Henry Austin to Asa Brigham and J S D Byrom, 03-31-1836

Summary: Neglect of its financial agents by the government. Naval policy

To Honble Asa Brigham

J. S. D. Byrom.

Delegates of the Hon. Convention from Brazoria


I am impelled by a sense of duty as an individual citizen of Texas to apprize you and through you if you think it consistent with your public duties the President and members of the Convention of the deranged state of the interests of Texas in this city The Commissioners of Texas when here appointed Mr. William Bryan General Agent and Edward Hall Purchasing Agent for Texas and contracted a loan here for Two hundred thousand dollars of which ten per cent or Twenty thousand dollars was paid in cash, the balance to be paid in instalments on receipt of the ratification of the conditions of the loan by the Convention. Another Loan of Fifty thousand dollars was also contracted here on which it is said Forty thousand dollars cash was paid, of this amount say Sixty thousand dollars, Eleven thousand only have been received by the Agents, Ten thousand remain in the Bank subject to the draft of the Government of Texas only, nearly all the remainder it is believed was placed in the hands of sundry purchasing Agents,* and disbursed to their discretion without supervision by any comptroaling officer or the usual checks upon disbursements of public moneys. The Agents here in full confidence that the loan would be promptly ratified and the money be ordered to be placed at their disposition have purchased and accepted for the navy and supplies to an amount exceeding Ninety thousand Dollars. Such articles as could only be had for cash have been paid for cash untill the General Agent is actually in advance of cash to the amount of Six thousand Dollars, and has cash responsibilities for Two thousand Dollars over and above all he has received. The Commissioners wrote him from Nashville that they had requested the Provisional Government to send him a check on the Bank for Five thousand dollars. None has been transmitted and there is reason to fear that before this will be attended to the credit of the Government of Texas will be utterly prostrate whilst the public money is idle in the Bank. For the payment of supplies purchased the Agent has issued promisory notes signed by him as Agent for Texas where such would be received, where not—his own individual responsibility. These notes are falling due and not a dollar of public money to meet them. No ratification of the loan has been received. No authority to the Agent to receive what money there is in the bank has been transmitted and it is apprehended [that ere] this shall be attended to the credit of the Government will be prostrate and the Agent injured in his credit and private business if not involved in ruin. Had the Government attended to the all important matter of sustaining the public credit the proceeds of the loan would have been now at the disposition of the Agent who could by discounting at this moment of unpresedented pressure for money the paper now out have raised the credit of the Texas Govt. to such high repute as to have made all future purchases on the faith of Texas Government on long credit and have left the balance of the money disposable for the payment of the troops. Our only hope now is that the ratification of the terms of the loan and a check of the bank for the funds in deposits may arrive before the operation of protesting commences. You Mr. Byrom are too well acquainted with fiscal matters not to know that public credit like a woman's reputation once lost is seldom regained, never without time and difficulty. I solicit your immediate attention to these subjects as one involving all our interests and all our hopes in an eminent degree— I take the liberty to call your attention to the insecurity and improvidence of authorizing numerous receiving and disbursing agents of the public money without connection with or accountability to the chief or foreign Agent of the Government. Champaigne and laced uniforms will not kill Mexicans though they be merged in charges for naval or military stores, and it would be absurd to expect that young and inexperienced officers unacquainted wilh business would disburse money placed in their hands to fit out an armed ship or equip a regiment with that economy and judgement indispensable for the success of such a cause as ours which can only be sustained by the most prompt and vigorous exertions and the most frugal use of the scanty means at our command.

The commissioners have in my opinion made a most judicious selection of Agents in Mr. William Bryan and Mr Edward Hall, Gentlemen of sound integrity and sufficient capital not involved in extensive business or speculations and whose books accounts and vouchers shew them to be well acquainted to the necessity of transacting public business with such scrupulous exactness as to enable them to submit an exhibit of their doings to the most rigid scrutiny.— There appears to be an effort making to procure a separation of the agency giving to a new agent the control of the money and to the others the present agents the burthen of the work and responsibility that is the purchase and shipment of supplies correspondence and forwarding of volunteers etc. this will be impolitic and unjust in the extreme, I believe you will so view it and I beg your strenuous opposition to such a measure should it be proposed. The neglect of the fiscal concerns of Texas has heretofore been ascribed to the unfortunate quarrel of the executive with the council but now that the convention has been organized a month and nothing done I am forced to the conclusion that the correspondence of the agents with the Government and the needful information on this subject may have been witheld from that body. I feel it my duty to apprize you of the alarming excitement which the capture by one of our cruisers in the Sisal Roads of a schooner owned by an american merchant resident in Campeachy and a house here, wearing the Mexican flag for the benefit of difference in import duty has produced in this city. If our armed vessels are to be employed to rob the very citizens of this city who furnished the money to purchase them, of the property which they think proper to ship to Mexico under cover of the Mexican flag for greater profit instead of being directed to protect the commerce between the United States and Texas and to prevent the transportation of provisions and troops by sea to the army of Santa Anna, the disposition to aid our cause which has been so ardently evinced by the citizens of New Orleans will speedily be changed to an extreme disapprobation. Large quantities of provisions and other supplies are shipping from this place by the house of M. de Lizardi & Co agents of Santa Anna to Matamoros in American vessels— were our little squadron confined strictly to public service between Matamoros and Matagorda they could not only protect our own commerce but effectually prevent the transmission of troops and provisions by sea to the seat of war or other parts of the coast. Capturing American vessels would no doubt produce great dissatisfaction but taking out of them provisions and munitions destined to the enemy and for the enemy's use and paying the freight would I think be justified by the necessity of the case and not be censured by any reasonable man. You will pardon me for troubling you so long with so long a communication, I am impelled to it by the conviction that it is the duty of every citizen to do spontaneously whatever he may believe to be serviceable in any degree to the community of which he is a member.

March 31st 1836 Henry Austin