Description

    Charles Fenton Mercer's copy of his Mercer Colony colonization contract, offered with a unique variant of the Mercer Colony Map

    Mercer Colony Contract: Charles Fenton Mercer's Copy Signed "Sam Houston" as President, "Anson Jones" as Secretary of State, and "Charles F. Mercer/for himself and such/associates as he may choose," 20 pages, 9" x 11.25", front and verso. Washington, January 29, 1844. With 2.5" seal and green ribbon. It is believed that only three signed manuscript Mercer Colony contracts exist. One each was retained by the Executive and State Departments of the Republic of Texas; these two copies are now at the Texas State Library. The third was given to Mercer. Heritage is proud to offer Charles Fenton Mercer's copy of the historic Mercer Colony Contract. Before coming to Texas, Mercer had represented his native Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1817-1839, first as a Federalist, later as an Anti-Jacksonian, finally as a Whig. He moved to Tallahassee where he became cashier of the Union Bank of Florida. He became interested in Texas and made seven visits to the republic in the next four years. Former Texas Army Captain Palmer Job Pillans was one of the original surveyors and agents for the Mercer Colony and was present at the negotiations between Houston and Mercer. The contract is in his hand. It begins, "This Contract made the twenty ninth day of January eighteen hundred and forty four, between Sam Houston President of the Republic of Texas, acting in behalf of the Republic, of the first part, and Charles Fenton Mercer, late of the State of Virginia, but now of the City of Tallahassee in the Territory of Florida in the United States of America and such associates as he shall choose of the second part, Witnesseth, that whereas by an act passed by the Congress of Texas entitled an 'Act granting land to Emigrants' approved February 4, 1841, the President of the Republic of Texas was authorized to make a contract with sundry persons named in the said act, for the introduction and settlement of Emigrants, upon the vacant lands of the Republic of Texas..." The Mercer Colony in Texas was the last of the colonies founded issuing empresario contracts to persons who promised to settle individuals and families on the unclaimed public lands of the republic. Pres. Sam Houston granted Charles Fenton Mercer a contract to settle at least 100 families a year for five years, beginning on January 29, 1844. Mercer's contract was a source of controversy, however. Houston had granted it after vetoing a bill by the Texas Congress that would have taken away the president's authority to make such contracts without consulting the Congress. Congress overrode Houston's veto the day after the Mercer contract was granted. Mercer's well-known abolitionist sentiments made the colony an issue in the abolition and annexation controversy. He was one of the originators of the plan for establishing the Free State of Liberia and, in 1836, had served as vice president of the Virginia Colonization Society. The Mercer Colony was located in north central Texas, east and south of the Peters Colony. It lay roughly between the Brazos and Sabine rivers, north from Waco to McKinney in Collin County, skirting to the south and east of what is now the Dallas metropolitan area. Its boundaries encompassed portions of 18 future Texas counties. Mercer soon organized a company, the Texas Association, to advertise and promote colonization, and sold shares at $500 each to people he knew (and their friends) in Virginia and Florida as well as in Texas. The colony had problems from the start, as politicians, land speculators, and squatters, all eager to supplant the empresario system with the Anglo-American land system, questioned both the wisdom and the legality of granting away the republic's vast public lands without financial gain. There were questions over the exact boundaries of the grant and Mercer's association offered only 160 acres to families and 80 acres to single men, whereas the adjacent Peters Colony promoters were offering 320 acres (later 640) to families. Eventually Mercer matched that offer and by the end of first year of the contract, more than 100 families had complied with the requirements and received land certificates. The following year, however, legal proceedings against all colony contracts were taken, and the land titles were placed in jeopardy, leading to decades of litigation. After the Convention of 1845 instructed the new state of Texas to begin legal proceedings against all colony contracts, Gov. Albert C. Horton instituted suit on October 11, 1846, against Mercer and the Texas Association in the district court of Navarro County. Judge Robert E. B. Baylor of the Third Judicial District declared the contract between Mercer and Houston null and void, but the Texas Supreme Court subsequently upheld the legality of the contract. On February 2, 1850, the Texas legislature, seeking to quiet the confusion within the colony, guaranteed all land claims made by settlers in the Mercer colony before October 25, 1848. Mercer severed all connection with the grant on February 27, 1852, by assigning his interest in the Texas Association to George Hancock of Louisville, Kentucky. A superb document, bearing a huge, 5.5" long signature of Sam Houston with a 4" x 2" paraph.

    This historically significant manuscript is offered together with the only known copy of an 1845 Mercer Colony Map, a variant from the map accompanying the printed Mercer contract offered in lot 56127. The map, a detailed 11.25" x 9.25" lithographed map with original hand-colored shading: "Map/of the/Mercer Colony,/in/Texas./May 1st 1845/Scale 20 Miles to an Inch." bears no discernible printer's imprint. Although there is no way of knowing which map came first, we believe it is likely that this variant was produced from a separate plate and included in Mercer's semi-annual report to the Secretary of State dated, New York, September 25, 1845. Although at first glance, the maps appear to be identical; and are the same in respect to the printed dimensions, latitude/longitude markings, there are numerous differences evident upon side-by-side comparison. For example, the typeset used in the titles are noticeably distinct. Topographical differences include the addition of a timber trail running north-south down, and the extension of the various rivers to the right margin. Other differences noted: this map lists the date of the 2nd Peters Grant as "1841" ("1843" on first map), adds the day of the month ("29") to "Jany 1844" at the "5th Grant to C.F. Mercer" notation, the size of "4th Grant 1843 to the Texas Emigration & Land Co." has been added ("of 16,400 square miles including the 1st 2d & 3d Grants") as has the size of other grants, and "Raft" is identified on the Trinity River. Interestingly, the only damage to this map is what looks like a cigarette burn on the Trinity just to the right of the word "Raft" where the lumber on the river was located. Streeter locates only three copies of the Fishbourne imprint. Streeter notes in those entries "There seem to be two issues of the map, the first being the one here with the Fishbourne imprint and the second, a separate, with no imprint." However, he does not mention why he makes this statement or any other information regarding this second separate map. Streeter does not enter it as a separate entry item in his Bibliography which implies that he never saw a copy of one and assumed they were they same, except for the imprint; they are not.

    Also included is a very scarce copy of A. J. Peeler and S. B. Maxey, History And Statement Of The Mercer Colony Case, (Preston V. Walsh), In U.S. Circuit Court At Austin, Texas. (Austin: State Printing Office, D&D Institution, 1882). xvii, 135pp. 12mo. First and only edition. Deacidified and rebound with the original wrappers, which have been reinforced on verso. Pages are evenly toned, many pages have chipping at margins, but overall condition is very good with pages remaining pliant. Housed in a quarter calf custom slipcase.

    A historic grouping, and certain to be the cornerstone of any important Texana collection. The map and contract are each housed in full leather custom-made cases with gilt lettering on the cover and spine. From the collection of Darrel Brown.


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    Auction Dates
    December, 2007
    1st-3rd Saturday-Monday
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