Constitution of the Republic of Texas
The Constitution of the Republic of Texas was the supreme law of Texas from 1836 to 1845.
On March 2, 1836, Texas declared itself an independent republic due to a lack of support from the United States in their revolutionary movement. The declaration of independence was written by George Childress and modeled after the United States Constitution.
A copy of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas was included with the declaration of independence. The constitution borrowed language from the U.S. Constitution along with the constitutions of several southern states. It formed a unitary republic, rather than a federal one as defined in the U.S. Constitution. Presidential terms were established at three years and they could not succeed themselves, modeling after provisions in the Mexican Constitution. The constitution also protected the right to own slaves and prohibited "Indians" and "Africans" from living freely in the country and from becoming Texan citizens.
Constitutional Convention and Ratification
A constitutional convention began following the declaration of independence and an interim government was put into place. The convention adopted a document on March 16, 1836 and adjourned on March 17, 1836. Because of the defeat of Santa Anna at San Jacinto on April 22, 1836, war with Mexico was over. When June came around, the Republic of Texas had de facto independence as they were unrecognized by Mexico, but Mexico was unable to bring the republic to an end. Interim President Burnet on July 23, 1836 was calling for elections, ratifying the constitution, and was answering if Texas should pursue annexation into the United States, later to occur on the first Monday of September. Following the September elections, the constitution was ratified, Sam Houston was elected President with Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar as his Vice President. Seeking annexation was favored.
On March 1, 1845, the U.S. enacted a congressional joint resolution proposing the annexation of Texas to the United States (Joint Resolution for annexing Texas to the United States, J.Res. 8, enacted March 1, 1845, 5 Stat. 797). On June 23, 1845, the Texan Congress accepted the U.S. Congress' joint resolution, and consented to President Jones' calling of a convention to be held on July 4, 1845. A Texas convention debated the annexation offer and almost unanimously passed an ordinance assenting to it on July 4, 1845. The convention debated through August 28, and adopted the Constitution of the State of Texas on August 27, 1845. The citizens of Texas approved an annexation ordinance and a new constitution on October 13, 1845. On December 29, 1845, the United States admitted the State of Texas to the Union (Joint Resolution for the admission of the state of Texas into the Union, J.Res. 1, enacted December 29, 1845, 9 Stat. 108).
Sections of the Constitution
Article I establishes the three branches of government, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. It contains sections that define in greater detail the Legislative branch. The Legislature is defined as a Senate and House of Representatives that are to be called The Congress of the Republic of Texas. Members of the House are to be chosen on the first Monday of September and to hold their office for one year until other provisions are made. In order for someone to hold a seat in the House they need to be at least twenty-five, a citizen of the republic, and to reside in the county or district they represent for six months prior to the election. The House is not to consist of less than twenty-four or more than forty members until the population reaches one hundred thousand, then it shall not be less than forty or more than one hundred members. Senators are chosen by their districts equal in free population, this only counts the white population. The number of senators is to never be less than one third or more than one-half of Representatives. Each district is to have one member. Senators are chosen for a three-year term on the first Monday of September. They have to be citizens of the Republic, reside in the district they represent for at least one year before the election, and be at least thirty. The Vice President is to be the President of the Senate but does not vote unless there is a tie. Each house is the judge of elections, qualifications, and returns of its own members. Two-thirds of each House is needed for a quorum, a smaller number can still adjourn and call those you are not in attendance. Houses are able to determine their own rules for proceedings and punishment. Vacancies that happen in either house are to be filled by the President. The President is required to sign passed bills and can send them back. If he does that then a two-thirds majority of both Houses can enact the law.
Article II defines the powers of Congress. It gives them the ability to tax, borrow money, and requires them to provide for the general welfare of the Republic. They are given the power to regulate commerce. Congress can declare war and is required to provide and maintain a navy.
Article III defines a portion of the Executive. The President is to be the chief magistrate of the Republic of Texas. The first elected President serves two years and cannot serve a succeeding term. Following Presidents are elected for three years and cannot serve a succeeding term as well.
Article IV establishes the judiciary and the Supreme Court. It gives Congress the power to establish lower courts. There are to be no less than three and no more than eight judicial districts. After defining court structure, Article IV establishes counties while allowing provisions for new counties to be made.
Article VI builds on Article III and defines the role and power of the President. The President is required to be at least thirty five, a citizen, and lived in the Republic for at least three years before election, unless they lived there at time of independence. On the second Monday of December after the election, the President enters office. He is to be the commander in chief of the army and navy, but does not command them personally unless authorized by Congress. It also defines voting qualifications and how voting is to be handled. Any citizen who is twenty one and has been in Texas for six months can vote. Elections are to all be by ballot unless Congress determines otherwise.
General Provisions establishes laws, duties, and rights that did occur earlier in the Constitution. Convicted criminals are not able hold office, vote, or be on juries. Congress is required to establish and fund a system of education. Any white person who lives in the Republic for at least six months can take an oath to become a citizen.
Slaves who are brought to Texas are to remain slaves as property of the one who brought them in and they are not allowed to be freed by their owner without consent of Congress. Congress is not allowed to make laws that effect the slave trade or declare emancipation. Someone with any amount of African descent who is free is not allowed to live in the Republic without the consent of Congress. It declares all people who are not of African or Indian descent citizens who lived in Texas at the time of declaration of independence citizens.
The head of a family is entitled to one league and labor of land. Every man who is at least seventeen is entitled to one third of a league of land. Amendments to the Constitution are allowed as long as they are agreed to by a majority of each House. They then are put to a vote by the people before ratification.
Declaration of Rights
Declaration of Rights establishes how people should be treated by the government and what freedoms they are allowed. All men are to have equal rights. It establishes that political power is to be held by the people. It says that no preference by law is to be given to any religion and allow for freedom of religion. Citizens are allowed full liberty of speech and no laws are to be made to harm that.
- Fehrenbach 1968, p. 222.
- Fehrenbach 1968, p. 237.
- Fehrenbach 1968, p. 223.
- Republic of Texas 1836, pp. 1–23.
- Estep, Raymond. "Handbook of Texas Online/Lorenzo de Zavala". tshaonline.org. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Fehrenbach 1968, p. 233.
- Fehrenbach 1968, p. 243.
- Fehrenbach 1968, p. 246.
- Gammel 1898, pp. 1,225-1,227.
- Weeks 1846.
- Gammel 1898, pp. 1,228–1,230.
- Fehrenbach, T.R. (1968). Lone Star: A History of Texas and Texans. New York: The Macmillan Company.
- Gammel, H.P.N. (1898). The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897. 2.
- Weeks, Wm. F. (1846). Debates of the Texas Convention. Archived from the original on 2016-02-06. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
- Republic of Texas (1836). Constitution of the Republic of Texas: to which is prefixed the Declaration of Independence, made in convention, March 2, 1836. Washington [D.C.]: Sabin Americana. Gale, Cengage Learning. Northern Illinois University Library. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
- Constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836)
- Rupert N. Richardson, Adrian Anderson, and Ernest Wallace, Texas: The Lone Star State (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993), p. 110.