Stephen F Austin to James F Perry, 10-06-1835

Summary: Judicial procedure in Mexico. Vague charges against him make defense difficult, even if his case could get to trial. Rumored in Mexico that he has many enemies in Texas. Almonte's investigation of Texas may lead to its transfer to the United States—in fact, he believes that it will be transferred within two years

[From the Williams Papers. Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.]

Prison of the Deputation, or Carcel de Ciudad,

October 6 1834


Dr Brother.

I was removed to this prison on the 19th ultimo, and for the first time since my arrest, more than nine months, an investigation of my case has commenced. All I know about it is what little I can infer from the questions asked me, and the vague information or reports of persons who visit me— You will understand that the mode of proceeding here is to collect and arrange all the evidence against an accused ex-parte, he knows nothing about it, nor what he has to answer to, untill the evidence against him is all collected, the case is then delivered to him, and not before, to make his defence and exhibit proofs to disprove or do away the evidence against— It is evident that under such a system a suit may be protracted indefinitely at the will of accusers, prosecutors etc. etc. The only place I can procure proofs is in Texas. It may be six months or more before it is considered that all the evidence is collected against me, and then I must send to Texas for evidence on my part— So far as I can judge, all seem to agree that my letter of 2d. October to the Ayto. of Bexar was nothing more than an imprudent opinion, but not a criminal act in the eye of the law, because it was merely an opinion, unaccompanied by any overt- act—but, as I am informed, for I know nothing certain, the intention is to try and convict me of a design to separate Texas from Mexico and unite it to the United States and that letter is used as an incident, or link in the plot which it is pretended there was. All this is utterly false— All Texas can acquit me and I have no doubt would do so unanimously of any such design or plot—nothing of the kind has ever existed in me, or in any one else in Texas that I ever heard of— But I am of the opinion that my innocence will avail me nothing— There seems to be a net wove around me which I cannot understand, and of course cannot resist— Everything I have said or done with pure intentions and in good faith— All my honest and republican frankness in explaining to the govt the true situation of Texas, every thing that has passed in Texas since I went there in 1821— All the events of the last four years— All that is said there now and since my imprisonment— All that has been published about my colony in newspapers books etc even the population and advancement of Texas in agriculture, arts, exports, and resources—in short every thing seems to be construed and perverted against me—nothing comes from Texas in my favor, and much (as it is said) against me. This however I doubt— I have but few friends here very few indeed, they have complained at the injustice done me by so much delay— It is however said in reply that all my own countrymen in Texas are against me, and as a proof that they are, nothing comes from there, no representations in my favor— Some even doubt whether I was ever appointed the agent of these people, for it is said, that it is not reasonable to suppose that they would abandon me, as they seem to have done etc for my part I do not believe all this, and I doubt very much whether any thing in my favor sent to the present minister of relations Francisco Lombardo, will ever reach me or the judge— I am of this opinion because I am told by many that he is the most bitter enemy I have—he was violently opposed to the repeal of the 11 Article of the law of 6 April 1830, and blamed me for getting that measure through—it is probable he will never forgive me for it— Under these circumstances, a foreigner and a North American by birth, shut up in prison, almost destitute of friends and money, far removed from all resources, and in the midst of enemies with the Minister of relations Lombardo at their head, what have I reasonably to expect except a long imprisonment and perhaps total ruin? I have no doubt that the President Genl. Santana is friendly to me and to Texas. I also have confidence in the judge who has charge of my case Don Martinez de Castro— I believe he is an honest and honorable man, but what can the President or the judge do against a host of enemies and persecutors, when no one appears in my favor Texas is silent—the State Govt- the same—this all say is even worse than if they openly accused me, for it shows a contemptuous indifference—

The sum and substance of the whole matter is that you must look upon me as dead, for a long time to come—this is the only reasonable opinion I can form on the subject. I wrote you in May that everything depended on the report of Almonte who was sent to Texas and I presume is now there— I wish you or some true friend of mine to go and see him in person— My enemies I am told have been very active in that country and at Monclova, tho I must confess frankly that I do not believe the hundredth part of what is said about the efforts of my enemies in Texas to ruin me. That I have enemies is a mere matter of course—it is in fact an honor to me, for none but a most miserable and contemptable poor devil could have had as much to do with public matters as I have in Texas, without making enemies— I admit that I have them, but I also have the charity to believe that they are honorable and noble minded enemies, and would not, try to ruin me and perpetuate my imprisonment, by taking a mean and base advantage of my present persecutions and misfortunes— I acquit them in my heart of any such design or any such efforts, and I begin to think, that most of what is said about their efforts to ruin me comes from persons who are either blinded by passion or prejudice or who are real enemies of mine and of every body else who lives in Texas and that the real object is to try and darken the North American character-

I send this by H. J. Offutt— All my other letters have gone by mail, either direct to Texas, or by Vera Cruz, and very likely have been opened or intercepted, for even that mode has been resorted to, to try and ruin me— a mode as base as the object intended and worthy of my enemies and perse- cutors—worthy of F. Lombardo. In Jany next I presume there will be a complete change in political matters, and I hope that D. Lucas Alaman will come into power again, it is believed he will and in that event I shall probably be set at liberty at once— In short this is my pirncipal hope at present. Alaman has talents. The main defect in him is that he is too honest and too honorable for the Mexican taste. Santana I believe is fully convinced of Alaman's merits and I hope will employ him in the Ministry— I again repeat, that I have confidence in Santana's friendly disposition towards me.

