Letter from J. Miguel Falcón to Miguel Arciniega, 1833

182nd anniversary of the letter that imprisoned Stephen Austin

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by Tom Wancho, Exhibit Planner

After becoming an empresario in 1823, Stephen Austin worked diligently with the Mexican government to protect his colonists’ rights. Ten years after his arrival in present-day Texas, and 182 years ago today, this letter ordering his arrest signaled an end to his days as a trusted diplomat.

For months Austin had been negotiating with officials in Mexico City to convince them that Texas should be its own state. Texas was then part of the combined state of Coahuila y Tejas and its interests were often outweighed by the larger and better represented Coahuila. The state capital, Saltillo, was 500 miles from Austin's Colony, far removed from the needs of the colonists. Finally in frustration, Austin wrote to the San Antonio town council in October 1833 encouraging them to join with other towns to organize a local government independent of Coahuila.

The town council turned Austin’s letter over to the Mexican government. Mexican officials considered Austin’s words an act of treason. In this letter to San Antonio alcalde José Miguel de Arciniega, J. Miguel Falcón, the secretary of state for Coahuila y Tejas, ordered Austin’s arrest.

“I enclose Your Lordship a copy of a letter that Don Estevan F. Austin sent on October 2 last from [Mexico City] to the [town council] of your city. It certainly contains subversive ideas capable of promoting in that department a scandalous revolution, especially if [Austin] manages to appear at [San Felipe de Austin].” Austin was arrested in Saltillo a few days later and imprisoned in Mexico City.

Austin was bitter over his arrest. In his February 22, 1834 prison diary entry he wrote,

“What a horrible punishment is solitary confinement, shut up in a dungeon with scarcely light to distinguish anything. If I were a criminal it would be one thing, But I am not one. I have been ensnared and precipitated, but my intentions were pure and correct.”

Austin would not be released from prison until December 1834.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Letter from J. Miguel Falcón to Miguel Arciniega, 1833 Artifact from Saltillo, Mexico
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