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The Texas Constitution

Ira Mascardo
GOVT2306:Mrs. Snook
July, 15 2014

A constitution is defined as, a document that provides for the legal and institutional
structure of a political system. It establishes government bodies and defines their power.1 The
Texas Constitution is full of history and has an interesting story for each time it is revised. This
document impacted Texas as a whole in many ways; shaping the political system and political
culture that we use today. Texas has seven constitutions in total and all are critical to
understanding contemporary Texas politics and public policy.2
The first Constitution is called, The Constitution of Coahuila y Tejas this was
established when Texas was still part of Mexico. Texass citizens were ostracized (not in a harsh
or negative manner) from Mexicos laws. This was because Mexico viewed Texas as a buffer3
between them and the United States of America. They were pardoned from the Catholicism, even
though it was the states religion. The Texas citizens also were not, subject to military service,
taxes, or custom duties.4 The constitution gave Texas a unicameral government, which means
that it has one legislature. There was a governor and a vice governor; basically the governor had
most, if not all the power in that area. When Mexico tried to have more control over Texas,
because of the fear that the United States will try to expand their borders (due to the large
immigration of Anglo Americans to Texas), Texas began to start a revolution. However, Mexicos
unsufficient fund towards Texass public schools was the real trigger to the Texans revolution.
Although Texas and Mexico separated, the time Texas was part of Mexico was very beneficial,
constitutional-wise; we obtained useful laws using the Mexican laws as an example. some
property and land laws, water laws and water rights, and community property laws,5 are some
GibsonL.TuckerandClayRobison,"TheTexasConstitution,"inGovernmentandPoliticsin
theLoneStarState(EnglewoodCliffs,NJ:PrenticeHall,2011),35
2
Ibid., 34
3
Ibid., 37
4
Seenote3above.
5
Seenote4above.
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of the Mexican laws that Texas adopted in their constitution.


The second Constitution is called, The Constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836).
This is when the colonist rebelled because Mexico suddenly wanted to enforce its laws within
Texas. During this time general Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna Perez de Lebron (Santa Anna)
seized the Mexican government when they were in a middle of an intense conflict. He reformed
the government into a unitary system; a system where the ultimate power is in the national
government. Stephen F. Austin (a notable man that brought many Anglo Americans to Texas
when it was still with Mexico) was at first a supporter that Texas was a Mexican state,6 but
changed his mind when he saw Mexican troops march into Texas and became part of the
resistance group. Texas later became independent and started to write its constitution. However
when General Santa Anna attacked the Alamo, the constitution writers hastened the constitution
writing. The finished constitution resembled the U.S. Constitution and it was not as restricted as
the current Texas Constitution. It had a bicameral legislature, which has two chambers, and it
included an elected president. The constitution also didnt require a set religion for the citizens
and members of the clergy were prohibited from serving as president or in Congress.7 Santa
Anna was finally brought to justice at April 21, 1836 in the Battle of San Jacinto by Sam
Houston.
The Constitution of 1845 is the third constitution. This was at the time were Texas
joined the United States with a compromise that Texas will still have slaves. The Constitution of
1845 was twice as long as The Constitution of 1836 and created an elected legislature that
included a House of Representatives and Senate.8 Texas at this time had a plural executive
which limited the governors power. The Constitution of 1845 established a permanent fund for
Seenote5above.
Seenote6above.
8
Ibid., 38
6
7

the support of public schools, protected homestead from foreclosure, and guaranteed separate
property rights for married women.9 This constitution was referenced and recopied for the
making of the Constitution of 1876 because it worked so well.
The Civil War Constitution is the fourth constitution. In this
constitution most of the Constitution of 1845 was retained. The constitution was however,
leaning to more of a confederate style due to Texass new membership to the Confederacy.
Meaning it wanted to secure their usage of slavery and made sure there was no freeing of slaves.
The constitution also required public officials to make pledges to the confederate constitution.
This made factionalism possible in the Democratic Party which lasted for more than 100 years,
until the emergence of a two-party system in the 1980s.10 The Civil War affected this
constitution because the southern states believed they were a confederacy; meaning they could
withdraw from the country. This was of course illegal, but there is still argument towards our
states rights between the national government and the southern states.
The Constitution of 1866 is the fifth
constitution. The time period was after the Civil War and it was transitioning to the
Reconstruction period. Texans were devastated by the damage the Civil brought them, but on top
of that slavery became illegal. So their laborers used for their income and convenience were
gone. The Texans tried to restore their former Constitution of 1845 with Union requirements
(which eliminated slavery) but the African Americans still cant testify against white and vote.
Unfortunately, their civilian government didnt last long because the United States vetoed it so
the Texas and other southern states political system transitioned to a military government.
Texass lived under a military government for two years; this period help direct Texass,
9

