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Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas Paperback – October 1, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Cantrell (history, Hardin-Simmons Univ.) has written the first major biography of Austin, the "Father of Texas," since Eugene C. Barker's Life of Stephen F. Austin (1925). Unlike his predecessor, who gave readers a sterile rendering of Austin, Cantrell seeks to understand this complex individual. The result is a biography in the truest sense as it follows Austin from his childhood to his death. Cantrell examines Austin in the context of his time and place but does not get distracted by the multiplicity of events surrounding the subject of his research. Cantrell's prose is lively and engaging, but ever the historian, he makes excellent use of primary sources in the United States and Mexico. While not all may agree with the conclusions Cantrell draws, e.g., that Austin offered lukewarm support to slavery, this remains a compelling and engaging account that will appeal both to the lay reader and scholar. Highly recommended.ADaniel D. Liestman, Kansas State Univ. Lib., Manhattan
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

While Stephen F. Austin has long been revered as the "father of Texas," his image as an austere, bland organizer has denied him the passionate affection many Texans feel for the more colorful "man of action," Sam Houston. Cantrell has provided an interesting and better-rounded picture in the first full-length biography of Austin in more than 70 years. While Cantrell is generally effective in linking the man to the great events swirling around him, he is clearly intent on concentrating primarily on Austin's personality. Austin is revealed here as an attractive but complex and frustratingly enigmatic figure. He was obsessed with personal success, but he also had a strong sense of public responsibility. He seemed deeply committed to Jacksonian democratic ideals, but he often despised ordinary men of lower social status. He regarded slavery as a curse, yet insisted the institution was vital for the survival of Texas. For both historians and general readers, this is an engrossing study of an important and, surprisingly, often-neglected icon. Jay Freeman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Lamar Series in Western History
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300090935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300090932
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Gregg Cantrell has tackled a sacred cow and come out unscathed. His new book, Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Texas is a meticulously researched and carefully written profile of a man we only thought we knew.
Our knowledge of Stephen Fuller Austin, is gleaned largely from the work of Eugene C. Barker. His 1925 tome, Life of Stephen F. Austin, painted this renowned figure as "The Father of Texas"...and rightly so. However, the Austin we see in Barker's work is a flat two-dimensional character lacking much of the humanity needed to explain the heroism behind the hero.
Though technically accurate, Barker provided little to help us understand the motivations behind Austin the man or of the dynamic forces that led to the making of a republic.
In Stephen F. Austin, Empresario of Texas. Gregg Cantrell brings to life the real Stephen F. Austin with all of his strengths and foibles. We learn in some depth how Austin was destined for greatness, a direct product of his father's influence. His father, Moses Austin, at one point was quite wealthy and wielded a powerful hand in creating his son in his own image. He wanted him to be a gentleman living in the world of high finance. Who Stephen F. Austin was and the way he thought all bear the mark of Moses Austin's influence.
When the younger Austin grew into manhood, his father put him in charge of various business ventures within the Austin empire. Stephen's training paid off as he showed himself to be adroit at business. Unfortunately, an economic depression and several bad business dealings (mostly initiated by the elder Austin), left the family buried in overwhelming debt.
By 1820, Moses Austin saw a possible way to get his head above financial water. He became the first Anglo to get permission to colonize Spanish Texas.
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Format: Hardcover
This biography is written so well, and the story so interesting, it could be a novel from James Michener. If you are interested in Texas history, Southwest history, Mexican history, or Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny, this book is a must read. I'll be VERY suprised if you don't like it.
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Format: Paperback
This is the first biography of "The Founder of Texas" since Eugene Barker's magisterial work published in 1925. A wait of nearly 75 years for a modern follow-up is tolerable when the results are as good as this.

Austin was a complicated figure; much of his life played out in contradictions: born a Southerner, he was educated in the Northeast; an eloquent and persuasive spokesman in the public arena, he found it difficult expressing his emotions to those closest to him and never married; abhorring slavery, he fought for the right of slavery to exist in Texas; a cultivated man, he spent most of his life on the coarse and harsh frontier; he longed for peace and stability in his life, yet lived during extremely chaotic times; driven to "put his house in order," he claimed his only mission in life was "to redeem Texas from its wilderness state." His father inspired his son to dream big dreams and take on the challenges and responsibilities required to make them realities; when Moses Austin died before being able to colonize the 200,000 acres he acquired in Texas, he left it to Stephen to accomplish. And he did. Austin was not perfect and made mistakes (and enemies); possibly his biggest mistake was going to Washington to petition recognition for Texas at the time that the Alamo fell and, even more importantly, when Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto six weeks later. Recognizing the significance of that victory not only for Texas but for himself, he hastened to Texas from Washington as quickly as possible. He lost the presidency of the Republic to Houston. A sickly man most of his life, he died of fever in December 1836, only six months after his return.

Gregg Cantrell's biography is a pleasure to read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Comments about the personal development of historical figures are sometimes ignored in favor a list of achievements. Cantrell includes details of how Moses Austin encouraged his son to be a big thinker. The Austin family's "can do" attitude is certainly reflected in in Stephen's life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical work. I had some pre-conceived ideas about Stephen F. Austin and Cantrell not only made this an entertaining read, it had the kind of detail and honesty about Austin's personality and contradictions that I really needed to clearly understand. While I am biased on this point, I think he's too hard on Samuel May Williams who almost every historian acknowledges was probably Austin's right hand, business mind and closest confidant. I sense a little bias there. Cantrell skillfully weaves a few truly wonderful tales about Sam Houston arriving on a little horse at the start of the revolution with his legs nearly touching the ground to a very insightful analysis of Austin's relationship with his cousin, Mary Austin Holley. I did find the biography by Rebecca Smith Lee to have a few details that could have been easily added to make Greg Cantrell's version even a bit more interesting. But as it the telling of history, where does one stop the story and go on. I can however tell you that he trounces that Sterling Robertson scoundrel in this book and in other works I have since followed, much to my satisfaction and admiration for his skillfull debate on the matters concerning the man. Bravo!
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