SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
© 1997-2001, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved
The Fredonian Rebellion-Index
[The Fredonian movement] endangered the settlement of Texas by threatening the colonial policy of Mexico, and its disastrous results were only averted by the forbearance and wisdom of [Jefe-Politico Jose] Saucedo and [empresario Stephen F.] Austin in the peaceful and satisfactory adjustment of all the questions involved in the controversy--Guy M. Bryan
From The Handbook of Texas. Haden (or Hayden) Edwards (1771-1849), pioneer settler and land speculator, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, on August 12, 1771, the son of John Edwards. In 1780 the family moved to Bourbon County, Kentucky (at that time part of Virginia), where John Edwards acquired 23,000 acres of land, worked for statehood, and was elected to the United States Senate. Haden was educated for the law but like his father was more interested in land speculation. In 1820 he married Susanna Beall of Maryland, and they moved to the area of Jackson, Mississippi, where he and his brother Benjamin W. Edwards acquired a plantation. He and Susanna eventually had thirteen children. In Mississippi the Edwardses first heard the news of Moses Austin's plans for colonization in Texas. In 1823 Edwards traveled to Mexico City, where he joined Stephen F. Austin, Robert Leftwich, and others in a three-year attempt to persuade various Mexican governments to authorize American settlement in Texas. Because of his wealth Edwards was often called upon to finance Austin. Their efforts resulted in the colonization law of 1824 in Mexico City and of 1825 in Saltillo, which allowed empresarios to introduce settlers to Texas. Edwards suffered more than he profited from his relationship with Austin, at least in his own mind, since he believed that Austin claimed the best lands and tried to push his boundaries in every direction at the expense of other empresarios. Edwards received a grant in the vicinity of Nacogdoches where he could locate 800 families. Like other empresarios he agreed to honor preexisting grants and claims made by Spanish or Mexican officials. Of all empresarios, Edwards probably had the most such claims, some over a century old. [During the threatened armed clash described here], Edwards fled to Louisiana for safety. He returned to Texas during the Texas Revolution and made his home in Nacogdoches until his death, on August 14, 1849. Edwards was the first worshipful master of Milam Lodge No. 2 when it was organized in 1837, a fact that indicates his status in the Anglo leadership. Until his death he was engaged in the land business. [Photo of Mr. & Mrs. Edwards from The Fredonian War in Edward's Colony, 1826-1827 by Guy M. Bryan (Ch. 5 in A Comprehensive History of Texas edited by Dudley Wooten, 1898)]
[The following material is abstracted from diverse sources, the base in largest part is a modification of articles by Guy M. Bryan in A Comprehensive History of Texas and Frank W. Johnson History of Texas and Texans]
Hayden Edwards Contract, Saltillo, 15 Apr 1825. Conditions with which the project of Hayden Edwards, a Citizen of the United States of North America for the Introduction of eight hundred Families into the Department of Texas, is admitted:
1. The government admits the project which the petitioner has presented in the antecedent memorial, so far as it is conformable to the law of colonization of this state, passed on the 24th of March last; and immediately points out to him, in compliance with the eighth article, and according to his petition, the land asked for, with the following limits:
Beginning at the angle formed by a line twenty leagues from the Sabine and ten leagues from the coast of the gulf of Mexico; thence in a northerly direction, passing the post of Nacogdoches, and in the same direction fifteen leagues above; thence westwardly, at right angles with the first line, to the Navasoto creek, thence down said creek till it strikes the upper road from Bexar to Nacogdoches; thence eastwardly along the said road to the San Jacinto; thence down said river to within ten miles of the coast; thence eastwardly along a line ten miles from the coast to the beginning.
2. All those possessions which are found in Nacogdoches and
its vicinity, with corresponding titles, shall be respected by the colonists; and it shall
be the duty of the empresario, should any of the ancient possessors claim the preservation
of their rights, to comply with this condition. The same condition is also understood as
far as concerned the settlers in the colony of Stephen F. Austin and any others who may
have legal titles to the lands on which they are settled.
[Remaining articles are those standard for contracts of the period, see full text of Green DeWitt's Petition and Contract]
The Edwards grant covered the area of subsequent grants to David Burnet and Joseph Vehlein.
