Texas, which was a territory of Spain, became a territory of Mexico in 1810 following the Mexican War of Independence. It remained a territory of Mexico until the Texas Revolution (1835-1836). During its time as a territory of Mexico, Texas was governed by two constitutions: the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824 and the State Constitution of Coahuila y Tejas of 1827.
Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States, 1824
The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824 replaced Mexico’s constitutional monarchy with a constitutional federal republic (similar to the form of government created by the U.S. Constitution). The principles and institutional design of the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States were drawn from the Political Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy of 1812 (also known as the Constitution of Cádiz) and the U.S. Constitution of 1789. See Table 1, below.
The Federal Constitution of the United States of Mexico did not contain a bill of rights, and there “was no particular effort to define the rights of the states in the confederacy” (McKay, Constitution of 1824). States were required to incorporate separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches in their respective state constitutions. There was considerable government authority at the state level under this federal constitution: states were allowed to govern local affairs independently of the national government, which included defining their own immigration policies.
“Stephen F. Austin conferred with the Mexican leaders who framed the Constitution of 1824, and Juan José María Erasmo Seguín represented Texas in the constituent assembly . . . The Anglo-Americans in Texas were not represented, and the instrument was never submitted to a vote of the people for ratification” (McKay, Constitution of 1824).
Table 1. Key elements of the principles and institutional design from the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824
|Constitution of Cádiz||U.S. Constitution|
|Official religion: Catholicism||Federalism|
|Federal Congress granted the power of constitutional interpretation (in the U.S., federal courts have the power of constitutional interpretation)||Separation of powers between legislative (Congress), executive (president/vice president), and judicial (Supreme Court + other national courts) branches of the national government|
|President and vice president elected for four-year terms by the legislative bodies of the states; Chamber of Deputies granted power to elect the president and vice president in case of a tie or lack of a majority||Bicameral Congress (two chambers):
|Property rights for women|
|Protection of private property (homestead acts)|
Constitution of Coahuila y Tejas, 1827
In 1824, Texas, which was a sparsely inhabited territory at the time, was combined with the state of Coahuila to create a new state: Coahuila y Tejas. The Constitution of Coahuila y Tejas:
- divided the state into three departments; one of these was the District of Bexar (Texas)
- established Catholicism as the official state religion
- guaranteed citizens liberty, security, property, and equality
- forbid slavery, and prohibited the import of slaves after six months
- defined citizenship and outlined its forfeiture
- established a unicameral legislature [one chamber] that was composed of twelve deputies elected by popular vote [Texas was allowed two deputies], which was granted legislative powers (i.e., passing state laws) and non-legislative powers, such as electing state officials in the absence of a majority, serving as the grand jury in political and electoral matters, and regulating the army and militia
- Vested executive power in a governor and vice governor, each of which would be elected by popular vote and serve four-year terms
- Vested judicial authority in state courts with jurisdiction over minor crimes and civil cases; although these courts could try cases, they were not permitted to interpret the law
Within Texas, there were widespread objections to the Constitution of Coahuila y Tejas from the onset; however, these objections were largely ignored.