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Map of Texas in 1833 showing several of the land grants Map of Coahuila and Texas in 1833.jpg
Map of Texas in 1833 showing several of the land grants

An empresario was a person who had been granted the right to settle on land in exchange for recruiting and taking responsibility for settling the eastern areas of Coahuila y Tejas in the early nineteenth century. The word is Spanish for entrepreneur. [1]

Coahuila y Tejas former Mexican state

Coahuila y Tejas was one of the constituent states of the newly established United Mexican States under its 1824 Constitution.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.


By empresarios attracting immigrants mostly from the southern United States to Texas, they inadvertently encouraged the spread of slavery into this territory. Although Mexico banned slavery in 1836, Texas gained independence that year, and continued to develop an economy dominated by slavery in the eastern part of the territory.


In 1829, Mexico abolished slavery, which affected the Anglo-American settlers’ quest for wealth in building plantations worked by enslaved Africans. They lobbied the Mexican government for a reversal of the ban and gained only a one-year extension to settle their affairs and free their bonded workers - the government refused to legalize slavery. The settlers decided to secede from Mexico, initiating the famous and mythologized Battle of the Alamo in 1836. [2]

Battle of the Alamo Major battle of the Texas Revolution

The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna reclaimed the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar, killing the Texian and immigrant occupiers. Santa Anna's cruelty during the battle inspired many Texians, both legal Texas settlers and illegal immigrants from the United States, to join the Texian Army. Buoyed by a desire for revenge, the Texians defeated the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836, ending the rebellion.

In the late 18th century, Spain stopped allocating new lands in much of Spanish Texas, stunting the growth of the province. [3] It changed this policy in 1820, and made it more flexible, allowing colonists of any religion to settle in Texas (formerly settlers were required to be Catholic, the established religion of the Spanish Empire. [4] Moses Austin, a British colonist, was the only man granted an empresarial contract in Texas under Spanish law. But Moses Austin died before he could begin his colony, and Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in September 1821. At this time, about 3500 colonists lived in Texas, mostly congregated at San Antonio and La Bahia. [5]

Spanish Texas

Spanish Texas was one of the interior provinces of the Spanish colonial Viceroyalty of New Spain from 1690 until 1821.

Moses Austin American businessman

Moses Austin was an American businessman and pioneer who played a large part in the development of the lead industry in the early United States. He was the father of Stephen F. Austin, one of the earliest American settlers of Texas, which was at the time part of Mexico.

Mexican War of Independence armed conflict which ended the rule of Spain in the territory of New Spain

The Mexican War of Independence was an armed conflict, and the culmination of a political and social process which ended the rule of Spain in 1821 in the territory of New Spain. The war had its antecedent in Napoleon's French invasion of Spain in 1808; it extended from the Cry of Dolores by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla on September 16, 1810, to the entrance of the Army of the Three Guarantees led by Agustín de Iturbide to Mexico City on September 27, 1821. September 16 is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day.

The Mexican government continued the generous immigration policies in order to develop east Texas. [6] Even as the government debated a new colonization law, Stephen F. Austin, son of Moses Austin, was given permission to take over his father's colonization contract. Steven F. Austin is probably the best known and most successful empresario in Texas. The first group of colonists, known as the Old Three Hundred, arrived in 1822 and settled along the Brazos River, ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to near present-day Dallas. [7]

Stephen F. Austin American empresario, slaveholder, namesake of Austin, Texas

Stephen Fuller Austin was an American empresario. Known as the "Father of Texas", and the founder of Texas, he led the second, and ultimately, the successful colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States to the region in 1825.

The Old Three Hundred were the 297 grantees, made up of families and some partnerships of unmarried men, who purchased 307 parcels of land from Stephen Fuller Austin and established a colony that encompassed an area that ran from the Gulf of Mexico on the south, to near present-day Jones Creek, Brazoria county Texas, Brenham in Washington County, Texas, Navasota in Grimes County, and La Grange in Fayette County. Moses Austin was the original empresario of the Old Three Hundred and was succeeded by his son, Stephen F. Austin, after his untimely death.