The Fredonian War in Edwards Colony, 1826-1827 by Guy M. Bryan. Americans continued to come to the colonies. Their increased numbers gave them confidence and secured protection in good measure from Indian depredations, but in 1826 the disturbances in Edwards's colony threatened dire disasters to all the colonies. We will notice this affair with more consideration and particularity than has heretofore been given to it. The writer has laboriously and impartially examined the numerous authorities, printed and in manuscript, before him, to arrive at the truths of the causes of the disturbances in Edwards's colony and the results ensuing therefrom. Hayden Edwards made his contract with Coahuila and Texas at Saltillo, April, 1825, more than four years after Moses Austin's contract and three years after its ratification with S. F. Austin by the republic at the City of Mexico. Austin's first contract was with the general government, Edwards's with the state under the colonization law; Austin having full discretionary powers, judicial, legislative, and military; Edwards not having such enlarged powers, but, by Article 6 of his contract, he was authorized to "raise the national militia according to law, of which he shall be chief until some other disposition shall be made." Article 10 of said contract says: "As to all other things not expressed in these conditions, he shall subject himself to whatever the Constitution and general laws of the nation and of the state, which he adopts for his country, may provide."
Nacogdoches was within his colony. Prior to 1820 this town was deserted and the inhabitants around it driven off by the Spaniards. After 1820, some of these people returned to their old homes, and others also came in with them, so that when Edwards made his contract there were, it is stated, over one hundred inhabitants in the town of Nacogdoches, and some of the outside places were occupied by the original claimants, many of them Mexicans. Immigrants, old settlers, and others continued to come in, many claiming lands as original owners. Edwards's contract required him to respect all prior legal claims. He issued a notice that all who had such claims should present them to him to be passed upon. Those which he thought just he would respect; those he thought illegal he would reject. Those who lost their lands defied Edwards and complained to the local authorities, consisting of Alcalde Norris and others, who favored the disaffected, and complained to the political chief. Continued causes of antagonisms and irritations ensued between the local authorities and Edwards. Edwards, by previous notices, required of his colonists to pay him a certain price for the lands they received; some of whom, after they came to the colony, refused to do so, alleging that Edwards had no right to require this, for the fees for the land were established by law, and beyond this he could not go, and that he was speculating on them. Norris complained of this to the political chief, and that Edwards, contrary to law, was selling the land, etc. The complaints augmented to such an extent that finally Edwards noticed them, and wrote to the political chief defending himself. This communication did not produce the effect he desired. He now left for the United States, leaving his brother, B. W. Edwards, in charge of the colony. As the complaints and discontent increased, B. W. Edwards wrote a strong, and no doubt what he thought a faithful, statement of facts, expressed in a style that offended the governor, and he annulled his brother's contract.
Rumors of this annulment emboldened the local alcalde and his adherents to such an extent that they became obnoxious to Edwards and his friends. The Edwards' now conceived the idea of resistance to Mexico, and the only effective way, they thought, to do this was to make an independent nation of Texas, and to accomplish this they sedulously went to work. Emissaries and letters were sent to all the American settlements of Texas, to arouse the colonists everywhere to resist Mexican authority. A treaty was made with the Indians, giving to them all the territory north of a line a short distance above Nacogdoches, drawn from the Sabine to the Rio Grande, and south of that line the Americans were to possess the whole territory, both to form the new nation of Fredonia. To more fully explain the situation, we will hereafter give copies of the original letters of Edwards to leading men in Austin's colony, viz: Captain Aylett C. Buckner, Jesse Thompson, James Ross, and Bartlett Syms; also other communications in regard to these difficulties.
When Austin was made aware of the designs of the Edwardses, he wrote letters to many of the leading citizens of Eastern Texas, pleading and reasoning with them on the dangers and consequences of resisting the Mexican government, and pointing out the way in which all their complaints could be made and their grievances redressed. He also on his own authority sent three of his colonists as commissioners to intercede with the disaffected and to induce them to abandon their hostile intentions. On their return to the colony, William Hall, their chairman, reported that they could do nothing with the leaders of the disaffected. Austin then prevailed upon the political chief to send a proclamation of amnesty, etc., and to authorize him to send, in his name (political chief's), three commissioners from the American colonists to carry the terms of the proclamation to the disaffected inhabitants of Eastern Texas. These commissioners went, and on their return reported to Colonel Austin.
