The Consultation served as the provisional government of Mexican Texas from November 1835 through March 1836 during the Texas Revolution. Tensions rose in Texas during early 1835 as throughout Mexico federalists began to oppose the increasingly centralist policies of the government. In the summer, Texans elected delegates to a political convention to be held in Gonzales in mid-October. Weeks before the convention began, settlers took up arms against Mexican soldiers at the Battle of Gonzales. The convention was postponed until November 1 after many of the delegates joined the newly organized volunteer Texan Army to initiate a siege of the Mexican garrison at San Antonio de Bexar. On November 3, a quorum was reached in San Felipe de Austin.
Within days, the delegates passed a resolution to define why Texans were fighting. They expressed allegiance to the deposed Constitution of 1824 and maintained their right to form an independent government while this document was not in effect. Henry Smith was elected governor of the new provisional government and the remaining delegates formed a General Council. In the next weeks, the council authorized the creation of a new regular army to be commanded by Sam Houston. As Houston worked to establish an army independent from the existing volunteer army, the council repeatedly interfered in military matters.
After authorizing an expedition to take Matamoros, Mexico, the council named several men, simultaneously, to organize and lead the assault. Angry at the effect the expedition was having on existing Texian garrisons, Smith dissolved the council. Alleging that Smith did not have the authority to disband them, council members impeached him and lieutenant governor James W. Robinson was named acting governor.
In the summer of 1836, Texas settlers had elected delegates to a political convention, which they called the Consultation. This convention would decide what steps the area should take in response to the unrest and the civil war being fought between federalists and centralists. The delegates would convene in Gonzales in mid-October. Each municipality in Texas would have three delegates to the convention.
In the interim, hostilities between Mexican soldiers and Texas colonists increased, and in early October a group of Texans attacked a Mexican army contingent which had been sent to retrieve a cannon that had previously been loaned to Gonzales. This Battle of Gonzales marked the official start of the Texas Revolution. Gonzales became a rallying point for Texas settlers who opposed the centralist policies, and men flocked to the town. On October 11, the men formed themselves into a volunteer Texan Army and elected Stephen F. Austin as their commander. Many of the Consultation delegates had also gathered in Gonzales, and rather than wait for the session to begin, they joined the army on a march against the Mexican garrison at San Antonio de Bexar (modern-day San Antonio, Texas).
In response to the low turnout, the Consultation was rescheduled for November 1, and would be held instead at San Felipe de Austin. The siege of Bexar began in late October. Newly arrived immigrant Sam Houston traveled to San Antonio to exhort the delegates to leave the siege and come to the consultation. In a compromise, the officers voted to allow delegates who were members of the rank-and-file or were line officers to leave the siege, while those who were staff officers would remain to oversee military operations. William B. Travis, William Wharton, and Stephen F. Austin remained behind, while James Bowie accompanied Houston to San Felipe.
Formation of government
The Consultation's main purpose was to decide the overall goals of the revolution. Members of the War Party advocated for complete independence from Mexico, while Peace Party representatives wished for Texas to remain part of Mexico, but under the 1824 Constitution of Mexico. Although Austin was unable to attend, he did send a letter to the consultation, asking them to follow the Constitution of 1824 and to make it clear to Mexico that the hostilities were not an attempt for independence but instead a determination to fight for their rights as Mexican citizens. The turning point of the discussion came when Houston, who many believed to be a staunch member of the War Party, asked the fellow delegates to refrain from declaring independence. Such a declaration would likely cause many of the people who supported the Constitution of 1824 in other parts of Mexico to refrain from supporting the Texans. Because Austin and many of his Peace Party supporters were still with the army at Bexar, they were unable to provide as much influence to the gathering as expected.
The Consultation compromised. On November 7, they released a resolution declaring that "The people of Texas, availing themselves of their natural rights, solemnly declare that they have taken up arms in defense of their rights and liberties which were threatened by the encroachments of military despots and in defense of the Republican principles of the federal constitution of Mexico of 1824." The resolution further specified that Texas reserved the right to create an independent government as long as Mexico was not governed by that document. The members hoped that this wording would allow them to gain support from both federalists within Mexico and from the United States. The resolution passed 33–14.
The delegates then created the post of governor. Although Austin was nominated, he lost to Henry Smith 31–22. James Robinson was elected lieutenant governor. The remaining delegates formed the General Council.
