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An empresario system gave colonizers like Stephen F. Austin premiums for bringing in settlers; in turn, such land agents could collect fees to defray the costs of surveying and administration.  Attracted by the nearly free lands, colonists swelled the population of Texas from about 3,000 to approximately 40,000 between 1821 and 1835.  Native Mexicans comprised only about ten percent of that number, the remainder being mostly emigrants from the U. S.

These policies populated Texas but brought on a number of problems.  Many grumbled about plundering speculators, but in reality dealing in land represented a virtual way of life in Texas.  Some of the agents abused their privileges by selling lands to which they had no legitimate title rather than promoting settlement as the law provided.  Empresario grants overlapped in a confusing manner, and people took up residence without securing the proper surveys or legal papers.  Government frequently fell behind in the complicated process of resolving conflicting claims.  People sold all or part of their rights to land that had not been fully patented.

Meanwhile, Mexico worried that the tide of immigration would displace the native Mexicans and that the Anglo Americans used their political power to make more demands on the government rather than accepting their privileges in a spirit of gratitude and deference.  The Texans succeeded in fending off efforts to restrict the growth of or abolish slavery.  The central government also declared a virtual end to immigration from the U. S. in 1830, but many came anyway even before entreaties from Texas brought about a formal repeal in 1833.  Statehood separate from Coahuila became the focus for the "reform" agenda, which its advocates pushed through popular meetings and conventions that in turn sparked mistrust by Mexican authorities.  Austin spent 1834 in prison in Mexico City for advocating that cause too aggressively, even though in Texas members of the "war" faction considered him lukewarm.

With Austin in a sense being held hostage to calm behavior by his fellow Texans, the initiative shifted to Mexico, where a growing consensus favored governing the turbulent northern province more stringently.  Antonio López de Santa Anna, though previously a defender of the loose federalistic structure that allowed Texas such considerable autonomy, gained power and advanced a policy of more centralized authority.  In 1835 he abolished the Constitution of 1824 that had enhanced state and localized government.  That spring Santa Anna replaced the state governments that resisted his move, including that of Coahuila.  Initially, Texans did not rally to the defense of the state officials, largely because of rumors that they had sold large amounts of land to privileged speculators.

Resistance spread in the summer of 1835 as awareness grew that the centralists intended to govern Texas more directly, by military force if necessary,


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The Diary of William Fairfax Gray, from Virginia to Texas, 1835-1837
Copyright 1997 William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas