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Anglo-American Colonization

The Imperial Colonization Law specified that colonists must be Catholic, so Austin's first 300 families were affected. The 1824 National Colonization Law and the 1825 Coahuila and Texas State Colonization Law said only that foreigners must be Christian and abide by the laws of the nation, thereby implying they would be members of the established church. Protestant preachers occasionally visited Texas, but they seldom held public services.

Another issue that Austin had to deal with was slavery. Mexicans were strongly against slavery, but realistic politicians ignored the system because they wanted the Anglos to 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 to buy and sell them there until 1840. Grandchildren of those slaves would be freed when they reached a certain age. The most serious threat to Anglo slaveholders was when Mexican President Vicente Ramon Guerrero freed all slaves on September 15, 1829, in celebration of independence. Austin’s contacts got an exemption from the law for Texas.

Austin, as the pioneer empresario in Texas, was burdened with more duties than later contractors. Austin oversaw making administrative and judicial decisions in his settlement. Austin sat as superior judge until 1828, when sufficient population permitted the installation of councils, with elected representatives from the settlements, which acted like a county government. These councils settled lawsuits, regulated the health and welfare of the residents by supervising doctors, lawyers, taverns, and ferries, surveyed roads, and sold town lots. The remoteness of the court disturbed Anglo-Texans, who wanted accessible courts.

Austin also commanded the local militia to defend the colony against Indians and to keep the peace. His contract area had only a few small Indian villages belonging to groups who wanted only to trade. Less friendly Indians were the seasonally migrant coastal tribes of Karankawas or the inland Tonkawas, who hunted for game and targeted the settlers' livestock. Pioneers along the Colorado River suffered most. North and west of the Austin colony Indians continued to resist the flow of immigrants well beyond the colonial period.


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

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