Austin, Stephen

Colonizer and Political Leader


Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Austinville, Virginia, on November 3,1793. After attending Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, He went to Missouri (1810), where he became director of the Bank of St. Louis and a member of the territorial legislature (1814-20). Then, in 1821, he chose to move to Texas, which was part of Mexico. A year later, he founded a colony there -- the first legally-established settlement of Anglo-Americans in the region.

For six years, Austin governed Texas, opposing the abolition of slavery. After Mexico abolished slavery, he encouraged the enforcement of a labor law, whereby slaves could be brought into Texas, technically as indentured servants.

In 1833, his efforts in Mexico City to have Texas separated from Coahuila and made a state of the Mexican confederation led to his imprisonment. When he was released in 1835, he returned to Texas and opposed a declaration of independence, explaining that Texas did not have the resources to win or maintain its independence. However, a revolution brokeout in 1836, and he obligingly went to Washington to ask for help from the United States.

When he returned, Austin was defeated for the presidency of the new Republic of Texas by Sam Houston (1836). However, he served briefly as its secretary of state until he died in Austin, Texas on December 27, 1836.