In order that the reader may more fully understand the questions and draw his own conclusions, we now give the following copies of the original official and unofficial communications on the subject.
Correspondence Between Stephen F. Austin and Haden Edwards
Edwards to Austin. NACOGDOCHES, January 9, 1826. COLONEL AUSTIN, Enclosed are some letters to the departments of government, the forwarding of which by the earliest opportunity will confer a singular favor. We have no opportunity direct from here of communicating with the government. I found on my return from your place that there had a considerable storm arisen, heavy threats to send me over the Sabine; but I came out in a hurricane, and promised to send in irons any man who dared acknowledge the threat to Saltillo; sounded the trump all around, bidding defiance to all their threats, and bidding them leave the lands or come forward and make arrangements to pay for them. They are now all friendly; promise to pay me for their lands and spend their lives in my defence. I expect Leftwich on every day, and anticipate the happiness of spending some happy hours united with yourself and the baron, whom I am in hopes will soon return. I am crowded with friends and letters from every quarter at this moment, which prevents my saying a thousand things to you I am compelled to omit at this moment. Wishing you every happiness and prosperity, I remain Yours sincerely, HAYDEN EDWARDS N.B.-Please write me by the first opportunity H. E.
Edwards to Austin. MR. MUNSON'S, TRINITY, February 28, 1826. To COLONEL STEPHEN F. AUSTIN, San Felipe de Austin, Brazos. COLONEL AUSTIN,-Having heard of your expedition to the island (Galveston), I made every exertion in my power to join you there, but failed in procuring a conveyance until I heard of your return. I then went to the bay by land; a very unpleasant trip owing to the weather and rottenness of the prairies; there again heard you were to leave Mr. Scott's, on the day of my arrival there, for home. Returning to the Trinity, I heard again that you were to attend a meeting on the San Jacinto on the 4th of March, ordered by yourself, in order to present a memorial against me to the government for asking my colonists more than the government tax on the lands, propagated here, in my absence, by Mr. Rankin. This I placed no confidence in, not believing that Colonel Austin could be capable of using any measures to the injury of the other empresarios. As to my conditions, I feel myself perfectly justified by that article of the securing contracts made between the settlers and empresarios, and I feel myself more than doubly justified in asking what I do, for the good of the colony and of the government in general, as you must admit as a candid man, that one colonist that is willing and able to pay for the lands, as offered, is worth fifty of those indolent idlers who barely live to exist, and have no ambition or enterprise further. If you would do me the pleasure of coming to see me, I will show you that my families are already engaged at my prices, and are unwilling that I should permit others to settle upon less terms, being satisfied of the disadvantages arising to the country from such a course. The honest and industrious already in the country are of the same opinion, and have complied with the terms already.
I am constantly told by those worthless idlers that judge Austin gives lands at Congress prices, and says we have no right to ask or receive more. I have never paid any attention to their assertions, believing them to be fabrications, only replying to them to get lands of you. I have no doubt but there are hundreds of lies told you, perhaps, in the same way, in order, as I have understood they have said, if they could get the empresarios at variance they would be able to reap a benefit. I hope you will give me the earliest information of your discoveries to our advantage in your trip to the island, and should you be disturbed at any part of my conduct, that you will be candid enough to state your objections to me before taking any measures unfriendly. I expect to meet Colonel Leftwich on my return to Nacogdoches, and should feel very happy if we could all have a meeting to promote the best interests of the country, I am respectfully your friend, HAYDEN EDWARDS.
