OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
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Republic of Texas | David Burket-Index | S.R. Fisher Correspondence
|SAMUEL RHOADS FISHER
Samuel Rhoads Fisher (b. 31 Dec 1794 in Philadelphia, PA) came to Texas in Dec 1830 as a member of Austin's Third Colony where he received title to one league of land in current Matagorda County. He appealed directly to the governor of Coahuila y Tejas in Saltillo for ten leagues, but was denied. On 29 Oct 1832, he was issued title to two more leagues in MatagordaCo. On 10 Aug 1835, he received title to one league in Lorenzo de Zavala's Colony in current Hardin and Tyler counties and in 1838 he received a labor in Harrisburg, current Houston in HarrisCo. Sam Houston Dixon in Men Who Made Texas Free states that Fisher:
was a most amiable and accomplished gentleman. He was modest and unassuming and avoided rather than sought notoriety. He was trained along business lines and had no relish for the excitements incident to a public career, although he willingly contributed his time and talents to public affairs when the exigencies of the time demanded his services. He was born in Philadelphia, October 22, 1795. Here he was reared and educated in the best schools of that city. He began life as a government employee in the Naval Stores of Philadelphia. His habits of industry and strict attention to business soon won him promotion to the rank of commissariat; thus his familiarity with naval affairs. He later moved to New Jersey from which State he came to Texas in 1831. He located in Matagorda and opened up a mercantile establishment.
S.R. Fisher married Ann Pleasants (1796-1862) and they had six children:
Samuel William Fisher (1819 Philadelphia-1874) married Ann Elizabeth Ophelia Smith 16 Aug 1848 and they had children: Samuel Rhoads, Fred Kenner, Coleman, Walter Pemberton, Nettie P., William Comstock and Henry Mansfield.
Ann Pleasants Fisher (b. 1823 Philadelphia) married James Wilmer Dallam 1 Oct 1845, then John W. Harris on 1 Jul 1852.
Israel Pleasants Fisher (d. 1848) never married.
Rebecca Fisher (1830 Philadelphia-1862) married Dr. J.C. Perry (1818-1861) 3 Oct 1850. They had children William Bechincornt, Ann Fisher, Elizabeth W. and Louisa Hancock. Dr. Perry had an extensive practice in Matagorda and he and Rebecca were active in Christs Church. Both Rebecca and her mother died in the yellow fever epidemic of the period which claimed 45 of the 150 inhabitants of Matagorda.
Rhoads Fisher (1832-1911) married Sophia Rollins Harris (1840-1889) and had children Annie F., Lewis Fisher and at least two more daughters.
Elizabeth Rhoads Fisher died as an infant in 1836.
Samuel Rhoads Fisher was the son of Samuel Wharton (1764-1817) and Elizabeth Rhoads (1770-1796) Fisher of Philadelphia. Elizabeth Rhoads' parents were Samuel and Sarah Pemberton Rhoads Jr. of the same city. Samuel Wharton Fisher was the younger brother of Barbara Fisher Burket (born 1742 Philadelphia, PA), grandmother of David Burket and the author's 5th great grandmother. Their parents were William Fisher (1715-1787) and Sarah Coleman (1718-1806), daughter of William and Rebecca Coleman. William Fisher was an active city official and shipper in Philadelphia prior to and during the American Revolution. In 1745 he was elected city assessor. In October 1750, he went into partnership with Philadelphia merchant Abel James and Elias Bland of London and three merchants from Barbados with the Snow Argos, a 1000-ton Philadelphia-built ship. He owned one third of the 70 ton Snow White Oak captained by Charles Lyon who married his cousin Mary. In 1754 and 1755, he was trustee of the new London Coffee House at the corner of Front and Market Streets. He was director of the Philadelphia Contributionship for insuring houses from fire in 1754-1757. In 1767, Fisher was appointed to the Common Council of Philadelphia and in 1771 was manager of the Pennsylvania Hospital. In 1773 he was elected mayor of Philadelphia. The Fishers originally came to Philadelphia from Ross, Hereford, England around 1700.
William and Sarah Coleman Fisher had children Coleman, Barbara, Tabitha, James Cowles, Coleman, Sarah, Rebecca and Samuel Wharton. The Fishers were Quakers. All born in and lifelong residents of Philadelphia, William Fisher was the son of William Fisher (abt 1687-1734) and Tabitha Janney (abt 1688-1744, daughter of Henry and Barbara Baguley Janney). They had children Elizabeth, Millicent, William, Elizabeth and Thomas. William Fisher (1687-1734) was the son of William Fisher (1658-1728) and Bridget Hodgkins (abt 1665-1725). William was born in Ross, Hereford, England and Bridget was from Philadelphia. They had children William, Mary, Sarah, Samuel and Millicent. William Fisher's father of Hereford was also William Fisher of Ross who had wife Mary.
In the summer of 1830, Samuel R. Fisher wrote Empresario Stephen F. Austin asking for a candid assessment of the political situation in Texas following the passage of the Bustamente Decree of Apr 1830, declaring himself an "Austinian" and also inquiring on the status of the customs offices in regard to vessels. Austin replied with one of the most eloquent and detailed treatises on his view of the situation expressed in a personal letter. Correspondence between the two men through the fall indicate deep and highly intellectual discussion on the economic and political issues facing Texas. Both exhibited flexibility on the issues and were open to advice and discussion from the other, particularly concerning slavery. Both appeared to abhor the institution in concept, but agreed it may be necessary for a limited time for the timely development of Texas. Fisher even proposed partitioning Texas into regions into slave and non-slave areas. Both men discussed the need to balance the anti-Mexican propaganda in the US newspapers with an explanation of the real situation in Texas so that it would not impair further immigration.
