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Continued Imprisonment and Representations of Stephen Austin
Violent Dissolution of the Federal Congress by Santa AnnaEffect of Military Usurpation on the Mexican States-Dissensions in Coahuila and Texas-Dissolution of the State Government-Measures of the Citizens-Differences among the Colonists,-Unionists, and Separatists—Restoration of the State Government-Statistical Report of Texas, by the Federal Commissioner Almonte.
Austin was detained in the old prison of the Inquisition in the city of Mexico, from the 13th of February, to the 12th of June 1834: after the first three months, the rigour of his confinement had been abated. His case was referred to the military tribunal, which declared itself incompetent to deal with it. He was then removed to the prison of the Acordada, and his case submitted to a civil functionary, in whose hands it remained until the 12th of August, when this authority also disclaimed the power of jurisdiction. The Federal District judge having dismissed it summarily on the same ground, it was brought under the cognisance of the Supreme Court of the Mexican United States, to ascertain from that tribunal what court was competent to proceed to trial. Writing from his prison on the 25th of August, 1834, Mr. Austin said"I do not know as yet what court is to investigate my case.
I have long since requested to be delivered to the authorities of the State of Coahuila and Texas; and I presume I shall be finally sent to the district court (Federal Judge) of that state. The President, Santa Anna, is friendly to Texas and to me, (of this I have no doubt,) would have set me at liberty long since, and in fact, issued an order to that effect in June, had not some statements arrived about that time from the State Government of Coahuila and Texas against me, which I understand have contributed to keep me in prison so long. It is said the report of the State Government on the subject is founded solely on the statements of some influential
persons who live in Texas. Who those persons are I know not. It is affirmed that they are North Americans by birth, and I am told that if I am not imprisoned for life, and totally ruined in property and reputation, it will not be for the want of exertion and industry on the part of some of my countrymen who live in Texas. Whether all this be true or not, I know I am unwilling to believe it. I am also told that no efforts were left untried, during the last winter and spring, to prejudice the members of the legislature and State Government against me at Monclova.”*
The remainder of this long letter, which bespeaks a man anxious for liberation and apprehensive of foul play, is charged with complaints against “violent political fanatics” who were clamorous for the erection of Texas into a Federal State, and for “high-handed measures” with the General Government, and who abused the writer because he was “too mild, too passive, too lukewarm” on the subject, yet endeavoured to compass his destruction while he was in prison. “Stephen F. Austin's motto,” he observes, “ has been fidelity to Mexico and opposition to violent men and measures. That motto will continue to be the basis of his political faith, and the rule of his actions. He also owes duties to the simple-hearted citizens of his colony and to Texas, which he has never shrunk from executing, as far as he could. If proofs are needed to establish this fact, let them be sought in the last thirteen years, and they will be found. His present incarceration and persecution will also bear him witness. At one time, I am vilified for being too Mexican, too much the friend of Mexicans, too confiding in them, opposed to the separation of Texas from Coahuila, and in favour of keeping it for ever bound to the State of Coahuila and Texas. At another time, I am abused for yielding to the popular opinion, and for representing that opinion in good faith ; and truly, firmly, fearlessly representing it, as it was my duty to do as an agent. I repeat it again and again, I cannot comprehend these matters. In my letter to the Ayuntamiento of Austin, from Monterey, dated 17th January last, and in all my
* A decree of the State of Coahuila and Texas had removed the Sessions of the Legislature from Saltillo (Leona Vicario) to Monclova.
letters written since my return to this city, I have earnestly requested the most prompt obedience and submission to the authorities of the State and the General Government, yea, that a public act of gratitude should be expressed by the people for those remedies that have been applied by the State and the General Government to the many evils that were threatening Texas with ruin."*
* I have been unable to ascertain any act of the General Government that could appear to Mr. Austin to merit Texan
Before the date of the preceding communication ; another violent change had been effected in the Mexican Government. The Vice-President, Farias, in his attempts to circumscribe the mischievous powers of the priesthood and the military, evinced more zeal than discretion. No one was executed by his command, but many were banished and imprisoned. The priests wrought upon the fears of a superstitious population and produced a reaction dangerous to the existence of the Federal system. Santa Anna, at the head of the military chiefs who had under their control from fifteen to twenty thousand mercenary soldiers, deemed the occasion favourable for a revolutionary movement. Deserting the Federal Republican party and system, of which he had heretofore been the champion and the advocate, he espoused the cause, and assumed the direction of his former antagonists of the Centralist faction. With his co-operation that faction triumphed. The Constitutional General Congress of 1834 was dissolved on the 13th of May, by a military order of the President. The Council of Government, composed of half the Senate, which, agreeably to the Constitution, ought to have been installed the day of closing the session of Congress, was also dissolved, and a new revolutionary and un
gratitude, except the repeal of the eleventh article of the decree of 6th April, 1830. In the Spring of 1834 the Legislature of Coahuila and Texas passed laws for the protection of the person and property of every settler, whatever might be his religion, for the establishment of separate Supreme and Circuit Courts, with trial by jury, and the permissive use of the English language in Texas. But in these enactments the State exceeded its constitutional powers, and afforded the Centralists a pretext for subverting the Federal Constitution.
constitutional Congress was convened by another military order. Until it should assemble, Santa Anna retained in his own hands the substantial authority of Government, which he covertly used to destroy the Constitution he had sworn to defend.
According to the strength and violence of parties, the several States of the Federation were more or less agitated by these arbitrary proceedings at the seat of Supreme Government. The collision between the President and the General Congress divided the legislature of Coahuila and Texas into two parties. One of these, at Monclova, issued a proclamation (pronunciamento) denouncing Santa Anna and his unconstitutional acts, and sustaining Vidaurri as governor of the State; the other, at Saltillo, declared for Santa Anna, issued a pronunciamento against the Congress, annulled the decrees of the State Legislature from its election in 1833, invoked the protection of the troops, and elected a military governor, the majority of votes in the election being given by officers of the army. Occupied in mutual denunciations, the two factions, both of which were destitute of popular strength, arrested the progress of public business, until the time constitutionally designated for the election of the Governor and other State officers had expired, leaving the people of Coahuila and Texas to the perils of a disgraceful anarchy. The ascendancy of Santa Anna in the capital and the interference of his armed instruments in the State, had virtually dissolved the social compact, and placed every man under the necessity of devising means for preserving his own and the general rights.
To provide a remedy for this miserable condi