Stephen F. Austin & Samuel May Williams Accused of a Power Grab for Texas Lands

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544. [TEXAS COLONIZATION: ROBERTSON COLONY]. COAHUILA Y TEJAS (Mexican State). LAWS. [Decree of May 18, 1835, concerning Robertson’s colony, with caption heading] Gobierno Supremo del Estado libre de Coahuila y Texas. [Text begins] El Gobernador constitucional del Estado de Coahuila y Tejas á todos sus habitantes, sabed:.... Art. 1o. La resolucion de que habló el decreto de 6 de april de 1834 en el asunto que promovió el extrangero D. Sterling Robertson.... [Dated in type] Dado en la capital de Monclova [18] de mayo de 1835. [Monclova, 1835]. Broadside (31 x 21.5 cm), printed on laid paper, no watermark. Creased where formerly folded with minor losses of a few letters at folds, margins chipped and torn with loss, lightly stained. Professionally washed, deacidified and backed with thin paper. Overall, a very good restored copy, with later pencil docket on verso, “Prof. J. E. Bishop, Nixon, Texas.”

     First edition and the only known copy of this important law. Kimball 318. No copies located on OCLC.

     In this rebuff to Sterling C. Robertson, the state of Coahuila y Tejas returns control of his colony to Stephen F. Austin and Samuel May Williams, while guaranteeing the rights of the colonists Robertson has already introduced. A rare example of a calculating Austin, this law is the final one in a series of events that surrounded the so-called Austin and Williams Upper Colony.

     First granted to the Nashville Company, the area was eventually passed to Robertson’s control as a sub-commissioner with power to settle colonists on the tract. The April 6, 1830, Mexican colonization law, however, prohibited settlers in the Upper Colony, and they were instead located in Austin’s colony. Robertson asked Austin for help in resolving the problem, which Austin did by having Robertson’s contract transferred to him and Samuel May Williams. They never settled a single person on the tract, and on May 22, 1834, the government cancelled their contract insofar as it affected the Nashville grant and gave a new contract to Robertson. Not to be outdone so easily, Austin and Williams persuaded the government to pass the present decree returning control of the land to them. Because of a technical deficiency, however, this decree was nullified. Again in control of the colony, Robertson tried with some success to introduce settlers, but the outbreak of the Texas Revolution complicated matters because all the land offices were forced to close. After the Revolution, Robertson’s colony was broken up to form dozens of counties.

     This controversy caused Austin considerable difficulty and embarrassment. As Barker, in The Life of Stephen F. Austin (p. 319), remarks:

Unfortunately, while at Monclova, Williams engaged in gigantic land speculations which aroused keen resentment in Texas. Austin, still a prisoner on bail in Mexico, had with them no connection whatever; but his relations with Williams and his interest in the annulment of Robertson's contract brought suspicion upon him and probably cost him the presidency of Texas in the election of 1836. Moreover, the odium of his transaction, reacting upon undiscriminating public opinion, tended to conform Robertson's violent charges against Austin—since Williams had acted with grave impropriety, Austin also must be guilty.

     Austin denied these charges, of course, and later testified before the Republic of Texas Senate that he had acted in this case for the best interest of Texas and to prevent Robertson's Colony from falling into foreign control (Barker, p. 321). For more on this episode, see Gregg Cantrell's Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1999) pp. 285 et seq.


Sold. Hammer: $550.00; Price Realized: $673.75.

Auction 23 Abstracts


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