Although Samuel Rhoads Fisher was also a planter, in the Fisher family tradition he was in the shipping industry and his correspondence particularly reflects concern with the navigability of the bays and maritime policy affecting Texas ports and trade. Fisher expressed his loyalty to the Mexican government and similar to Austin expressed opinions regarding the potential of Texas to contribute to the development of the Republic of Mexico as a state. As early as Jan 1831 before moving his family to Texas, Fisher apparently was involved in shipping traffic on the Texas coast and described his difficulties with Col. Juan Davis Bradburn and his enforcement of collection of tariffs and customs duties on the Texas coats. In a letter to Austin, he stated
"no vessel can stand this [cost], and unless a change be made the Trade must be abandoned. I am not prepared to dispute the legality of Col. Bradburn's demand, but Mr. Hiram, and several other gentlemen here say they would not pay it, for Colonel Bradburn has nothing to do with this Colony."
According to a letter to Austin of 22 Jan 1832, Fisher arrived with his family on or around that date in Matagorda. Fisher was instrumental in the development of the Matagorda municipality and a protagonist of its development into the key port of Texas. The views and philosophies of Austin and Fisher were quite similar regarding the future of Texas and its potential to be the example of freedom and as asset economically to the United State of Mexico. According to a personal memo in Austin's files, Fisher was a supporter of Austin for the first elected President of the Republic. Although Fisher was appointed Secretary of the Navy under Houston's first presidency, he and Houston were bitter enemies as described further below.
In late 1835 after establishment of the first provisional government of Texas at the consultation of 1835, the means of protection of the Texas coast was a topic of intense discussion. Just as the raising of land forces was done largely through regional and individual initiative, seagoing privateers with their only resources potential spoils obtained through issue of letters of marque was the obvious means in lieu of availability of resources to establish and run an official navy. At one stage blank letters of marque were issued to be filled upon an incident of capture by a particular private vessel against vessels hostile to Texas. In Nov 1835, Brazorians and Matagordans suspected unidentified ships appearing in the gulf as hostile to the Constitution of 1824 and part of the general move by the centralist Santa Anna dictatorship to subjugate Texas along with the rest of the Mexican Republic. The San Felipe under Capt. William Hurd was further armed to investigate and according to a letter from W.D.C. Hall to Austin on 23 Nov, was attacked and run aground in Matagorda Bay. According to Hall the vessel William Robbins retrieved the main cannon which was to be moved for the defense of Bexar. In Nov 1835, in response to increased activity of the Mexican government vessels Bravo, Montezuma and Veracruzano, Fisher and a group of colonists hastily purchased the schooner William Robbins for $3500 with intent to turn it over for fair price to the Texian Navy if one were created in the future. The vessel would otherwise operate under Letter of Marque which was issued on 5 Dec. by the provisional government. Capt. Watlington, owner of the vessel refused its use without complete purchase. Contributors to the purchase were Howard and Fleury $800; Robert H. Boyce 300; S. Rhoads Fisher 500; Ira R. Lewis 500; J. E. Robertson 200; S. B. Brigham & Co. 500; Horton & Clements, pr. agent 500 and George Wheelright 200. Early in Dec, the American schooner Hannah Elizabeth flying a neutral flag, carrying munitions and supplies destined for Texas, was run aground by the Mexican schooner Bravo at Paso Caballo in Matagorda Bay and boarded by the Mexican crew under Lt. Mateo. Because of a "norther," the Bravo was forced to hold offshore at a distance and leave the crew with the wreck. On 19 Dec, under command of Capt. William A. Hurd, the William Robbins manned by volunteers and regulars approached the wrecked Hannah Elizabeth and accepted the surrender of the prize crew from the Bravo without a fight. Under Letter of Marque, Commander of the volunteers Fisher and Capt. of the regular crew Hurd moved quickly to sell part of the cargo to settle their claims and expenses and announced auction of the remainder. Texian military commander of the region, Col. James W. Fannin accused Fisher and Capt. Hurd of appropriating merchandise on the US schooner Hannah Elizabeth which had been run aground by the Mexican vessel Bravo. Fannin's motives are unclear, but according to Jim Dan Hall in The Texas Navy
"all was well until the Texan military commander in that area, Colonel J. W. Fannin, the illegitimate son of a Georgia planter and who had been known in 1819-21 to the cadets at West Point as J. F. Walker, decided to deal himself a hand in the game. One would like to believe that he resented the profiteering upon munitions for his troops, but his prior record at Velasco (dealer in slaves with Congo accents) suggests that he wanted a different division of the spoils. He credited the recovery of the cargo to soldiers-one Somers and two companions, who had, he claimed, virtually recaptured the prize before the Robbins appeared."
Fisher was grieved in large part by a message from provisional Gov. Henry Smith sent to the Provisional Council on 16 Dec 1835 and a Council report that supported Fannin. In Jan 1836, Fisher responded publicly to the charges in great detail and in essence challenged Fannin to a duel which apparently was not accepted. The matter was investigated by a committee of Thomas Barnett, James Collinsworth and Robert H. Williams representing the General Council of the Provisional Government, but apparently was never resolved one way or the other officially. As late as Dec 1836, Fisher wrote President Lamar commenting on the circumstances surrounding his actions in the event.
S.R. Fisher and Bailey Hardeman were elected delegates from Matagorda to the Texas Independence Convention in Feb 1836 after a disputed election was declared in Fishers favor on the grounds that votes were altered and volunteers who had returned to the US had voted. There were 175 voters at the time in the Matagorda Municipality with voting boxes at Head of Bay Prairie (current Bay City), the home of Francis Keller at Trespalacios (five members of the New Orleans Greys voted here), Matagorda town, Peach Creek District, Elisha Halls District, Thomas McCoys home in the Caney Lower Settlement, Larsches District and the Goliad Municipality. Initial votes for candidates were R.R. Royall 83, S.R. Fisher 79, Bailey Hardeman 75, Ira Ingram 74, Daniel Elam 67, Thomas Cayce 6 and Sanders 1. A large majority of voters were against independence from Mexico, but for an independent state under the Constitution of 1824.
