Anglo-American Colonization

Anglo-American colonization in Mexican Texas took place between 1821 and 1835. Initially Spain opened Texas to Anglo-Americans in 1820, less than one year before Mexico achieved its independence. Traditionally Spain forbade foreigners in its territory, but were unable to persuade its own citizens to move to remote and sparsely populated Texas.

The new settlers were expected to be Catholics, and willing to become Spanish citizens in return for generous land grants. Spain expected the new settlers to increase economic development and help deter the aggressive and mobile plains Indians. The Anglo-Americans were attracted to the inexpensive land offered in Texas. Another reason Anglo-American settlers came to Texas through the 1820s was that most believed that the United States would buy eastern Texas from Mexico.

Against this background, Moses Austin traveled from Missouri to Spanish San Antonio in 1820 to apply for an empresario grant to bring Anglo-American families to Texas. Austin's plan, subject to review by his superiors, was to bring 300 moral, hardworking, catholic families from the former Spanish territory of Louisiana. On his return to Missouri he became ill and died at home, leaving the plan with his eldest son Stephen Austin. The younger Austin visited San Antonio in mid-1821 as his father's heir and received permission to explore the lower Colorado for a site for the colony.

Brought in by empresarios like Moses Austin, these settlers agreed to live under the Spanish rule. The empresarios did not own land within their grants, and neither could they issue titles. However, for every family they brought into Texas, they earned a certain amount of money. The settlers paid fees to the land commissioner, the state, the surveyor, and the clerk.

Slavery was also an issue. Mexicans abhorred slavery as allowed in the United States, but shut their eyes to the system in their eagerness to have the Anglos produce cotton in Texas. National and state laws banned the African slave trade, but allowed Anglo-Americans to bring their family slaves with them to Texas and buy and sell them there until 1840.

Austin, the most successful Texas empresario, made four six-year contracts between 1823 and 1828 for a potential 1,200 families.

Source: Anglo-American Colonization
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

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