At a Meeting of the Board of Aldermen of the Town of Matagorda--Present Harvey Kendrick, President pro tem., Messrs. Clements, Elam, McCamly, Brigham, McLellan, Mitchell, and Jack--on 26th September, 1837--called for the purpose of taking into consideration the measures proper to be adopted upon the occasion of the decease of the Hon. IRA INGRAM, Mayor Elect of said Town--the following Resolutions were unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That in the estimation of the Board of Aldermen, the death of the Hon. Ira Ingram, Mayor Elect of this Town, is a public misfortune, and will for an epoch in the history of the place which can never be forgotten.
Resolved, That for the beneficent donations, estimated at 70,000 dollars or more, made by the deceased in his last will, to the present and future inhabitants of the Town, for the support of Schools and Seminaries of Learning therein, the said inhabitants owe to the deceased an everlasting debt of gratitude.
Resolved, That the devoted and patriotic services of the deceased to the Republic of Texas, since the commencement of the Revolution, are such as merit the highest approbation of the whole people, and that his death ought to be regarded as a national loss.
Resolved, That as a very humble and inefficient evidence of the grief which this melancholy event has caused to the Board of Aldermen, as individuals, they wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days.
Resolved, That these proceedings be signed by the President pro tem, and Secretary, and that copies be sent to the Matagorda Bulletin, and the Telegraph and Texas Register, for publication.
HARVEY KENDRICK, President pro tem.
Matagorda Bulletin, September 27, 1837
Esq. Mayor Elect of the Town of Matagorda whose demise is noticed in another column, removed to Texas in the early part of the spring of 1825, and attached himself to Austin's Colony. In the management of the archives of the political authorities of the country, the colonists received frequent and important advantages from his legal attainments, as well as general business capacity; he being ever ready to serve the public in the most inferior stations, without reward, and never claiming or wishing distinction,--indeed, we are told by one not counted to be in life his friend, that the greatest services by him rendered to his adopted country , were secretly performed, and that he preferred another to have the credit, if there was any attached, to making himself conspicuous--though from over-persuasion he has been induced, on one or two occasions, to yield his to the wishes of friends, and has served his country, in obedience to their call, at the expense of personal feeling. Mr. Ingram was first to raise the one-star'd banner--author of the first Declaration of Independence--first, and with one exception, the only man from Matagorda, who obeyed the call of the Brazorians, in June 1832, to attack Ugartecha at Velasco; which place, however, he unfortunately reached a few hours too late. He never took a conspicuous part in political affairs, but at the commencement of the present war, was among the chief promoters of resistance to Mexican oppression, and foremost in persuading his fellow-citizens to oppose the threatened invasion of the enemy's army, under General Cos, in 1835. He was made the first Chairman of the "Committee of Safety," in Matagorda (the first organic authority to oppose the Mexicans,)--was one of the Spartan band who, in October 1835, under Major Collinsworth, captured Col Sandoval, by forcing the gates of Fort Goliad, which was the first open and avowed attack at the authority of the Mexican nation; previous skirmishes being nothing more than internal commotions, having for their end the aggrandizement of advancement of some party of chief. Since this time, the deceased has remained in the service of his country, declaring as he has often done in our hearing, that with it--her independence--he would sink or swim. Mr. Ingram had his enemies,--and who among us has not;--there are those who differed with him on matters of policy--and some there were, who, not being on terms of intimacy, deemed his manner sometimes abrupt, and on this account took exceptions to him as an acquaintance; but with all his excentricities, and faults, from which sins none are exempt, it may truly be said, Matagorda has lost one of her principal founders--an exemplary and good citizen,--Texas one of her first pioneers, a soldier, patriot, and statesman--and mankind a philanthropist. He was eminently, though secretly, the friend of the widow and orphan--none ever came to him in distress, no matter in what condition of life, but received tokens of generous, open-hearted, and generous feeling.
The Will of the deceased was opened and read in open Court yesterday--from which we learn, that besides Cash and Lands to a very considerable amount, bequeathed to his only relatives in the States--and an independence to the wife of his brother--he has left a School Fund to the present and future inhabitants of Matagorda, estimated at SEVENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS!
Matagorda Bulletin, September 27, 1837
In the name of God.—Amen!
About to depart for the army of my country as a volunteer soldier in its service & having been informed by letter from my Brother Seth Ingram, of the doubtful fate of my Papers sent a few days before the Mexican Army crossed the Colorado, to the care of Walter C. White and Josiah H. Bell Esqrs. Columbia, for safekeeping among which papers with my will, written, dated, & signed with my own hand; therefore, being desirous of preventing if possible, all altercation, or litigation and indeed of removing as far as on me depends, any probable or possible cause of dissatisfaction, in Relation to my succession, I, Ira Ingram, of the town, & one of the proprietors of the Town of Matagorda, Department of Brazos Texas recently declared Free sovereign, & Independent, hereby make & declare this instrument of writing my last will and Testament.
I was born, according to a copy of my Father's family Record furnished me by him, on the 19th day of August 1788, in the Town of Brookfield, County of Orange, and state of Vermont, “United States of America.”—
I have no Heirs in the direct ascending Line.-- I have none in the descending—my Father Philip Ingram & my Mother Raechel Burton Ingram, are both dead.-- My child Mary Elizabeth, & her mother, Emily Polish Hort, are also both dead.-- My ever beloved, ever affectionate & faithful Brother Seth Ingram, who is also a Citizen, & one of the proprietors of the Town of Matagorda, first aforesaid, is my only Heir by blood in the first degree of the Collateral line. To my aforesaid Brother, Seth Ingram, I will all my private Papers, Notes, and Bonds, Reights, reversions, dues & demands, of every kind, character & description. I will also unto my said Brother, Six hundred & forty acres of land out of my League No. 12. adjoining the Town League of Matagorda, Eastwardly and fronting the N W Shore of Matagorda Bay-- said six hundred and forty acres, English or American measurement, to include the situation within said League commonly called by me & generally known as Battle Island, & to be bounded Eastwardly by the Bayou, called little Boggy.—West, by the East boundary of the Matagorda League, South, by the Bay of Matagorda & North, by an East & West Line, at such distance from the North Shore of the Bay, as to include the said Six hundred & forty acres.
And I furthermore Will unto my Brother aforesaid, Seth Ingram, One fourth part of all my Interest in the Town, and Twon League of Matagorda—One fourth part of my League of Land No. 12. fronting on the Bernard River S. W. side & including two fronts on Caney Bayou, & I will unto him also, my undivided half of the Thousand acres out of his League No 9 fronting the said Bernard, purchased of him many years ago,--said Thousand acres includes the improvement made by him & myself jointly on the S. W. bank of said River in 1826. 7 & 8 I will all the foregoing Property, real, personal and incorporated unto my said Brother & the Heirs of his Estate in the direct descending line of the first degree, & their Heirs forever.—
I will unto my Cousin Mrs. Mercy B. West of the Town of Thetford , Orange County, & State of Vermont, aforesaid, & unto her heirs forever,--one half of all that portion of my league of Land No. 12, lying west & S. W. of Little Boggy, not included in my legacy to my Brother,--and I will unto her, & her Heirs, the one Half also of all that portion of my said League of Land, lying East & N. E. of said Bayou called little Boggy.
And I will unto my Cousin aforesaid, one fourth part of all my interest in the Shell bank coast and interior tracts including, one fourth part of my interest in the Out lots of the Town & Town League of Matagorda as known, partitioned, designated & marked on the General Statement of the proprietors of said Town of Matagorda & as noted on the plat of said property, made by their surveyor, one of the owners, my aforesaid Brother, Seth Ingram.
I will unto my Cousin, Miss Jane W. Ingram, Daughter of my Uncle Roswell Ingram at present of Bloomfield, Oakland County, Michigan Territory, the one fourth part of all my interest in the inn Lots of the Town of Matagorda & to her Heirs forever.