On 4 Mar1836, chairman of the committee on privileges and elections, Mr. Everitt, reported:
Your committee on privileges and elections ask leave respectfully to report, that after a patient examination of various documents laid before your committee, in regard to an election held in the municipality of Matagorda, (said election being contested by Messrs. Royall and Fisher) have come to the conclusion that Mr. S. Rhodes Fisher is legally elected and entitled to a seat in this house. In drawing this conclusion, your committee would respectfully state to the house, that among the returns of elections, is one from Goliad, held among the volunteers on the fifth of January; at that election Mr. Royall received sixteen votes. The person who discharged that post, appeared before your committee, and testified that he discharged said volunteers on the evening of the 11th and morning of the 12th January, and it appears further in evidence, that a part at least of said volunteers voted again, and your committee are unanimously of opinion, that said votes were not legal votes, and that they ought not to be counted, and in making up their report, they have left them entirely out. It appears further in evidence that three men on their way from the army to the United States, did vote at a house where they stopped for the night, and as is certified, their votes were taken between the hours of 8 and 9 o'clock at night, your committee are unanimously of opinion that the above three votes should not be counted, as they were clearly illegal, and have accordingly thrown them out, as said persons who voted, did immediately thereafter leave the country, and also that the votes were taken after the time of the election. Your committee are therefore of opinion, that Mr. S. Rhodes Fisher, named, ought to be enrolled among the members of this house.
Fisher took his seat on 6 Mar 1836. Minutes of the provisional government on 7 Mar indicated that
"Messrs. S. Rhodes Fisher, John W. Moore, John W. Bowers and Samuel A. Maverick, being absent at the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, asked and obtained leave to sign the same."
S. Rhodes Fisher was also a signatory to the Constitution of the Republic of Texas which was approved at the Convention.
On 26 Oct 1836, Fisher was appointed Secretary of the Navy of the Republic of Texas by President Sam Houston and he was confirmed on 28 Oct by the Senate. In early 1837 Mexican naval vessels were cruising the Gulf and while posing no immediate threat of invasion, were a threat to the general security and economy through shipping of the new Republic. William Wharton on a return trip from Washington, DC where unsuccessful negotiations for annexation of Texas were proceeding was captured on the Texas warship Independence by Mexican vessels. Houston refused to sanction an official rescue attempt of Wharton and other Texans taken prisoner. Fisher backed by Congress personally ordered a cruise aimed at pressuring the Mexican government to release the prisoners. In Oct 1837, Houston removed him from office. On 11 Oct, the Senate disapproved the move with the following statement:
Mr. Wharton offered a substitute for the Resolution introduced on Saturday, directing the President to reinstate the Hon S. R. Fisher which was received, read and adopted. Mr Wilson entering his protest against the same. Resolved that a committee of two be appointed to wait on his Excellency and inform him that his message of the 6th Instant in regard to the reinstation of the Secretary of the Navy is deemed by the Senate disrespectful, dictatorial and evincive of a disposition on the part of the Executive to annihilate those co-ordinate powers conferred upon the senate by the constitution in all cases of the appointment or removal of Cabinet Officers. The welfare of the country and the respect due to the chief Magistrate greatly dispose the senate to act in concert and harmony with him, but the oath which taken to support the constitution imperatively bind them to prevent their legitimate powers from being infringed by and other department of the Government. They deem the message of his Excellency referred to as an attempt at such infringement and therefore reject and return it with an earnest reiteration of their resolution requesting the reinstation of the Secretary of the Navy or a presentation of the charges which induced his suspension from office. The senate do not deny in toto the power of the Executive to suspend a Cabinet Office, but they conceive that such suspension ought only to be made under very extraordinary circumstances and then that justice to the Individual and respect for the co-ordinate powers of the senate would justify and indeed require an immediate convocation of that body that the suspension might be concurred in or rejected. Mr. President of the Senate [Mirabeau B. Lamar] and Mr [Isaac W.] Burton were appointed a committee to wait on his Excellency with the same.
On 18 Oct 1837, the Senate ordered Fisher's reinstatement
" that the Hon. S. Rhodes Fisher be instructed to immediately resume the active exercise of his duties as Secretary of the Navy."
Fisher replied to the Senate on October 20:
Having on the 18th inst been furnished with a copy of a Resolution of your Hon Body of that date, in relation to my resuming the duties of my office, I have to state that I yesterday addressed the acting Secretary of the Navy, Wm. M. Shepherd, a note of which you herewith have a copy; and on the evening of the same day received his reply which is also enclosed. Having now Gentlemen laid before you the facts, and copies of the correspondence in relation to your Resolution, I await the further orders of your Honorable Body.
Shepherd replied with the following:
"In reply to which I beg leave respectfully to remark, that having obtained the appointment which I hold from the Executive, I cannot yield the papers of the Department, without instructions from the same source."
On 26 Oct, Houston announced that he was preparing charges against the Secretary and would deliver them to the Senate. The charges were apparently presented to the Senate on 7 Nov, but were never entered in the official records of the Senate. A Senate trial 23-27 Nov resulted in a vote consenting to Fisher's removal. He was defended unsuccessfully by an eloquent speech on 25 Nov by William H. Wharton which referred to Houston as
"that bloated mass of inebriety and insanity, of hypocrisy, vanity and villainy; when I see him sitting like an incubus, and weighing down the hopes and paralyzing the energies of our infant republic...my soul sickens and I turn with horror from the scene."
