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 errors 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, 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". 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.
- 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.
- Political rights to which the settlers had previously been accustomed, 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.
- The settlers were not allowed freedom of religion.
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."
Mexico’s abolition of slavery a prime motivation?
||This section contains weasel words: vague phrasing that often accompanies biased or unverifiable information. (February 2013)|
One reason for the friction may have been Mexico’s abolition of slavery. The Alien Resident Americans living in Mexican Texas knew that slaves were their most valuable assets. With Mexico's abolition of slavery, these U.S. settlers stood to lose most of their net worth. This directly led to the anger of richest alien resident Americans with the most slaves. In 1829 Mexico abolished slavery, but it granted an exception until 1830 for Texas. That year Mexico made the importation of slaves illegal. Anglo-American immigration to the province slowed at this point, with settlers angry about the changing rules. To circumvent the law, numerous Anglo-American colonists converted their slaves to indentured servants, but with life terms. Others simply called their slaves indentured servants without legally changing their status. Slaveholders trying to enter Mexico would force their slaves to sign contracts claiming that the slaves owed money and would work to pay the debt. The low wages the slave would receive made repayment impossible, and the debt would be inherited, even though no slave would receive wages until age eighteen. In 1832 the state of Coahuilla y Texas passed legislation prohibiting worker contracts from lasting more than ten years.
Some if these tensions came to a head in the Anahuac Disturbances. In August 1831, Juan Davis Bradburn, the military commander of the custom station on Upper Galveston Bay, gave asylum to two men who had escaped from slavery in Louisiana. The slaveowner hired William Barret Travis, a local lawyer, in an attempt to retrieve the men. When Bradburn had Travis arrested on suspicion of plotting an insurrection, settlers rebelled. The disturbances were resolved through a combination of arms and political maneuvering. One result was the Turtle Bayou Resolutions which were an explanation of the grievances that had led to the disturbances. One of the resolutions challenged Bradburn for "advising and procuring servants to quit the service of their masters, and offering them protection; causing them to labor for his benefits, and refusing to compensate them for the same.
Others dispute this contention and argue that there is little evidence to support this assertion. Only three contemporary references have been found that indicate a potential connection between slavery and the revolution.  On the other hand, many other motivations for revolution have been documented, including taxation, tariffs, and lack of protection of rights that settlers had become accustomed to in the United States.
Sixty men signed the Declaration of Independence. 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.
- 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
- 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
- Dan Diego
- Jon earls
- 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
- article about the Texas Declaration of Independence from the Handbook of Texas Online