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high reputation. Here he remained for several
years and was distinguished among his fellow-
students for his gentlemanly deportment, applica-
tion and progress in studies. The next we bear of
young Austin is in the year 1813, when we find
him, at the age of twenty, representing Washington
County in the Territorial Legislature of Missouri
(where he met Thomas H. Benton, whose friendship
he retained through life), a position to which he was
regularly returned until 1819, when he left the ter-
ritory to open a farm at Long Prairie. He resided
in the territory of Arkansas the greater portion of
the years 1819-20, and while there was honored
with the appointment of Circuit Judge. Thus he
was unconsciously being prepared by a special
training for the great work, which, all unknown to
him, the future had in store.

Having resolved to accept the important trust
which his dying father had bequeathed him, Austin,
with seventeen companions, and accompanied by
the Spanish Commissioner, set out on horseback
for Bexar, where they arrived August 10, 1821. He
was duly recognized as the legal representative of
bis father by the Governor, Don Antoino Martinez,

who received him most cordially. With the Gov-
ernor's permission he explored a large section of
country on the lower Guadalupe, Colorado and
Brazos rivers, and determined to locate his colony
between the last two rivers. At the suggestion of
the Governor, Austin now drew up the following
plan for the distribution of land among the settlers :
Each head of a family, and each single man, over
age, was to receive 640 acres, 320 acres in addition
for the wife, should there be one, and 80 acres ad-
ditional for each slave. This plan was approved by
Governor Martinez, who commissioned Austin to
take absolute control of the local government of
the colony.

Austin now returned to New Orleans, and ad-
dressed himself earnestly to the work of procuring
colonists. Advertisements widely scattered made
the public acquainted with his project and attracted
universal attention.

Applications to join the colony came in rapidly,
but how was Austin, broken in fortune, to procure
the means of transportation ? Among the influential
citizens of New Orleans was Joseph Hawkins, a
lawyer, who came forward promptly and advanced
the greater part of the needed funds for fitting out
a vessel. He had confidence in the success of the
enterprise because he had confidence in its head.
Many years before the two men had been class-
mates and fast friends at Transylvania University,
and the friendship then formed endured through
life. With the generous assistance of Hawkins a
small schooner, the " Lively," was dispatched in
November for Matagorda Bay. She had on board
eighteen men and the provisions, arms, ammunition,
farming implements, etc., necessary for the estab-
lishment of an outpostin a new and savage country.
But, as if some evil influence hovered around the
fatal shores of the bay where perished, in 1698, the
ill-starred colony of La Salle, the '■'■Lively " failed to
reach her destination, and was never heard of more.
Another cargo sent by Hawkins, in 1822, was
landed on the beach at the mouth of the Colorado,
were it was plundered by the Carancahua Indians,
and four men murdered. In the meantime, how-
ever, Austin had arrived by land on the Brazos, in
the last days of December, 1821, with the first immi-
grants, and the new settlement was begun in what
was then an entire wilderness. Accessions to the
body of colonists followed ; the seed of a new civil-
ization was newly planted, and notwithstanding its
many mishaps, the settlement began to wear a thrifty
aspect. It had been a terrible struggle, though, with
the colonists. They suffered great privations, were
without bread and salt, and were forced to subsist
on wild game and wild horses, the latter the best



food, being fat and very abundant. The Indians
annoyed and robbed them and the settlers dared not
punish their crimes nor their insolence.

It will be remembered that Moses Austin's grant
had been made by the Spanish Government in Mex-
ico. But on the 24th of February, 1821, the cele-
brated "Plan of Iguala " was promulgated by
Iturbide. It declared the independence of Mexico
and was confirmed by the Mexican cortes ; so that
the ofiScial acts of Martinez relative to the new
settlement, dated August, 182 1 , were from a Gov-
ernor of the independent Mexican nation, and not
from a Spanish oflficial. Hence it came about that
when Stephen F. Austin arrived at Bexar in the
spring of 1822, to make his report to the Governor
of the condition of the colony, he was informed by
the latter that it was necessary for him to at once
proceed to the city of Mexico .and procure from
the Congress, then in session, a confirmation of his
father's grant, together with special instructions as
to the distribution of land, issuing of titles, etc.
Here was an embarrassing dilemma. His absence
at this critical period was certain to cripple his col-
ony — might destroy it ; but were he to remain, he
and his men would be without titles to their homes,
which, with so much toil and suffering, they had
won from the wilderness.