Brazos River river in Texas

The Brazos River, called the Río de los Brazos de Dios by early Spanish explorers, is the 11th-longest river in the United States at 1,280 miles (2,060 km) from its headwater source at the head of Blackwater Draw, Curry County, New Mexico to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico with a 45,000-square-mile (116,000 km2) drainage basin. Being one of Texas' largest rivers, it is sometimes used to mark the boundary between East Texas and West Texas.

In 1823, Mexico’s authoritarian ruler Agustín de Iturbide enacted a colonization law authorizing the national government to enter into a contract granting land to an “empresario,” or promoter, who was required to recruit a minimum of two hundred families to settle the grant. [8]

Mexico approved immigration on a wider basis in 1824 with passage of the General Colonization Law. This law authorized all heads of household who were citizens of or immigrants to Mexico as eligible to claim land. [6] After the law passed, the state government of Coahuila y Tejas was inundated with requests by foreign speculators to establish colonies within the state. [9] There was no shortage of people willing to come to Texas. The United States was still struggling with the aftermath of the Panic of 1819, and soaring land prices within the United States made the Mexican land policy seem very generous. [9]

Most successful empresarios recruited colonists primarily in the United States. Only two of the groups that attempted to recruit in Europe built lasting colonies, Refugio and San Patricio. [10] [11] These colonies were successful in part because the empresarios spoke Spanish, were Catholic and generally familiar with Mexican ways, and allowed local Mexican families to join their colonies. [11]

Rules for settlers

Unlike its predecessor, the Mexican law required immigrants to practice Catholicism and stressed that foreigners needed to learn Spanish. [12] Settlers were supposed to own property or have a craft or useful profession, and all people wishing to live in Texas were expected to report to the nearest Mexican authority for permission to settle. The rules were widely disregarded and many families became squatters. [13]

Under the new laws, people who did not already possess property in Texas could claim one square league (4438 acres) of irrigable land, with an additional league available to those who owned cattle. Empresarios and individuals with large families were exempt from the limit. [14]

Notable empresarios

EmpresarioColony locationCapitalNotes

Empresido of Mexico in New Madrid, Spanish Louisiana Territory,

Philip Alston (counterfeiter) New Madrid, Spanish Louisiana Territory New Orleans sold land grants
Stephen F. Austin Austin's Colony between Brazos and Colorado riversSan Felipe De Austinconsidered by many to be the "Father of Texas", took over his father Moses Austin's empresario contract
David G. Burnet East Texas, northwest of Nacogdochessold his land grant to the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company
Martín De León De León's Colony Victoria The only colony that was primarily Mexican and not Anglo-American [15]
Green DeWitt DeWitt Colony Gonzales
Haden Harrison Edwards East Texas from the Navasota River to 20 leagues west of the Sabine River, and from 20 leagues north of the Gulf of Mexico to 15 leagues north of the town of Nacogdoches. [16] Nacogdoches Expelled from Texas after launching the Fredonia Rebellion in 1827
Benjamin Drake Lovell and John PurnellAttempted to establish a socialist colony; Purnell died and Lovell abandoned the colony in 1826; land was later given to McMullen and McGloin. [17]
John McMullen and James McGloin San Patricio, TX of Irish descent, these men recruited primarily European settlers [11] [18]
James Power and James Hewetson Land between Guadalupe and Lavaca rivers. [19] San Patricio and Refugio Half of settlers were to come from Ireland, the other half from Mexico. [20]
Sterling C. Robertson An area along the Brazos River about 100 miles wide and 200 miles long, centered on Waco, comprising all or some of thirty present-day counties in Central Texas. [21] SarahvilleAt various times also called Robertson's Colony, the Texas Association, Leftwich's Grant, the Nashville colony, or the upper colony. [21]
Lorenzo de Zavala southeastern Texas in the Galveston Bay Area transferred ownership to the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company
Henri Castro southwestern Texas on the Medina River Castroville

After the Republic of Texas won its independence from Mexico, the young nation continued its own version of the empresario program, offering grants to French diplomat Henri Castro and abolitionist Charles Fenton Mercer, among others.

