Moses Austin and the Mexican Government

 

Government has existed since the birth of man. Opinions differ with people and with nations as to the goal to be reached by this or by that method, but the intelligent person watches with interest the growth in any form of the great science of politics and government.

Some countries still think the individual exists "for the benefit of the government rather than the government for the governed. It is not the intention of the author to write a treatise on the science of government, or a history of the great State of Texas; But it has been suggested and thought advisable to speak of the manner by which the Americans came into the possession of the territory of the State of Texas. This vast territory once belonged to Mexico, at the time of Moses Austin's visit to Texas, the Mexican government had just passed through a bloody revolution.

Moses Austin, a Missourian, called upon the Governor at San Antonio and presented his petition to locate a colony on Texas soil. After many disappointments and suffering hardships, his petition was approved. He then returned to his home in Missouri and died.

This grant authorized Austin to settle three hundred families in Texas. At Moses Austin's death he requested that his son should take up the work and carry out his father's plans. Stephen F. Austin went to San Antonio in August 1821 and was cordially received by the authorities, who granted young Austin permission to explore the country adjacent to the Colorado River, and choose what lands he wished. Austin selected for his colony the region lying south of the San Antonio road, between the San Jacinto and Lavaca rivers. This included some of the most fertile land in the province. Austin returned to his home and advertised for Colonists, to each man over twenty-one he promised six hundred and forty acres of land. If a married man he received nine hundred and sixty acres, each child brought its father one hundred and sixty acres, while each slave brought his master eighty acres. When a colonist erected a mill or a store house he was given more land. All immigrants were to be free from taxation for six years. All colonists were required to become Roman Catholics. At this time Spain laid claim to Texas territory. A war soon occurred between the Republic of Mexico and Spain. On account of this revolution in Mexico, Austin was compelled to go to the City of Mexico and have his grant renewed.

It required twelve months time for Austin to succeed in having his grant renewed. He returned to his colony to find many of them gone. Discouraged by his long absence Baron de Bastrop was appointed to survey lands and with the help of Austin to issue to the colonists land deeds in the name of the Mexican government. In 1825 Austin completed his con-tract with the government having introduced the three hundred families called for in his contract. Austin then asked for and obtained permission to bring in five hundred families more; other men obtained permits and brought colonists into Texas. In 1828 the Mexican government wisely threw open to settlers the ten leagues of coast lands and twenty leagues of border lands that had been kept for government use. Texas was interspersed with American colonists and waste places were fast giving way to fertile fields, blooming gardens and flowering yards.

Texas was until 1824 a separate province of Mexico, but at that time Texas was joined to Coahuila and the two provinces were changed into the State of Coahuila and Texas with the capital located at Saltillo. The whole plan of union with Coahuila was unpleasant to the Texans. The Indians were for many years a constant source of trouble to all Texas colonists. In the year of 182o there were not more than 4000 civilized inhabitants in Texas. While in the year of 183o the state boasted of 20,000 Americans alone. These Americans, dear reader, were not wild adventurers, but home seekers who came upon Texas soil to live and die in the land and home of their adoption. They had come from every part of the United States.

Texas was at this period under liberal colonization laws, making rapid strides of progress but a change was now to come. In the year of 1830 Anastasio Bustamente, a narrow minded tyrannical military officer, became president of Mexico. One of his first acts was to issue an order prohibiting inhabitants of the United States from settling in Texas. All other nations were cordially invited and heartily welcomed. By the order of this tyrant, Americans were not even permitted to trade in Texas. A great number of the colonists had relatives and friends in the United States who were desirous of joining them in Texas, who had sold their lands in the old states, and many of them were at this time on their way to Texas. The news of this decree spread gloom and sadness over all sections of the state. In 1833 laws were passed by the Mexican Congress relative to the settling in Texas colonies of convicts and deserters, the worst element of citizenship on earth. Therefore it is not strange that our forefathers bitterly objected to these laws. The Mexican laws became very oppressive, in fact distressing and unbearable. To collect the taxes and to see that the laws were obeyed, several bodies of Mexican troops were sent into Texas. Three hundred and fifty Mexican soldiers were stationed at Nacogdoches; one hundred and fifty soldiers at Galveston Bay; the garrisons at both Goliad and San Antonio were increased. The Mexican officials became more and more oppressive and insulting to men and to women alike and the officials began to arrest and to imprison some of the most prominent Americans.

Travis, Allen and others were arrested. They were imprisoned in the fort and treated as common criminals. The Texans demanded the release of these men. The authorities positively refused to release the prisoners.

In 1832 the colonists held a famous mass meeting, and entered into resolutions. Arms were at once resorted to, and John Austin placed in command. The first battle was fought at Velasco in which the Texans were victorious. No humane reader can find justice in Mexico's rule of Texas. The United States tried to buy Texas from Mexico, and offered four million dollars for the section east of the line dividing the waters of the Rio Grande and the Nueces; this proposition was refused. Mexico was vastly mistaken in the material out of which the Americans were made, and the nature of the men she wished to govern. The Texans now began to prepare for war in dead earnest. Appeal after appeal, all of which were ignored by the Mexican government, had been made by the Texans to repeal the obnoxious and oppressive laws. A committee with Sam Houston as chairman drew up the Constitution for Texas. In many respects it resembles the Constitution of the United States. In the meantime Santa Anna had, through intrigue and base deception, become dictator of the Republic of Mexico. He soon discovered that Texas was not disposed to yield to his dictation. He therefore determined to crush the Texans into submission.

Santa Anna sent his brother-in-law General Cos to Texas with several hundred troops. General Cos proclaimed his mission on every hill. He intended to over run Texas and subdue her citizens and drive out all Americans who came to Texas since 183o. All this time Austin had been in a Mexican dungeon. The Texans replied that with God's help Gen. Cos should find that American freemen would never submit to such tyranny. There was a small brass cannon at Gonzales. The Mexicans demanded the surrender of the cannon. The Texans refused and battle ensued in which the Mexicans were defeated. Goliad was next captured. When Santa Anna learned that Gen. Cos had surrendered at San Antonio he grew desperate and wild with rage. Every reader is conversant with the Massacre at San Antonio. It was here at San Antonio that Gen. Cos had received so disgraceful a defeat. In consequence therefore of this great disaster to the Mexicans, Santa Anna resolved to strike his first blow for vengeance. There were in the garrison at the Alamo 182 men; Travis, Bowie, Crockett and Bon-ham were in the Alamo, four names that will live forever. Every true Texan is proud of these names; they have gone down in history honored and beloved by their countrymen.

The Alamo was captured. Death and Santa Anna were in possession of the historic Alamo. By his orders the bodies of the brave Texans were collected in a large pile and burned. From this most despicable act, from that sacred fire emanated the flames that lighted all Texas that consumed thousands of Mexican lives and humiliated and degraded Santa Anna and confined him in chains. In March a convention assembled on the Brazos at Washington and declared Texas a free and independent republic.

The battle of San Jacinto ended the war and Texas became an independent republic. Santa Anna was captured, carried before Gen. Sam Houston, who reprimanded him for his cruelty at the Alamo, Santa Anna replied: " I was acting under the orders of my government." Houston said: " You were the government of Mexico; a dictator, sir, has no superiors." At the entrance to the old capitol at Austin stood a monument built from the ruins of the Alamo and dedicated to the heroes who perished there. The names of Bowie, Travis, Crockett and Bonham stood out in bold relief, one on each side. The east front bore this inscription: " Thermopylae had her messenger of defeat; the Alamo had none." This is a correct and a condensed account of the manner by which the Americans came into possession of Texas the " Lone Star State."

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