Austin to Edwards. TO COLONEL HAYDEN EDWARDS, Nacogdoches. DEAR SIR,-I have just received yours of 28th of February, and hasten to note its contents. In regard to Galveston, I found a good entrance of twelve feet and a safe harbor and good anchorage in seven and eight fathoms, opposite the old town. The harbor is a safe one, but the site is inconvenient for a town, owing to its low situation and scarcity of wood and fresh water. In regard to the report you heard, that I had ordered a meeting of the inhabitants of the San Jacinto on the 4th of March to present a memorial to government against you, all I have to say is, that the report is false. In the month of January I ordered elections all over the colony on the 4th of March for militia officers, in conformity with orders from the government, and on my arrival on the San Jacinto, I found the people there highly excited against you, in consequence of threats you had made to drive them off the land, for which they had received titles in this colony, unless they would pay you your price; and they informed me that they intended to petition the government. I very plainly told them that Colonel Edwards had nothing to do with them; he had the settlement of the vacant lands remaining on the east side of the San Jacinto, but the titles already issued on that side were issued under an express order of the government and provincial deputation of Texas, and were as valid as any others; that it was unnecessary and improper for them to draw up any petition on the subject to the government at this time, because you had as yet proceeded no further than threats, but if you should attempt to carry those threats into execution by actually disturbing them in their possessions, I requested them to give me immediate information thereof, for it was my duty, both as a civil officer and as empresario, to protect their rights, and I should do so.
This is all that passed on the subject, except to one man, who pointedly asked me whether you had a roulette-table in Mexico or not; truth compelled me to say that you had. I will here, with perfect candor and in friendship, remark, that your observations generally are in the highest degree imprudent and improper, and such as are calculated to ruin yourself and materially to injure all the American settlements; for example, you have publicly stated that you could have procured a grant for all the land on the east side of the Brazos, and taken it from the settlers, as you intended to do on the east side of the San Jacinto; that Saucedo was not governor or political chief of Texas and had no right to act, and that his orders were illegal; that the Spaniards around Nacogdoches were a set of 'Washenangos,' and that you would put them all over the Sabine; that you had the absolute right of disposing of the land within your colony as you pleased, and the government would not make any grants, nor in any way interfere with you for six years; that you despised the class of people who were now settlers in the country, and only wanted rich men, and would drive away all the poor devils who had been the first to settle, unless they paid you your price. And, finally, it has been very currently reported that you had stated many other things which, if repeated to the government, would be highly offensive to them, but which I do not mention here because I do not believe you ever stated them.
One moment's sober reflection will show you the imprudence and impropriety of such declarations as those above mentioned. The only answer I have made when told Colonel Edwards was ridiculing deeds issued in this colony, and threatening to drive off the settlers on the San Jacinto, and boasting that he could have had the power of driving off those on the Brazos, was, that I was accountable to the government for my acts, and not to Colonel Edwards, and that such declarations displayed a very great want of common sense, as well as candor, on his part, for they were calculated to injure himself by weakening the confidence of the people in the acts of agents of the government generally, and it was a want of candor in him to threaten the San Jacinto settlers behind my back, and say nothing about them to me in person.
The truth is, you do not understand the nature of the authority with which you are vested by the government, and it is my candid opinion that a continuance of the imprudent course you have commenced will totally ruin you, and materially injure all the new settlements. These remarks are made in perfect friendship, although with blunt candor, and as such I hope will be received. I have taken no steps to injure you in any way, nor will I, unless you interfere with the vested rights of the settlers of this colony. I have made no representations, nor ever had an idea of making any. I have not said, even to my brother, as much about you as I have now stated in this letter. If you will ask Mr. Dee to show you a letter I wrote him some time since, in answer to one of his letters requesting a copy of the colonization laws, you will see that, instead of fermenting discontent against you, I said all I could to promote harmony. It has been a misfortune with all the empresarios, myself among the rest, that we have to be governed by a law that is rather difficult to understand, and in many particulars susceptible of various constructions; this is of itself a frightful source of difficulty, so much so, that the utmost caution and prudence may not in every instance be able to avoid it. I have learned caution from past experience, and have, in consequence, written to the government that if they would send me a fee-bill, stating in detail and in full all the expenses that were to be paid by the settlers on their lands, and also send a commissioner here to remain and attend to his part of the duty, that I was ready to attend to my part as empresario; but, until high definite instructions were received by me, and a commissioner appointed, I should decline having anything more to do with the settlement of a new colony, for I did not feel myself authorized, under the new law, to make any survey without the approbation of the commissioner, and I should have nothing to say about the price of land at all,-the government must fix it; they must give positive instructions as to every particular, and I was ready to obey them.