And I will unto the present & future Inhabitants of the Town of Matagorda, for the support of schools & seminaries of learning, for the education of the children & youth of all persons (those of the Poor to have the preference & the first provided for), all my real estate not intended to be included in the above or foregoing legacies to wit—all my interest in the above mentioned League of Land No 12, on the Bernard River, not herein willed to my Brother aforesaid, & not heretofore sold but not yet conveyed, to William H. Wharton, as per my Bond, made & filed in the proper office in Brazoria, 8th of October 1834, all my interest in the league of land on the E. side of the Brazos, originally granted to John McFarland & purchased by me of H. H. League, as per deed on file in the proper Office in the municipality of Columbia.—One Labor in the Brazos bottom, opposite San Felipe,-- One out-lot & all my Interest in the in-lots of this Town, -- all my interest, (to wit one half) in the in-lots of The Town of Matagorda & in said Town League, including one five hundred acre tract, the half of one other five hundred acre tract & one half of any Interest in the Shell-bank coast, & interior tracts—and One half of my Interest in the Out lots of the aforesaid Town of Matagorda & all that portion of my aforesaid League of Land No 12. adjoining the Matagorda League, not herein before willed to my Brother S. Ingram & to my first named Cousin Mrs. West.—
This legacy, to the present & future in habitants of the Town of Matagorda, made for the promotion of Education, is made on condition of its being managed free of charge, by commissioners in number, from three to five, to be elected on the fourth day of July, annually, under the superintendence of a committee of Election, to be previous chosen for this express purpose, by the Citizens of said Town—No citizen shall be eligible to serve on said board of Commissioners, more than one year in three.—and the new board shall have power to call their predecessors, mediate or immediate, to account for their honest management of said legacy.
Any material neglect to comply, with the above conditions shall render the legacy thereto appended null—and it shall go to my heir, Seth Ingram.
Written and signed with my own hand this 4th day of July 1836 & in the Town of Matagorda.
(Codicil to the foregoing will.)
Co dicil to my will, written, signed, endorsed with my own hand, & dated in July 1836 in the Town of Matagorda. Since the date of that instrument I have sold my Interest as proprietor, in the Town of Matagorda, & since then too, an event has taken place in the family of my Brother, (to wit) a voluntary separation between himself & wife, which from the utter failure of my long reiterated, and best intended effort to prevent, I have much reason to fear will be as lasting as life either of which seems to require, & both in conjunction obviously demand a corresponding modification of my wishes. In July ’36 my property was entirely in land:--now it is in land & Notes.—Of the latter the payment of which is secured by mortgage. I have a little upwards of Forty Thousand Dollars.—These Notes, or nearly the whole of them were received for Town property, in the Town of Matagorda:--this property is disposed of in my aforesaid Will, but as it is now sold, it is my duty, as well as my right,, to make amongst my legatees, such as apportionment of the assets or Proceeds, where realized, as I was to have made & carried into effect after my demise.
To my Cousin Mrs. Mercy B. West, named in my said will, I give in lieu of the Town Property therein mentioned, of the proceeds of the notes of S. Mussena when paid, Ten Thousand dollars.
To my Cousin Jane W. Ingram, another legatee named in my said Will, I give of the same fund & payable in the same manner in lieu of the Town property given to her therein, the sum of Five thousand dollars.—
To the Inhabitants of the Town of Matagorda, for the purpose of educating the children of the poor, as stated in my will aforesaid, I give the sum of Fifteen thousand Dollars, payable as aforesaid, & out of the same fund.
And as my Brother has refused to make any provision for the support of his wife, thereby leaving her destitute & dependent on the hospitality of a censorious world, -- I hereby revoke the Legacy in my aforesaid Will to him, & transfer the same to his wife Susannah Rice.—I give also unto her the said Susannah, the unappropriated residue, or balance, including the Interest on the whole of what will be due my Estate from S. Mussena, this will amount to nearly Fourteen thousand Dollars,-- I will & bequeath to her also, all the Matagorda Town Property, rights or Reversions of, or to Town Property, in said Town of which I may die possessed.
As there will in all probability be more realized from the payment of my other Notes, than I shall probably owe at my demise, I have only to add, that, after the payment of my just Debts, and funeral expences, out of my ready Cash, & the proceeds of my notes, other than those of Mussena. I will and bequeath the residue to my last named Legatee Susannah Rice.
Matagorda September 15, 1837
Recorded 21st Nov 1837 Thos. Harvey, Clerk pro Tem.
Process verbal to the Will of Ira Ingram
Republic of Texas County of Matagorda
The Will of Ira Ingram, Citizen of the aforesaid Town & County, dated in the Town of Matagorda the 4th July 1836 written by himself & signed with his own hand; also a Codicil thereto, dated Matagorda 15th Sept. 1837, written & signed in like manner by himself were this day delivered in open Court to his Honor Sinclair D. Gervais, Judge of Probate, by Mr. A. L. Clements upon producing a receipt in the possession of J. T. Belknap & signed Horton & Clements.
The will was then opened by the Judge & read aloud by the Clerk of the Court as was also the Codicil. J. T. Belknap made oath, & deposed, that he received the said Will & Codicil from Ira Ingram during his life time, & delivered it into the hands of Messrs. Horton & Clements in the presence of A. M. Levy & Seth Ingram for safe keeping.
A. L. Clements made oath, & deposed that the said will & Codicil were the same that he received from J. T. Belknap--that he was well acquainted with the hand-writing of the late Ira Ingra, & that the Signatures as well as all the writing in the Body of the Will, & also of the Codicil were those of Ira Ingram.
The Judge then signed at the top & botton of each Page, both of the Will & Codicil, agreeably to Law.
Matagorda Sept. 26th 1837
Sept. 27, 1837 -
This day Seth Ingram, made oath that the will & Codicil were given in his presence to J. T. Belknap & that the same were in the hand-writing of his Brother, having often seen him write.
Thos. Harvey, Clerk pro Tem.
Sinclair D. Gervais, P. J.
Recorded 11th Dec 1837
Thos Harvey, Clerk pro Tem & Recorder
Ira Ingram Letters
County Genealogical Society publication, Oak Leaves, Volume 4, No.
2, February 1985
Town of Austin May 12th 1830
My Dear Uncle,
Your of the 12th Feb. last forwarded by Col. Woodbury was handed me by him on his arrival here a few days since.
Nothing could have afforded me more pleasure than the receipt of this letter. It gives me some intelligence of my Father's family after a total neglect by every member of it for several years, to answer any of mine, or my Brother's letters, altho' one at least, written to Phillip T. Ingram, from this country, the Col. informs me had been rec. for, he says, it was shown to him at Fort Covington.
When can have been the cause of this total disregard of the solicitude evinced by mine and my Brother's letters, for the welfare and happiness of our Father's family, it is now unnecessary, and would probably be unavailing, for me to enquire.
Philip T. Ingram, if he had wished it, could have answered the letter written to him from this place; for in that letter, he is instructed how to direct letters to me.
But none from him, or any other member or branch of the family, until yours was handed me, has ever come to hand; since my settlement in American Texas. As to yourself--I had not strong claims to information from you; and farther, not knowing where you lived, how could I address a letter to you? But since the events of the past year have raised the curtain which concealed our respective abodes from each other, and the advance has been made by yourself, inviting me to correspond, I flatter myself that nothing will again interfere to mar the mutual enjoyment of a punctual and connected correspondence.
You ask me for information respecting myself and Brother. To be concise, and yet comply with you request; my Brother moved from Tennessee, where he had spent two years in acquiring a mathematical education, to this country, in the spring of 1822. When Col. Austin commenced colonising, he embarked in the business which he had in view when he left the United States of the north--He is still in the same employment, that of surveyor of public land; he is the first of the profession who stretched a chain in conformity with law, between the Grand and Sabine rivers; is now in the vicinity of the Bay of Galveston, with his compass & company, is making money very fast; was in good health when his last messenger to me left him, and is still unmarried.
