Revolution & Republic of Texas: Constitution of 1836

Before diving into the Texas Constitution of 1836, it helps to take a step back and review some of the major events leading to the Texas Revolution.  In doing so, we will better understand the context surrounding the drafting and ratification of the Texas Constitution of 1836.

Texas Revolution

When Mexico was under Spanish rule, the Adams-Onís Treaty was ratified (1819).  This treaty, among other things, defined the U.S.-Mexico boundary.  This boundary persisted when Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821.  Shortly thereafter, Mexico began to incentivize settlements in Texas by offering land grants to empresarios, like Stephen F. Austin and Haden Edwards.  Some empresarios (including Austin) and Anglo settlers were loyal to the Mexican government; others were not.  Edwards led a group of Anglo settlers in Texas to secede from Mexico and establish the (short-lived) Republic of Fredonia near Nacogdoches in what is known as the Fredonian Rebellion.  While this “rebellion” was not successful, it illustrates the rising tensions in Texas during this time period.

In 1829, the Guerrero decree formally abolished slavery in all Mexican territories, including Texas.  The following year, Mexico banned immigration from the U.S.  Then, in 1833, Antonio López de Santa Anna, a centralista, was elected president of Mexico.  Santa Anna repealed the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824 in favor of adopting a more unitary system of government in which power would be concentrated in the national government and less local governing authority, which was not well received by many Tejanos and Texians.

The Texas Revolution began in 1835 at the Battle of Gonzales and lasted through May 14, 1836, when Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco recognizing Texas’s independence in exchange for his freedom.

Timeline of major events leading up to Texas Revolutionary War & creation of the Lone Star Republic

Republic of Texas: Texas Constitution of 1836

Texas did not have meaningful opportunities to participate in drafting or ratifying the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824 (Anglo-American settlers were not represented, nor was the constitution submitted to the people for a vote) or the Constitution of Coahuila y Tejas of 1827 (Texas’s interests were largely brushed aside by Coahuila, which had a larger population than Texas).  As the Republic of Texas, Texas finally had the opportunity to develop its own constitution.  Because many Texans had their eyes set on joining the United States through the annexation process, the Texas Constitution of 1836 was patterned off the U.S. Constitution and certain Southern state constitutions and included many familiar characteristics, including:

  • governmental authority divided between legislative, executive, and judicial branches
  • a bicameral legislature
  • a Declaration of Rights

Other notable elements of the Texas Constitution of 1836 include its prohibition of Catholic priests from holding office (recall that, up until this point, there was no separation between church and state), the legalization of slavery, and the requirement that free blacks obtain permission from the Texas Congress to remain in the New Republic’s territory.

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