Ibid., 39
Seenote9above.

10

hostility and suspicion toward the government.11

The

Constitution of Reconstruction of 1869 is the sixth constitution. The document supported


centralizing more powers in state government while weakening local government.12 This
constitution also gave African Americans the right to vote and for the first time in Texas a
centralized, state-wide system of public schools.13 The constitution basically did not reflect
the majority of Texans sentiments at that time, but it conformed to Republican wishes.14 At that
time period a Republican named Edmund J. Davis caused chaos because he rigged the voting
poles when it was election time. He let in a lot of the former slaves in the ballots, but shut out the
Anglo Americans who were strongly confederate-minded. Then when Davis won his laws (in
some regards unconstitutional) that he proposed passed through. His laws mostly magnify his
powers as governor giving himself more power. The Texans finally got tired of what he was
doing and plan to overthrow him by electing a majority of Democrats for the legislature and also
a Confederate veteran Richard Coke for governor. The Democrats however, abused the
democratic process,15 also guilty of fraud voting. Davis also proved to be another problem
because he refused to hand over his duties and title to Coke. He then finally left once the Texas
Militias were coming to remove him by force. This period was absolutely chaotic and left deep
scars to the people of Texas.
The Constitution of 1876 is the final and seventh constitution of Texas. This is at
the time where most delegates were Democrats and Anglo Americans and there were some
African Americans among the delegates. Half of them were part of the Society of the Patrons of

Ibid., 40
Seenote11above.
13
Seenote12above.
14
Seenote13above.
15
Seenote13above.
11
12

Husbandry (or the Grange), which is an organization formed to improve the lot of farmers.16 In
order to fix the economic instability that the Reconstruction period caused the Texans, the
Granges created the Texas Constitution of 1876 around the idea of a more local control for the
government. They also limited taxation and put short leashes on the legislature, the courts, and
the governor.17 The constitution also protected the agriculture sector from government intrusion
and taxes, which will later in time limited the economic growth of Texas.
There is a way to distinctly point out each one of the seven constitutions of Texas and that
is to compare and contrast them. The Constitution of Coahuila y Tejas (1827) differs greatly from
The Constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836) because it had one legislature, has a governor
and a vice governor for their main head leader, and it revolved around the Mexican laws. While
The Constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836) had two chambers, an elected president, and
was influenced heavily from the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution of 1845, The Civil War
Constitution (1861), and The Constitution of 1866 are similar because they all have a majority of
the Constitution of 1845 retained in the document. For example, The Civil War Constitution
(1861) retained most of The Constitution of 1845 while adding confederate leaning laws and The
Constitution of 1866 recopied The Constitution of 1845. Finally, the similarity The Constitution
of Reconstruction of 1869 and The Constitution of 1876 is that both have been affected by the
Reconstruction period and the chaos that the Republican governor Davis brought. The difference
between these two is that The Constitution of 1876 limited the government because of the
aftermath of the Davis incident, while Constitution of Reconstruction of 1869 gave more power
to the governor.

The

best constitution in my opinion would be The Constitution of 1845 because I feel without the
16
17

Ibid., 42
Seenote16above.

addition of other laws; this constitution would be less restrictive than our very current one. It also
has laws such as a permanent fund for the support of public schools, protected homestead from
foreclosure, and guaranteed separate property rights for married women,18 that I really like to be
implemented in the future.

18

Seenote9above.

Bibliography
Gibson, L. Tucker, and Clay Robison. "The Texas Constitution." In Government and Politics in
the Lone Star State. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2011.