Devote the Greatest Care

“Devote the Greatest Care”

Letter, Governor Martinez to Stephen F. Austin, dated, Aug 14, 1821.

The author of this letter, Governor Antonio Maria Martinez, had been a decorated soldier in the service of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. He had come to New Spain (soon to be the Republic of Mexico) in search of a new life. Given his distinguished background and experience he was soon appointed governor of Spanish Texas. It would prove to be as daunting a challenge as the battlefield in Europe. Incursions from Comanches, wayward American adventurers, and general lawlessness would keep him busy and up at night.

During his five years in office (1817 – 1822), Martinez penned hundreds of letters to the government in Mexico City complaining of conditions and the lack of resources and soldiers to help in the enormous task of overseeing an area larger than his home country of Spain.  Worst of all, a brutal civil war for Mexican independence would leave the territory exhausted socially, politically, and economically.

Enter Moses Austin.

Austin had lost a fortune during the economic Panic of 1819. The volatility of a fragile American economy had forced Austin to lose his mining interests in Missouri. In debt up to his side whiskers but always the optimist, Austin began looking for an opportunity to make money to pay his creditors. For some time, he had entertained thoughts of recruiting American families to settle Texas by offering them generous land grants through the Spanish government.  He would act as empresario (business agent) between the Spanish government and the settlers. The goal being that the Spanish would benefit from this arrangement by increasing its population of loyal Spanish subjects. These new Spanish citizens would establish farms and businesses, and stable communities. At least that was the plan.

Moses Austin rode to San Antonio, and with the help of Baron de Bastrop, gained an audience with Governor Martinez.  Martinez approved the plan and soon Austin was on his way back to Missouri. Misfortune would visit him again as he was robbed and left horseless. On foot, exposed to the elements, Austin contracted pneumonia but somehow managed to make it home to Missouri. His conditioned worsened over several weeks. Two days before he died Moses pleaded with his wife to ask their young son, Stephen, to fulfill his dream. A few months later in August, 1821, Governor Martinez sent the accompanying letter to Stephen.  Texas would never be the same.

Moses Austin

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