Convention of 1836 was a meeting of elected
delegates in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas in March 1836.
The Texas Revolution
had begun five months
previously, and the interim government, known as the Consultation
had wavered over whether
to declare independence from Mexico or pledge to uphold the
repudiated Mexican Constitution of
. Unlike those of previous Texas councils, delegates to the
Convention of 1836 were younger, more recent arrivals to Texas, and
more adamant on the question of independence. As delegates prepared
to convene, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna led
a large army into Texas to quell the revolt; the vanguard of this
army arrived at San Antonio de Bexar on February 23.
The Convention was called to order on March 1, and the following
day adopted the Texas
Declaration of Independence
, written by George Childress
. Delegates elected an
interim government, led by President David G. Burnet
and developed a Texas Constitution
, which they based
primarily on the Constitution of the United
. On March 6 they received a missive from the
Texan soldiers besieged at the Alamo, and delegate and commander-in-chief Sam Houston narrowly convinced the men to
continue their work on the constitution rather than rush to aid the
After the Alamo fell, Santa Anna's army marched
towards Washington-on-the-Brazos, prompting the new government to
The Texas Revolution
2, 1835 with the Battle of
. The following month, previously elected delegates
convened in a body known as the Consultation
. These delegates served as
a temporary governing body for Texas, as they struggled with the
question of whether Texians were fighting for independence from
Mexico or the reimplementation of the Mexican Constitution of 1824
, which offered
greater freedoms than the current dictatorship. Many Consultation
members wished to defer independence until the United States was
convinced to support their struggle. The Consultation quickly
degenerated into near anarchy, with the interim legislature
indicting the interim Governor, who promptly disbanded the
legislature. By early February 1836 most of the members had gone
home, and there were not enough delegates left for a quorum. A
convention had been previously scheduled for March, and one
Consultation member wrote to Sam
, "I sincerely hope that the Convention will remedy the
existing evils and calm the Public mind. If not Texas must be
On February 1, 1836 delegates were elected to the upcoming
Convention. A total of 50 delegates were elected, with at
least one representative from each settlement in Texas.
This convention differed from the previous Texas councils of
, and the Consultation. Many of the
delegates to the 1836 convention were young men who had only
recently arrived in Texas, although many of them had participated
in one of the battles in 1835. Most of the delegates were members
of the War Party and were adamant that Texas must declare its
independence from Mexico.
By the end of 1835, no Mexican troops remained in Texas. As early
as October, however, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
been making plans to quell the unrest in Texas. He stepped down
from his duties as president to lead what he dubbed the Army of
Operations in Texas, which would put an end to the Texas revolt.
leading his forces, Santa Anna crossed the Rio Grande on February 12. Santa Anna and his
advance force arrived in San Antonio de Bexar on February 23 and immediately initiated a siege of the
Texas forces garrisoned at the Alamo.
delegates arrived in Washington-on-the-Brazos on February 28.
The convention was convened
on March 1 with Richard
The delegates assigned George
to lead a committee of five to draft a Declaration of
. Childress, the nephew of empresario Sterling C. Robertson
, had been elected to the
Convention three weeks after his arrival in Texas. The committee
submitted its draft within a mere 24 hours, leading historians
to speculate that Childress had written much of it before his
arrival at the Convention. The declaration was approved on March 2
with no debate. Based primarily on the writings of John Locke
, 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". The
declaration officially established the Republic of Texas
Shortly after adopting the declaration of independence, the
delegates began to work on a new Constitution
. It drew heavily from the
and included a declaration of rights (similar to
the Bill of Rights
) which guaranteed
, the right of every citizen
to bear arms, and freedom of religion, speech, and press. The
declaration of rights also outlawed unreasonable search and
seizure, debtor's prison, and cruel or unusual punishments. In a
departure from the traditional Texas justice system, the
Constitution called for grand jury
indictments and speedy public trials with juries. Unlike the United
States Constitution, however, the Texas Constitution codified
racism. Free blacks were forbidden from entering Texas, and
citizenship could not be granted to Africans, their descendants, or
Native Americans. Furthermore, the Constitution forbade the future
slaves, and instructed slaveholders not to emancipate their own
slaves without Congress's consent.
On the morning of March 6, the Convention received a letter, dated
March 3, from Alamo commander William
. Travis begged for
supplies and reinforcements and described the danger he and his men
found themselves in. Unaware that the fort had already fallen,
delegate Robert Potter called for the Convention to adjourn and
march immediately to relieve the Alamo. Sam Houston convinced the
delegates to remain in Washington-on-the-Brazos to finish working
on the constitution. Houston then left to take command of the
volunteers that Colonel James C.
and Major R.M. "Three-Legged
Willie" Williamson had been gathering in Gonzales.
Shortly after Houston's arrival in
Gonzales, Alamo survivors
Travis's slave, arrived with news of a Mexican victory. On hearing
their news, Houston advised all civilians in the area to evacuate
and ordered the army to retreat. This sparked a mass exodus of Texans
from the Anglo
After finishing their constitution, the delegates organized an
ad-interim government which would serve until the following
October. As president they chose David
, who had not been
elected to the Convention. Burnet had planned to join the fighting
at the Alamo and had stopped at the Convention to recruit others.
However, he became so "inspired by their deliberations" that he
remained as a visitor. Speaking privately with many of the
delegates, Burnet professed that he would be willing to serve as
president of a new republic, even if that made him a target of
Santa Anna. Among the names most commony circulated for the
presidency were empresario Stephen
, andWilliam H. Wharton
. All were absent from the
convention, however, so the nominees became Burnet and Samuel Price Carson
. Burnet won, on a
vote of 29–23, in the early hours of March 17. The delegates chose
Lorenzo de Zavala
vice-president, Samuel P. Carson
as Secretary of State, and Thomas J. Rusk
as Secretary of War. Bailey Hardeman
became Secretary of the Treasury, and David Thomas
Burnet's first acts as president was to transfer the capital of the
new state from Washington-on-the-Brazos to Harrisburg, which was located nearer the
small Texas Navy at Galveston
Harrisburg was also closer to the border
with the United States and would allow easier communication with
U.S. officials. The move took on a sense of urgency when the
convention received word that Santa Anna was within of
Washington-on-the-Brazos. Burnet quickly adjourned the proceedings
and the government fled. Burnet personally carried the Texas
Declaration of Independence in his saddlebags.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 98.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 100.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 99.
- Barr (1990), p. 56.
- Hardin (1994), p. 98.
- Lord (1961), p. 73.
- Todish et al. (1998), p. 40.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 142.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 144.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 145.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 146.
- Roberts and Olson (2001), p. 147.
- Edmondson (2000), p. 375.
- Todish et al. (1998), p. 67.
- Todish et al. (1998), p. 68.
- Davis (1982), p. 37.
- Davis (1982), p. 38.
- Davis (1982), p. 39.