Today in Texas History – January 29

From the Annals of the Abolitionists – In 1844, President Sam Houston granted an empresario contract to abolitionist Charles Fenton Mercer to establish a colony in the Republic of Texas.  A Virginia native, CFM had a distinguished career as an Lt. Colonel of a Virginia regiment in the War of 1812, member of the Virginia House of Delegates, U.S. Congressman for over 20 years, and head of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Co. He was a dedicated abolitionist and instrumental in attempting to resettle free African-Americans in Africa – a now discredited belief as a solution to slavery among many abolitionists of the time.   After retiring from public service, Mercer became interested in obtaining an empresario license in Texas – making seven trips to the new nation.  Houston granted him a contract for a colony east of Peter’s Colony but only after vetoing a bill that would have restricted the President’s rights in that regard.  Mercer’s contract was always controversial because of his well-known abolitionist sentiments. Nonetheless, he organized the Texas Association and began selling shares for $500 each. By the end of the year, more than 100 families had complied with the requirements of his contract and received land certificates. Land disputes and court cases, however, proved top be too much of a burden on Mercer’s time and finances. In 1852 he assigned his interest in the contract to George Hancock of Kentucky and other members of the Texas Association, receiving in return an annuity of $2,000.

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