History of Texas, together with a biographical history of Milam, Williamson, Bastrop, Travis, Lee and Burleson counties : containing a concise history of the state, with portraits and biographies of prominent citizens of the above named counties, and personal histories of many of the early settlers and leading families Page: 36
privations without murmur, and a deep-rooted
love of liberty. Both the social and political
morals of this rural population were of a
higher standard than those of the inhabitants
of the manufacturing and mining districts of
We need not follow here the political
fortunes of Coahuila, which were iiun ni,- tant
compared with those of Texas.
THE LABOR SYS'TEM.
While the jealous fears of the State government
that its liberal policy had overshot
the mark became more and more confirmed,
certain legislative acts, which it was expected
would be corrective of past mistakes and preventive
of foreshadowed trouble, irritated the
settlers. The slave laws of 1827 and the
prohibitory one of 1829 respecting foreign
merchants; caused great offense. By decree
of September 15, 1827, the constituent congress
manifested its intention to acquire the
gradual emancipation of slaves already introduced.
Town councils were ordered to
keep a list of all slaves in their respective
municipalities, designating name, age, sex,
etc. Slaves whose owners had no apparent
heirs were to become free immediately on the
decease of their masters; and on each change
of ownership, even in the case of heirs immediately
succeeding, one-tenth of the number
of slaves inherited was to be manumitted,
the individuals being determined by lot. By
another decree it was provided that any slave
who wished to change his master could do
so, provided the new owner indemnified the
former one for the cost of the slave according
to the bill of sale.
Although the colonists kept themselves
aloof and were indifferent to Mexicanlegislation
so long as their own immediate interePts
were not attwked, their anger rose when
a direct blow was struck at their prosperity.
Without slave-labor the colonization of Texas
would have been retarded many years, as
nearly all the colonies were established by
men of means from the old South, and knew
no other way of managing business than by
slave labor. The immigrants would have
been limited exclusively to tihe class of laboring
farmers who, by their own hands, would
have reclaimed some small portions only of
uncultivated wastes. No capitalist of that
day, going to Texas, would have engaged in
a venture which would reduce him arid his
family to the condition of laborers. But the
labor system of Mexico, long established, was
not affected by this legislation in regard to
African slaves. It was indeed far less expensive
than that of African slavery. The
peon, or Mexican laborer, .was in perpetual
servitude, practically, although he did not
bear the name of slave. lIe bound himself
to his master by a written contract on entering
his service, and immediately became his
debtor for money advanced, sometimes to the
amount of a year's wages. The law did not
permit an advance of more money than that.
Rarely did the account witlI his employer
show a balance in his favor. If lie gave
offense, committed a fault or failed in the
fullillment of his duties, confinement, shackles
or the lash could be meted out to him; and
should he desert his master's service he could
be reclaimed through the alcalde, who had
authority to compel him to return and punish
him; in short, he was never out of debt, and
therefore ever a bondman, with but little
more liberty than a slave. His wages varied
from one to three reales per day, providing
for himself; and as his working days were
reduced by the numerous church holidays
observed in Mexico to about 200, the average
cost of a peon was about 50 a year;
-H-1-TOR OP EXAS
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Lewis Publishing Company, publisher. History of Texas, together with a biographical history of Milam, Williamson, Bastrop, Travis, Lee and Burleson counties : containing a concise history of the state, with portraits and biographies of prominent citizens of the above named counties, and personal histories of many of the early settlers and leading families, book, 1893; Chicago. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth29785/m1/38/ocr/: accessed December 9, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .