The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986 Page: 268
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
recommendation for avoiding this result was legislation granting a
moratorium on debts, and he supported this suggestion by the assertion
that the Law of the Indies gave such moratoria. While a legal apprentice
in New Orleans, Austin may have heard of moratoria for creditors
granted by the Spanish governors, though the Law of the Indies did not
authorize them.'39 The legislation which he advised was enacted and
not only afforded two years of grace to Texas debtors but also became
the cornerstone of Texas debtor-creditor law for generations to come. 140
In his work as a Missouri legislator over a period of four years,"'
Austin had developed a number of lawyerlike skills which he was able
to turn to good account in the development of Texas. As a clerk in
Hawkins's office, he also learned elements of legal process which better
equipped him for his responsibilities as judge and legal administrator
of his colony than he otherwise might have been. Though Austin never
became a finished lawyer, his lack of skill in this regard did not detract
in any significant way from his productive handling of the affairs of his
colony. He used his legal knowledge and training effectively and per-
haps profited by not being caught up in professional legalism or consti-
tutional dogmas that would have distracted his attention from the
broader interest of Texas and his colonists.
Law was, for Austin, a practical instrument of government and his
use of it was generally to good effect. In spite of dissention, tumult, and
revolt that displaced much of the prior system of law in 1836, Austin in
the years before had laid the ways for an orderly transition. To his work
may be ascribed the foundation of the Texas sense of nationhood and
the quality of many of her laws and legal institutions.
139McKnight, "Protection of the Family Home," 379.
140Ibid., 387-388, 397.
'4'Austin served as a legislator from 1815 to 1818. There was no session of the territorial
legislature in 1819.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986, periodical, 1985/1986; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/m1/324/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.