You may, perhaps, think that I am too blunt and candid in my remarks, but there is one thing you must believe, or else do me an injustice, my candor proceeds from friendship and not from any desire to censure or to wound your feelings, and advise you to be more prudent in your remarks and observations generally. You have an extremely difficult and laborious task to perform; you will be watched with a jealous eye by every one, and the most innocent expression will be misunderstood or wilfully perverted, and nothing will injure you more than direct collisions with the old Spanish settlers in your colony, and I would advise the utmost prudence with them in particular. I wish you to understand distinctly that there is no excitement, no irritation, nor any unfriendly feeling of any kind in me against you; that the plain language of this letter proceeds from friendship and a sincere desire to see you prosper in the arduous undertaking of settling a new colony, and that these remarks are only made to yourself, and not to any other person. I have myself felt the want of blunt and candid advice; it is, however, a species of counsel that is seldom well received or duly appreciated, for we generally have too much self-love or self-confidence to suffer deliberate judgment to decide upon our own acts; at least I will say for myself, that I fear such has sometimes been the case with me. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
Extract from letter of Stephen F. Austin to one of Edwards's colonists:
SAN FELIPE DE AUSTIN, March 10, 1826. DEAR SIR, -Mr. Chartellier has drawn up a copy of the colonization law and taken it with him. I very much regret that there should have arisen any discontent among the settlers on the Trinity in regard to the manner of procuring their lands; everything of this nature has a tendency to injure the progress of the new settlements generally, and I would, with due respect to those settlers, and as their friend, and the friend of all the new settlements, recommend to them to be extremely cautious not to do anything of a violent or disorderly character towards the persons intrusted by the government with the superintendence of the new settlements. The utmost harmony should be cultivated, the agents of the government should be treated with respect, and, if cause of complaint exists against them, representations should be made to the proper authority in a mild manner and without anything like passion or abuse. These ideas are respectfully suggested to you in friendship. They proceed from a sincere desire to see harmony prevail, and not from any disposition or desire on my part to intrude my advice or censure on any person, and I hope you will receive them in the same spirit of candor and friendship in which they are offered.
I can have no object in wishing harmony but the prosperity of the country, for my own conduct in regard to receiving settlers will not be regulated or in any manner influenced by what the other empresarios may do. My guide shall be the law and the orders of the government, and the price which the government may direct me to exact of the settlers, to pay the expenses on their land, is what must be paid. How much that will be I cannot tell until instructions are received on the subject. I have applied for such instructions, and shall do nothing in regard to the final location of new settlers until they arrive. My brother, who starts for Saltillo in a few days, will take on a report of the survey and observations made by me at Galveston preparatory to the opening of the port, and in all probability some definite measures will be adopted by the government in regard to the establishment of a port-town, either at Galveston or some other convenient point on the coast, during the ensuing summer or fall. I shall at all times be happy to hear from you and of the increasing prosperity of the settlement in your quarter of the country ..
B.W. Edwards to Austin. COLONEL STEPHEN F. AUSTIN. NACOGDOCHES, July 21, 1826. SIR,-After an absence of several months from this province to the United States, where I was detained much longer than I had anticipated in consequence of continued and serious indisposition, I returned to this place about the 1st of April last, and much to my astonishment and mortification found everything in disorder and confusion in this section of the province. I had it at first in contemplation to return back to the United States and to abandon this country forever, believing it my individual interest to do so, but in consideration of the motives that induced me here, which was the happiness and prosperity of hundreds, more than myself, and the consequent effect that my abandonment of the country and my return to Mississippi would have produced upon my numerous friends not only there but elsewhere, I determined to remain, for a time at least, an idle spectator of passing events, that I might be better able to determine upon a course for myself, which was to be decisive of the fate of so many of my relatives and friends, whose confidence in me in this enterprise imposes a responsibility truly awful indeed!