As to myself, I am wifeless & childless. I married in the city of New Orleans, in March 1823--and in April 1824 lost my first child; in the October following, I buried my wife. She fell, one of the last victims of the yellow fever, for the year 1824.
My wife was my idol--She was young, beautiful, and accomplished. Her name when married to me, was Emily B. Hait--In her grave, were buried my hopes, and my prospects of happiness. An uncommon buoyancy of spirits, however, enabled me to recover from the blow in part, by removing to, and establishing myself in Texas. As to my property, it is difficult to say what it is worth. I have a large tract of very valuable land, eligibly situated, and superlatively rich.
As to property, I have a plenty, and have too, the knowledge of, and industry in business, to acquire more.--
I am actively employed, and intend to be, while I live.--
If life and health are spared me for 10 years--I shall then be prepared to commence the downhill of life, with ample means to pave the passage with every comfort, and every luxury, that the epicure or the man of refined taste could wish. As to my Brother--his property and prospects are the same as my own; we participate in each others business and speculations, so as to make our gains in the country equal.
As to your other enquiries, allow me to defer them till my next, with which you may expect to hear from Seth himself--He will be here in a few days, when I shall lose no time in laying your letter before him.
You must excuse the desultory, and I ought to add, the broken thread of this letter but the hurry of business from which I have stolen the hour employed in penning it, denies me leisure to revise and copy. It will therefore be dispatched with all its imperfections on its head, and must need, and I hope, will receive your kind indulgence.
Please remember me to Philip T., to your family; and accept for yourself the assurance of my best wishes for your health, happiness, and prosperity.
Your affectionate nephew
Austin May 29th 1830
My Dear Uncle,
In my reply to yours of the 12th of February last, recd. by the hand of Col. Woodbury, I promised to notice in a future communication, some of the subjects of enquiry contained in your letter. As I have sent your letter to my Brother, that he may have the pleasure of perusing it before my engagements will allow me that of a personal interview with him, I cannot pretend to a systematic reply; but will embrace in this, some of the topics of enquiry contained in your letter, deferring the omissions to be supplied by the devotion of a leisure hour hereafter.
And first, as Col. Woodbury informs me that you are a zealous professor of the Christian religion, and as that class of citizens are generally very tenacious of the priviledge "religious liberty," I will here dedicate a line or two, to the statement of facts on this subject.-- --
The Roman Catholic, is the religion, and the established religion of this government--and every settler in the Colonies is obliged to take an oath to support the Constitution of the government which protects his life, liberty, and property, and guarantees to him the right of the pursuit of happiness--of course, the oath includes an obligation on the part of the settler in any part of the Mexican republic, to support the established religion. But the most important enquiry is, what are the effects of this provision of the constitution, as developed in American Texas? The answer to this question is, that it exempts us entirely from the shameless strifes and animosities, too often the offspring of a well-meant zeal of the cause of true religion, and invariably the handmaid of intolerant fanaticism.
We hear no ravings, we see no rompings, or indecorous and indecent exhibitions under the cloak of a religious assemblage, either by night or by day; no sanctuarys are polluted by unholy intrusions and desires; for we have sanctuaries but private ones, and here, all are perfectly free to worship as they please.
This kind of worship is practiced in every family that desires to practice it, and might be common to every one in the country; for there is not a priest in this Colony, nor an officer of Govt. civil or military, with one exception, that is not elected, and elective by the people of this municipality. This officer, is the Collector of the Customs, lately appointed, and now settling among us.
On the subject of the freedom of religion, and religious worship, there has never yet been any restraint offered to any settler, either by the Govt., or by officers.--
Why, then, it will be natural for you to enquire, have we an established religion? The reply to this enquiry and it is the best of all good reasons because the Mexican nation at the adaption [adoption?] of the Constitution of the general Government, knew no religion but the one they adopted. I say the nation knew no other nor did they--but there were a few master spirits here, as well as in other countries where liberty has struggled to find a home, a few truly intelligent and liberal minded patriots who knew, and who appreciated too, the salutory influence of toleration. These spirits, and these patriots, were obliged to concede something to the physical mass of the nation, to secure their political independence. This something was, their Religion.-- Here was the mighty compromise--A nation freed from the bondage of centuries, on the cheap condition of being permitted to retain a name -- Where is the patriot citizen and philanthropist, who does not exclaim, on hearing this, Victory!!
Unless this point had been conceded to the prejudices of the populace at the adoption of the Constitution, the revolution must inevitably have relapsed. To protect the nation against so dreadful a crisis, the convention which adopted the Constitution, although as private individuals, they were to a man, in favour of toleration, in its broadest sense, they nevertheless honestly thought the happiness of their Country required of them the adoption of the Catholic religion, to the exclusion of every other--for this reason it was adopted; for this reason, the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion was guaranteed to the nation by the fundamental law of the land. And is not this an insurmountable argument? What higher argument could be offered, for what we, and very many others deem a deformity in our political system, than, that the repose and tranquility of seven millions of human beings, required it.
Having taken no part myself in the events which paved the way for the florious day when the cry of liberty and independence was echoed from every mountain, and alone every valley of this extensive republic, I have no pretensions to any experimental knowledge respecting them. But my good or bad fortune, call it which you please, has made me the intimate friend and bosom companion of some who acted a conspicuous and patriot part throughout the great, and I might add, the purifying storm of the revolution. Some of these still hold and occupy, high and important trusts.
From them, I have gleamed, from time to time, details of the history of days & hours that tried the head, and tested the heart of every real, and every pretended friend of the cause of freedom.--
From them, during the hours of relaxation from business, I have caught some knowledge of men, and of measures, in this new born world, and have been taught to set an estimate, either just, or unjust, upon the motives which influenced the career of many of the distinguished Sons of Mexico. And on the subject which I now perceive, is likely to engross your attention to the end of this letter, I have long since been fully persuaded, that, had I been a member of the Convention which fashioned and adopted the Constitution of the Mexican Govt., I should have given it my vote. and may hearty support, in & out of doors. Yes--with all my prejudice in favour of religious freedom about me, and with all its imperfections clinging to it, I should have voted for the present constitution, persuaded that it was the best, all interests reconciled, and all predilictions surrendered, that the circumstances of the time would permit.----
As to the American settlements in Texas, they have never been required to conform to the rites and ceremonies of the Catholic religion, or to those of any other; nor have they been prevented worshiping, in any say they please.-- In short, the American who dreams even, of a community of his countrymen in bondage, either political or religions knows but little of their true character. I see, however, we have nothing to complain of, we have nothing to fear--On the contrary, we have, and daily enjoy more to excite our deepest gratitude towards the government of our adopted country, than any other people on earth.
We have received large donations of the most rich and productive lands on earth, in one of the mildest and most enviable climates of the habitable world, elect all of our own officers, civil and military; are exempt from all taxes for the support of Govt., are eligibly situated for prosecuting a commerce with all the nations of the earth; have live oak enough to rebuild all the shipping in the world, if it were sunk this moment, and already have the base of an American population planted here which never can be extirpated, to the last day. By and by, you shall hear from me again, and during the interim, permit me to say, I am your
Matagorda March 19th 1933
My Dear Uncle,
Your letter of the 10th Nov. 1832, the most acceptable present, as it is the only testimonial of friendship that can pass between us at so great a distance as that by which we are separated, was thankfully received a few days ago. You speak of having written me "two or three times before," and of having received "no answers" -- Answers, you are aware, to letters which never came to hand, as they could not have a being, so they could not be received, by anyone.
