The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 64, July 1960 - April, 1961 Page: 72
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Of the five hundred citizens of Potosi then, Stephen F. Austin,
though not yet twenty-five, was surely among the best known. Mem-
ber of the territorial legislature, adjutant of militia, director of the
Bank of St. Louis, in charge of the Austin lead mines since the year
before, he was an obvious choice to make the address that here as
elsewhere formed the core of Independence Day celebrations, and
his prepossessing appearance, high curving forehead, firm yet sen-
suous mouth, and a way with words he had developed already at
Transylvania University> would hold his listeners' interest from the
start. In the words of a contemporary newspaper account,4 "About
12 o'clock a large concourse of ladies and gentlemen convened at
the Potosi Hotel, where the Declaration of Independence was read
by Cyrus Edwards, Esq.," prefaced by a few appropriate remarks,
after which an oration was delivered by Stephen F. Austin, Esq."e
In less than a year' he would be gone from Potosi, actually never
to see it or the mines or ancestral Durham Hall, or his mother, again.
But his words were not overlaid with any sadness; they reflected only
the optimism, the confidence, the enthusiasm of a founding father,
the "unquenchable faith in the frontier" characteristic of the Austins.s
The speech which Austin delivered, and which is reproduced
herewith, has apparently gone unnoticed hitherto. It should here-
after command the attention of frontier historians. Herein is an early
appreciation of the significance of the frontier in American history.
Herein is revealed the frontier characteristics which could lead Moses
Austin and his son, Stephen F., to Texas. As Walter E. Grover re-
marked in a recent issue of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly:
saw (London, 1821), 3. A delightful print of what Potosi looked like in 1819 is to
be found in Louis Houck, History of Missouri (3 vols.; Chicago, 19o8), III, 182.
2[Goodspeed Publishing Company], History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington,
Crawford and Gasconade Counties, Missouri (Chicago, 1888), 516.
5See Eugene C. Barker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin (Austin, 1949), 19, 22.
4Missouri Gazette and Public Advertiser, July 31, 1818.
5The editor has not been able to identify Edwards.
6In an undated diary of Stephen F. Austin (probably for 1812-1813; see Eugene
C. Barker (ed.), The Austin Papers (Vols. I and II, Annual Report of the Amer-
ican Historical Association for the Years 1919 and a 22, Washington, 1924, 1928;
Vol. III, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1926), I, 20o8, there exists "a somewhat
bombastic oration, perhaps suggested by the Fourth of July." Whether this was
merely a practice exercise, or the rough draft of a talk actually given, remains
7See his letter of July 3, 1818, from Herculaneum, Missouri, to James Bryan at
Natchitoches, Louisiana: "I am now here endeavoring to arrange my Fathers
business and my own so as to leave this country. ... I can not tell when I shall
leave here-My Fathers business is all in confusion."-Barker (ed.), Austin Papers,
I, 3go. Austin left Potosi in April, 1819, for Arkansas; see George P. Garrison (ed.),
"A Memorandum of M. Austin's Journey...." American Historical Review, V, 521.
sBarker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin, 22.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 64, July 1960 - April, 1961, periodical, 1961; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101190/m1/90/: accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.