I was interrupted in my letter by a Mexican friend, who has just left— he called to inform me that a packet had been recd. from Almonte against me, which was calculated to do me great harm and that I need not be surprised if the rigors of my imprisonment were increased— Whether this be a fact or not, I doubt—it has been hinted to me more than once that a sum of money, say $50,000, would stop my enemies and set me at liberty—all I have on earth would not bring that sum, nor the half of it in cash, but it has been reported here that I have many millions in the banks of the U. S.—now all these reports about my enemies may be nothing more than management to try and draw out cash. I cannot think that Almonte would try to ruin me You and my other friends can investigate this matter, and if he is playing an unjust game, you will know how to treat him as he, or any one else in such a case deserves— Noriega is here and says publically that I ought to be shot

I sent you duplicate powers of attorney to sell any of my land and settle all my business—call on Williams for all notes due me, and do what you can to save my property, every honest and good man in Texas will assist you in so doing, I have no doubt.

My imprisonment has been very severe, it has cost me very dear— I have suffered very much, but I now believe it will have a great influence in the transfer of Texas to the U. S. by treaty, for it has caused an investigation as to the affairs of Texas, that is beginning to convince all me[n] of judgment, that what I said to the vice president Gomez Farias, was true, that i[s] that if the Govt did not provide for the welfare of Texas, the people there would do it of themselve[s] and were able to do so— I also said in a paper which I wrote to a Mexican friend in this city that it was the duty of Texas to separate from Mexico if there was no other mode of saving that country from ruin—this paper is now filed as the main evidence against me, and my letter to the Ayto. of Bexar etc. etc. are brought in as corroborating testimony Men of sence now say that these opinions of mine are true and well founded, but that I used an imprudent and blunt frankness that is unknown in Mexico, and would ruin any one who made use of it— I was taught to speak the truth from my infancy and am too old to learn new habits— I wished to get remedies that would satisfy Texas and prevent its separation However whether my enemies have been active or not, my friends ought to be so, if they wish to relieve me, and they ought therefore to go and see Almonte in person— Great surprise has been expressed at the silence of Texas about me— All seem to think that a very respectfull, mild, but frank and manly representation in my favor from the people of Texas stating in substance— That I did no more than to represent their true wishes and opinions as they were when I left there in 1833, as it was my duty to do as an agent—that there never was any design in me, or in those people to separate from Mexico, but at the same time they believed in 1833, and still believe, that under the first law of nature they have the right, as all people have, to provide for their safety and salvation from ruin by any means in their power, in the extreme case that there was no other remidy left them, and that they not only consider this to be a right, but also a duty which as men they owe to themselves and to their families. That the desire to form a state separate from Coahuila, grew out of the want of a competent local government, and not from any design to separate from Mexico—that if the mode that was adopted, and the interpretation given by the people of Texas, and by me, to the law of 7 May 1824, were erronious, it was a mere error in judgement, and not a design to violate the law, or the constitution—that there were strong opinions in 1833, in favor of an organization de facto, and that I was opposed to that measure (This is a fact, and a very important one for me to establish, very important indeed)—that the discontent in Texas was quieted by the repeal of the 11 article of the law of 6 April 1830 and by the remedies that were applied by the State Govt- last winter in the local administration, and that those people were faithful to the Mexican Constitution, and finally requesting my release, in as much as I had only acted as their agent and if any blame was to be attached, it must fall on the people of Texas and not on their representative, and that those people were at all times ready to meet the responsability and in any manner etc. etc.—

The representation should be in the most respectful and mild terms— the strongest kind of ideas and principles are better expressed in mild polite and even flattering language, than in any other way, and such language never gives offence or mortifies self dignity or self pride— No kind of harm can come to the people of Texas from such a representation for the very plain reason that they are far beyond the reach of harm—and it may save me, and do much good in other matters for it will tend very much to convince every body that this govt- must satisfy Texas or expect unpleasant consequences or sell it— I say to you frankly that I am of the opinion that Texas will be transfer[red] to the U. S. by treaty in less than two years— I may be sacrificed and not live, or not be in a situation to enjoy the prosperity that would result from that measure but you all in Texas will. Men who pretend to be acquainted with the secrets of Govt- here are tryin[g] to buy up Texas lands— I am of the opinion it is the best way money can be employed—

I have been much more faithfull to the Govt. of my adopted country, and much more frank and honest than my own interest or wellfare required, and I begin to think, more than this Govt. deserved— What a recompense am I now receiving for all my fidelity to Mexico, all my labors to advance its prosperity, to settle its wilderness, to keep peace and tranquility in Texas? Do I deserve such treatment? No—in place of imprisonment I deserve rewards from the Govt- The only consolation I have is that I have done my duty— My conscience is clear— I am certain the people of Texas will do me ample justice— If I am sacrificed unjustly by the machinations of enemies, those people will I have no doubt, revenge my ruin as justice requires.

[S. F. Austin]