The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001 Page: 232
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
ran to nineteen hefty volumes, with the concluding installment appear-
ing in 1986. McLean is a direct descendant of Sterling Clack Robertson
(1785-1842), who was a rival empresario and bitter personal enemy of
Austin. Through the volumes of the PCRCT, McLean mounted a sus-
tained attack on Austin's character, personality, and motives-an attack
that has stood largely unchallenged until now.2
The purpose of this essay is to examine some of the criticisms made of
Austin in the PCRCT and thus to provide some balance to Professor
McLean's negative characterization of this central figure in early Texas
history. It should be emphasized that the purpose of this article is not to
deny the many important contributions that Professor McLean has
made to the study of Revolutionary-era Texas. It is likely that no scholar
has benefited more from his lifelong editorial labor than the present
writer. Indeed, all students of Mexican Texas are indebted to Professor
McLean for his years of brilliant detective work, meticulous documenta-
tion, and expert translations. By the same token, it is not my intention to
echo the eulogistic portrayal of Austin bequeathed to us by Barker.
Austin had flaws aplenty and made his share of mistakes, some of which
will be discussed below.
Nor is it my purpose to take sides in the original dispute between
Austin and Robertson, although there are times when the PCRCT's
assessment of Austin requires a comparison with its treatment of Robert-
son. If Robertson's misdeeds are overlooked while Austin's are empha-
sized, then an exposure of Robertson's misdeeds becomes relevant to
the analysis. The intent here is to conduct as fair and impartial an analy-
sis as possible, acknowledging the shortcomings and mistakes of parti-
sans on both sides of the original controversy. This essay will examine
one relatively small part of the PCRCT-its portrayal of Austin-and
then offer a critique of that portrayal. Revisiting this long-running and
bitter controversy will also provide a valuable case study of the ways that
historical evidence can be interpreted (and misinterpreted) to serve par-
tisan purposes and then transmitted to future generations.
It is necessary first to summarize the historical events that gave rise to
the Austin-Robertson feud and controversy." In 1822 a Tennessean
named Robert Leftwich traveled to Mexico City seeking permission to
establish an American colony in Mexican Texas. Leftwich represented
'Malcolm D. McLean (comp and ed.), Papers Concerning Robertson's Colony zn Texas (19 vols.;
Arhngton: University of Texas at Arlington Press, 1974-1993). An early version of McLean's
research was published in 1948-49, in a sixteen-part senes m Texas Parade, for which McLean served
as history editor. These pieces apparently served as prototypes thirty years later for the volume intro-
ductions of the PCRCT, with many passages in the articles reproduced verbatim in the PCRCT.
" Except where otherwise noted, the following sketch of events is distilled from the various vol-
umes of the PCRCT.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/m1/284/: accessed April 26, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.