The Pernicious and Growing Influence of the Mexican Peon Population Now in our Midst

August 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Austin is famous — or infamous — depending on your personal prejudices, as a “Sanctuary City” for illegal immigrants. Now, this is a debatable subject, but it is not the point of this particular blog. What is undebatable, and is today’s subject, are the events of the year in which Austin was anything but hospitable to Mexicans, when Austinites put even High Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Governor Jan Brewer of the great State of Arizona to shame with regard to their gentle and kindly treatment of illegal immigrants.

October 7, 1854

MEXICANS AIDING NEGROES. – There are a number of Mexicans encamped in the suburbs of this city. They have been employed to work by different persons. There is no doubt but they are, and have been, aiding negroes to escape from their owners. On last Saturday night Mr. Butts visited the camp and found two negroes in it. He caught one and called to his wife to bring a rope to tie him; before she could reach him, the negro tore loose from him. Mr. Norvell went to the camp on another occasion, and found the Mexicans dealing monte, and the negroes betting. Something must be done to prevent the negroes and Mexicans from associating.

A mass meeting resolved to discontinue the practice of having peons as laborers. The committee went to the Mexican camp and delivered them the instructions. No further trouble. Much complaint of them mixing with the slaves and inciting them to discontent and insubordination.

October 14, 1854

THE PEONS. A respectable citizen of Austin says that while returning from Bastrop lately he discovered at a late hour of night, at a Mexican camp, in the vicinity, a large number of Peons, Mexican women and slaves. The Peons and slaves were playing at monte, smoking cigars, and drinking liquor. He noted one slave with his arms around a Señora and another Señora laying her shawl over a negro while he was reclining on the ground. Our informant rode on to town, but the hour being so late, he could no one to accompany him back to the place in order to arrest the party. Is it surprising that our citizens should feel disposed to rid themselves of this low and dangerous class of Mexican Peones, when scenes like this are transpiring around us?

Public Meeting.

An adjourned meeting of the citizens of Travis county was held at the Old Capitol, at 3 o’clock, on the 7th inst. The object of the meeting was to receive and consider the report of a committee to report upon the following resolutions offered by Capt. Cleveland at a previous meeting.

Dr. Philips, chairman of said committee, reported the following resolutions:

The condition of things arising from the unwarrantable and dangerous privileges allowed to the slave population of this county, and especially in this city, imperatively demand of all citizens interested in the common welfare, the adoption of such measures as will immediately counteract their tendency, and establish different, and more salutary regulations for their government. To the end that efficiency may be given to public sentiment upon this subject, we regard it as highly important that our feelings, views, and determinations should be embodied and expressed so as more certainly to secure general co-operation. We, therefore, recommend the adoption of the following resolutions:

Resolved, 1st. That the practice of masters allowing slaves to hire their own time, make their own contracts, and to occupy houses separate from and without enclosures occupied by white persons, is wrong in principle and detrimental to the best interest of this community, as it is calculated to support insubordination and dishonesty among the slave population; thereby rendering the institution of slavery not only valueless but dangerous.

Resolved, 2nd. That as law-abiding citizens, consulting the interest of all parties concerned, we will not in future allow our slaves any such liberties, nor deal with slaves whose masters allow them such privileges, and we will rigidly enforce the laws against those who allow their slaves such dangerous privileges in violation of the statutes of the State.

Resolved, 3rd. That all slaves found with arms or deadly weapons on any description upon their persons, or in their apartments, be chastised severely in all cases for the wearing and possessing such unlawful and dangerous articles.

Resolved, 4th. That all assemblages of negroes, whether for amusement or religion, without the presence or permission of some respectable white person, are wrong, and should not be permitted.

Resolved, 5th. That the ministers having charge of the different churches in our county, be requested to devote a portion of one Sabbath in each month to their spiritual instruction.

Resolved, 6th. That we will not buy, sell, or give any article to, or have any business transaction with any slave, without the consent of said slave’s master.

Resolved, 7th. That a Vigilance Committee be appointed by this meeting, to consist of 12, from the city of Austin, half from the east and half from the west side of Congress Avenue, and 36 from Travis county, six from each beat or township, whose duty it shall be to enforce a strict compliance with the provisions of these resolutions.

Resolved, 8th. That we will aid and sustain the said Vigilance Committee in the enforcement of the provisions of these resolutions.

October 21, 1854

THE MEETING OF LAST SATURDAY. – In another column will be found the proceedings of a meeting held to devise some plan to relieve the community from the pernicious and growing influence of the Mexican peon population now in our midst. The evils arising from this class of citizens have become insupportable, and the difficulty of convicting one of crimes, unquestionably committed, leave no other plan than the ejectment of those against whom suspicion is so very strong that summary proceedings seem perfectly justifiable. Hence the committee have resolved to expel those Mexicans whose guilt is apparent, “peaceably if they can, forcibly if they must.”

Grand Ratification Meeting.

Pursuant to notice, the citizens of Travis county convened at the Old Capitol, on Saturday the 14th inst., for the purpose of ratifying or repudiating the resolutions adopted on the 7th inst., relative to the Mexican population in the county.

On the motion of Judge W.S. Oldham, Col. Thos. McKinney was called to the Chair, and Dr. W. Philips appointed Secretary.

The Chairman explained the object of the meeting, and read the following resolutions adopted at the previous meeting.

WHEREAS, We have among us a Mexican population who continually associate with our slaves, and instill into their minds false notions of freedom, and make them discontented and insubordinate; therefore,

Resolved, 1st. That all transient Mexicans, or those not freeholders, in our midst, be warned to leave within ten days from the passage of this resolution.

Resolved, 2nd. That all remaining after that time be forcibly expelled, unless their good character and good behavior be vouched for by some responsible American citizen.

Resolved, 3rd. That all citizens employing Mexicans as laborers, be requested to notify them of the passage of this resolution.

Resolved, 4th. That we will not employ Mexicans as laborers, and will discountenance and discourage their presence among us.

Resolved, 5th. That a committee of ten energetic gentlemen be appointed to carry the first and second resolution into effect.

On motion of Major John Marshall the resolutions were taken up seriatim, whereupon Judge S.G. Sneed addressed the meeting at length, reviewing the evils in our community growing out of the Peon Mexican Population, unprincipled white men, abolitionists, dram-shop dealers, etc. The judge urged the most pacific means for ridding our county of the transient Mexican population.

Judge W.S. Oldham being called for, addressed the meeting in clear, forcible and convincing argument, showing most conclusively the propriety and necessity of expelling the Mexican population, specified by the resolutions, from this community, “peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.”

The preamble and first through fourth resolutions were read and adopted.

The fifth resolution being read, on motion of Dr. Philips, the committee were enlarged to twenty in lieu of ten, as originally appointed, to carry first and second resolutions into effect.

At the close of the regular proceedings, Capt. J.T. Cleveland offered in substance the following resolution: “That a committee of three or four be appointed by the Chairman of this meeting, to wait upon the merchants, grocers, and other dealers in this city and county, and request them not to buy or sell from or to a negro any article whatever, without the written consent of the owner of such slave, and that such merchants, grocers, or other dealers, be requested to sign a written article in accordance with this resolution.” Rejected.

On motion of Judge Sneed, the meeting adjourned sine die.

Thos. McKinney, Chairman.

W.C. Philips, Secretary.

October 28, 1854

The Vigilance Committee have discharged their duties. No peon now remains in the city who is not vouched for by respectable citizens. It should be the duty of every citizen to aid in preserving the current state of things. We trust that our county court will lend its influence in the appointment of suitable patrols.


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