Baron de Bastrop reports on Texas in 1823

    Felipe Enrique Neri, Baron de Bastrop Autograph Letter Signed in Spanish to Luciano Garcia, giving a detailed accounting of colonization and progress in Texas. Three handwritten pages (on two sheets), 6.5" x 8.25", San Felipe de Austin, December 20, 1823. Bastrop writes: "As your communication of 24 September did not come to hand until 10 November, I was unable to cross the Sabine River and from there to Pecan Point on the Red River of Natchitoches in order to personally inspect all the families that live in that area-the only way to give an exact accounting of them. If, however, it is agreeable to you, I shall do it in the spring. From all the reports I have been able to gather, there are two hundred families between the San Jacinto and Sabine rivers, most of them are creoles, settled there for many years, and fifty at Pecan Point. Since the dividing line between this country and the United States has not been run, however, it is uncertain whether or not Pecan Point is part of this province. Few American families from the Mississippi Valley have introduced themselves in this province. The majority of those who have settled in this province formerly lived on lands that the United States ceded to the Choctaw Indians, who in my opinion might prove much more troublesome than the inhabitants from the Mississippi Valley, because they subsist solely from the hunt. A great many of them have slaves and are generally powerful."

    Dutch, by birth, Bastrop arrived in Spanish Texas in the early 1800s. He was permitted to establish a colony, and settled in San Antonio in 1806. He is attributed with influencing Governor Antonio María Martinez to approve Moses Austin's project to colonize Texas in 1820. In July 1823, he was appointed commissioner of colonization for Stephen Austin's colony with authority to issue land titles. It is in this capacity that he reports to Don Luciano Garcia in this letter; Garcia likely made the assignment in response to increasing incidents of American squatters crossing over from Arkansas and Louisiana.

    The Baron was sensitive to the ongoing dispute between the U.S. and Mexico over the Texas border and was a familiar figure to the settlers in the area. The boundary would not be firmly established until 1828 when Gen. Manuel de Mier y Terán's boundary commission and its American counterpart surveyed the Sabine and eastern Red River.

    The Baron himself, has an interesting history. His fictitious noble pedigree helped him gain the trust of the Spanish nobility, and likely anyone he encountered. Little did they know that he had escaped to the New World to avoid charges of embezzlement. Letter has light toning, a few areas of staining, and rough margins. Letters by Bastrop are rare, one providing content regarding Texas, are exceptionally so.

    Reference: Handbook of Texas Online.

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