Austin's sense of duty quickly decided his
course. Placing Mr. Josiah Barbell in charge of
the colony, he started at once for Mexico, with one
companion. After a perilous land journey of 1,200
miles, a great portion of it made on foot and dis-
guised as a beggar, in ragged clothes and blankets,
on account of the numer?5us banditti, he arrived
safely in the capital on the 29th of April.

Owing to the revolutionary changes which rap-
idly succeeded to each other, it was necessary for
Austin to remain for more than a year in Mexico
before the government became sufficiently stable to
resume its legislative functions. The time, how-
ever, lost was not lost to him, as it enabled him to
form many valuable friendships and acquaintances ;
to perfect himself in the Spanish language, which
he could not speak when he left Bexar ; and to lay
the foundation of that great influence which he ever
exerted over the Mexican officials. Finally, on the
14th of April, 1823, the supreme executive power
issued a decree confirming in full the previous grant
to Austin, and on the 28th of the same month he
set out for Texas.

Eeaching Monterey, the capital of the eastern
internal province, he presented a copy of his decree
to the Commandant, Don Felipe de la Garza, and
requested special instructions for the local govern-
ment of the colony committed to his charge.

The provisional deputation of Nueva Leon, Coa-
huila and Texas, was then in session ; and the mat-
ter being referred to it, it was decreed that
Austin's authority, under the decree of the central
government, was full and ample as to the admin-
istration of justice and of the civil local
government of the colony and the command
of militia; that his grade as a militia officer
should be Lieutenaut-Colonel ; that he could
make war on the Indian tribes which were hostile,
that he could introduce, by the harbor of Galves-
ton, provisions, munitions, etc., needed for the
infant settlement ; in short, that he should preserve
good order and govern the colony in all civil, judi-
cial and military matters, according to the best of
his abilities and as justice might require, until the
government was otherwise organized. Never,
before or since, in the history of this country, were
such extensive powers conferred upon an Ameri-
ican, and never has despotic power been less abused
or used for less selfish purposes. Austin's civil
administration of his colony is the brightest chaplet
in his wreath of fame. It was not until July that
the weary traveler reached his little colony on the
Brazos, where he was welcomed with every demon-
stration of joy.

The colony had suffered sadly in his absence-
Discontent bred disorders which scattered the col-
onists. Some had left for the States, others moved
into Eastern Texas, and many immigrants on the
way to join the colony, frightened by the reports
which reached them of Austin's failure to secure
lands for his colonists, settled on the Sabine. His
return and the happy issue of his mission restored
at once life and confidence to the settlement.

Don Luciano Garcia was now Governor of Texas,
and on the 16th of July he appointed Moses Aus-
tin's old friend, the Baron de Bastrop, to act as
commissioner on the part of the government to
take the necessary steps, in conjunction with
Stephen F. Austin, to put the settlers in possession
of their lands. On the 26th of the same month,
the Governor, by an official act, gave the name of
San Felipe de Austin to the town which was to be
laid off as the capital of the new colonv, saying
that he wished to show his respect for Col. Austin
by uniting his name with the name of his own
patron saint, San Felipe. Time has given the saint
a decided advantage, for to-day that town bears
the name of San Felipe only. Austin used jocu-
larly to complain that he was near losing his right-
ful name of Stephen in consequence of Don
Luciano's compliment, for many persons supposed
that the town had been called after the Colonel
and, therefore, concluded that his name was Philip



(Felipe), and he frequently received letters thus

Austin and Bastrop now commenced the dis-
tribution of lands and the issuance of titles. The
return of the Colonel had so strengthened the en-
terprise that the three hundred families authorized
were duly settled. Upon the payment of the fees
established by the Mexican Commissioner, titles
were issued to the settlers. The whole expense on
a league of land only amounted to $165. The
lands selected were among the most productive in
the State, the immigrants being scattered from the
east banjj of the Lavaca to the ridge dividing the
waters of the San Jacinto and Trinity rivers, and
from the old San Antonio road to the Gulf.