It is, at all times, and under all vicissitudes of fortune, a source of happiness, to hear of the health and prosperity of all those, in any degree allied to me, by the ties of blood. But, towards those in particular who once watched over my infancy, who participated in the cares and solicitudes of any portion of my troublesome and fickle childhood, who cherished in their hearts a tender and feeling concern for my riper years, and who still extend towards me, in this remote corner of the earth, an anxious and untiring research concerning my chequered fortunes--I say, towards all such, the cherished emotions arise, and cause my heart to swell, with sensibility and gratitude.
It has been my strange lot through life, to know but little of my family. Only occasionally, indeed, at long and unmeasured intervals of time, have I been honoured, or even noticed, by the silent visits of these noiseless messengers from the grave of neglected friendship. Years, have more than once successively rolled by, unmarked by even one fond memorial from any other living and related being, but my affectionate, and faithful brother. He sought me out in the bosom of the great valley of the west--and him I still have with me.
You press me for information concerning the "trouble," in which you say you have been informed, my Brother is involved. To do that justice to this subject, which is due both to him and others, would fill a volume. The event to which your enquiry is directed, gave both to him and myself, much vexation. Let it suffise, however, for the present, to know, that all he suffered in the matter, was the effect of malevolence, and that he now is, and long has been, peacably prosecuting his business. Owing to the state of parties which existed among us at the time spoken of, to the want of a well-organized, intelligent, honest, and independent judiciary, and to the great exertions of a corrupt, an avaricious, and brutal faction, who were influenced by a similarity of interest, and actuated by a common will, and which had for the time, monopolized all power, Seth was for some months, restrained in his liberty and at times, threatened with the worst that could happen.
All good men will agree, that, it is not a misfortune only, but that it is matter of the deepest and most painful regret, that anyone should be urged to the hard necessity of taking, even in self defence, the life of a fellow creature. But there are occasions superior to misfortune and the most bitter regret--occasions which call on us to act, in contempt of both. When pushed to the awful extremity where infamy and honour meet, how shall frail and falible man, in a frail and falible world decide, and act? Such was the hard lot of your brave nephew--He had been drawn into the breach, and he was compelled either to fill it with his own, or with the body of the assailant. He elected the latter, and survived. He had no malice against the man he shot, and at the moment he fired, the pistol of the man who fell, was raised and leveled at my brother. The other too, had provoked the encounter, had compelled the combat, and it cost him his life.
For the part which my Brother acted in that affair, he has never been reproached, by anyone who knew the circumstances, and was not entangled in the serpentine coil of faction. He is not the less respectable nor the less respected by the worthier portion of the community. On the contrary, his conduct has been approved by the thinking men of the country, and the known spirit by which he was actuated, has been universally applauded. This is the moral aspect of the transactions which involved him in "trouble" for a time; and is the views of it, concerning which, it is very natural that a near relative, like yourself should feel a more particular solicitude, than any other.
As to the present posture of public and political affairs in the interior of this government, recent information favours the hope, of a temporary suspension of the havoc and horrors, of civil war. The late commotions there, have resulted in the restoration of the constitutional officers of the republic to the administration of the government. The friends of popular institutions, however, perceive little indeed, in the mass of the population, to encourage the hope, that regulated liberty will for a long time to come, find a steady and abiding home, in any portion of Spanish America.
As to Texas--the civil commotions which have overspred a considerable portion of Mexico proper, with suffering and fevers, have rather tended to invigorate and improver her condition. Too remote from the theatre of action and too unimportant in resources to attract the eye of ambition, it was the obvious policy of this portion of the country, to do little else, than watch the progress of events, and hold itself in readiness to improve them to the best advantage. This policy was adopted early in the contest, and has been pursued with the most patriotic fidelity and zeal.
All that has thus far been done by the people of Texas, (about thirty five thousand in number; twenty, to twenty five thousand of whom are North Americans), is to remove those out-works of ambition which the usurper had thrown around the principal settlements, by capturing the garrison, or permitting them to retire without bloodshed or annoyance; and to adopt measures preliminary, and preparatory to the formation of a State government, as a member of the confederation.
A convention, (sic) by deputies, of all the people of Texas, has been called, in pursuance of previous arrangements, to meet on the first of April next, for the purpose of framing and adopting a constitution for, the state of Texas--This step is likely to be very warmly opposed, by what is here called the Aristocratic party, headed by Stephen F. Austin, the founder of this colony. The leaders of the opposition to the state question, are charged by its friends, with having engaged, and with having combined in, a scheme, for engrossing a very important and extensive portion of the domain of the country, which belongs, of right, to the people. A few well-meaning and credulous, but ignorant men, have innocently, tho' unworthily inclined to the side of the question espoused by the speculators. Having listened to the artful and ingenious tales of these rapacious swindlers, they have been led to believe that their true interest consists in continuing for a time, at least, we now are, without any local government at all. It will therefore be attended with some delay, will require firmness of purpose, and some perseverance, to eviscerate and exhibit the facts on the subject, in a light, and with that connexion required, to dispel the delusion.
Here I must crave to be excused from exposing any farther, at the present conjuncture, the uninviting features of our general or local politics.
I know not how I am to forward this letter to you; as I do not know, how yours to me, ever found its way to this bye corner of the earth.
Please present us to Uncle and Aunt Durkee, to their family--and to your own--accept for yourself and family, the assurance of my respect and abiding.
San Felipe de Austin
My Dear Uncle,
I dispatch today, this and another letter which I wrote in Matagorda before leaving home, in reply to yours from Oakland County, Michigan Territory. My first, I have retained, for want of a conveyance to the United States. In that, I inform you that a convention of the people by means of their delegates, were then about to meet, for the purpose of framing a constitution for the State of Texas. This convention met on the 1st of April, had a quorum on the 3rd, and proceeded to business. They framed a constitution, and adopted it by a unanimous vote, and elected three delegates to proceed to Mexico, and present it to the National Congress, "for its resolution." How it will be received there, it is utterly impossible to foretell. We have, however, endeavored to conform it to the constitution of the general government of the Mexican United States, in all respects--We have neither claimed, nor asked, either more or less, than we are clearly entitled to us a right, under the laws, usages, and solemn decrees of the general government of the Republic. This, we have sustained, by an elaborate exposition of the claims of Texas by means of a memorial to the Congress.
We have recommended an organization of the militia of the country,--have organized a central, and subcommittee of correspondence, vigilance and safety, and are preparing, by the use of all prudent and silent means, for the worst that can happen.
There is now but one mind, one head, one soul, one wish, and one resolve, concerning the future course of the injured and oppressed settlers of Texas.
We have thus far occupied the attitude of defendants in the cause, and do not intend, either to shift, or abandon our position.
In short, our policy is to merit, that we may command and enjoy, in case we should need them, the sympathies of the civilized world.
I leave here for the town of Brazoria, 70 miles below, to superintend the publication of our Memorial to the Congress, and our constitution. From there, I will write you again.
In the interim, I remain as ever, in good health, your affectionate
Matagorda July 23, 1833
Your letter, dated Oakland County, Michigan Territory, Nov. 10th 1832, came to hand in March last, and was immediately answered. Having kept the answer for an opportunity to forward it to the United States, till the close of the April Convention, I stole a moment from the closing drudgery of business imposed by that body, to inform you of the successful result of its labours. Both letters were then dispatched together, and left San Felipe, by private conveyance, about the middle of April.
