Today in History
History's Happenings for November 3
The founder of the fledgling Republic of Texas, Stephen F. Austin was born on November 3, 1793, at Austinville, VA.
It was Austin's father, Moses, who first purchased a tract of land in the Mexican province of Texas, between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers, and gained permission to found a settlement there. But Moses died before he could complete his work, and Stephen carried on, founding in 1822 a small colony in what later became Austin, Texas.
In the early years, American settlers were welcomed into Texas with the promise of land, and were treated well by the generally benevolent Mexican government, which had freed itself from Spanish rule and reorganized under the constitution of 1824. The only requirement of the settlers was loyalty to the Mexican authority, which Austin firmly supported.
Change came in 1833, as General Antonio López de Santa Anna, a hero of Mexico's revolution against Spain, came to power in Mexico City. When he renounced the constitution and assumed dictatorial powers, Austin was delegated to travel south to try to gain self-government for the colony, now expanded to some 20,000 citizens.
The Mexican government would not address his request, so Austin wrote back to his colony to go ahead and form a government without awaiting permission. For this he was jailed by the Mexicans.
After his release in 1835, he returned to Texas to organize the colony's army for the inevitable struggle. War came the same year, when Santa Anna sent an army to suppress the Texans' independent notions. Austin led a delegation to Washington, where he was able to secure U.S. financial and military support in the fight for Texan independence.
After a bloody year that saw defeats and massacres, including the heroic stand at the Alamo, the Texan army under General Sam Houston defeated the Mexicans at the battle of San Jacinto in April, 1836, and Texas became an independent Republic.
Austin ran for the presidency of the new nation, but was defeated by war hero Houston. Instead he accepted a position as Secretary of State in Houston's cabinet, which he held until his untimely death that same year.
The memory of the founder of the Republic is honored by the name of the Texas capital.