Texas has a unique history among the 50 states that comprise the US, and much of that is due to the nature of the men who brought about its independence. Of them, few are as famous or more important than Stephen F. Austin. Born in the very shadow of the Founding Fathers in Virginia, Austin seemed destined from birth to do something special. Certainly, his father, Moses, saw potential in the boy, training him up to take the lead in whatever situation he found himself in, and various life experiences transformed Stephen. Moses provided his son with plenty of the difficulties, including bankruptcy, business losses, and family squabbles, all by the time his son was 20 years old.
Ultimately, Moses bequeathed his son the chance to become an empresario, a 19th-century leader of American pioneers in Texas. Austin in turn shaped the future of Texas in a way no other leader ever had the opportunity to do, and by carefully choosing men like himself, politically, religiously, and ethically, he helped create an independent nation (and future state) known for its rugged individualism and self-determination. Unfortunately, he also created a place where slavery, America’s great shame, was allowed to flourish for more than 40 years, and a place where people of color would struggle for generations to receive equality under the laws, many of which he either wrote or inspired.
Austin’s most famous contemporary, Sam Houston, was also a colorful and controversial individual. He was born in the US while George Washington was in office, and in an era when the native people who were gradually being subjugated were considered savages, he called them friends and even lived among them. He fought for their rights in the halls of government, defending them even as he obtained favor in the eyes of one of their worst enemies.
Though he was born and raised elsewhere, Houston is considered one of Texas’ truest sons, and during his life he fought for its independence from Mexico and then for its submission to the US. He owned slaves himself but spent his entire political career fighting against the spread of “the American cancer” to the West. Then, when his beloved state seceded from the Union, he not only opposed secession but sacrificed his own position to protest it, only to turn around and support the Confederacy during the last years of his life.
What cannot be questioned is how profound an impact both men had on Texas, Mexico, and the US over the course of several decades. Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston: The Lives and Legacies of the Leaders Who Founded the Republic of Texas looks at how the two became some of the Southwest’s most important figures. You will learn about Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston like never before.