Since that date, neither Seth nor I have received but one letter, from any of our family. This one, is from Sister Clark. It announces the death of your Brother, and our Father, Phillip Ingram. It appears that he left us on the 5th day of April, and that his life was terminated by dropsy. You have doubtless heard, ere now, of this event, and like myself, was in some measure, mentally prepared to meet it. It is one which had often occupied my anticipations of the future, and which was daily becoming, more and more probable. Considering the common allotment of human existence, the accumulating infirmities of age, and the almost imperceptible, but certain decay of the elements of vitality in persons so far advanced in life, together with the very feeble resistence which the constitution is capable of opposing to the onset and march of disease, in those who have passed a grand climacteric; although it very sensibly affected me, yet, I cannot say, that it was wholly unexpected. But it is now no longer a subject of fearful apprehension, nor is it involved in our anticipations of the unknown future. Entombed in the cold bosom of that land which first displayed to my perceptive powers the wonders of creation, are the wasting remains of a Father, who gave me being--of a Mother, who bore me --Land of my nativity! Ever verdant, and hallowed be thy mountains--Ever fruitful, thy quiet and peaceful vales--May plenty ever swell the treasures of the living and the Recording Angel blot, from the book of life the remembrance of the infirmities of the dead!
In my letter addressed to you from this place in March, I adverted to the very singular destiny which had interposed through life, a barrier, between myself, and my family. And in all my reminiscences of the past, I cannot but regard this peculiarity in my history, with the most pungent and torturing regret. Wandering about from place to place till my time of life, almost as ignorant of the family history of my ancestors, and even of that of my collateral kindred, as the unknowing, or unknown; and bereft too, by the premature death of a wife, & an only child, almost of the hope of transmitting to succeeding generations, even the inheritance of a name; I sometimes look around me on the world, as upon an object, never designed by an overruling Providence, either for my improvement, or my happiness. Something more or indeed, something far less than a philosopher, must that man be, who, situated as I am, can feel that interest in the welfare of his successors on this earth, which a parent feels in that of his son offspring, and who can identify himself as a patriot ought, with all that teems with either good or ill around him, affecting the present, or pregnant with weal or woe to the future, and who can embark too, with eagerness and untiring avidity, in all the strifes of contending parties, to advance the prosperity, and secure the happiness of his country. These, are not the achievements of philosophy! From what, then, do such actions emenate, and to what source shall we trace those strong emotions, from which they spring? In myself, I account for them readily, and I trust, correctly. All my early predilections in favour of certain political institutions, still cling to me, and are identified with my very being. I see this public, or the private wrong--I feel the oppression-- and the heart swells--From this to action, is a short, and involuntary step. Action approximates to impulse, and its occasions are detected by instinct, and improved from habit. I claim not, therefore, for standing at my post, in these times of civil commotion, the reputation of a philosopher, or the eulogy of the patriot. To act otherwise, would be to rebel against myself, and smother the most ardent and powerful propensities of my nature. I am the slave of education & of early association of thought, and of principles of policy.
But to drop the digression, and return to my subject--My apology for troubling you again, so soon after having written you at great length so recently, is my extreme anxiety to obtain, whilst yet I possibly may obtain, the small stock of information in possession of the older members of my connexion, relative to the history of our lineal ascendants, or ancestor, of the male line. All you can communicate on this subject, will be matter of deep interest, and gratefully received. The place of my Father's birth, of that of my Grand Father, of my great Grand Father, & of his Father, if your knowledge extends so far back, are material, provided you can give the information. Inform me, if you can, how many generations back, the stock from which we descended, emigrated to America, from where, and to where, and all other particulars concerning such emigration, as your memory, or other means of information can supply. Did Grand Father Ingram leave any papers? And where are they? It is probably Father has left some, at least, he may have done so; and some of these may contain interesting and important materials for the information of those of his immediate descendants who cherish a curiosity concerning the foregoing enquiries. Was Grand Father Ingram born in America? Or did he emigrate? And if so, did any of his Brothers accompany him? If they did, where did he, or they, land? And where did he, or they, finally settle? And where are now the descendants of this or of these, ancient stocks? to wit, those of his brothers.
Do not imagine that I have flattered myself (that) it is in your power to give all the information called for in these interrogatories. By no means. It may, however be in your power to give references to others, to whom I may apply, and who may be able to take up the thread of investigation where you leave it and add something important. I do not expect to acquire all the information I am in search of in any short time, and I may never acquire it; But I shall persevere, as long as I can reach the means of tracing a solitary link in the chain. I wish particularly to know, and you can doubtless inform me thus far, when our Fore Fathers emigrated, and from what place? How many there were of them at that time, and where they settled? This information, if you can furnish it, will introduce me into a field which I can afterwards explore by a variety of means. I will some day communicate more particularly, my reasons for urging upon you at this moment, so many queries concerning the genealogy of my ancestors.
I informed you in my letter from this in March, that Seth was quietly and peaceably occupied in the administration of his own affairs; and has been, upwards for 18 months. I mention this here, because my other letters may have miscarried. He is now with me, and in good health, and is now employed in reading family letters, and amongst others, some of yours. These trifles are the memorials of friendship. They re-call the past, and sometimes point to the future.
If you have recd. my two letters above mentioned, you are fully informed of the result of the labours of the April convention. It framed and adopted by a unanimous vote, a constitution for the future state of Texas. Since this event, nothing of a local nature has transpired that can interest any one at so great a distance. News from the interior of Mexico, augurs unfavorably to the cause of Union and United counsels. Our present Executive, Gen. Santa Ana, appears anxious to give a new, and vigorous impulse to the civil authorities of the country, by reducing the privileges of the clergy, and the influence of the military. This has already led to some irregularities on the part of the latter, favoured no doubt, by the secret intrigues of the former. Where, or how or when, these commotions will terminate, is impossible I apprehend, for any living man to foretell. The ordinary laws of domestic and national strife, afford no barometer by which to calculate the incantations of a nation of semi-barbarians. If they will listen to the claims of Texas, and receive her as a State, by herself, in this quarter, all is safe. But if not, and Mexico revolutionizes, Texas must go for herself, and stand or fall, alone.
Present us both cordially to your family, and accept the renewed assurance of our solicitude for your health, happiness and prosperity.
Matagorda, Dec. 9th 1833
My dear Uncle,
Since the receipt of yours, dated Nov. 10th 1832, I have written you three letters: One from San Felipe de Austin, and two from this place. As yet, I have not read an answer to either. As the Schooner Paszaic sails from this port to day, bound for New Orleans, I cannot deny myself the pleasure of once more devoting an hour to the delightful luxury of epistolary conversation.
There has been a trying year for Texas. The season has been unusually wet. Owing to this, and to the entire loss of at least half the corn and cotton crops on our two principal rivers, the Brazos and Colorado, but the unprecedented overflow in May, the crop cannot be estimated at more than half of what it would have been with an ordinary season. Enough of corn however, is believed to have been made, aided by the usual supplies of flour from New Orleans, to bread us abundantly. There are already considerable supplies of flour in our markets, particularly in this; and the super-abundant crops of wheat in the upper parts of the valley of the west, insure a bountiful market, at low prices, in the great market of the Mississippi. Our cotton crop has suffered nearly in the same proportion as the bread crop, and from the same causes. The cotton crop, instead of exceeding 3000 bales, averaging 600 lbs will not exceed 1600. I speak here of the planting establishments on the Brazos, San Bernardo, and Colorado; rivers which run nearly parallel, and empty into Galveston Bay or fed the Gulph of Mexico or its waters, within a distance of 45 miles.
You will please bear in mind that, nearly all the injury sustained by the summer and fall rains, might have been entirely avoided by a system of cultivation in common use in old and wealthier countries; but which, for want of physical force, cannot be adopted in a country yet in the cradle of infancy. All low countries require ditching, before the cultivation of the soil can prosecute to advantage, in unfavorable seasons, the pursuits of agriculture. A farm is a manufactory; and the earth is the work-shop of the planter. To enable him to operate to the best advantage, he must be prepared with a sufficient number of escapements for the surplus-water, in order that he may neither be delayed in seeding his ground, nor seed it in vain. This is a preparation requiring time, and will necessarily be delayed in a new country till the immediate and more pressing wants are satisfied. Until this season, no material injury has been sustained by the farming interest from excessive rains; the great importance of draining their lands, therefore, has not heretofore been so generally felt and acknowledged as it now is. Farmers now begin to perceive the obvious utility of draining their lands destined for cultivation and when this shall have been generally practiced, the reward of the cultivator of the soil will be as great, or greater, in the rich lands of Texas, and as certain, as in any section of North America.