The presumed summary of charges appeared years later in the Papers of Mirabeau B. Lamar as a summary in Fisher's handwriting. The charges were trading tobacco for horses and mules with the enemy from or protected by navy vessels, using money for sales of naval vessels for personal loans, "taking a cruise with the navy" and command of a naval vessel without orders in which the property of innocent Mexican citizens was destroyed, disobeying orders and using threat of the navy for release of Texan prisoners in Matamoros and public criticism of the President. It was concluded on 28 Nov that
"on the grounds of harmony and expediency advise and consent to the removal.......no matter what may be the grounds, or how faultless the Secy. the public good and public policy requires that the President should be permitted to remove the obnoxious Sec. and appoint one with whom he can unite cordially in carrying on the operations of Govt......but in doing so they must do the Secretary the justice to say that the President has not adduced sufficient evidence that proves him guilty of dishonorable conduct"
A letter to presidential candidate Lamar in Aug 1838 from George Wheelwright urged reconsideration of Fisher for Secretary for the good of the navy and defense of the Republic. This event was a major incident in the early days of the Republic of Texas and added to the severe split between factions in the government. It increased the intensity of Houston's opposition since Fisher was quite popular among the rank and file and the Congress.
Samuel Rhoads Fisher was shot and killed in Matagorda on 13 Mar 1839. Albert Newton was charged with the crime. District attorney for the trial was William L. Delap and William Jones was judge. The jurors were Benjamin J. White, H.T. Davis, John Delap, Charles Dale, Henry Williams, A.C. Horton, William C. McKinstry, H.L. Cook, G.M. Collinsworth, Charles Howard, A.L. Clements, John D. Newell and James Duncan. They returned a verdict of "Not Found" and Newton was released by order of the court on 3 Mar 1840. Sam Houston Dixon in Men Who Made Texas Free says that Fisher "developed chronic disorder and died January 1839."
Dixon in The Men Who Made Texas Free related that
"when Mr. Fisher died, Richard Ellis, who was president of the convention which declared Texas independent of Mexico, said from the floor of the Senate: 'In the death of Rhodes Fisher the Republic has lost one of its wisest defenders. He was a man of poise even midst times of stress and excitement. Well do some of us remember his cool and deliberate consideration of our acts at Old Washington, March, 1836; how his voice of caution rang out as men of zeal vied with one another in their precipitous rush to complete their labors of establishing a government and returning to their homes. So earnestly did he plead and so logical was his appeal that we were persuaded to follow his advice........There was nothing of the braggadocio about him and he did not lack courage to express his opinions.'"
Dixon further related that he was present when Governor E. M. Pease, who knew Fisher intimately, related to his son, Rhodes Fisher, of Austin, who was at that time Chief Clerk of the General Land Office under William C. Walsh:
"Governor Pease spoke in a reminiscent mood, and among other things said: 'I knew your father well. He was usually a very cool-headed man. I never saw him disturbed but once and that was when his seat in the Washington Convention was being contested by a man by the name of Royall who was of a boisterous disposition and talked continually to the delegates about an attempt to cheat him out of his seat. Delegates continued to report to Mr. Fisher what Royall had said. At first he treated these reports with indifference, but he finally became impatient and spoke very emphatic, using some strong language---a cuss word here and there for good measure. He showed such resentment that he was not disturbed again.'"
The Fishers are buried in the Matagorda Cemetery with State of Texas Historical markers. Fisher County, which was created from Bexar County in 1876, was named in "honor of S. Rhodes Fisher, a distinguished officer of the Republic and signer of the Declaration of Independence."
Samuel Rhoads Fisher
1830 | 1831-1835 | 1836-1838
S. Rhoads Fisher to Austin
2 Jun 1830
Duplicate Orig: per Hetta New Orleans June 2nd 1830 Colonel STEPHEN F. AUSTIN MY DEAR SIR, The object of the present communication being, one of considerable Interest to me, I have to beg you will address me by the first opportunity, freely and candidly in relation to the political aspect of the affairs of your Colony- My Stand is taken, and the moment you say my services are required I obey the summons, but unless you can as a friend advise me to bring my family the ensuing fall, I shall decide upon leaving them in this Country of course I shall be undecided how to act until I hear from you---From the observations in the public prints, I must suppose that the Government are no longer willing to pursue the same course of liberal conduct towards the Colonies they have heretofore, and therefore as a colonist I wish to know the attitude we will assume with sentiments of the highest respect and sincere regard I remain your friend and obedient servant S. RHOADS FISHER
June 13th: 1830 MY DEAR SIR, The foregoing you will perceive is duplicate, and as I shall leave here in a day or two, on my way to my family in Northumberland, Penna: I cannot refrain from again saying I am an "Austinian" and urging you to write me whatever may Interest us to know---By a notice in one of the late papers I perceive Colonel Fisher the collector for the port of Galveston requires vessels to furnish him with their manifests at the mouth of the Brasos, as this will subject me to delay on my voyage from Philadelphia to Matagorda, I should feel indebted to you to ask Colonel Fisher if I cannot go direct to Matagorda, and forward him the Manifest to such point as he may direct Remember Colonel on you I depend for the successful result Of my petition, and hope soon to hear from you on the subject, as also upon any commercial changes the Government may see proper to make---Lest you may not receive the paper, I copy the following paragraph from the Argus of 11th: Inst:-Texas--The National Gazette publishes extracts from an official submitted to the Mexican Congress in secret session, by the secretary state, the tenor of which is extremely hostile to the American settlers in Texas.
Austin to S. Rhoads
Fisher 17 Jun 1830
San Felipe de Austin June 17 1830 Confidential S. Rhoads Fisher Esqr. MY DEAR SIR, I have just recd your of 2d inst requesting information as to the political aspect of affairs in this country; the course which the Govt are pursuing towards the settlers; and asking my advice as to the removal of your family here the ensuing fall. In relation to the first-it is rather difficult to say what is the real state of things at present at the seat of Govt in Mexico. So far as can be infered from the public prints, things are more settled than they have been for some time, and Bustamante appears to sit more quietly in the Presidential chair than he did. Gen. Bravo has defeated the force that was in the field near Accapulco in support of Guerrero and the latter seems to be a fugitive. Perhaps it would be safe to say that no certain calculations can be made as to the political affairs of the capital, or as to what changes may take place in the form of Govt. or whether any. I am inclined to think that none will be made, altho, there seems to be a party in favor of a central Govt.- In this colony all is peace, harmony, and union-more than ever has been: The prospects of crops are very good and promise abundance.