I have now been here three months and upwards, hoping that order and confidence, would be restored to this distracted community, believing that the government would bestow their attention to it, which its present condition so promptly and so imperiously demands, but, alas every mail brings, as it is said (for we have no publication of governmental documents here), additional cause of confusion among the people, and consequent distrust of the rights and security of Americans on this side of the Sabine River; and the events of every day seem productive of new excitement against the civil authority here, in consequence of proceedings and decisions believed to be incompatible with a republican government and contrary to the fundamental principles of the Constitution of the country! From those considerations I came to the determination, a few days since, after mature reflection, to return to my-native country, where I have a sure guarantee of my rights and security of my person and property. I was preparing to carry this determination into effect, when I received a letter from Hayden Edwards, at Natchitoches, whose return I was daily expecting, informing me of his intended absence for two or three months to the United States of the North, and requesting me to take charge of his colony until his return, and to do the best I could for his interest and the benefit of the grant. This request, together with the wishes of my friends here, have influenced me for the present to remain longer, hoping that some change may take place in the present aspect of affairs.
Thus, you see, I have taken upon myself a charge of much responsibility, which is greatly augmented by the peculiar embarrassment of the affairs of this colony, and which is not a little increased by my ignorance of the Castilian language, and my want of information in relation to complaints and charges against my brother, which seems to be almost the sole cause of all the difficulties existing here. Having always felt a deep interest in the success of the Americans in the province of Texas, and being personally interested myself in its advancement, I should have opened a correspondence with you immediately upon my arrival here, but for the unfortunate misunderstanding that appeared to exist, much to my regret and astonishment, between you and my brother. Although I could not believe that any just cause of difference could have been intended on either side, yet delicacy under existing circumstances forbade that I should write to you in relation to the affairs of the colony, so long as there was a possibility of an unfriendly feeling on your part against him and his colony. Having received an assurance on the part of my brother that there was no disposition on his part to commence hostilities, and that he had, on the contrary, desired nothing more than a friendly understanding with you as well as all the empresarios, I was not a little gratified to learn from Colonel Leftwich, and more recently from our friend Colonel Pettus, your declarations of amity and friendship, which does away with any restraint I may have heretofore labored under in consulting with you upon the affairs of the country of our adoption.
In consequence of the confusion into which everything is thrown relative to the affairs of his grant, my brother thought it best, I suppose, to make a tour through some of the States with a view of obtaining settlers as soon as possible by means of interesting men of influence and capital in his grant. This he will do even at a great sacrifice of his interest, if necessary. I was opposed to this expedition to the States at this time, and exacted a promise from him before he set out to Natchitoches that he would defer it until he could bring things to some issue with the government, which I had hoped would have been done before this time. After my arrival at this place, finding things in their present train, I urged him to open a correspondence with the different departments of the government, and to ask an investigation into his conduct without delay. This he accordingly did more than two months since, but as yet no reply to any of his communications, except a letter from the political chief, not regarding his request and remonstrance against false accusations and the characters that have made them, whose infamy is established by certificates of the highest character transmitted to him. Order after order has been transmitted here containing censure of Hayden Edwards, without any inquiry into the truth or. falsehood of the accusations presumed to be made against him; and no list of charges furnished him even, to give him an opportunity of self-defence. In the first place, orders have been recently received here by the alcalde (as it is said) that Hayden Edwards was not entitled to charge anything for lands. A more recent order says that all contracts already made may stand, but that none hereafter made will be good, and that any person hereafter contracting to pay said Edwards for lands shall forfeit them and be ordered out of the country. A still later order says that said Edwards shall refund whatever he may have received for lands, making it the duty of the alcalde here to compel him should he refuse. Another order a few days ago says that this town shall have its original jurisdiction (which is said to extend to the Sabine on the east, and nearly to the Trinity on the west, etc.), and that the junta alone, and not the empresario, shall dispose of said lands within said district. The last order, said to be received by Tuesday's mail, directs the alcalde to inform H. Edwards that, unless he changes his conduct (without informing him what it is that is complained of), his grant will be taken from him, and that he will be held amenable to the tribunals of the country.