The greatest care was tal^en by Austin that the
titles for all his settlers should be duly perfected
under the Mexican law, and where immigrants were
too poor to pay the legal fees he generally paid
them himself, or procured credit for them from the
government. Without compensation, and with much
labor he, in conjunction with Mr. Samuel M. Will-
iams, whom he had appointed his private secretary,
in 1824, copied into a large bound register or rec-
ord book the land documents, title deeds, and de-
crees relating to the colony. This record book,
together with his land papers, are now in the land
office at Austin. Austin's private papers, jour-
nals, etc., a most valuable collection of historic
documents, are now in the possession of his nephew,
Hon. Guy M. Bryan, of Galveston. The machinery
for the civil government of the settlement was very
simple. By consent of the Governor, the colony
was divided into districts, each presided over by an
alcalde, or justice, elected by the settlers. To
these alcaldes Austin gave jurisdiction to $200,
with an appeal to him as judge of the colony on all
sums over $25. A code of provisional regulations
in civil and criminal matters was also drawn up by
him and approved by the Governor.

Stephen F. Austin was the first who ever ob-
tained permission to settle a colony in Texas ; and,
in the language of President Burnet, he was " the
only empresario who fully carried out his con-
tracts with Mexico, and he labored sedulously in
doing so."

The colonization law of the State of Texas and
Coahuila, passed in 1825 in conformity with the
enactments of the national colonization law of 1824,
opened the vacant lands of Texas to all persons
who were desirous of becoming empresarios, or
contractors, for the settlement of bodies of immi-
grants, and who would comply with the require-
ments of the law. Under this general act grants
were made to many persons, among them Hayden,

Edwards, Leftwich, DeWitt, Milam, Burnet, and
Vehlein. Colonies were thus started in various
parts of the State (but few of them introduced set-
tlers, and none of them completed their contracts
except DeWitt), and the Anglo-American popula-
tion increased. But Austin was not idle.

In 1825 he contracted to bring in 500 families, in
1827 one hundred families more, and in 1828 signed
a contract for three hundred families. By the gen-
eral act referred to above, all settlers who were
farmers were entitled to a labor of land, one hun-
dred and seventy-seven acres ; all stock-raisers a
sitio, or square league ; and the empressarios were
to receive as compensation, for each one hundred
families, five leagues and five labors.

The letter of the law required that "the new
settlers who present themselves for admission must
prove their Christianity, morality and good habits
by a certificate from the authorities where they
formerly resided." The State required for each
sitio or pasture land a payment of thirty dollars,
and for each labor two and a half or three and a
half dollars, according as the land was or was not
capable of irrigation. Unmarried men were only
allowed one fourth as much as married men were,
but at marriage their full share was made up to
them. And so as to encourage the more intimate
fusion of the new element with the old, the adven-
turous foreigner who would wed a senorita of the
Mexican blood was compensated with an extra
fourth. Austin's last contract was made in the
name of Austin and Williams, in 1831, and embraced
eight hundred families.

The foundations of a great State were now laid,
and the career of the colony was one of uninter-
rupted growth and prosperity in spite of the out-
breaks in 1827 and 1832. In 1827, in consequence
of what is known as the Fredonian War, the inhab-
itants of Eastern Texas would have been expelled
from the country but for the earnest intervention of
Austin in their behalf, with the political chief,
Saucedo, who, after their leaders had retired beyond
the Sabine, permitted them to remain undisturbed
in their rights of person and property. In 1831
bodies of Mexican troops had been established at
several points in Texas, and Col. Bradburn, at
Anahuac (mouth of the Trinity), had arbitrarily
displaced civil authorities and appointed others,
and had imprisoned prominent citizens of that sec-
tion, threatening to send them to Mexico for trial.
This aroused the colonists, who captured all the
posts and soldiers east of San Antonio. Santa Anna
promptly dispatched Gen. Mexia with five armed ves-
sels and troops to " suppress the rebellion." Austin
was then attending the Legislature of Coahuila and