See also

Related Research Articles

Texas Revolution military conflict

The Texas Revolution was a rebellion of colonists from the United States and Tejanos in putting up armed resistance to the centralist government of Mexico. While the uprising was part of a larger one that included other provinces opposed to the regime of President Antonio López de Santa Anna, the Mexican government believed the United States had instigated the Texas insurrection with the goal of annexation. The Mexican Congress passed the Tornel Decree, declaring that any foreigners fighting against Mexican troops "will be deemed pirates and dealt with as such, being citizens of no nation presently at war with the Republic and fighting under no recognized flag." Only the province of Texas succeeded in breaking with Mexico, establishing the Republic of Texas, and eventually being annexed by the United States.

Fredonian Rebellion

The Fredonian Rebellion was the first attempt by Anglo settlers in Texas to secede from Mexico. The settlers, led by Empresario Haden Edwards, declared independence from Mexican Texas and created the Republic of Fredonia near Nacogdoches. The short-lived republic encompassed the land the Mexican government had granted to Edwards in 1825 and included areas that had been previously settled. Edwards's actions soon alienated the established residents, and the increasing hostilities between them and settlers recruited by Edwards led Victor Blanco of the Mexican government to revoke Edwards's contract.

Mexican Texas

Mexican Texas is the historiographical name used to refer to the era of Texan history between 1821 and 1836, when it was part of Mexico. Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 after winning its war. Initially, Mexican Texas operated similarly to Spanish Texas. Ratification of the 1824 Constitution of Mexico created a federal structure, and the province of Tejas was joined with the province of Coahuila to form the state of Coahuila y Tejas.

The Convention of 1832 was the first political gathering of colonists in Mexican Texas. Delegates sought reforms from the Mexican government and hoped to quell the widespread belief that settlers in Texas wished to secede from Mexico. The convention was the first in a series of unsuccessful attempts at political negotiation that eventually led to the Texas Revolution.

The Consultation served as the provisional government of Mexican Texas from October 1835 to March 1836 during the Texas Revolution. Tensions rose in Texas during early 1835 as throughout Mexico federalists began to oppose the increasingly centralist policies of the government. In the summer, Texians elected delegates to a political convention to be held in Gonzales in mid-October. Weeks before the convention and war began, settlers took up arms against Mexican soldiers at the Battle of Gonzales. The convention was postponed until November 1 after many of the delegates joined the newly organized volunteer Texian Army to initiate a siege of the Mexican garrison at San Antonio de Bexar. On November 3, a quorum was reached in San Antonio. Within days, the delegates passed a resolution to define why Texians were fighting. They expressed allegiance to the deposed Constitution of 1824 and maintained their right to form an independent government while this document was not in effect. Henry Smith was elected governor of the new provisional government and the remaining delegates formed a General Council. In the next weeks, the council authorized the creation of a new regular army to be commanded by Sam Houston. As Houston worked to establish an army independent from the existing volunteer army, the council repeatedly interfered in military matters.

Haden Edwards was a Texas settler and land speculator. Edwards County, Texas on the Edwards Plateau is named for him. In 1825, Edwards received a land grant from the Mexican government, allowing him to settle families in East Texas. His grant included the city of Nacogdoches, and Edwards soon angered many of the previous settlers. After his contract was revoked in 1826, Edwards and his brother declared the colony to be the Republic of Fredonia. He was forced to flee Mexico when the Mexican army arrived to put down the rebellion, and did not return until after the Texas Revolution had broken out.

The history of slavery in Texas, as a colonial territory, later Republic in 1836, and U.S. state in 1845, had begun slowly, as the Spanish did not rely on it for labor during their years in Spanish Texas. The use of slavery expanded in the mid-nineteenth century as British-American settlers primarily from the Southeastern United States crossed the Mississippi River and brought slaves with them. Slavery was present in Spanish America and Mexico prior to the arrival of American settlers, but it was not highly developed.

The DeWitt Colony was a settlement in Mexican Texas founded by Green DeWitt. From lands belonging to that colony, the present Texas counties of DeWitt, Guadalupe and Lavaca were created. The hub of the colony was primarily located, however, in what is now Gonzales County. The first battle of the Texas Revolution occurred in the DeWitt Colony.

