A Walk Through Time
Progress of Settlements

Austin had, throughout various newspapers in the United States, made known the advantages of Texas, and invited immigration. A lively interest was awakened in the new enterprise, and hundreds entered the country both by land and water. Such was the rambling disposition of the colonists, that scattered settlements were soon formed from the reserved coast leagues to the old San Antonio road, and from the San Jacinto to the Navidad rivers. East Texas was also gradually filling up; new settlements were formed on the Guadalupe river, and the old town of Goliad received accessions to its population.

The early inhabitants endured many privations. Meat could be procured by hunting, but families were sometimes for weeks without bread, and sugar and coffee were luxuries seldom attainable. The men dressed mostly in buckskin, the women in such fabrics as could be obtained. After the first year corn was raised; garden vegetables grew luxuriantly, and domestic animals multiplied with great rapidity upon the rich and boundless prairies.

Permission was given to Austin's first colonists to introduce slavery, but the colonization law of 1823 prohibited the purchase or sale of slaves, and declared the children of all slave parents free at fourteen years of age. President Guerrero, having been invested with extraordinary power to suppress an existing rebellion, issued a decree, July, 1829, abolishing slavery throughtout Mexican territory. The next year Bustemente issued another, prohibiting the introduction of slaves. The law had previously enjoined that children of slaves should have the same advantages of education as other children.

Notwithstanding these prohibitions, colonists continued to bring negro servants, generally passing them through the Custom House at New Orleans, so that if they desired to do so, they could return with them to the United States. Masters, also, entered into contracts with their slaves as peons, and the Mexican Government recognized the binding force of these obligations. A few Africans had been smuggled into Texas, and there was some apprehension that this nefarious traffic might become extensive. At the suggestion of Judge Burnet, after considerable discussion, the convention at San Felipe, in 1833, severely denounced this trade. It was estimated that there were about five thousand slaves in Texas at the breaking out of the revolution in 1835. The theory of government held in the Spanish-American provinces differed materially from that held by the Anglo-Americans. With the latter, the people were the source of all political power. The formed constitutions, Spaniards, the king was the source of all authority. He proclaimed laws, appointed officers, and held both officers and people accountable to himself. It could hardly could long maintain harmonious relations under the same political institutions.

In Austin's colony, up to 1828, Austin himself exercised the functions of empresario, and of civil and military governor. He held the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Mexican army, and was authorized to call out and command the militia, when necessary to preserve the peace or repel invasion. He also held the office of Supreme Judge. In civil suits, where the amount in controversy was over twenty-five dollars, parties dissatisfied with the decision of an alcade had the privilege of appeal to the empresario. While Austin's government was eminently conservative and paternal, he occasionally administered a severe punishment, and in some instances banished turbulent persons from his colony.

One of the first acts of the National Congress, assembled under the Constitution of 1824, was the erection of former provinces into states similar to those of the American Union. Texas was connected temporarily with the neighboring state of Coahuila. The legislative body of this united state was called a congress, and was composed of twelve members, of whom Texas was entitled to two. In the Bexar remonstrance (December 1832) complaint was made that Texas had but two representatives in the Legislature, while her population would entitle her to four. It is questionable if Texas ever had more than one delegate present at one time; and under the arbitary decree of Bustemente, in 1830, the Texas delegation was expelled. A representative, if not a native of Mexico, must have resided eight years in the country, and was required to be worth eight thousand dollars, or to have an income of one thousand dollars annually. Popular elections were held on Sunday, the people not voting directly for the congressmen, but for electors, who subsequently met and elected them.

Under Mexican rule there were a number of officers who exercised both civil and military functions. The one highest in authority was the Commander of the Eastern Internal Provinces, with headquarters at Monterey. By a drcree of the legislature at Saltillo, February 1, 1825, the office of Political Chief was created. That officer, though nominally subordinate to the Governor, was, in reality, clothed with despotic power. He could suspend civil judges, arrest and imprison citizens, and call out and control the militia. He received a salary of eight hundred dollars a year.

An alcalde under Spanish law exercides civil jurisdiction equivalent to that of a justice of the peace under English law. In 182 the districts of the Brazos and the Colorado were created. As population increased others were formed, until, in 1827, there were seven alcalde's districts, or municipalities, in Austin's colony.

In 1828 provision was made for the alcaldes of each municipality to meet three times in a year, and hold an appellate court, called an ayuntamiento. In 1834 three judicial districts were formed in Texas, and a supreme judge appointed.

Colonists entering Texas were permitted to introduce all family supplies, agricultural implements, etc, free of duty, and for six years were entirely exempt from taxation. Up to 1830-1831, there were no tax-collectors or custom houses in the colony. As a consequence, the State treasury at Saltillo was often empty. Many offices remained vacant because the state was unable to pay salaries. In 1828, Austin advised the ayuntamiento of San Felipe to collect a tax to build a jail, but the advice was unheeded, and the officers had no means of keeping prisoners. In Coahuila, many expedients were adopted for replenishing the exhausted treasure, one of which was the taxing of cock pits.



This page copyrighted 1995 by LoneStar Genealogy