Convention of 1836
Overview
 
The Convention of 1836 was the meeting of elected delegate
Delegate
A delegate is a person who speaks or acts on behalf of an organization at a meeting or conference between organizations of the same level A delegate is a person who speaks or acts on behalf of an organization (e.g., a government, a charity, an NGO, or a trade union) at a meeting or conference...

s in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas
Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas
Washington-on-the-Brazos is an unincorporated area along the Brazos River in Washington County, Texas, United States. It was founded when Texas was still a part of Mexico, and the settlement became the site of the Convention of 1836 and the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence...

 in March 1836. The Texas Revolution
Texas Revolution
The Texas Revolution or Texas War of Independence was an armed conflict between Mexico and settlers in the Texas portion of the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas. The war lasted from October 2, 1835 to April 21, 1836...

 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 1824. 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.
Encyclopedia
The Convention of 1836 was the meeting of elected delegate
Delegate
A delegate is a person who speaks or acts on behalf of an organization at a meeting or conference between organizations of the same level A delegate is a person who speaks or acts on behalf of an organization (e.g., a government, a charity, an NGO, or a trade union) at a meeting or conference...

s in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas
Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas
Washington-on-the-Brazos is an unincorporated area along the Brazos River in Washington County, Texas, United States. It was founded when Texas was still a part of Mexico, and the settlement became the site of the Convention of 1836 and the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence...

 in March 1836. The Texas Revolution
Texas Revolution
The Texas Revolution or Texas War of Independence was an armed conflict between Mexico and settlers in the Texas portion of the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas. The war lasted from October 2, 1835 to April 21, 1836...

 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 1824. 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
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

 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
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 formally signed the following day after errors were noted in the...

, written by George Childress. Delegates elected an interim government, led by President David G. Burnet
David G. Burnet
David Gouverneur Burnet was an early politician within the Republic of Texas, serving as interim President of Texas , second Vice President of the Republic of Texas , and Secretary of State for the new state of Texas after it was annexed to the United States of America.Burnet was born in Newark,...

 and developed a Texas Constitution
Texas Constitution
The Constitution of the State of Texas is the document that describes the structure and function of the government of the U.S. State of Texas.Texas has had seven constitutions: the constitution of Coahuila y Tejas, the 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas, the state constitutions of 1845,...

, which they based primarily on the Constitution of the United States. On March 6 they received a missive from the Texan soldiers besieged at the Alamo
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

, and delegate and commander-in-chief Sam Houston
Sam Houston
Samuel Houston, known as Sam Houston , was a 19th-century American statesman, politician, and soldier. He was born in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. Houston became a key figure in the history of Texas and was elected as the first and third President of...

 narrowly convinced the men to continue their work on the constitution rather than rush to aid the soldiers. After the Alamo fell, Santa Anna's army marched towards Washington-on-the-Brazos, prompting the new government to flee.

Background

The Texas Revolution
Texas Revolution
The Texas Revolution or Texas War of Independence was an armed conflict between Mexico and settlers in the Texas portion of the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas. The war lasted from October 2, 1835 to April 21, 1836...

 began October 2, 1835 with the Battle of Gonzales
Battle of Gonzales
The Battle of Gonzales was the first military engagement of the Texas Revolution. It was fought near Gonzales, Texas, on October 2, 1835, between rebellious Texian settlers and a detachment of Mexican army troops....

. 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 Houston
Sam Houston
Samuel Houston, known as Sam Houston , was a 19th-century American statesman, politician, and soldier. He was born in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. Houston became a key figure in the history of Texas and was elected as the first and third President of...

, "I sincerely hope that the Convention will remedy the existing evils and calm the Public mind. If not Texas must be lost."

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 1832
Convention of 1832
The Convention of 1832 was the first political gathering of colonists in Mexican Texas. Delegates sought reforms from the Mexican government and hoped to quell the widespread belief that settlers in Texas wished to secede from Mexico...

, 1833
Convention of 1833
The Convention of 1833 , a political gathering of settlers in Mexican Texas, was a successor to the Convention of 1832, whose requests had not been addressed by the Mexican government...

, 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
Antonio López de Santa Anna
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón , often known as Santa Anna or López de Santa Anna, known as "the Napoleon of the West," was a Mexican political leader, general, and president who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government...

 had 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. Personally leading his forces, Santa Anna crossed the Rio Grande
Rio Grande
The Rio Grande is a river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it forms part of the Mexico – United States border. Its length varies as its course changes...

 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
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

 garrisoned at the Alamo.

Proceedings

Forty-one delegates arrived in Washington-on-the-Brazos on February 28. The convention was convened on March 1 with Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis (politician)
Richard Ellis was an American plantation owner, politician, and judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Alabama. He was president of the Convention of 1836 that declared Texas' independence from Mexico, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, and later served in the Republic of Texas...

 as president.

The delegates assigned George Childress to lead a committee of five to draft a Declaration of Independence
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 formally signed the following day after errors were noted in the...

. Childress, the nephew of empresario
Empresario
An empresario was a person who, in the early years of the settlement of Texas, had been granted the right to settle on Mexican land in exchange for recruiting and taking responsibility for new settlers. The word is Spanish for entrepreneur.- Background :...

