Texas Declaration of Independence
The Texas Declaration of Independence was the formal declaration of independence of the Republic of Texas from Mexico in the Texas Revolution. It was adopted at the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, 1836, and formally signed the following day after mistakes were noted in the text.
However, within Austin, many struggled with understanding what was the ultimate goal of the Revolution. Some believed that the goal should be total independence from Mexico, while others sought the reimplementation of the Mexican Constitution of 1824 (which offered greater freedoms than the centralist government declared in Mexico the prior year). To settle the issue, a convention was called for March 1836.
This convention differed from the previous Texas councils of 1832, 1833, and the 1835 Consultation. Many of the delegates to the 1836 convention were young men who had only recently arrived in Texas from the United States, in violation of the immigration ban of April, 1830, although many of them had participated in one of the battles in 1835. Most of the delegates were members of the War Party and were adamant that Texas must declare its independence from Mexico. Forty-one delegates arrived in Washington-on-the-Brazos on February 28.
The convention was convened on March 1 with Richard Ellis as president. The delegates selected a committee of five to draft a declaration of independence; the committee was led by George Childress and also included Edward Conrad, James Gaines, Bailey Hardeman, and Collin McKinney. The committee submitted its draft within a mere 24 hours, leading historians to speculate that Childress had written much of it before his arrival at the Convention.
The declaration was approved on March 2 with no debate. Based primarily on the writings of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, the declaration proclaimed that the Mexican government "ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived" and complained about "arbitrary acts of oppression and tyranny". Throughout the declaration are numerous references to the United States laws, rights, and customs. Omitted from mention in the declaration was the fact that the author and many of the signatories were occupying Texas illegally, and therefore had no legal rights in the government of Mexico. The declaration makes clear that the men were accustomed to the laws and privileges of the United States, and were unfamiliar with the language, religion, and traditions of the nation that they were rebelling against.
The declaration officially established the Republic of Texas.
Among others, the declaration mentions the following reasons for the separation:
- The 1824 Constitution of Mexico establishing a federal republic had been usurped and changed into a centralist military dictatorship by Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna.
- The Mexican government had invited settlers to Texas and promised them constitutional liberty and republican government, but then reneged on these guarantees. (It did not mention that many settlers, including the author and majority of signatories, were factually uninvited, illegal trespassers.)
- Texas was in union with the Mexican state of Coahuila as Coahuila y Tejas, with the capital in distant Saltillo, and thus the affairs of Texas were decided at a great distance from the province and in the Spanish language, which the immigrants called "an unknown tongue".
- Political rights to which the settlers had previously been accustomed in the United States, such as the right to keep and bear arms and the right to trial by jury, were denied.
- No system of public education had been established.
- Attempts by the Mexican government to enforce import tariffs were called "piratical attacks" by "foreign desperadoes".
- The settlers were not allowed freedom of religion. All legal settlers were required to convert to Catholicism.
Based upon the United States Declaration of Independence, the Texas Declaration also contains many memorable expressions of American political principles:
- "the right of trial by jury, that palladium of civil liberty, and only safe guarantee for the life, liberty, and property of the citizen."
- "our arms ... are essential to our defence, the rightful property of freemen, and formidable only to tyrannical governments."
Sixty men signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Three of them were born in Mexico. Fifty seven of sixty moved to Texas from the United States. Ten of them had lived in Texas for more than six years, while one-quarter of them had been in the province for less than a year. This is significant, because it indicates that the majority of signatories had moved to Texas after the Law of April 6, 1830, banning immigration, had taken effect, meaning that the majority were legally citizens of the United States, occupying Texas illegally. Fifty nine of these men were delegates to the Convention, and one was the Convention Secretary, Herbert S. Kimble, who was not a delegate.
- Jesse B. Badgett
- George Washington Barnett
- Thomas Barnett
- Stephen W. Blount
- John W. Bower
- Asa Brigham
- Andrew Briscoe
- John Wheeler Bunton
- John S. D. Byrom
- Mathew Caldwell
- Samuel Price Carson
- George C. Childress
- William Clark, Jr.
- Robert M. Coleman
- James Collinsworth
- Edward Conrad
- William Carroll Crawford
- Lorenzo de Zavala
- Richard Ellis, President of the Convention and Delegate from Red River
- Stephen H. Everett
- John Fisher
- Samuel Rhoads Fisher
- Robert Thomas 'James' Gaines
- Thomas J. Gazley
- Benjamin Briggs Goodrich
- Jesse Grimes
- Robert Hamilton
- Bailey Hardeman
- Augustine B. Hardin
- Sam Houston
- Herbert Simms Kimble, Secretary
- William D. Lacy
- Albert Hamilton Latimer
- Edwin O. Legrand
- Collin McKinney
- Samuel A. Maverick (from Bejar)
- Michel B. Menard
- William Menefee
- John W. Moore
- William Motley
- José Antonio Navarro
- Martin Parmer, Delegate from San Augustine
- Sydney O. Pennington
- Robert Potter
- James Power
- John S. Roberts
- Sterling C. Robertson
- José Francisco Ruiz
- Thomas Jefferson Rusk
- William. B. Scates
- George W. Smyth
- Elijah Stapp
- Charles B. Stewart
- James G. Swisher
- Charles S. Taylor
- David Thomas
- John Turner
- Edwin Waller
- Claiborne West
- James B. Woods
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 98.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 142.
- Davis (1982), p. 38.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 144.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 145.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 146.
- Scott (2000), p. 122.
- Davis, Joe Tom (1982). Legendary Texians 1. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press. ISBN 0-89015-336-1.
- Roberts, Randy; Olson, James S. (2001). A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory. The Free Press. ISBN 0-684-83544-4.
- Scott, Robert (2000). After the Alamo. Plano, TX: Republic of Texas Press. ISBN 978-1-55622-691-5.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- The Declaration of Independence, 1836[dead link] from Gammel's Laws of Texas, Vol. I. hosted by the Portal to Texas History.
- Lone Star Junction Site: copy of The Declaration of Independence, March 2, 1836
- Special Report: Texas Independence Day by Texas Cooking
- Texas Declaration of Independence from the Handbook of Texas Online
- School Lesson: Texas Declaration of Independence
- Descendants of the Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence