Stephen Austin

Stephen Austin

Stephen Austin, the son of Moses Austin, was born in Wythe County, Virginia, on 3rd November, 1793. When Austin was a child his family moved to Missouri.

After graduating from Transylvania University, Austin joined the family lead business. Later he studied law at New Orleans.

In 1820 Moses Austin was granted permission by the Spanish authorities to establish a colony in the Mexican province of Texas. The following year Moses Austin died and so Stephen Austin travelled to San Antonio to complete his father's task. In 1822 Austin established the first legal Anglo-American colony in Texas.

Mexico, worried by the growth of the colony, attempted to prevent American immigrants arriving in Texas. In 1834 Austin was imprisoned by the Mexicans but was released a year later. During the Texas War of Independence Austin was commander of the region's volunteer army.

In June 1836 Austin was defeated for the presidency of the Republic of Texas by Samuel Houston. However, he agreed to serve under Houston as Secretary of State.

Stephen Austin died on 27th December, 1836.

Primary Sources

(1) Stephen Austin, General Regulations Relative to the Colony (23rd November, 1821)

1. No person will be admitted as a settler, who does not produce satisfactory evidence of having supported the character of a moral, sober, and industrious citizen.

2. Each settler must, when called on by the Governor of said Province, take the oath of allegiance to the government exercising the sovereignty of the country.

3. Six hundred and forty acres of land will be granted to the head of each family, and in addition to that, three hundred and twenty acres to a man's wife, one hundred and sixty acres for each child, and eighty acres for each slave; which land will be laid oft in two equal tracts, one on the river in an oblong, the other is to be located so as not to interfere with the river lands; one of said tracts must be actually inhabited and cultivated by the person and family who has permission to settle it, within one year from the first of January 1822. Twelve cents and a half per acre, must be paid me for said land, one half on receipt of title, the other halt in one year after, which will be in full for surveying fees and all other charges - each settler will chose his own tracts of land within the limits designated by said Austin.

4. Mechanics and men of capital, will receive additional privileges in proportion to their capacity to be useful.

5. Each settler is required to report himself to me, or the officer who has charge of the Colony, immediately on his arrival, and to furnish a list of the number of his family, giving the name of his children and their age, the number of Negroes, designating those under twelve years of age, those over twelve and under twenty-one, those over twenty-one, and if any of the family are mechanics to state what kind.

(2) Stephen Austin to Thomas Leaming (14th July, 1830)

Respect for the opinions and last will of my father caused me to explore Texas in 1821. I was both delighted and astonished to find it to be the most favored region I had ever seen. Its fertility and natural resources, so far exceeding any thing I had imagined, determined me to devote my life to the great object of redeeming it from the wilderness.

It was a heavy undertaking for a young, inexperienced and very poor man. My first step was to study the character of the Mexicans and ascertain their ideas and views as to Texas. I found they knew nothing about it, and were profoundly ignorant of its real value, and also that they considered it next to impracticable to form a settlement in its wilderness without the aid of a very strong Military force for garrisons to keep the Indians in check. I also discovered that strong prejudices existed against the North Americans owing to the conduct of some who were engaged in the revolutionary expeditions that had entered Texas at various times since 1811. I saw that all the efforts to get foothold here by means of such expeditions had failed and ended in defeat and ruin, and I believed they always would fail. These observations convinced me that the only means of redeeming this country from the wilderness was by peaceful silent, noiseless, perseverance and industry, and that the axe, the plough and the hoe would do more than the rifle or the sword. Under these impressions I began and have pursued the main object with a degree of patience and perseverance which nothing but its vast importance to the civilized world could ever have given me fortitude to continue through so many years of hardships and amidst so many discouraging obstacles. The worst is now over and the few clouds which seem to hang over us are mere shadows when compared with those which have passed. I have laid a sufficient foundation for others to build on, and a prudent course will make this country one of the finest in the world (for mine is the only one that is established) and under it I shall be able with good management to keep open the door for some time longer, and perhaps untill a new order of things takes place.

I have had two difficult tasks to perform here, one to manage the Government and the other to manage the settlers, of these, the latter was by far the most difficult. I do say that the North Americans are the most obstinate and difficult people to manage that live on earth, tho I have had many "backwoods men" and "rough fellows" to do with. Emigrants from Europe are not prohibited, and I sometimes think that Swiss and Germans will promote the prosperity of this country much more than North Americans. They will introduce the culture of the vine, olive etc. they are industrious and moral, they have not in general, that horrible Mania for speculation which is so prominent a trait in the English and North American character, and above all they will oppose slavery. The idea of seeing such a country as this overrun by a slave population almost makes me weep.

In the beginning of this settlement I was compelled to hold out the idea that slavery would be tolerated, and I succeeded in getting it tolerated for a time by the Government I did this to get a start for otherwise it would have been next to impossible to have started at all, for I had to draw on Louisiana and Mississippi, Slave States, for the first emigrants. Slavery is now most positively prohibited by our Constitution and by a number of laws, and I do hope it may always be so.

I have passed a truly slavish life here for nine years, my constitution is much broken, my health bad, and my days are probably drawing towards a close, but I can claim some credit for what has been done towards laying a foundation for the formation of a rich and I hope a happy community. Texas no longer belongs to the wilderness - whether it will ultimately remain attached to Mexico, or unite with the north, or form an independent nation, is all mere matter of conjecture. If slavery is excluded, I think the latter the most probable - but if it is admitted, Texas will become what all slave countries are and of necessity must be destitute of physical force and dependent on some other power even for the preservation of its internal tranquility - in short it must have a prop to lean upon, for no slave country can stand alone.