On the 2d point-The policy of this Govt seems to have changed as to colonization in Texas, as you may see by the 11th article of the law of 6th of April last, which prohibits emigration from the U. S, - The 10th Article of that law however declares that no variation shall be made in the colonies already established This completely covers my colony, for it is established, and no legal impediment can be interposed to the emigration of the colonists who properly belong to my contracts, neither do I believe that any will be. If an opinion can be formed from the public prints, this law has been produced by a chain of circumstances, some of which are the following. Mr. Poinsett became very unpopular, as it seems, and the prints of Mexico are teeming with the most bitter invectives against him. This odium seems to have extended to the American people and Govt. to a considerable degree. The charges (so far as they can be infered from Newspapers for I see no proofs) are that Mr. P. intermeddled with the internal affairs of Mexico-that he formed and organised political parties-that he fomented disunion-that his object in doing so was to defraud this Govt. out of Texas. In proof of this they say that as soon as all Mexico was thrown into convulsions by the virulence of the Yorkino (founded as is said by P-) and the Escoses parties, the Jackson papers of the U. S. Simultaneously vociforated "we must have Texas"- That P- was concerned in the grants of Exiter and Zavala, for colonizing in Texas, this caused a suspicion by inference, that as he was the agent and representative of the U. S. that Govt was also secretly a colonizer, and had improper views as to this country. To all this the little imprudences and silly expressions of some of the settlers on the frontiers of Texas and elsewhere, have been added, greatly magnified, and construed by some into disobedience, or a wish to be disobedient etc, etc. --To these matters, have also been superadded reports, that the present representative of the U. S. Govt to Mexico, was sent especially to purchase, Texas from Guerrero, while he had Dictatorial powers, and was under the control of Zavala, who it is known was under that of Poinsett---The time when this offer is said to have been made is also noticed, that is when the nation was pressed for money, and in distress owing to the spanish invasion, internal divisions etc. etc. Perhaps I hazard nothing in saying that causes may be discovered in this train of circumstances, in connection with others, which would have roused the suspicions of any people, and more particularly when it is remembered that the north is a giant, and Mexico a new and not firmly organised Govt. and also that the U. S. have silently, as it were, extended their dominion over the vast regions of Louisiana, Missouri, Oregon etc. I give you this detail in order that you may form some idea of the apparent causes, of the change as regards Colonization in Texas- Some on the other hand say that it proceeds from British influence or from a desire to exclude foreigners and liberal principles, as a stepping stone to the establishment of a central republic, and aristocracy, or a monarchy. The free admission however of all other foreigners, into Texas except North American, and of the latter every where else in the nation seems to contradict this idea.
1---Queries: will not the true prosperity and happiness of Texas be more effectually promoted by a Swiss, French, German, and English, population, than by an American one? nature seems to have intended Texas for a vineyard to supply America with wine.
2- Is not Slavery a curse which must lead to the total ruin and butchery of all southern slave countries, and is it not the duty of the Mexican Govt. and the true interest of every citizen of Texas to keep this country clear of it---A few years more and Mexico will be the only resting place left for the whites South of Illinois, unless the blacks are exterminated by a general massacre by the Whites; and afterwards excluded from being brought into the country--In a century more either the whites, or the blacks must cease to exist in the southern States, or they must intermarry and all be placed on an equality.
3- Is it not rather unkind in the U. S. to try to extend its vast and unwieldy frame over a part of the territory of its neighbor? and is it not impolitic and dangerous even to the integrity of that nation to enlarge its limits any farther?
4- Will not Texas be equally prosperous as a State of the Mexican confederation?
5- If this Govt. totally falls into ruin and this nation should be split up into separate republics, will not Texas be better independent, than as a part of the U. S.?
6- Can Texas ever be attached to the U. S. without becoming a slave state, and does not philanthropy and the happiness of so large a portion of the human race, as can be supported here, imperiously demand, that slavery should be forever excluded from it?
7- Is it not a duty which the U. S., as being the most powerful owes to its weaker neighbor to step forward and make a full fair and candid examination of the causes which have produced the present excitements in Mexico against her citizens, and if any of them or her public agents have been in fault to make it apparent.
8- Is it not the duty of the U. S. even to overlook any little jealoucies which the Mexicans may have manifested, and to pursue a conciliatory, rather than a harsh course?
