Texian Loan Certificate

Austin, Stephen F, Branch T. Archer, and William H. Wharton. Texian Loan: Ds., 1836.

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The Texian Loan Certificate documented a loan to the newly formed Republic of Texas in 1836. This certificate was issued on January 11, 1836 to Robert Triplett and indicates that Triplett paid the first $32 installment of a $320 loan to the government of Texas. In anticipation of the Republic of Texas’s Declaration of Independence from Mexico in March of 1936, Texas representatives sought private loans to establish and maintain the independent government. Texas representatives primarily sought investors in the United States and offered either a high interest rate (8%) or cheap land in Texas ($.50 per acre) in order to attract investments. A number of people did invest, but Triplett was possibly the largest contributor. Triplett was a settler and investor in Texas while the area was governed by Mexico. After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, the new Mexican government needed to attract settlers and investors, which were known as empresarios. Triplett was among an early group of empresarios who sought to establish colonies in Texas. Other empresarios included Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. When Texans started agitating for independence from Mexico in the 1830s, Triplett loaned the Texas government over $100,000, which is roughly the equivalent of $2.5 million in 2014, to form and maintain the government. The Texian Loan represented an official guarantee that the loan would be compensated per the agreed upon terms. It was signed by Texas’s official commissioners, including the “Father of Texas” and first Secretary of State, Stephen F. Austin.

The Texian loan certificate is particularly interesting as a form of bureaucratic promising. When the loan certificate was issued in January of 1836, Texas was still officially a territory of Mexico. Texas’s American settlers, called Texians, had been fighting Mexico for independence since 1834 as a result of disagreements between settlers and Mexico’s leaders about slavery. The Texians had seen significant military success, but the territory was nevertheless still part of Mexico when Austin and others began courting investors. The loan certificate, which was issued and signed in New Orleans, acted as a bureaucratic promise in at least three ways: first, it was a promise that Triplett would lend Texas a certain amount of money, of which this was the first installment; second, it represented a promise that Texas would have a government capable of repaying the loan; and third, it represented a promise to faithfully execute the specific terms of the loan. We might conjecture, as well, that it was issued and signed in U.S. territory, instead of Mexican territory, as a promise that the terms of the contract were not voided in the event that Texas ceased to be a part of Mexico, which happened two months later. Whether or not the place of issuance was an integral part to the loan’s trustworthiness, it is clear that the other three parts of the promise were fulfilled. The triangle cutout in the middle of the document is a cancel mark indicating that the loan was paid in full.