The season too has been sickly. There appears to have been in active and powerful operation, some cause or other, highly prejudicial to health. Fevers have been unusually malignant this season, in many instances terminating in death. The Cholera made its appearance amongst us too, as the overflow fell, and, as if to fill, even to overflowing the measure of our calamities, swept off numbers.
And altho' it has now disappeared and the ranks which had been thined by the pestilence, are fast filling up by daily emigrations, our loss is nevertheless severely felt, and deeply deplored.
In the immediate vicinity of this place, we escaped the visitation which scourged our neighbors a few miles to the east, it is true; but we suffered much from fever. Seth had a violent and obstinate attack of billious remitant in October, and altho' he was on his feet and able to ride in twelve days from the day of his confinement, his health, is nevertheless, still very delicate.
As to our political relations, they are daily improving, and our prospects on this side of the picture appear to be brightening. Altho' congress had not acted upon the question of the constitution for the new State of Texas at the date of our last advices from Mexico, it was nevertheless popular there; had many strong friends both in and out of the body, and no enemies, or opponents. No doubt is now entertained, that Texas will soon be a co-ordinate, and co-equal member of the Mexico Federation. Should this event take place as we now flatter ourselves it will, within the ensuing year, and we can succeed in putting our private affairs in the train which we now have in contemplation, it may be in our power, if life and health are spared us, to visit, ere long, the land of our nativity.
Do you ever think of visiting this far-off and romantic country? Or, do you prefer the rigor of the inclement north? Is an ample provision in valuable and fertile lands an object of desire with you, as an inheritance for a large family? And you can acquire them there? If you can, you ought to be content; if you cannot, perhaps the south would afford you the facility. I cannot recommend. On the great and responsible subject of a change of climate, of residence, and of government, I cannot advise; I never have.
I have sometimes said to heads of families, come and see, and judge for yourselves. I go no farther. May peace, plenty, and happiness attend you.
Your friend and nephew,
Matagorda Feb. 15, 1834
Having already written you several letters since receiving one from you, will not the dispatching of another, be regarded as an offence against good manners? But as this kind of offence is not likely to excite alarm, arising from the danger of the evil's spreading, I have prevailed on myself again to use the liberty, confiding in your generosity to excuse the abuse of it. And furthermore, having taxed Cousin Jane by the same hand which has kindly proffered to convey this, with an elaborate reply to hers of the 17th of Nov. last; it occurred to me, that, as she might take it ungenerous of me to draw so liberally on her patience, without imposing any thing on any else, it was perhaps necessary, in order to make matters easy, to levy a slight contribution on that of others. For, however much we may amuse ourselves at the expense of our own; it is very important, you know, to keep a good understanding with the fair sex.
But pleasantry and playfulness apart--Since the date of my last, nothing decisive or material, of a political nature, immediately affecting the more important concerns of Texas, has yet been officially communicated. From our Commissioner, dispatched to Mexico by the April Convention, to present the documents given him in charge, to the General Government; and to urge in capacity of agent of the people of this remote section, their claims to the privilege of a State Government; nothing satisfactory, or of much importance, has yet been received.
From a correspondent, however, who is extensively engaged in the interior Mexican trade, and a Gentleman of high respectability, I have received the following information. This Gentleman is one of my particular friends, a Kentuckian by birth, and entitled to high confidence. I extract from this late letter the following--"The law of the 6th of April 1830, prohibiting the emigration of North Americans to Texas, is undoubtedly repealed by a large majority of Congress. As to Free Toleration; I have not received any information that confirms conclusively the report, that it exists in the fullest sense of the term. This much is certain; that the Priests are now as fully amenable to the civil law, as any private citizen--that they do not possess any exclusive privileges--that they no longer collect tithes; which they did collect twelve months ago--that they are only allowed a small compensation for services actually rendered, such as baptism, marriages, etc. etc.---that they are prohibited all participation in the political concerns of the country; and that the Mexicans generally, have discarded that awful respect for the clergy, which they formerly felt." The letter contains much other information, which, as it relates entirely to the commercial regulations of the Government, would not probably interest you, I forbear to copy it.
But the foregoing cannot fail to interest the enlightened friends of national reform, throughout the world. True it is, that the Roman Catholic, although it is established, and exclusive religion of this country, protected by the Constitution and the laws of the Government, and armed with the formidable apparatus of an Ecclesiastical court, and at all times liable to be enforced in American Texas, has nevertheless, never been even visible amongst us. But we had no guarantee that it never would be. And it might excite the indignation of the Government, for us to adopt other forms of worship, or to employ other Pastors, that those prescribed; or introduced, by the Catholic Government. This situated, we have been virtually deprived of the free exercise of a right, which we had been taught to regard as innocent, lawful, and inherent; altho' we have been exempted, no doubt as a matter of temporary policy, from actually suffering a wrong; by being constrained to espouse, even the formalities, of the privileged religion. On the other hand, however, it is equally worthy of a passing remark; that, before emigrating, we knew the religion of the country to be catholic, and we had no reason to expect, either a waiver, or modification, in our favour. Such, nevertheless, has been the effect. For some reasons or other, the Government has refrained from even an attempt to coerce the observance of the national religion amongst, or by, the Americans, on this frontier. We have, therefore, enjoyed all the benefits of a complete, and effectual waiver.
From all that I can learn, I have but little doubt that "Free Toleration," on the subject of Religion, if it has not already been adopted by this Government, very soon will be. And I wish the event of the measure may prove, that the mass of the nation is prepared for its adoption. From all the information which I can glean concerning the character of the existing administration, and the present Congress; there is some reason to apprehend danger from doing, or attempting to do, too much. Perhaps there is more danger of this than that too little will be done. If the majority of the nation are unprepared for so great a change, it may produce a violent reaction. This might be followed by the loss of every thing. But if the mass of the nation is in reality favourable to the change, no great, or general inconvenience, can arise.
The wise Statesman, whilst he is diffusing light, will conform his measures to the prejudices, the customs, and even to the whims of the nation, whose happiness is committed to his keeping. Unless he does this, the wisdom of Tully will not avail him. He must allow time for the unmasking of error. He must inform, and expand, and liberalize, the public mind. He must prepare innovation at a distance; that it may not appear to be innovation. Truth, and sound reasoning, when skillfully presented; are always more powerful, that error and sophistry. There are the weapons; These are the machinery, which he must employ.
It has been done in Mexico, toleration will succeed; because, it will receive the popular sanction. But if it has not, blood will again flow, to atone for the rash, and premature reform. Nations are but larger communities of individuals. And they will not long permit their affairs to be managed by such as are either too far ahead, or too far behind, the actual, and absolute point, of general improvement. The sagacious law-giver will search for this point; and if he can once assure himself of having found it, he is in possession of a clue to guide and direct him. He may then successfully practice the illusion of making the people believe, that they are leading him, whilst he is actually leading them. When he can do this, he has reached the highest summit, of human influence. This is the engine, with which he may raise, or rule the world. It is exactly that other world which Archimedes said he wanted to place his engine upon, to enable him to raise this. The world of mind--of popular opinion; is to the politician; the desideratum in the science of government; which this ancient philosopher said he needed, in that of physics; to enable him to jolt the earth out of its orbit.
If the Legislator would not involve the nation in all the horrors of the terrible compound, called rebellion--civil war; He must consult the prejudices of the people. He must moderate, modify, remove or subdue them.
