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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983

Book Reviews

Papers Concerning Robertson's Colony in Texas, Volume VIII. Ed-
ited by Malcolm D. McLean. (Arlington: University of Texas at
Arlington Press, 1981. Pp. 6o8. Introduction, illustrations, bibli-
ography, index, colophon. $25.)
With the publication of Volume VIII, Malcolm D. McLean's collec-
tion of documents related to the Robertson Colony of East Central
Texas has reached the point of interest long awaited by many of his
readers. In earlier volumes McLean, a descendant of empresario Ster-
ling Clack Robertson, gathered and organized papers relevant to the
family background in Tennessee, materials pertinent to the organiza-
tion of the Tennessee company which first sought a land grant in East
Central Texas, and the documents that trace the evolution of that
grant as it passed through several stages to become the property of
Robertson. While recording the story of the colony is McLean's pri-
mary purpose, the documents also tell much about the operation of
civil and military government in Mexican Texas, Indian depredations,
and the distribution of land among the settlers. But it is the conflict be-
tween Robertson and the Stephen F. Austin-Samuel May Williams
partnership over control of the colony that ultimately dominates the
story. Preliminary documents pertinent to the controversy appear in
Volume V, and there are more in VI and VII. Most material in Vol-
ume VIII concerns the controversy in some way or another.
The Robertson Colony dispute was at the time and has remained in
historical debate a nasty and complex business. At the heart of the issue
was Robertson's charge that Austin and Williams conspired illegally
and deceitfully to take over the lands of his empresario grant; Austin
and Williams countered with the assertion that Robertson had for-
feited his claim by failing to bring in a sufficient number of settlers
and that if they hadn't secured the grant, French colonizers would have
taken it. Technical legal questions were involved, but the controversy
went far beyond these to encompass charges of bribery, lying, deceit,
physical violence, perjury, false imprisonment, and even attempted
murder. Volume VIII by no means carries the conflict through to its
conclusion, but it does cover it through to the point where Robertson
regains control of his colony.
The documents and copious notes of Volume VIII are ample testi-
mony to McLean's more than forty years of diligent research and study.
Many of the documents are from government archival sources, the
Austin papers, and the Samuel May Williams papers and are familiar
to students of the controversy. Most of the less familiar ones are from


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 1, 2016.

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