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founder of the first Anglo-American colony in Texas
Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Virginia on November 3, 1793; he and his family moved to southeastern Missouri when he was five. Returning to Missouri after attending Yale College and graduating with distinction from Transylvania University in Kentucky, he tried his hand at a number of professions before being elected to the Missouri Territorial Legislature in 1813; he was subsequently re-elected every year until 1819, when he moved to Arkansas and served as a Circuit Judge.
In 1821, his father, Moses Austin, secured a grant to establish a colony in the Mexican province of Tejas. Moses Austin died before he could capitalize, however, and the grant was passed to Stephen. In January 1822, Stephen Austin established the first Anglo-American colony in Tejas on the lower Colorado and Brazos rivers. The colony's first test came soon after, when the newly-independent nation of Mexico refused to recognize Austin's land grant because it had been made by Spain. Wishing to keep both his grant and the peace, Austin went to Mexico City and successfully negotiated a new law confirming his grant and giving him broad administrative authority over Tejas. Under his leadership, the Anglo-American colonization of Tejas increased dramatically over the next few years, and by 1830 some 200,000 people had immigrated into Tejas from the United States.
In 1830, concerned that the increasingly large numbers of Americans in Tejas could present a threat to Mexican rule, Mexico passed a law prohibiting further immigration into the province. In response, many Tejas residents began pushing for a separate state government for Tejas, which at that time was under the jurisdiction of the neighboring state of Coahuila. Austin did all he could to keep peace between his colonists and Mexico, but was unable to get satisfaction for Tejans. In 1833, the San Felipe Convention drafted a constitution for the new Mexican State of Texas, which Austin then reluctantly took to Mexico City and presented to Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna. Although Santa Anna ultimately agreed to repeal the 1830 immigration law, he refused the request for Texas statehood and had Austin imprisoned for inciting an insurrection.
Released from prison in July 1835, Austin continued pushing for peace with Mexico. After the Texas Revolution broke out in October, he went to Washington, D.C., where he unsuccessfully lobbied for military support for the revolution and for the U.S. annexation of Texas. Returning to Texas in June 1836, Austin was subsequently defeated in his bid to become the first elected President of Texas by Sam Houston, but served as Houston's Secretary of State until his death, on December 27, 1836.
This page was last updated on January 11, 2017.