Stephen F Austin to Sam Houston, 01-07-1836

Summary: Advising and giving reasons for declaration of independence.

New Orleans, January 7, 1836.

To Gen. Sam Houston

Dear Sir:

In all our Texas affairs, as you are well apprised, I have felt it to be my duty to be very cautions in involving the pioneers and actual settlers of that country, by any act of mine, until I was fully and clearly convinced of its necessity, and of the capabilities of our resources to sustain it. Hence it is that I have been censured by some for being over cautious. Where the fate of a whole people is in question, it is difficult to be over-cautious or to be too prudent. Besides these general considerations, there are others which ought to have weight with me individually. I have been, either directly or indirectly, the cause of drawing many families to Texas; also, the situation and circumstances in which I have been placed have given considerable weight to my opinions. This has thrown a heavy responsibility upon me, so much so that I have considered it to be my duty to be prudent, and even to control my own impulses and feelings; these have long been impatient under the state of things which has existed in Texas, and in favor of a speedy and radical change. But I have never approved of the course of forestalling public opinion by party or partial meetings, or by management of any kind. The true course is to lay facts before the people, and let them judge for themselves. I have endeavored to pursue this course.

A question of vital importance is yet to be decided by Texas, which is a declaration of independence. When I left Texas I was of opinion that it was premature to stir this question, and that we ought to be very cautious of taking any steps that would make the Texas war purely a national war, which would unite all parties against us, instead of it being a party war, which would secure to us the aid of the federal party. In this I acted contrary to my own impulses, for I wish to see Texas free from the trammels of religious intolerance and other anti-republican restrictions, and independent at once; and as an individual have always been ready to risk my all to obtain it; but I could not feel justifiable in precipitating and involving others until I was fully satisfied that they would be sustained. Since my arrival here, I have received information which has satisfied me on this subject. I have no doubt we can obtain all and even much more aid than we need. I now think the time has come for Texas to assert her natural rights; and were I in the convention I would urge an immediate declaration of independence. I form this opinion from the information now before me. I have not heard of any movement in the interior by the federal party, in favor of Texas, or of the constitution; on the contrary the information from Mexico is that all parties are against us, owing to what has already been said and done in Texas in favor of independence; and that we have nothing to expect from that quarter but hostility. I am acting on this information. If it be true, and I have no reason to doubt it, our present position in favor of the republican principles of the constitution of 1824, can do us no good, and it is doing us harm by deterring those kind of men from joining us that are most useful. I know not what information you may have in Texas as to the movements of the federal party in our favor, nor what influence they ought to have on the decision of this question, this being a matter which the convention alone can determine; I can only say that, with the information now before me, I am in favor of an immediate declaration of independence. Santa Anna was at San Luis Potosi according to the last accounts, marching on rapidly with a large force against Texas. We must be united and firm, and look well to the month of March—and be ready. I shall try to be at home by that time. Yours, respectfully,

S. F. Austin.