There were many factors and important people that helped construct the Texas Revolution. Although the land was Mexican territory, many Anglo-Americans moved to Texas in hopes of getting a good amount of land. There was one man that had a huge role in Texas, his name was Stephen Fuller Austin. Stephen Austin helped convince many Americans to pack their belongings and head down to Texas. Eventually, the Tejanos were starting to become outnumbered by American colonizers. Relations between the settlers in Texas and Mexico’s government were becoming problematic and Texas plunged into a rebellion. During this time, Stephen F. Austin had a primary role in leading the Texas Revolution. He gathered support for Texas by reaching out to the public with educational speeches. On March 7th, 1836, Austin delivered a speech, ‘Address of the Honorable S. F. Austin’, to the people of Louisville, Kentucky. With tensions growing between the Texas revolutionaries and the Mexican government, Austin’s speech attempted to inform Americans while gaining their support in standing with Texas during the revolution, expressing beneficial outcomes following American ideologies.
Austin’s speech was written and delivered on March 7th, 1836, near the end of the Texas Revolution, which lasted between October 2, 1835 - April 21, 1836. His speech expressed gratitude and informative persuasion towards his primary audience, Anglo-Americans in Louisville, Kentucky. Austin went into detail describing how the annexation of Texas would prove to be a beneficial course of action for the American people. Furthermore, he provided the argument that Texas was one of the “finest countries in the world” because of its “cotton or sugar region[s]”, its “navigable rivers...bounded by the Gulf of Mexico”, its inclusion of “several fine bays and harbors” which proved “suitable for all the purposes of commerce-a population”. Using Texas’ natural environment as an appealing factor to win over Anglo-Americans. His speech carefully integrated informative evidence supporting his arguments by providing readings of decrees and the Texas Declaration of Independence, to inform Americans about the recent issues between Texas and the Mexican government. Austin’s speech was delivered in 1836 and provides many examples of what life was like back then and how much Texas had a role in the United States before it was acquired as an American state. For instance, there was tension between Texas and Mexico’s government, but his speech also provides evidence of underlying racial issues embedded within the speech.
Stephen Austin had a noble role in Texan society. In fact, when Texas began having issues with Mexico’s government, he was appointed by the convention as the commissioner or agent of Texas to meet with the Mexican government to present important documents regarding Texas’ issues. Austin always prioritized American ideologies, given his history with his family and slavery, and for those reasons looked out for Americans. Austin supported slavery, as he was a slave owner himself. When his father Moses Austin died, Stephen Austin took over his father’s contract and brought many Americans to Texas as impresario. Due to his father’s involvement in Texas, Austin already had a strong connection to Texas and helped integrate many Americans into Texas. He spent his final years as Texas Secretary of State, after losing the presidential election to Sam Houston. Overall, Austin had very important ties to Texas for many years. So, during the Texas Revolution, Austin searched for American support, and with his speech alluded to American pride. One central issue in the 1800s was the idea of Anglo superiority and the mistreatment of non-white people. For instance, despite Tejanos fighting alongside American colonizers in the Texas Revolution, they still faced discrimination years after. Austin’s speech has certain language alluding to Anglo superiority and racial prejudice. For instance, in his speech, Austin refers to Native Americans with language such as “uncivilized and wandering Comanche and other tribes of Indians”, “savages”, and “countries infested with hostile Indians”, describing them like wild animals rather than humans. Additionally, Austin brings up Mexico’s Decree of the 3d October 1835, and states that it “is copied, as to its general principles, from that of the United States”, and shares his opinion of Mexico’s government as “considered valueless, and thus exciting their jealousy and cupidity”. These examples highlight Austin’s biased views, proving that American’s considered themselves superior, whether it was describing non-white people as animals or with government-related issues. Nonetheless, his speech included language praising American pride as a tactic to appeal to American audiences.
Because Austin’s speech was targeted toward Anglo-Americans, his speech came off as extremely biased. He used pro-American language and referred to American ideologies to win support in favor of Texas. During the Texas Revolution, Texas was not yet an American state, but it was continuing to grow in popularity amongst Americans. During his speech, Austin sells the idea of emancipating Texas by offering opportunities such as “extend[ing] the principles of self-government, over a rich and neighboring country”, having “vast field[s]../ for enterprise, wealth, and happiness”, and suggest it is an escape for Americans wishing to get out of the “frozen blasts of a northern climate, by removing to a more congenial one”. Conveying similar themes of the Westward Expansion, a huge American ideology. Additionally, he carefully appeals to his audience with suggestions of American themes. For example, he explains how Texas was standing up against oppression from Mexico’s government and asserts that “the results [of Texas’ emancipation] will be the promotion of the great cause of liberty, of philanthropy, and religion, and the protection of a great and important interest to the people of the United States”. Austin, without a doubt, was strongly in favor of the American people and presented it in his speech. Austin stated that slaves were needed to help make Texas wealthy and encouraged Americans settling into Texas to bring their slaves along. Because of his influences, many Tejanos became outnumbered and the number of slaves in Texas increased, proving he was strongly in favor of Anglo-Americans.
Austin’s speech tells us a lot about Austin’s personal biases and gives us the context of American life during the 1830s. Although the Texas Revolution took place ten years before the Mexican-American views, Austin’s speech shows how tensions escalated. Americans were aware of Mexico’s unsteady government, and if people didn’t know, Austin made sure to bring up the fact that “Mexico ha[d] been in constant revolutions and confusion, with only a few short intervals, ever since its separation [from] Spain in 1821”. He continues to explain that the recent issues with Mexico were due to “the effects of the ecclesiastical and aristocratical party to oppose republicanism, overturn the federal system and constitution, and establish a monarchy, or a consolidated government”, pointing out flaws with Mexico’s government. His speech gives insight into how relationships and opinions between Americans and Mexicans were escalating and becoming problematic.
Stephen F. Austin was an essential part of Texas’ history. Being deeply associated with Texas, with his father’s connections and his own ties to the Texan government, his speech gives a lot of insight into issues during the Texas Revolution. The pattern of white superiority ideals was evident in his speech, as well as his rhetorical attempt to persuade his fellow Anglo-Americans in supporting him and Texas’ revolutionary actions. During his lengthy speech, he took time to educate citizens on contextual information regarding Texas’ history/relationship with Mexico, explain Texas’ revolutionary causes while recalling similar themes of American values of liberty, freedom, and independence, and list ways Americans could benefit from Texas’ emancipation.
- Austin, Stephen F. “Address of the Honorable S. F. Austin”. (speech, Louisville, Kentucky, March 7, 1836) PBS, https://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/two/txaustin.htm
- Handbook of Texas Online. Eugene C. Barker. 'AUSTIN, STEPHEN FULLER'. Accessed May 22, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fau14 Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Modified on January 11, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
- Handbook of Texas Online. Eugene C. Barker and James W. Pohl, rev. by Mary L. Scheer. 'TEXAS REVOLUTION'. Accessed May 22, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qdt01 Uploaded on August 7, 2010. Modified on November 22, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
- Handbook of Texas Online. Randolph B. Campbell. 'SLAVERY'. Accessed May 22, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/yps01 Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on October 30, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.