Texas 1836 Draft Constitution

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On March 1, 1836 in the midst of the Texas Revolution, a group of 59 delegates assembled at Washington-on-the-Brazos to draft founding principles for the new Republic. Written and adopted in haste, the 1836 Texas Constitution was a product of the social and economic conditions of the time as well as the legal heritage of Texas, the southern United States and Mexico. Large sections of the U.S. Constitution along with some aspects of Spanish and Mexican law were incorporated into the document.

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Important provisions adapted from Spanish and Mexican law were community property, homestead exemptions and protections, and debtor relief.  Drawn from American governing documents was a short preamble; separation of the powers of government into three branches – legislative, executive, and judicial; checks and balances; legalized slavery; citizenship, with "Africans, the descendents of Africans, and Indians excepted;" male suffrage;  a Declaration  or Bill of Rights;  and a method of amendment. The Republic followed an American style of government. The legislature was composed of two houses –  the Senate and the House of Representatives. The executive branch resembled the American presidency, and the four-tiered judiciary system comprised justice, county, district, and supreme courts, of which the district courts were the most important.

The constitution was ratified by Texas voters in September 1836, a necessary step in the path toward eventual annexation to the United States.

Henry Smith

The Consultation, the only government in Texas during the uneasy period of November 15, 1835 to March 1, 1836, named Henry Smith as provisional governor.

Smith, eagerly impatient for Texas independence, but disinclined to compromise and diplomacy, was quickly at odds with the General Council of the government and vetoed the call for a convention to meet and draft formal documents for a new government.

The Council prevailed and the Convention met at Washington, Texas and wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, ironically without the participation of independence-minded Smith.

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Items on display in this exhibit

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The Texas State Library and Archives Commission holds the original draft of the 1836 Texas Constitution. Presented here are pages from Article One, the “Declaration of Rights.” English and Spanish versions of the draft exist and are on display. Texas was settled predominately by English and Spanish speakers, the document needed to be in both languages.

“Declaration of Rights,”
draft English language. INV 6514.

“Declaration of Rights,”
draft English language. INV 6514.

“Declaration of Rights,”
draft English language. INV 6513.

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Page last modified: April 17, 2014