Prejudice in favour of established usages--prejudice in favour of antiquity--prejudice in favour of forms of devotion, rendered familiar by long use--in favour of names deemed sacred--in favour of images, emblems, and even paintings; all consecrated by time, and by the imposing ceremonials of a religion which they have been taught to believe of Devine authority, and are connected in the mind, with the hope of impunity in this world, and eternal happiness in the next--These prejudices, and a thousand others, are so many Gordian knots, which must be untied--they cannot be cut. He must therefore, go cautiously to work, if he would render his labours a blessing, instead of a curse to mankind. Fanaticism, in attempting to overleap, and lead them captive to the temple of Reform, does but whit the sword of revenge, and put in [ ] lating nation, the whole apparatus of war.
This is an uneventful crisis in the history of Mexico, and should be event prove that there is more of fanaticism, than of discerning philosophy, in the councils of the nation--and more of prejudice, than liberality, among the people--afar off, may yet be the day; of which the [ ] historian may say; "The nation, of the descendants of the Montezumas, had now began to breathe, and recover from the havoc of civil war."
Cousin Jane informs me, that you had received my several letters, and that you was preparing to answer them. I promise myself the pleasure, therefore, of perusing a long letter from you, in a few days. You will of course claim, what I intended to have awarded, but neglected, an interest in my letter to her. It is intended for the eye of my relatives, and for that only. I hope, therefore, that extracts from it, for any other purpose, will neither be made nor permitted. I am willing they should all see, and read it. But I am not willing it should pass into third hands; to gratify an idle, or indelicate curiosity. It contains a brief memoir of my early intellectual history, hastily composed, but superficially revised, and is unfit, for any but a partial, and indulgent eye.
There is in this country a very enterprizing, and apparently intelligent Gentleman from your Territory; who lives, he informed me, about 75 miles south of Oakland County. He has purchased nine or ten thousand acres of land on the Colorado, about a hundred and thirty miles north of this; will return, he says, in March ensuing, and intends moving to the country, next fall. His name is Evans. He informed me that he should be in Detroit during the summer, or perhaps spring; and that he would become the bearer of my letters. It is not uncertain whether I shall see him before he leaves our country; but if I do, I will endeavour to engage him to see you. He informed me that Oakland was not in high estimation, as a body of land; and that many who are settled there, would better their situation by selling out, and moving to Texas. Do not understand this as a recommendation to you to do so; for it is not so intended. My Brother, Seth Ingram, is the only human being, whom I ever advised, to emigrate to Texas. I have never taken the high responsibility of advising, any other person--altho' there are members in the country, who may have been influenced in the decision of removing here, by my written and verbal accounts of the country. A removal here from a high northern latitude, is invariably attended with more or less suffering from sickness, while undergoing the unavoidable acclimation. Could this be deferred, till the new-comer has time to make a crop or two; shelter himself comfortably from the weather, and see around him the comforts of life; his suffering would no doubt, be greatly meliorated. But acclimation, altho' not always generally comes, the first warm season after the arrival in the country. There is no time allowed, therefore, unless the emigrant arrives early in the fall, to make a suitable preparation, to undergo the change.----
There is a family now living in the country, Brookfield, from Detroit, who landed in the summer, and moved immediately to the upper country, near the Colorado. The wife of Brookfield is dead. The balance of his family (a large one) since they passed the stage of acclimation, have, or had, when I saw him last, enjoyed good health.
We have written to our half brothers for information in relation to their actual situation and means, for the purpose of being in some way or other, useful to them--but we get no answer. Two of our half-sisters have written--one to Seth, and one to me. ----
Please present our best respects to Uncle Durkee, and family. Present us also to your own--and accept for yourself and them, the renewed, and warm assurance of our affectionate solicitude.
May Heaven succeed, prosper, protect, and make you happy, for many years.
Fare you well,
Matagorda May 10th 1834
Very dear Uncle,
Your truly acceptable, but very brief address of the 2nd of February last, reached me safely, a few days ago. When I read your laconic communications and compare them with my own more wordy and elaborate effusions, I am sometimes led to the conclusion that, to you, mine must be exceedingly tedious; inasmuch as the length of the former bears a proportion so very distant to that of the latter. I have, indeed, sometimes thought, that, as example is a monitor so much more forcible than precept, you may have selected this mode of conveying instruction; and that an implied monition is concealed in what you write, under the covering of a studied conciseness. But however well, or ill-founded this occasional and passing conjecture of mine may in reality be, I am entirely content. If the motive here hinted, as being merely possible, be indeed the true one, and practical instruction on the beauty of brevity in epistolary compositions be your aim; altho' obnoxious in no small degree to the implied criticism, I submit, nevertheless, with becoming defference, to the just, and chastening exception. On the other hand, if such be not your motive, and you do but follow in the use of that rigid brevity which characterises your letters, the inclination of your own taste; willing at the same time, that those whom you are pleased to honour occasionally with the service of your pen, should also obey the promptings of a contrary preference; free as the breeze that sweeps the smiling prairie, sipping the exuberant fragrance of a thousand flowers, I will still banquet as I roam, on the enticing sweets of my mother tongue.
To dismiss my suppositions, however, and deal with you in the language of candour, your last communication is so provokingly short, that I hardly had patience to read it. The superscription excepted, two pages in four, entirely blank. Why not apply your liberality to a use more highly valued by me than the franking process of "paid," and fill another page? Indeed, indeed, My Honoured Uncle! Your letter bears more the impress of commercial dispatch, than of that untiring and prolonged gratification which even ordinary friends profess, when engaged in the delightful employment of corresponding.
But if the measure of your own be the received barometer by which to test the degree of merit to which the letters of others are entitled, what must be the severity of the sentence pronounced on my diffuse effusions! And must I then submit to the labour of making my letters shorter, in order to render them acceptable? Did my ambition prompt to the love of literary form; did my capacity qualify me for an achievement so noble as that of sharing the plaudits of her practical voice, I should doubtless submit to the nice observance of those excellent rules prescribed by the great masters of the "art rhetorical," for the purpose of conforming whatever I might present to the public eye, to the general taste of mankind. But I aspire not to a heighth so critical and giddy--I court not the partiality of a mistress so fickle and capricious-I covet not a niche in her temple; nor yet a place in the spell-bound labyrinth in which she delights to entangle the memory of her bewildered votaries. With no higher aim in view than that blameless and unenvied repute, which it is within the compass of humble mediocrity and well meant endeavours to attain; I cheerfully surrender to such as delight in unceasing contests for preeminence, the transient, and perishing trophies of hard-earned victory.
To one who looks at beauty as I do, abstracted from the consideration of its being the object of desire--at power, only as it sits upon another, without cherishing the hope of partaking any share of it--at wisdom & capacity, without envy, and without any pretensions to rival their honours or their acquisitions--I say, to one who, like me, is really free from forming any disquieting hopes from beholding the persons of beautiful women, and in no danger of warming himself into ambition from the successes of others, this world is not only an improving, but a very pleasant scene. Did mankind but know the freedom there is in thus keeping aloof from the world, the unaspiring would have more imitators than the ambitious; and the private citizen, more admirers than the most powerful ruler. To be no man's rival in love or competitor in business, is a character which, if it does not recommend its possessor as it aught to kind regard and benevolence amongst those with whom he lives, yet has it certainly this to recommend it; he does not stand so much in need of the approbation of others as he would if he aimed at setting his affections on those objects which are but too much, and too frequently, the unhappy causes of human contention.
I thank you kindly for the information contained in your letter concerning my ancestors; altho' I regret exceedingly that your stock is so very small. To know from whom, through whom, and whence descended, is always gratifying to the curious, but in the present instance, other motives than the amusement of a momentary curiosity prompt the investigation, and tender it an object of agreeable pursuit.
