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 was formally signed the next day after mistakes were noted in the text.
However, within Austin,[failed verification] many struggled with understanding what the ultimate goal of the Revolution was. Some believed that the goal should be total independence from Mexico. In contrast, 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. The Mexican government, by its colonization laws, invited and induced the Anglo-American population of Texas to colonize its wilderness under the pledged faith of a written constitution, that they should continue to enjoy that constitutional liberty and republican government to which they had been habituated in the land of their birth, the United States of America. The only two known native Texans to sign are Jose Francisco Ruiz and Jose Antonio Navarro. 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 he arrived 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 the declaration was the fact that the author and many of the signatories were citizens of the United States, occupying Texas illegally, and therefore had no legal rights in Mexico's government. The declaration clarifies 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, although it was not officially recognized at that time by any government other than itself. The Mexican Republic still claimed the land and considered the delegates to be invaders.
Among others, the declaration mentions the following reasons for the separation:
- The 1824 Constitution of Mexico establishing a federal republic had been overturned and changed into a centralist military dictatorship by Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna. (From Mexico's viewpoint, lawful elections of 1835 seated many conservative politicians who intended to strengthen Mexico's government and defend their nation from an invasion of illegal American immigrants. They amended the 1824 constitution by passing the Seven Laws.)
- 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. 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. The right to keep slaves was endangered by the 1824 Constitution of Mexico.(Slavery is never mentioned as a cause for Independence in the document.)<https://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/texdec.asp></https://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/texdec.asp>
- 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 defense, 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 the sixty moved to Texas from the United States. 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, ancestor of Brown family
- Charles B. Stewart
- James G. Swisher
- Charles S. Taylor
- David Thomas
- John Turner
- Edwin Waller
- Claiborne West
- James B. Woods
- Davis, Joe Tom (1982). Legendary Texians. 1. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press. ISBN 0-89015-336-1.
- Martinez de Vara, Art (2020). Tejano Patriot: The Revolutionary Life of Jose Francisco Ruiz, 1783 - 1840. Austin, TX: Texas State Historical Association Press. ISBN 978-1625110589.
- 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.
- Washington on the Brazos
- The Declaration of Independence, 1836, from Gammel's Laws of Texas, Vol. I., hosted by the Portal to Texas History.
- Declaration of Independence of Texas, 1836 broadside and original manuscript at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission
- Texas Independence Day, March 2 including Samuel A. Maverick's broadside copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
- 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