One of the first steps taken by the Mexican government was to join the Mexican state of Coahuila with Texas to form the state of Coahuila y Tejas. Unfortunately for Texans, this action placed the administrative center of government in Saltillo, far to the south.
Mexico also realized that its far northern state faced a strong threat from United States expansion. There were simply not enough people in Mexico to adequately settle Texas, and without a stable population the area was vulnerable to opportunists. Although it might have stopped the plan to allow Anglo immigrants to settle in Texas, the new government re-affirmed the Spanish decision to allow colonization, perhaps feeling that a situation in which the Mexican government stipulated the terms of settlement was preferable to an uncontrolled influx of people. They also realized the immediate need to revitalize the Texas economy.
Moses Austin, who received the first contract to establish a colony of 300 Catholic families on the Brazos River, died less than six months after the Spanish government granted him the contract. His son, Stephen F. Austin, inherited the contract and by late 1821 was settling Anglo families in Texas.
The Mexican government began to pass colonization legislation at both the national and state level. The national legislation, passed in August 1824, gave the individual states-not the federal government-the right to grant colonization contracts. This approach was the one favored by the Federalists in the Mexican government, those who favored a republic patterned after the United States of America.
In 1824, Mexico also adopted the Federal Constitution of the United States of Mexico through which the federal government granted many powers to the states. Opposition at this time came from the Centralists, who favored strong governmental control at the national level. Most Texans favored the Federalist approach because it gave them more freedom to carry out their business and lives with a minimum of interference from the Mexican government.
The Ley de Colonización, state legislation governing colonization in Coahuila y Tejas, was passed in March of 1825. Mexican citizens wishing to move to Texas had first choice of lands, but Anglo settlers were also able to obtain land grants for both ranching and farming purposes. New immigrants promised to abide by the state and federal constitutions, to worship in the Catholic Church, and to display sound moral principles and good conduct. In return, they received land, a temporary tax abatement, and status as naturalized Mexican citizens.
One issue not spelled out clearly in the colonization laws was slavery. Mexican law generally prohibited slavery, although it allowed indentured servitude. The secretary of state at Saltillo issued a somewhat ambiguous clarification when he stated that "What is not prohibited is to be understood as permitted." Anglo settlers, many of them from the southern United States, brought their slaves with them when they came to Texas, feeling that the territory would not be productive without the use of forced labor.
Most Anglo immigrants came to Texas with the assistance of immigration agents (empresarios) rather than on their own. These agents recruited settlers through advertisements, assigned land holdings in the area authorized by their contract, and ensured that immigrants lived up to the requirements of their grant. Mexican authorities were frustrated, however, because a number of Anglos bypassed the empresario system and simply squatted on the land, making no effort to abide by Mexican law and customs.
During the late 1820s and early 1830s, the situation in Texas became more complex as Centralist and Federalist factions in Mexico struggled for control of the government. The Centralists, who wanted a strong central government reminiscent of the Spanish monarchy that had governed Mexico for 300 years, threw out the Federalists in 1829. The Centralists did not support the colonization of Texas with Anglo immigrants and passed a law in April of 1830 that voided many of the empresario contracts. A few agents, such as Stephen F. Austin, were allowed to continue to bring settlers to Texas. The Centralist law also stipulated that no slaves were to be brought to Mexico from the United States, although slaves already in Texas would remain slaves.
Despite the law, there was still a strong interest in colonization efforts. The Galveston and Texas Land Company, founded in the fall of 1830, issued a document soliciting settlers in early 1831 with the ponderous title, Address to the Reader of the Documents Relating to the Galveston and Texas Land Company which are Contained in the Appendix. The Company was well aware of the new law prohibiting most immigration (and even reprinted it in English in the appendix), but referred to the act as "occasional and temporary." In fact, the law was enforced and settlers sent to the Company's lands were not allowed to remain. Although immigration slowed, it did not stop as settlers-both legal and illegal-continued to find their way to Texas and have a significant impact on life and politics there.