Green DeWitt was an empresario in Mexican Texas. He founded the DeWitt Colony.

Rafael Antonio Manchola was a politician and military officer in Mexican Texas. He twice served as commandant of Presidio La Bahía. He served two terms in the legislature of the state of Coahuila y Tejas. At his behest, the community which had grown outside the fort was renamed Goliad and elevated in status to a villa. During his legislative service, Manchola also negotiated official boundaries for the colony of his father-in-law, Martín De León, and had a commissioner appointed to grant official titles to the settlers in that colony. After returning home, Manchola became the alcade of Goliad and initiated a resolution–then considered illegal– supporting the Constitution of 1824 and Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. He briefly attended the Convention of 1832 and volunteered to accompany William H. Wharton in journeying to Mexico City to request separate statehood for Texas. The mission was postponed, and Manchola died of cholera in late 1832 or early 1833.

Juan Jose Maria Erasmo Seguin was a prominent citizen and politician in San Antonio de Bexar in the 19th century. From 1807 until 1835, Seguin served as head postmaster of San Antonio, Texas. After Mexico achieved independence from Spain, Seguín was named the sole representative from Texas to the constitutional convention. He helped to draft the Constitution of 1824 and was a major influence in the addition of a general colonization provision. Seguín assisted Stephen F. Austin in choosing land for the first colony of American settlers to immigrate to Texas. He later supported the Texas Revolution, providing political as well as material support.

Law of April 6, 1830 was issued because of the Mier y Terán Report to counter concerns that Mexican Texas, part of the border state of Coahuila y Tejas was in danger of being annexed by the United States. Immigration of United States citizens, some legal, most illegal, had begun to accelerate rapidly.

De Leóns Colony

De León's Colony was established in 1824 in northern Coahuila y Tejas state of the First Mexican Republic, by empresario Martín De León. It was the only ethnically Mexican colony founded during the Mexican period (1824-1835) that is located within the present-day U.S. state of Texas.

The Colonization Law of August 18, 1824 was a Mexican statute allowing foreigners to immigrate to the country.

Robertsons Colony

Robertson's Colony was an empresario colonization effort during the Mexican Texas period. It is named after Sterling C. Robertson, but had previously been known by other names. It has also been referred to as the Nashville Colony, after the Tennessee city where the effort originated, the Texas Association, the Upper Colony, and Leftwich's Grant, named after early colonizer Robert Leftwich. The eventual contract spread over an area that includes all or part of thirty present-day counties in Texas.

Lake Creek Settlement

The Lake Creek Settlement was a settlement in Stephen F. Austin's Second Colony located in Mexican Texas and later the Republic of Texas. The Lake Creek Settlement was located between the West Fork of the San Jacinto River (Texas) and the stream known as Lake Creek in what is today western Montgomery County, Texas. In July 1837, the town of Montgomery, Texas was founded in the middle of the Lake Creek Settlement.

Carlos de la Garza (1807–1882) was a rancher in Goliad, Victoria and Refugio counties of Texas whose participation in the Battle of Coleto was instrumental in the surrender of James Fannin and the Texian forces.


  1. Compare "impresario".
  2. Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne (2014). An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 127. ISBN   978-0-8070-5783-4.
  3. Manchaca (2001), p. 194.
  4. Vazquez (1997), p. 48.
  5. Edmondson (2000), p. 75.
  6. 1 2 Manchaca (2001), p. 187.
  7. Manchaca (2001), p. 198.
  8. Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne (2014). An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 123. ISBN   978-0-8070-5783-4.
  9. 1 2 Vazquez (1997), p. 53.
  10. Davis (2002), p. 72.
  11. 1 2 3 Davis (2002), p. 75.
  12. Vazquez (1997), p. 50.
  13. de la Teja (1997), p. 88.
  14. Manchaca (2001), p. 196.
  15. Henderson, p.5
  16. Ericson (2000), p. 37.
  17. Davis (2002), p. 76.
  18. Davis (2002), p. 73.
  19. Davis (2002), p. 78.
  20. Davis (2002), p. 79.
  21. 1 2 Texas State Historical Association