These last two orders, if directed by the government and if not forged or misrepresented here, speak an awful warning to Americans! "There must be something rotten in the state of Denmark." Whether here or elsewhere, prejudice against Hayden Edwards has preponderated over justice in some department. I am slow to believe that those orders have emanated from the government itself. It cannot be that the fundamental principles of a free Constitution, cemented by the blood of thousands, is thus early trampled underfoot and its most sacred principles violated in the persons of Americans, after being invited into this country with a guarantee of their rights and liberties. I have strong reason to believe that there have been some forgeries of papers here, and there exists too much evidence of the fact that letters have been broken open, directed to my brother, before he received them. This is my only hope of the fate of the colony, and consequently of the country. If the government can divest Hayden Edwards of half his grant, they can divest him of the whole in the same manner; and if they can, in violation of the Constitution, confiscate or declare a forfeiture of his property, they can in like manner divest every other empresario of his rights; and what security can any American feel, should this be the case, in the tenure he may hold under them, or even the government itself? This is a question of serious import, and one that seems to be coming home to the bosom of every reflecting American in this section of the country, friend or foe, who is apprised of said orders (said to have been received here). The fact is, my friend, I am becoming alarmed at the present indication of distrust and excitement that is manifesting itself every day among the Americans in this section of the province. I am too well acquainted with the character and feelings of the Americans not to feel uneasy at the present state of things, It is reported and believed that Bean has a grant to the neutral lands, and yet the alcalde is letting out said lands to his favorites, suffering them to take the improvements of others, while some rely upon obtaining their titles through Bean or his commissioner, and all doubtful of the security of their lands eventually.
What so much adds to this confusion is the abuse of justice and the continual outrage upon the rights and liberties of the Americans by the civil authority of this place, aided and supported by the celebrated James Gaines and his followers, who seem determined to put down every man who will not bow in adoration to him, and who has independence to be a freeman. This man, by much affected patriotism for this government, and by inducing the people to believe his influence very great with the governor, etc., obtained a standing with them that has made him truly formidable to his enemies. Having been active with others in organizing two regulating companies, the object of which was no doubt laudable at first, and has done some good, he now makes use of this auxiliary aid to oppress and bear down every man who is obnoxious to him, or who does not approve of his policy of throwing the whole country into commotion, which he has done for no other purpose than for his grovelling political views and self-aggrandizement. This very man, aided by a Spaniard here named Sepulveda, of infamous character as well as himself, as the records of Louisiana bear witness, after acting with the utmost duplicity towards my brother, has been the chief cause of all the evils that now exist here, so much to the detriment of the country and the almost entire loss of confidence by the moving population of the United States, who have been preparing to emigrate to this province.
It is he and this said Sepulveda who set themselves to work, upon the arrival of Hayden Edwards, to create the alarm and to arouse the prejudices of the Spaniards, and even the Americans, upon which they have predicated a thousand falsehoods and fabricated the most unfounded charges, made to the government, which seem to have been taken for granted without an examination into the truth or falsehood of the accusations. Having established himself now, as he supposes, in the affections and confidence of the political chief, he assumes the character of dictator, and arrogates to himself the privilege of sending every man into banishment who will not kneel to his majesty and acquiesce in his corrupt and tyrannical proceedings. We have just heard that he has decreed the expulsion of judge Williams and Mr. Elisha Roberts, two of the most wealthy, intelligent, industrious, and useful citizens in the whole province; but this, together with other transactions of late, have developed to the people his real character and designs, and, if I am not mistaken, he is now tottering upon his throne.
I have been thus particular in reciting the conduct of this man because, contemptible as he is in talents and character, he has done more to produce confusion here by falsehood, intrigue, the abuse of the empresarios and of the Baron de Bastrop, and by the necessary effect of loss of confidence in the government itself, than every other man in the province of Texas. The fact is, the alcalde, his brother-in-law, is guided by him in all his proceedings, being very ignorant himself and a stranger to any national feeling towards his native country, as I am told, is his boast. Twice since I have been here have the militia from the Aes Bayou been ordered to this place under false pretexts of its being the request of the government, and of making treaties with Indians, etc., when the only object, indeed, was in reality to increase and to create a new excitement, and, if possible, violence against my brother, to favor the designs of this petty demagogue, who makes it his boast that he will be the first member to Congress from this section of the state.
