The remnant of slavery in America has caused a great deal of stigma and represents a lasting stain on our nation's history. The issue slavery is a difficult one to explore because of the sensitivities involved and the shame associated with the practice of slavery. There are many issues that can be discussed when delving into this particular topic. Although the institution of slavery was prevalent in many states a great deal of the research that exists concerning slavery concentrates on just a few of the states. The purpose of this discussion is to focus on slavery in the Republic of Texas. More specifically the research will focus on slavery in Austin, Texas in the decade between 1836 and 1846. The research will focus on Public opinion on Slavery, the relationship between slaves and their masters, the economic value of a slave in this region,
History of Slavery in Texas, how slaves were acquired and advertisement, how slaves were transported, Class structure that existed among the slaves, who owned the largest number of slaves, How often did ownership of slaves change hands, the living conditions of slaves and slavery in Texas beyond the 1940's. Let us begin the discussion with a brief overview of the history of slavery in Texas.
The History of Slavery in Texas
According to Bugbee (1898) the history of slavery in Texas, began in I821, when Moses Austin[footnoteRef:1]became the first person to receive permission to create an Anglo-American colony on the banks of the Colorado River and the Brazos. At the time of Austin's venture into this region of the country there were some Black people living in the small towns of Bexar and La Bahia, however the amount of blacks in the area was likely insignificant and restricted to personal servants of wealthy families. As such the introduction of Moses Austin and other pioneers in the area to develop the e rich bottom lands of Texas meant the start of a new way of functioning in texas and across the country. As such the issue of slavery was soon to become a major point of contention in the region including the neighboring nation of Mexico. [1: Moses Austin was the founder of the American lead industry and the father of Stephen F. Austin]
Bugbee (1898) explains that in Mexico the slavery of Blcak people was both tolerated and protected by the government. However the conditions in Mexico were so adverse that the practice of slavery in that country never became as prevalent as it became in the United States. In fact the concept of slavery in Mexico at this time was limited to the areas known a Vera Cruz and some of the hot lands of Mexico. In fact even when Mexico began to grow sugar cane there were y few slaves in Mexico. In fact in the early 1800 there were believed to be about nine or ten thousand slave in the entire region known as New Spain. Others such as the British agent in Mexico, H.G. Ward, argued that there were no more than six thousand in 1793, and that a decline in the number of slaves persisted until 1827.
The absence of the presence of slaves in the region was due to many receiving their freedom in return for service in the patriot army[footnoteRef:2]. With this understood Ward was recorded as saying that "there is now hardly a single slave in the central portion of the republic (Bugbee 1898, quoting H.G. Ward) ." In fact the author also points out that there were no slaves to be found in Orizaba or the valley of Cuernavaca which were both the most substantial regions for the growth and harvesting of sugar and coffee in all of Mexico. With these things understood Moses Austin believed that one of the ways the new colon would thrive would be through slave labor. Such labor for him meant that the colonist would be able to produce more and thereby accumulate wealth quicker which would assists In the rapid growth of the colony. In January of 1821 Moses Austin's petition to settle a colony is Texas was granted; however, neither the petition nor the grant made mention of slavery. [2: The partriot Army was ]
It was the intention of Austin that most of the colonists would come from, the southern United States. As such he was in favor of the ability of the new colonists to bring their slaves with them to Texas so that the city could be built quickly. However Moses Austin fell ill from the long trip and he died. As such the issue of establishing the colony in Texas became te responsibility of his son Stephen Fuller Austin. At the time Stephen was only 28 years old and determined to fill his father's shoes he toured Texas and was recognized as the successor to his father's grant. As such he was able to receive the approval of the plan from the governor which contained the distribution of lands. The author further explains that
"This plan, after making provision for the head of the family and allowing a liberal portion for the wife and each child, further provided for a grant of eighty acres of land for each slave belonging to the family. In approving this plan, the government of Mexico, through its representative in Texas, acquiesced in and substantially encouraged the introduction of slaves into the new settlement. A great many immigrants found their way into Texas before the summer of 1822, most of them bearing contracts signed by Austin or his agents, in which they were promised land in accordance with the plan already mentioned. They were nearly all from the southern portion of the United States, and many of them were the owners of at least a small number of slaves. Thus it was that the institu- tion was introduced into Texas. But difficulties arose: for some reason the governor of Texas declined to put the settlers in possession of the promised lands, and Austin felt that the situation demanded his presence in the City of Mexico, where Congress was in session (Bugbee 1898)."
Bugbee (1898) further asserts that the consequences of Austin's trip to Mexico were not fully understood at the time. Austin stayed in Mexico for over a year. During this time in the country he worked to familiarize himself with the Spanish language and the culture of the people of Mexico (Bugbee, 1898). Austin also became friendly with many Mexican leader and attempted to gain the trust of the government by showing them his determination in the establishment of an Anglo settlement in the Texas wilderness (Bugbee, 1898).
According to Lack (1981) only a month after receiving corporate status the local newspaper described the area as "the infant City, just throwing off the last vestiges [sic] of savage barbarianism (Lack,1981)." For many years following incorporation there were worries that the paper had been optimistic with its description because of the number of challenges that the city faced and the isolation associated with its location (Lack,1981). Although the city was able to endure it did so with a population of 854 people after ten years of existing as a city (Lack,1981). In addition most of the early residents in the region did not demand or receive much in the way of municipal services, as such formal law enforcement was primitive at best (Lack, 1981).
Indeed there was a great deal of tension present between the Anglo settlers and the Mexican government. The government continuously attempted to outlaw slavery in Texas. However in 1836, settlers in the region rebelled from Mexico the Republic of Texas was established ("The Texas Slavery Project"). As a result "from 1836 to 1845, slaveholders from the American South poured into this new nation between the borders of the United States and Mexico ("The Texas Slavery Project")."
Public opinion on Slavery
Although there were always people in America who opposed slavery and wanted it abolished, the general consensus was that slavery was a needed and necessary institution. It was in fact, a mean to an end. For the most part the people who supported slavery had some vested interest in the ownership or slave and many were also convinced that people with Black skin were not human and as such there treatment was of no consequence. Those who had a vested interest in slavery were so inclined because slave ownership meant that profit margins were larger. Therefore the ownership of slaves made people wealthy. Those who were opposed to slavery were fewer in number and as such their voices often went unheard. In addition, the type of work that needed to be done in an effort to colonize this region of the country required many people. Those who were pro-slavery believed that slaves were therefore a necessity.
Although slavery was generally accepted in the American south, slavery was not as accepted in the Republic of Texas at the time because of the influence of Mexico. However,…