Texas at Saltillo as member from Texas. When he
heard what had taken place in Texas, he hastened
to Matamoras, joined Gen. Mexia, with whom he
was well acquainted, and sailed with him to the
mouth of the Brazos for the express purpose of
effecting some amicable settlement of the whole
affair. He now assumed the friendly office of
mediator between the contending parties, and they,
(the colonist) thus extricated themselves from
the impending ruin by receiving the olive branch
obtained by the influence, and passed to them
through the hands, of Stephen F. Austin. Austin
was welcomed back by the people with every
demonstration of joy, with balls, speeches, firing of
cannons, etc., at the mouth of the Brazos, Brazoria
and especially at San Felipe. Six miles below the
latter place he was met by a military company
under Lieut. Day, and escorted into town, where
he was received and addressed by "William H. Jack
in behalf of his fellow-citizens.

Austin replied in a happy speech, and was then
received by the Mexican soldiers, who had surren-
dered at Velasco. Austin addressed them in Span-
ish, embraced the officers, who then fraternized with
the colonists, and all sat down to a sumptuous
banquet. Speeches were delivered, toasts drunk,
cannon fired, and there was every demonstration of
joy. Immediately after the expulsion of the Mexi-
can soldiery, political leaders began to excite the
people on the question of separation of Texas from
Coahuila. They held that Texas was entitled to a
separate State government ; they made speeches and
published articles in the newspapers on this subject,
producing much excitement and discussion through-
out the colonies.

He became a member of the convention which
met at San Felipe on the Ist of April, 1833. In
spite of his original views, in opposition to the ma-
jority, he was selected by the convention as com-
missioner to bear the memorial and constitution
adopted by the convention to the national authorities
at the City of ' Mexico, to obtain the admission of
Texas as a State into the union of Mexican States.

When he arrived at the capital he found that he
had no easy task before him. " While all parties
were willing to trust the Commissioner, they dis-
trusted his constituents, and were unwilling to let
them have a government of their own and in their
own hands." He defeated the project to make a
territorial government for Texas, which would have
placed Texas immediately under the authorities at
the City of Mexico, and put all of the public do-
main of Texas on the market for sale to a foreign
company of speculators. He obtained a repeal of
the odious law of the 6th of April, 1830, which for-

bade the immigration of North Americans into
Texas (except to his own colonies or existing con-
tracts), and also secured the establishment of mail
routes from the capital (Mexico) through Texas to
Nachitoches, in Louisiana.

On the 10th of December, 1833, he left for Texas,
after haying exhausted all his means to obtain the
admission of Texas as a State. He was overtaken
and arrested at Saltillo, carried back to the City of
Mexico, and thrown into a dark, damp, stone dun-
geon, where he was deprived of light, books, paper,
ink, and society. The imprisonment of Austin
produced a profound impression in Texas. The
ayuntamientos of Texas prepared and sent to Mex-
ico long memorials praying for his release. Peter
W. Grayson and Spencer H. Jack were selected to
bear these petitions to Mexico ; they did not secure
Austin's release, but they afforded him great com-
fort, as they showed that he was not forgotten by
the people of Texas, for whom he had suffered and
was suffering in mind and body, and spending his
private means. On the 12th of June, 1834, Austin
was transferred to the State prison, where his
quarters were more comfortable. Now there was
some talk of trying him for treason — a trial Austin
earnestly desired — but the judges of all the courts
refused to have anything to do with the case, for
they knew there were no real charges against him,
and that his imprisonment was wholly unwarranted.
Finally, after an absence of two years and four
months, under a general amnesty law, Austin was
permitted to return to Texas. He landed at the
mouth of the Brazos on September 1st, 1835.

On the 8th of September, 1835, Austin ad-
dressed a large concourse of citizens, in which he
detailed with great particularity the existing condi-
tion of Mexico, the progress of the revolution then
going on, the probable result of the struggle, and
the changes he thought would be made in the fun-
damental law of that government. He advised that
a general consultation of the people of Texas be
held as speedily as possible, and decide what rep-
resentations ought to be made to the General Gov-
ernment, and what ought to be done in the future.

Austin proceeded immediately )to San Felipe,
and was placed at the head of the Central Com-
mittee of Safety of that jurisdiction.