You speak with some apparent concern, on the remote possibility of our visiting, at some indifferent period, the land of our nativity. As it was uncalled for, I almost regret the casual mention of an event, dependent on so many, and complicated contingencies. To profit in a degree adequate to our expectations, or commensurate with the unavoidable hazard of actively aiding in the early settlement of a country so new as Texas was when we landed on its shores, and one so remote too from the beaten walks of civic life, has required uncommon perseverance, untiring patience, and a degree of watchfulness known to those alone who have long been beset by uncompromising vicissitude, and taught by the presence of grappling realities, to wait for events, and endeavour, if possible, to be prepared to profit by their presence whenever they occur. All this we have had to do, or sacrifice the future to the present, by bartaring the reward of our enterprise before it had yet matured, for a "mess and pottage." This we have not been disposed to do; but, on the contrary, to encounter privation, and submit to some suffering for a time, that we might ultimately realize the unimpaired reward of our enterprise in the end. And even yet, time and favouring events are wanting to mature the harvest. I did not, for one, invade the wilderness of Texas, to speculate in cents, piccons, shillings, not yet in dollars. I came here for a fortune expecting, if I succeed, to acquire it by the early exercise of my judgment in making judicious selections, in waiting for events, favouring their approach, and in profiting by their arrival. This was the course of policy which I prescribed to myself when I first landed, and which I have steadily pursued with unvarying, and unaltered resolution. We shall now, soon begin to realize as income,. But having a large interest in the domain of this town, owning the next adjoining league east of it, fronting on the Bay of Matagorda; and being at present, attention, and labour are required, to discharge my duty to others, and administer my own concerns. Whether I have misjudged in making my locations, in my investments in town property of a considerable amount, and concerning the importance and steady growth of this place, as a great commercial emporium, time alone will decide. Be the result what it may, I am entirely content. I have made the best use of my means and opportunities, which my judgment enabled me to make; and whether I lose of win, I cannot reproach myself with precipitation, or want of energy. If I am unsuccessful, I lose by little--If I am sustained by future events, and my hopes should prove prophetic, all my privations, all my sufferings, will, if I live to the ordinary age of man, be amply, nay munificently rewarded; and only remembered as "blessings in disguise," or as "pregnant presages" of approaching plenty.
In relation to our general and particular prospects as a community, both agricultural and political, they are truly flattering, and steadily improving. The prospects of the farmer and planter, were never more promising in any country, than in this, at the present time. The question of a State Government is yet undecided, and may be suspended for some time to come; but many improvements have recently been made in the local affairs of Texas, occasioned, no doubt by the spirit indicated by the conventions of 1832 & '33; reconciling the people, for the time being, to a temporary suspension of the act of separation. An entirely new, and greatly improved organization of the judiciary system of Texas, is one of the effects already realized, of the general and decisive movements here one and two years ago. With this, and such other improvements as we much need, and hope to obtain, we can move quietly, and prosperously along for some time to come, attached as we still are, to the government of Coahuila. And indeed, under even a partial reform, making our situation at all tolerable, I would greatly prefer temporary delay, to the untried expedient or organizing immediately, with present materials, a separate State Government.
Our hopes are in unison with yours on the subject of your living "to see us both" again. But do not flatter yourself that we can visit you during the current year. Whenever we can, however, we will surely do so. Seth's health is still very delicate. He is not actually confined--but so unsettled in his general health, that his enjoyment of the comforts of life, and daily happiness, are greatly impaired.
I wrote both you and Cousin Jane in February and forwarded the letters to an agreed point, to be conveyed to Michigan, by the hand of Judge Evans. I hope you have received them. My own health is pretty uniformly the same--neither very good, nor yet bad. My habits are very regular, and perhaps exempt me from those occasional indispositions so common to many less rigorously inclined. Present us kindly to all, and accept the renewed assurance of our undivided and increasing attachment.
Matagorda Jan. 9th 1835
Yours of the 11th June last, My Dear Uncle, came safely to hand some time ago--A serious indisposition, succeeded by a variety of urgent business, have heretofore combined to save you the trouble of reading, and to deny me the pleasure of writing, a reply. But "Richard's now himself again"--and all you have to dread is, lest you should be again flooded with letters from this far away country. You wish me to inform you how you shall direct your letters that they may find me. I verily thought I had long ago done so; and if I had not, it is most truly an inexcusable neglect. If, however, you will take the trouble to re-examine my letters, I still think you will find in some of them, something like this--"Direct to the care of General William L. Robeson, New Orleans." If this, or something like it, is not found in or on, one or more of my letters, I will acknowledge frankly, that I am not only neglectful, but forgetful also. By the by, I am now about making another Agent in N. Orleans, of which, and whom, when the arrangement is completed, I will inform you.
You say you did not see Judge Evans--from this passage, and from that of your acknowledging the receipt of mine of the 15th of February last, I am left to infer that this Gentlemen had arrived in your section of the country, and that Cousin Jane had received mine of the 12th of the same month. The reason of this may be that she has not yet concluded the reading of mine--Six and thirty pages is a serious task; indeed it is. Tell her, however, I pray you to escuse the unauthorized intrusion, it being the first--and, if required to do so I will promise to sin in like manner, no more.
But to return to your letter - the agricultural prosperity of our country the year past, while it rewards the cultivator abundantly, challenges a comparison with any country whatever. The cotton crop is better than it ever has been before. A few late crops were badly damaged by the worm. The early cotton, however, was injured but little, even where the worm was present; and their ravages were by no means general. To some crops, their labour was a benefit. Removing the leaves only, and not interrupting the boil, the branches of the plant before resting on the ground, were enabled to rise and expose the boll to the sun; thereby opening it immediately.
This article is the staple of the country; and bears this year, a high price. Many have sold at 14 and 14 1/2 cents. At this price the labour of a hand may be fairly estimated at $400.00 per annum. One of my friends who works but ten hands, sold his crop for $4,500--All the planters on the same watercourse, have been fortunate in full proportion.
The corn crop too, is abundant--In fact, the agriculture of the country is in the most flourishing condition. Settlers are coming in and land is rising rapidly in value. Lands that were sold 2 years ago, for $1.00 per acre, have lately been sold for 3 and 4 dollars per acre.----
The staple of the Texas cotton is longer and finer than that of Mississippi or Louisiana. If put in cultivation, there is land enough in Texas, within the fine staple region, to supply the demand, at present, of the whole civilized world.
Our political affairs are, I fear, not equally prosperous--The reaction which I feared, and more than half predicted in my last, is now in full progress--The Congress of the Nation, was, I have since learned, composed mostly of young men--inexperienced of course; and too hasty in the work of reform. This I feared. How the powers that be can soothe the awakened sensibilities of the mass of the nation, without making concessions according to the friends of toleration, and highly prejudicial to political freedom, is beyond my pretensions to foretell. However, these moral and political excitements to not affect all portions of the country alike. We of Texas, are, immediately, but little affected by them. But they have an indirect and remote influence, even on us. They excite alarm for the security of rights, and thus retard immigration.
The State question is lost--at least, for the present. And for the cause, we may look to the infidelity of its professed, but weak-minded, and indiscreet friends.--The benefits, therefore, which were anticipated from the immediate organization of a State Government for Texas, are now indefinitely deferred. And perhaps it is better to defer the change till we have more, and better materials to organize with.
You perceive from this, as well as my previous letters, that I am still an incorrigible pupil--for altho' I continue to receive 2 blank pages out of 4 in all your letters, I nevertheless adhere to my old rule, and send you as little blank paper as possible.
My Brother's health is now restored, and he is once more well.
Please accept for yourself and family our mutual, and cordial good wishes. As to visiting the U. S., we both intend it, but when, we cannot now decide. To go now, would be ruinous. We must "make hay while the sun shines." Our half brothers and sisters still maintain a persevering silence; in consequence of which, we have done writing them. Yours truly and affectionately,
Copyright 2011 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Oct. 2, 2017
Oct. 2, 2017