 Sterling C. Robertson
Sterling C. Robertson
Sterling Clack Robertson was an empresario from Tennessee, during Mexican Texas. He introduced 600 families into Robertson's Colony. Robertson was also an elected delegate to the Washington-on-the-Brazos convention, signing both the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the...

, 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
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 and Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, 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
Republic of Texas
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

.

Shortly after adopting the declaration of independence, the delegates began to work on a new Constitution
Texas Constitution
The Constitution of the State of Texas is the document that describes the structure and function of the government of the U.S. State of Texas.Texas has had seven constitutions: the constitution of Coahuila y Tejas, the 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas, the state constitutions of 1845,...

. It drew heavily from the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 and included a declaration of rights (similar to the Bill of Rights
Bill of rights
A bill of rights is a list of the most important rights of the citizens of a country. The purpose of these bills is to protect those rights against infringement. The term "bill of rights" originates from England, where it referred to the Bill of Rights 1689. Bills of rights may be entrenched or...

) which guaranteed due process
Due process
Due process is the legal code that the state must venerate all of the legal rights that are owed to a person under the principle. Due process balances the power of the state law of the land and thus protects individual persons from it...

, 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
Grand jury
A grand jury is a type of jury that determines whether a criminal indictment will issue. Currently, only the United States retains grand juries, although some other common law jurisdictions formerly employed them, and most other jurisdictions employ some other type of preliminary hearing...

 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 Texas Congress from emancipating 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 B. Travis
William B. Travis
William Barret Travis was a 19th-century American lawyer and soldier. At the age of 26, he was a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army...

. 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. Neill
James C. Neill
↔James Clinton Neill was a 19th-century American soldier and politician, most noted for his role in the Texas Revolution and the early defense of the Alamo. He was born in North Carolina.-Early life and career:...

 and Major R.M. "Three-Legged Willie" Williamson had been gathering in Gonzales. Shortly after Houston's arrival in Gonzales, Alamo survivors Susanna Dickinson and Joe, 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
Runaway Scrape
The Runaway Scrape was the name given to the flight and subsequent hostilities that occurred, as Texan, Tejano, and American settlers and militia encountered the pursuing Mexican army in early 1836....

 from the Anglo settlements.
After finishing their constitution, the delegates organized an ad-interim government which would serve until the following October. As president they chose David G. Burnet
David G. Burnet
David Gouverneur Burnet was an early politician within the Republic of Texas, serving as interim President of Texas , second Vice President of the Republic of Texas , and Secretary of State for the new state of Texas after it was annexed to the United States of America.Burnet was born in Newark,...

, 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 commonly circulated for the presidency were empresario Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin
Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Virginia and raised in southeastern Missouri. He was known as the Father of Texas, led the second, but first legal and ultimately successful colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States. The capital of Texas, Austin in Travis County,...

, Sam Houston
Sam Houston
Samuel Houston, known as Sam Houston , was a 19th-century American statesman, politician, and soldier. He was born in Timber Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, of Scots-Irish descent. Houston became a key figure in the history of Texas and was elected as the first and third President of...

, and
William H. Wharton
William H. Wharton
William Harris Wharton was an early colonist, political leader and orator in Texas.Wharton was born in Virginia and was raised by an uncle following the deaths of his parents. He graduated from the University of Nashville and was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1826...

. All were absent from the convention, however, so the nominees became Burnet and Samuel Price Carson
Samuel Price Carson
Samuel Price Carson was an American political leader and farmer in both North Carolina and Texas. He served as Congressional Representative from North Carolina...

. Burnet won, on a vote of 29–23, in the early hours of March 17. The delegates chose Lorenzo de Zavala
Lorenzo de Zavala
Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala y Saenz was a 19th-century Mexican politician. He served as finance minister under President Vicente Guerrero. A colonizer and statesman, he was also the interim Vice President of the Republic of Texas, serving under interim President David G...

 as vice-president, Samuel P. Carson as Secretary of State, and Thomas J. Rusk as Secretary of War. Bailey Hardeman
Bailey Hardeman
Bailey Hardeman was the first Secretary of the Treasury for the Republic of Texas.Bailey was a younger son of Thomas Hardeman and his first wife Mary Perkins. Both families were early settlers in Tidewater Virginia...

 became Secretary of the Treasury, and David Thomas
David Thomas (Texas politician)
David Thomas was a signatory of the Texas Declaration of Independence and the first Attorney General and acting Secretary of War of the Republic of Texas.-Early life and family:...

 was elected Attorney General.

One of 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
Texas Navy
The Texas Navy was the official navy of the Republic of Texas. Two Texas Navies were naval fighting forces. There is a “Third and Honorary” Texas Navy, in which officers are commissioned by the Governor of Texas as Admirals, Commanders and Lieutenants....

 at Galveston Island
Galveston Island
Galveston Island is a barrier island on the Texas Gulf coast in the United States, about 50 miles southeast of Houston. The entire island, with the exception of Jamaica Beach, is within the city limits of the City of 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 60 miles (96.6 km) 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.

External links

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