The chaos surrounding the end of Spanish rule in New Spain and the rise and fall of the Mexican Empire led to confusion and dissonance in Texas. During these four tumultuous years, Moses Austin, who had received permission to settle Americans in Texas, had died on June 10, 1821 and left his colonization project to his son, Stephen. James Long, who had ventured to declare a Republic of Texas–but failed–surrendered in October of the same year to Spanish troops.
Stephen Fuller Austin, unenthusiastic about his late father’s scheme, dutifully contacted authorities in Texas and by the time Spanish troops were leaving Béxar to suppress the Long expedition, Austin was in New Orleans advertising for colonists. The inducements were simple. Each head of family would get title to 640 acres of land, his wife 320, each child 160, and each slave 80. The colonists would pay Austin twelve and a half cents per acre.
Financial depression in the United States led many average Americans to jump at the opportunity. By December 1821, Americans began sailing up the Brazos River to locate their new farms. As these people arrived, Texas authorities brought Austin the confusing news that the government had changed, Spain appeared to be no longer in charge, and that he would have to negotiate a fresh arrangement with the new powers in Mexico City. After more than a year, the government of Augustín Iturbide finally issued a law granting heads of families a league and a labor of land, some 4,600 acres, and authorized land agents known as empresarios to promote said immigration. In compensation, each empresario would receive 67,000 acres of land for each 200 families that he lured to Texas.
By spring of 1823, Austin returned to Texas with these new conditions. Then, Iturbide abdicated and the law became annulled. Austin returned to Mexico City and, lobbying the new government, got them to reinstate the law and to grant him a contract for up to 300 families. He returned to Texas and New Orleans to finally round up additional settlers.
In the meantime, the Mexican government changed the rules again. In August 1824 the states became the centers for negotiating empresario contracts, so Austin, his immigrants already arriving in Texas, headed to Monclova to make sure that the 300 families he lured to Texas, the “Old 300,” had come in accordance with the law and that their titles would be recognized.