The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 22, July 1918 - April, 1919 Page: 15
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Stephen 1'. Austin
without some guarantees, amongst them I should insist on the per-
petual exclusion of slavery from this country.""2 No doubt the
tariff figured in his consideration, and it is evident, too, that he
believed that a strong population in Texas would ultimately wield
such an influence with the government as to be freer under Mexico
than under the United States.33
Austin's views on slavery, despite the quotation just read, and
a number of other expressions equally unequivocal, require explana-
tion. He successfully opposed constitutional emancipation in
1827, urged in vain at the same time that immigrants be permitted
to continue bringing slaves from the United States, obtained the
withdrawal of Guerrero's emancipation decree in 1829, and declared
in 1835 that Texas must be a slave state. The contradiction is
more apparent than real, but when all is said some inconsistency
remains. The truth seems to be that he did deplore slavery, but
that he recognized its economic necessity in the development of
Texas. Most of his colonists were naturally to be expected from
the neighboring slave states, but slave owners would not come if
forbidden to bring their slaves, and others who did come would
be greatly hampered by the lack of free labor. About the time
of this letter he seems to have felt that a satisfactory compro-
mise might be reached by the labor law of 1828, which, in effect,
established the peonage system of Mexico. He wrote in 1831,
Negroes can be brought here under indentures, as servants, but
not as slaves. This question of slavery is a difficult one to get on
with. It will ultimately be admitted, or the free negroes will be
formed by law into a separate and distinct class-the laboring class.
Color forms a line of demarkation between them and the whites.
The law must assign their station, fix their rights and their dis-
abilities and obligations-something between slavery and freedom,
but neither the one nor the other. Either this or slavery in full
must take place. Which is best? Quien sabe? It is a difficult
and dark question."4
In 1832 the labor law was modified, limiting contracts thereafter
to ten years, hence, perhaps, his declaration for slavery in 1835.
"Austin to Henry Austin, June 1, 1830, Austin Papers.
"See, for example, Austin to Wharton, April 24, 1829, Austin Papers.
'Austin to Mrs. Holley (copy), July 19, 1831, Austin Papers.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 22, July 1918 - April, 1919, periodical, 1919; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117156/m1/23/: accessed May 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.