
the matter are of the same opinion.
Estevan F. Austin.