I think that an able and prudent pen that understood the character of the Mexicans, might do much general good by discussing the above queries in a prudent and masterly manner in the Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore etc papers---the national Gazette would be a good paper for such a discussion News paper publications of the character of "Americanus, Patriot" etc added to the train of circumstances which I have stated have done great harm to the interests of Americans in Mexico publications of an opposite character would do much good, by removing the impressions now prevalent in Mexico that all those publications proceed from the Govt. and that the object is to excite the American people to rush into Texas and take it right, or wrong, It has always been my policy to keep Texas out of the news papers, but it has been dragged in by others and it must now be kept in, but, the other side of the question must now by discussed-that is to say, that it ought not to be attached to the U.S. but remain attached to Mexico- it might be stated in favor of this (with reference to the interests of Texas) that the coasting and internal trade and manufacturing advantages will afford more benefits, than anything which could be gained by an union with the North, in fact that nothing will be gained by the union but the admission of Slavery and that it would be a curse etc, etc.- And with reference to the interests of the U. S. it may be truly urged that, an extension of territory to the S. W. would cause a separation of the union etc, etc, etc
I recommend this matter to your attention you will of course see its vast importance, and its great delicacy---An excitement has been written up against the U. S. and Americans in Mexico---the object is to write it down-by removing the causes of jealousy, and soothing the feelings of the Mexicans and even tickling their vanity in a judicious manner As regards my own individual views and objects I will give them to you with the most perfect frankness and candor. It has been) and is, my ambition to redeem Texas from the wilderness, and to lay a solid foundation for its future prosperity. I do not believe that, that object can be effected by any kind of union with the U. S. for such an union would of course intail slavery on this fair region, which may be made the Eden of America---satan entered the sacred garden in the shape of a serpent---if he is allowed to enter Texas in the shape of negros it will share the fate of Eden,---We have been well treated by the Mexican Govt. and we are bound by our oaths to be faithful to it---I will loose my life before I will forfeit that obligation or do aught which my duty as a Mexican citizen forbids---I wish to see a foundation laid here for the happiness of posterity, as well as for that of the present generation--I have no kind of views or ambition for office, neither am I avericious my constitution is much broken and I wish for peace and quiet retirement on a stock farm Perhaps you might embark some able and prudent person on the right side of the Texas question in Philadelphia--or in other words on the side of justice and general phylanthropy and peace. I am totally incompetent to such a task, and besides it would do more good in the papers of the U. S. than here, for the excitement was gotten up there and there it ought to be put down Timothy Flint (the western review) at Cincinnatti would be a master hand. I had an acquaintance with him in St Louis many years ago If you go there you may if you chuse shew him this letter, but as confidential. Governments like individuals are often moved by trifles---It may seem to us a silly idea that this nation can be operated on by news paper publications in the U.S.---but such is the fact (as regards Texas) for it has been deeply operated upon to our prejudice by Americanus and Patriot etc, etc.
My dear Sir lot me beg of you to be prudent in the management of this matter (if you move in it at all)---Lord Chesterfield (I believe it was) said that a man had more to fear from imprudent friends than from the bitterest enemies---I am not anxious on my own account---my health warns me that my days are drawing to a close but I have been the means of drawing many families to Texas, and their present and permanent welfare and happiness is very dear to me, and costs me many anxious hours and days---The object of bringing forward such a country as this, is an immence and an honorable one, it requires infinitely more talents and more strength of constitution than I possess, and I wish to enlist some efficient aid. I send you a publication made in Mexico by which you can see the general tone in that quarter. As regards the removal of your family I have to say that my brother in law James F. Perry left here three weeks since to bring his, and I have this day written to him to come on in the fall and not mind what he sees in the public papers. This is the best answer I can give to your 3d enquiry Should you see my relative Thos. F. Leaming please remember me to him I returned from Bexar a few days since, all is well with the State authorities---no news from Bowie or your petition---The Govt are encouraging Manufactories as you can see by the law of 6 april write me often, our coasting trade is open for foreign vessels S. F. AUSTIN [Rubric]
By a pacific and just course I have brought forward this colony to what it is the same course cannot fail to continue the advancement of its prosperity---some visionary men think that a civil war would lead to the independence of Texas---perhaps it might---but admitting it would, I have one objection to it which with me is conclusive and paramount---it would be unjust--this is not my only objection, there are hundreds, but this one is enough The settlers here are really well off, and are satisfied---the only worm that now works in their heads is that no more emigration is to come they are not to have Slaves etc---a prudent course will remove all these difficulties---We must prove to this Govt. by our conduct that we deserve its confidence---we must get in Swiss, and Germans and I think that if you could excite some educated, common sence, practical men of those nations to come and view this country; it would be the means of paving the way for a great emigration our country men in general want slaves---this is a troublesome question to get on with, they must be reasoned with and brought round by degrees and prudence---The minds of the people here at this time are very quiet and settled, but one imprudent measure on the part of Govt. would have a dreadfull effect---his must be closely watched and guarded against if possible and harmony and peace preserved I send you a copy of my letter to the Alabama Gentlemen who were out here last fall and contracted to emigrate--I have, requested them to publish it in Tuscumbia papers-they may not do it owing to what I have said about Slavery-if they do not you can if you chuse, exercise your judgement and publish it or not, as you think best, in some Philadelphia paper- write me your candid opinion as to the course of policy which I have indicated in this letter- if you disapprove of it-state your reasons-and suggest alterations- Try and pry into old Hickorys cabinet so far as to know what they wish to do as regards Texas, how they feel towards this nation---tho I cannot believe that they can have any hostile feelings for I know of no just motive I have scribbled a long letter-too long to Sacar en limpia, and must send it all blotted and scratched etc. I have a rough copy of it---a correct translation of the Voz de la patria, might serve as a text, to preach from, for it will shew that hostile feeling do exist in Mexico, it will then be natural enough to ask, why they exist? S. F AUSTIN [Rubric] Do you know Mr. McQueen of New orleans---he writes well I am told and intends removing here exercise great judgement in enlisting prudent and safe men as writers on this subject S. Williams has a son
S. Rhoads Fisher to
Austin 14 Aug 1830
Northumberland [Pennsylvania] August 14th 1830 Colonel S. F. AUSTIN MY DEAR SIR, I received yesterday your favour of 4th July last and regret I cannot also acknowledge receipt of one of 13 June refered to in it---I feel very anxious to be among you, believing my Interest seriously requires it, and am making every arrangement to start from Philada: by sea in the course of next month, say the latter part of it, so that with reasonable luck I shall put into Matagorda by the last October---Major Ingram has promised to have a place of Shelter for my family, and I trust be will not disappoint me but really from what you say, added to some circumstances---which took place whilst I was among you I must acknowledge I feel uneasy at his conduct---What I now say is in confidence, unless requisite you should consider it not so---The whole Stock of goods which Ingram had in Texas were mine excepting to the cost of about $400. I borrowed the money in N. Orleans for the purchase of some and the rest I bought on time by giving security---Ingram was to have one half of the clear profits, as compensation for his supposed knowledge of the kinds suitable, and for his trouble in selling them but they were expressly, and positively to be sold for cash before my leaving the country that I might repay on my arrival in the U.S. the money borrowed for their purchase. I was in the country one month longer than I anticipated thereby giving full time for the realization of the goods---but no matter for details now---I wanted my money, and all I could get before I left there was fourteen Dollars!!! in money and an order on Brassoria for fifty! the A/ct furnished me by I Ingram and co (but without signature) which is himself and Major League, shows a balance due me of about Two Thousand Dollars---their books show a credit to my account of Sixteen hundred Dollars Cash received, to which the profits must be added---now my Dear Sir if in your apprehension this property is unsafe in its present situation, I shall call upon you as a friend to take such measures as may secure me; your own good judgement can best regulate you---Major I. has four negroes which will be more than sufficient. Hoit may claim them, but Hoit owes Ingram money---should it be necessary call on Col. Wallace for his knowledge of that business.
