<-- Back to Stephen F Austin
Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 1985, "Stephen F Austin"
Stephen Fuller Austin b 3 Nov 1793 Austinville, Virginia; d Dec 27 1836 Austin, Texas. Founder in the 1820s of the principal settlements of English-speaking people in Texas, when that territory was still part of Mexico.
Raised on the Missouri frontier, Austin was educated at Translyvania University in Lexington, Kentucky and served in the Missouri territorial legislature (1814-19). The Economic Panic of 1819 led his father, Moses Austin (1767-1821), to leave his lead-mining business in Missouri and embark upon a scheme of colonization in Texas. Moses obtained a grant of land from the Mexican government but died soon thereafter, and in 1821 Stephen went to Texas to carry out his father's project. He founded a colony (1822) of several hundred families on the Brazos River, and for some years thereafter, as the migration of US citizens to Texas increased, he was a major figure in the struggle between Mexico and the US for possession of the territory.
A skillful diplomat, Austin served the interests of Anglo-American slaveholders by defeating an effort to ban slavery in Texas. He tried to induce the Mexican government to make Texas a seperate state in the confederation so that the American settlers might have the liberty and self-government they considered indispensable. When this attempt failed, however, he recommended in 1833 the organization of a state without waiting for the consent of the Mexican congress, and was thrown in prison. He was released in 1835, and when the Texas revolution broke out in October of that year, he went to the US to secure help. Returning in June 1836, he was defeated by Sam Houston for the presidency of the new Republic of Texas and served briefly as secretary of state until his death.