He labored day and night with his two secreta-
ries, Gail Borden, Jr., and Moses Austin Bryan,
sending out circulars giving information, and pre-
paring Texas for the great crisis so near at hand.
While these events were passing in Texas, the de-
struction of the Mexican Constitution was beinc
consummated in Mexico; the State Legislatures
were abolished, the citizens disarmed, and the



States practically made military departments.
Through The Telegraph and Texas Register Austin
sent forth addresses to the colonists, which per-
vaded every part of Texas, and reached the United
States. He soon saw the necessity for and coun-
seled armed resistance, and although in feeble
health, as soon as he could respond to the call from
the army after the affair with Ugarte Chea, left for
Gonzales, where he was chosen Commander-in-Chief
of the volunteer forces in the field.

On the 12th of October Austin completed his
staff appointments and crossed over the River
Guadalupe. On the same day he was also informed
of the capture of Goliad. On the 13th their or-
ganization was completed by the election of John
H. Moore, Colonel; Edward Burleson, Lieutenant-
Colonel, and Alexander Somervell, Major of the
regiment. Patrick C. Jack was appointed Quarter-
master ; William T. Austin, Second Aide, and
William H. Wharton, Judge Advocate. On the
18th Col. William H. Jack was appointed Brigade
Inspector. On the 14th Capt. Milam, in command
of a spy company, was ordered in advance of the
army to obtain information.

The army advanced, driving the Mexicans before
it, and on the 20th of October encamped on the
Salado, within five miles of San Antonio.

The fight by the men under Bowie at Mission
Concepcion and further operations of the army
while under Austin, and the storming and capture
of San Antonio by columns under Milam and
Johnson, after Buileson succeeded to the command,
are familiar matters of history and need not be
recorded here.

Austin took leave of the army on the morning of
November 25, 1836, and, during the last days of
December, sailed for New Orleans to act as one of
the commissioners (Messrs, Wharton and Archer
being his colleagues) sent from Texas to procure
aid for the Texian cause in the United States.

Up to the time of his arrival in New Orleans, he
had favored Texas fighting for her rights merely as
a Mexican State, but, on reaching that city and
finding that Texas could expect but little help in
the way of money or volunteers from the United
States unless a declaration of independence was
issued to the world, he wrote a strong letter advo-
cating such a declaration.

This action upon his part removed the last
vestige of opposition, and a few days later the
declaration was adopted by the plenary convention
that had assembled, and a government ad interim
was established, with David G. Burnet as President
and Lorenzo de Zavala as Vice-President.

The commissioners visited separately or together

the largest cities, spoke and conferred with leading
men, and all who wished to obtain information or
bestow aid. They raised men and money and re-
ceived donations for the cause of Texas. Austin
visited Washington City and conferred with bis old
friends there, notably, Thomas H. Benton, John J.
Crittenden and others. He had repeated interviews
with the President, and ascertained that the most
friendly feeling prevailed for Texas, and that after
her adoption of the constitution and establishment
of a permanent government, she would be recog-
nized, etc.

Gen. Austin was particularly successful ; his
long services in Texas, and his known truthfulness
and simplicity of character gave weight to what he
said. His address at Louisville, which was widely
published, presented the claims of Texas upon the
civilized world for sympathy and aid in such a
manner as to bring her both. Austin landed on his
return to Texas at Velasco (temporary capital of
the Republic), at the mouth of the Brazos, June
27, 1836. On the 23d of July, President Burnet
issued his proclamation for an election for Presi-
dent and Vice-President and representatives to the
first Congress of Texas under the constitu-
tion, and also to decide upon the adoption
or rejection of the constitution, and on the
question of the annexation of Texas to the
United States. The election was ordered to take
place on the first Monday of the following Septem-
ber, and the new government to meet at Columbia
on the first Monday in October. Upon a call made
on Austin to become a candidate he said: " Influ-
enced by the great governing principle that has
regulated my actions since I came to Texas, which
is to serve this country in any capacity in which the
people may think proper to employ me, I shall not
decline the highly responsible and difficult one now
proposed, should the majority of my fellow-citizens
elect me."

Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 129 of 135)