It gives me great pleasure to observe by your letter (papers I have not seen) that the disposition of the Mexican government has again assumed a friendly aspect towards us, and think it all important that this fact should be made public throughout the U.S. as there is but little doubt but what the jealous feelings indicated by them towards the colonists in some of the Mexican papers, and translated into those of this country had a sensible effect in checking the enthusiasm which was about manifesting itself so widely--A few letters from you upon that subject would I have no question reestablish in the minds of the undecided the confidence in the permanency of your Colony which was beginning to be doubted, and immigration this spring be commensurate with our warmest wishes Your observations with respect to Zavala's grant are noted and assented to---With respect to Don Estefan Wilson I have known him slightly for several years, and I considered his greatest weakness was a foolish display of unpossessed importance---I have frequently heard him speak of his immense grant of land and his exclusive privilege of hunting and trapping throughout St. Fe. I have known him to give a friend of mine a douceur of one hundred thousand acres of land, which my friend offered me for a few hundred Dollars, but for which as I told him I would not give as many cents, and have often conversed with him respecting the nature of the Spanish grants in general and especially those to Empresarios; his expressed sentiments were correct---As respects D. A. Smith's conduct in selling Exeter's grant, Wilson distinctly stated to me it was a very improper thing, and unsanctioned by him, and that so soon as he saw Smiths advertisement he hastened to prevent any sales being effected- All this however was subsequent to a public communication cautioning the public against purchasing Texas lands I have understood he was at Saltillo, but supposed it was for the purpose of business, not vengeance, and I am not much inclined to give credit to common reports, but if you really think the man intended any improper course look behind, and not before: I presume you know he has a commercial house at Matamoras, he made me liberal offers to go there---I believe T. P. Newton of N. orleans is interested with him--You speak of my trimming my pen; and of a free population not negroes combining these sentences I am induced to suppose a piece signed "Alabama" on the subject of Slavery has appeared in the Texas Gazette, I wrote it for that paper while at sea, and sent it to Mr. Cotton, but know not if it was published---like yourself I detest Slavery, but conceive the general views I have there taken are correct, and am firmly persuaded that the free admission of Slaves into the State of Texas, authorised by act of our legislature, would tend more to the rapid introduction of respectable emigrants than any other course which could be pursued---Our rice and sugar lands require that kind of labour---and let the preamble to the bill set forth the advantages which would accrue to the state from a temporary introduction of Slaves, and therefore limit the period of admission to 5 years, or to any other number that you may deem expedient. As regards a foreign emigration, I shall say something material on that subject when I see you. as respects my being empresario, I do not conceive the advantages to be commensurate with the difficulties, anxiety and responsibility attached to it---few men Colonel Austin could have been as successful as yourself, whether your general forbearance and self possession, have been the result of a natural temperament, and therefore attended with little cost of feeling, or the consequence of a judicious course of policy it is not for me to say; I know I could not be as successful as you have been or would be unwilling to make that sacrifice of feeling which I conceive you have made---Well may you say your efforts have cost you years of "toil and trouble," but you have succeeded, and under disadvantages which would have required the prudence, sagacity and perseverance of Penn to conquer---how far you may have been the means of laying the basis of a new republic time will show---I think it not chimerical that Texas may yet have a sensible influence on the views of the Southern Nullifiers, that she may prove a powerful lever in the political machinery of their adherence to their rights, and ultimately weigh so heavily in the balance as to be one mean of dismembering them from the northern States. I am in great hopes to see the importance of our country (Texas) taken up by some Carolina writer---I have written to a gentleman there on the subject and should he embark in the cause, and our legislature grant us full permission to introduce slaves for 5 years Texas will need no foreign aid: she will be the strongest arm of the Mexican confederacy---I hope our friend Bowie may be successful---and no man is better calculated. I consider it will be a valuable thing for all of us---two will sell out cheap-empassant, Colonel, I will give you a gratuitous opinion, The most valuable emigrant you have ever had is James Bowie, I consider him of the first order of men. You tell me you have not heard of my petition. I shall be disappointed if unsuccessful, but hope you will continue to make the reservations for me till my fate is known. I congratulate you colonel, not in the language of form, but in the plainness of sincerity on the "peace, harmony emigration and improvement " which you write me has taken place and am also glad to perceive the proprietors of Matagorda have so organized themselves as to act definitively--- I consider it the most valuable part of your colony, and am surprised you take so little interest in it---When I reach Philada: I shall see Mess: Walsh Leaming- and Tanner, and attend to what you request And now having touched upon all the heads of yours of 4th Uto. I have nothing further to add than a renewal of the assurance that I am with great respect and regard, your friend S. RHOADS FISHER Care of General William L. Robeson New Orleans General Robeson will please forward this by the first conveyance and oblige his respects S. R. F.