It seems now that the different chiefs of the tribes of Indians in this section of the province are to be assembled at this place in a few days (for what purpose God only knows!) at the request of the alcalde and mighty councillor! I was informed by General Wavell, while here, that Captain Hunter, the Indian agent, appointed by the government for that purpose, would be here about this time to form treaties with all those tribes for the security of the country. What, then, can be the policy of the alcalde's tampering with them prematurely, I cannot conceive! As to the administration of justice here, I can, through such a medium, give you but a faint idea. Suffice it to say that it is such, however, as is alone sufficient to the interest of the officers, and subservient to their private feelings against those who are obnoxious to them. Twenty and twenty-five dollars costs is not an unusual fee-bill, or rather a charge, in a single suit. In short, the darkest period of the reign of Ferdinand does not equal the despotism that prevails here now. Colonel Austin, these abuses and outrages upon the Americans will not be tolerated long!
The rumbling of the volcano has already become audible around us, and if any accident should cause its explosion in any part of its surface, not all our efforts could arrest its progress. It is upon you, then, that I mostly rely in preventing the storm that seems to be now coming on. It is your interest, it is mine, and that of every empresario in particular, to prevent, if possible, such a state of things. You already know my views relative to this country, and how much it has been my hope and wish that it would peaceably fill up with enterprising Americans, without any interruption to their enterprise or premature collision with the authorities of the country. But, sir, I confess I am alarmed at the present aspect of affairs in this quarter. I know the American character too well to feel indifferent to what is passing here. Once shaken in their confidence in this government, an outrage upon the rights or person of one influential American will produce a spark of ignited matter that will kindle into a conflagration, which, we cannot doubt, will immediately extend itself to the sympathies of the people of another government.
It has been from these considerations that I have been inclined to
abandon the country, because I could see no advantage that was to result from an event so
probable, so inevitable, without a change in affairs. I have been thus free in my
communications to you in consequence of our former confidential conversations in relation
to the affairs of this province, and in consideration of the mutual interest we must both
feel in everything relative to it and conducive to its advancement and prosperity. I have
already told you the motives that have influenced me to continue any longer in this
country, and I have opened this correspondence with you in the most friendly confidence,
hoping to receive from you every information and advice as to what steps had best be taken
on my part in the present attitude of affairs. I am pleased to learn that matters are
progressing better with you at present, but, rely on it, my friend, that their continuance
there-and, indeed, the fate of the whole country-depends upon the speedy adjustment of the
affairs of this colony. I am sensible of the importance of a personal interview with you,
but this at present is impossible. I hope to hear from you as soon as possible. I should
deem a private conveyance much safer than by mail. Accept my best wishes for your success,
and, believe me, With sentiments of respect, your friend, etc. B. W. EDWARDS
P. S. -The Americans have been under the impression that they were exempt, under the colonization laws, from taxation for ten years; yet they are told now that orders have come on requiring them to pay Sepulveda the most exorbitant prices for stamp-paper, which seems necessary to give validity to any instrument of writing between individuals, for money or what not. An acquaintance of mine, a few days since, was compelled to pay six dollars in making a transfer of a negro estimated at four hundred dollars. Pray write me your views upon this subject. B. W. E.
Austin to Edwards. Austin's reply to Edwards letter above is in part as follows:
This is a truly disagreeable and unfortunate subject, mortifying to you in the extreme, and I hope you will credit me, when I assure you that I sympathize with you fully on account of the unpleasantness of your situation. The affair will be highly injurious to the future prospects of emigration, and of general detriment to the whole country. The subject has caused me great unhappiness, but I had determined not to interfere with it in any way-it is a dangerous one to touch, and particularly to write about. You wish me to advise you. I scarcely know what course will be best. The uncertainty as to the precise nature of the charges against you renders it difficult, nay impossible, to make a regular defence. I think, however, I would write directly to the governor of the State, give him a full statement of facts and a very minute history of the acts of your principal enemies, and their opponents, and their manner of doing business in every particular, both in regard to your brother as well as all others. State the general situation of the country, the confusion and difficulties which exist, and the cause of them, etc., in order that the government may have the whole subject fully before them, and be enabled to judge of the motives that have influenced those who have been most clamorous against you. Write in English, and make an apology for doing so, as that it is impossible to procure translators, etc. I advise the utmost caution and prudence on your part and that of all of your friends as to your expressions, for every word you utter will probably be watched and reported if considered exceptionable.
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