The soldiers currently fighting near Bexar were volunteers, who joined the army to accomplish a specific task and staunchly maintained their right to elect their own leaders. On November 13, the council officially established a regular army. Houston was appointed to command this new Provisional Army of Texas, subject to the orders of the governor. Houston was instructed to raise an army from scratch; because the volunteers had organized before the Consultation convened, they could not be forced to accept Houston as their commander. The new army should consist of 2,500 men, who would enlist for 2-year terms in exchange for land grants.
After consulting with some of the officers currently at the siege of Bexar, notably James W. Fannin and William B. Travis, the council chose to expand the army. On December 5 they created a Corps of Permanent Volunteers, which would have a shorter enlistment period and more autonomy. This move hindered Houston's efforts to fill his regular army; most citizens preferred to join the Permanent Volunteers.
Houston was also appointed to the Select Committee on Indian Affairs, as he had spent much of his career dealing with Indian nations. The Texans needed the support of the Indians (or at least their neutrality) to win their fight against Mexico.
In December, the council recommended the Matamoros Expedition, in which Texian soldiers would attack Matamoros, Mexico. The planned expedition was expected to draw support from federalists within other Mexican states, perhaps inspiring armed uprisings throughout Mexico. The governor initially supported the plan, and asked Houston to organize the expedition; Houston appointed James Bowie to lead the expedition, but Bowie did not receive his orders for several weeks. The council asked Edward Burleson, the commander of the volunteers at Bexar, to lead the expedition. Burleson had already resigned, and his elected replacement, Frank W. Johnson, instead received the message. On December 30, Johnson and 200 men left Bexar to travel to Presidio La Bahia in Goliad to prepare for the expedition. When the council received Johnson's note detailing his plans, they authorized him to lead the expedition. Johnson initially declined the commission, but changed his mind the following day. Without revoking Johnson's commission, the council elected Fannin to lead the mission instead.
Only 100 Texians remained at the Alamo Mission in Bexar, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James C. Neill. Neill was disgusted that Johnson had stripped the Alamo of almost all provisions and the majority of the men and sent a strong message to Houston asking for reinforcements and more supplies. Houston forwarded the letter to Smith, with an added note that he believed the Johnson mission was illegal, as the council had not had a quorum when it was authorized. In response, Smith denounced the expedition as idiocy and labelled its supporters either fools or traitors. He then disbanded the council until March 1 unless they agreed to renounce the Matamoros Expedition. The council determined that Smith had no authority to dismiss them. They soon impeached Smith and named the lieutenant governor, Robinson, as the new governor. The documents forming the provisional government, however, did not grant the council the authority to impeach the governor.
On January 12, Smith wrote a conciliatory letter to the council: "I admit that I [used] language beyond the rules of decorum", and declared that if the council would admit that their actions regarding the Matamoros Expedition were wrong he would reinstate them so that "the two branches [would] again harmonize to the promotion of the true interests of the country".
For the next two months, few in Texas were sure who was in charge, and little was accomplished. On March 1, the Convention of 1836 opened with new delegates. This convention quickly issued a declaration of independence and formed the Republic of Texas.
- Winders (2004), p. 68.
- Todish et al. (1998), p. 24.
- Todish et al. (1998), p. 8.
- Winders (2004), p. 55.
- Winders (2004), p. 69.
- Todish et al. (1998), p. 23.
- Winders (2004), p. 72.
- Winders (2004), pp. 70–2.
- Winders (2004), pp. 76–7.
- Winders (2004), pp. 76, 78.
- Winders (2004), p. 79.
- Winders (2004), p. 80.
- Winders (2004), pp. 90, 92.
- Hardin (1994), p. 109.
- quoted in Winders (2004), p. 92.
- Hardin, Stephen L. (1999), Texian Iliad – A Military History of the Texas Revolution, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, ISBN 0-292-73086-1, OCLC 29704011
- Todish, Timothy J.; Todish, Terry; Spring, Ted (1998), Alamo Sourcebook, 1836: A Comprehensive Guide to the Battle of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution, Austin, TX: Eakin Press, ISBN 978-1-57168-152-2
- Winders, Richard Bruce (2004), Sacrificed at the Alamo: Tragedy and Triumph in the Texas Revolution, Military History of Texas Series: Number Three, Abilene, TX: State House Press, ISBN 1-880510-80-4
- Journals of the Consultation, 1835 from Gammel's Laws of Texas, Vol. I. hosted by the Portal to Texas History.