S. Rhoads Fisher to
Austin 20 Aug 1830
Northumberland August 20th 1830 MY DEAR SIR, Under date of 14th Inst: I had this pleasure at length: and conceiving it right you should know whatever relates to Texas, I with pleasure communicate to you such information as comes under my notice---Since last writing you, I have met a french gentleman of the name of Sorbe, who has a House at tampico---for two years past he has been principally in the Interior, and I think has a tolerably correct knowledge of the country---he tells me the Barings have made a very extensive purchase of land from the count of his name I forget, who is now in Italy, they gave for it three millions of Dollars, and that it is (if I am not mistaken) equal in extent to 150 leagues square, it comes close to Saltillo, and embraces Parras. he says the purchase includes a number of villages, the precise boundaries he could not give me---they are settling it fast growing cotton, and are about erecting a cotton manufactory---a gentleman of the name of Sterrett (I think) is their agent---I thought none but Mexican Citizens could hold land in Texas! When I see you I shall want particular information relative to Exeters grant, as I wish to set aright a gentleman of very conspicuous standing in S. Carolina, who writes
"I have received much information about Texas, I hold some shares in the Coahuila, and Texas company of which Dennis A. Smith of Baltimore is the agent, I dined a short time ago with Mr. Poinsett who says the grant is regular and valid-"
either this gentleman is very much misled, or I am, but how is possible Mr. Poinsett can be mistaken? The owners of this grant of course want to make a speculation of it---honestly if they can etc.---but under any circumstances is it not our policy to let them take their own road; for each grant they (that is Wilson and others) make, or each tract they sell, excites precisely so much Interest in the minds of the people of the U. States, in favour of Texas In my last letter I acknowledged receipt of yours of 4 July, and mentioned that I should be at Matagorda with my family the last of October and hoped Ingram would have as promised, a place of shelter-in readiness SRHOADS---FISHER [Addressed:] Colonel Stephen F. Austin Austin Texas care of Gen: Wm. Robeson New Orleans
S. Rhoads Fisher to
Austin 23 Aug 1830
Northumberland [Pennsylvania] August 23. 1830 Colonel S. F. AUSTIN MY DEAR SIR I again address you in consequence of having received yours of 17th June, tho, my opinion on its leading subject has been anticipated in mine of 14 and 20th Insts: I mean Slavery, that you were in favour of a free population is no surprise to me, believing that every reflecting man of equal intelligence must be so; but I was not prepared to learn that your determination was so decided as you have expressed it at the present juncture---I conceive each member of our little democracy, however inconspicuous his standing, has an unquestionable right to a free expression of opinion, in whatever relates to the policy of the State, and much more of the colony: under this view then, I feel no hesitation in saying that I believe the Interests of the Colony will be essentially injured, should the course of policy---the non admission of slaves mentioned in yours of 17th: June be adopted---Most of your Colonists are from Slave---holding States---they have enrolled themselves in your register under the firm conviction that slavery would be tolerated, and that they would be secure in the ownership of those brought by them---Many others have made arrangements with you to remove, and with an express understanding that they could safely bring their negroes with them.
From your approximity to the Southern States, and from the favorable feeling already pervading her citizens, Texas may fairly anticipate a population from that quarter, more speedy and more numerous than from the northern and Eastern, and this I conceive is at present all important: added to which, do you believe that cane and cotton can be grown to advantage by a sparce white population? or are the whole cane and cotton growing districts of your delightful country to still remain a wilderness of flowers---a waste of richness? It is impossible! Men remove from their Homes to better their situations, they submit to deprivations and encounter difficulties for the accumulation of wealth; and they will pursue that course of conduct which they believe will the soonest and the most certainly put them in possession of it---they will raise cane and cotton in preference to wheat and oats, when they live in a country peculiarly calculated for it, and as they cannot raise these staples without slave labour, they will raise them with it---there is no country in the world where these articles are grown unless by the assistance of Slaves, or where the population is so dense or so abject as to always place at the option of the proprietor any force commensurate to his wants on this half of the continent thank God! the latter cannot be the case for centuries; therefore we must either abandon the finest portion of Texas to its original uselessness or submit to the acknowledged, but lesser evil of Slavery---In mine of 14th Inst without being made acquainted with your views, I stated as my opinion the expediency of Texas allowing the free admission of Slaves for five years: this is a short period of time, but of sufficient length to enable a Southern emigration to introduce as many as would supply the actual wants of the colony- let the law of permission be then repealed and one substituted, making their introduction under any pretense highly penal---as soon as this is the case an emigration will rapidly commence from the South, and their time having expired, the Eastern people will in their turn view Texas as their Home---the very circumstance of it being measurably settled by Southerners which in their opinions is synonimous with wealth will act as a strong inducement to their coming in among us---these men will naturally seek the grain-growing districts, while those from the South will as certainly settle where they can raise sugar and cotton---or suppose a line should be drawn---say the Opelousas road to San Felipe, thence to Bejar---thence, following the Leona Vicario road till it strikes the river Nueces thence following its course to the Mouth---let the district of country lying between this Cordon and the gulf be appropriated to Slaves, and the other side be exempted from them---all parties would thus be suited, and each peculiar soil be brought into requisition---But it is not now necessary to discuss the subject at length; it is one of deep and serious interest, and should be, viewed with great deliberation, and without prejudice---were we exclusively a grain-growing State, I should most strenuously cooperate with you in support of the non-slave holding principle; as it is---I must set you before I decide Allow me to thank you for the passports; and here I will mention a thing which may be all important to me---I may probably come out in a vessel drawing full twelve feet, having understood there was always at least that water at Paso Cavallo, and sometimes more, and that with this dft. one may readily go up to "Dog Island" even without a pilot: should my information be incorrect you will greatly oblige me by employing Mr. Tone or some one equally qualified to keep a look out from the 20 October-and board any vessel -which may be standing for the Pass: S RHOADS FISHER
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