Constitution of the Republic of Texas

On March 1, 1836, The Constitution of the Republic of Texas, the first Anglo-American constitution to govern Texas was drafted.

In an effort to complete their task quickly, delegates lifted portions from the Constitution of the United States from several state constitutions. Like the United States Constitution, it was brief and offered generous grants of power to state officials. Limitations and restrictions upon government often found in state constitutions of the time were avoided. And, words and phrases of older American constitutions were preserved, making understanding easier.

American features included a short preamble; a separation of the powers of government; statement of how the powers of the government would be distributed— legislative, executive, and judicial; citizenship with "Africans, the descendants of Africans, and Indians excepted;" a Bill of Rights; male suffrage; and the legislature had two houses— the Senate and House of Representatives.

Some of the constitution's non-typical provisions reflected Jacksonian ideas current in the states from which many delegates had come. Ministers and priests were declared ineligible to hold public office. Imprisonment for debt was abolished, and monopolies, and primogeniture (the right of succession belonging to the firstborn child), were prohibited. Terms of office were short, ranging from one year for representatives to four years for some judges.

The amending process was so complex that, in the ten-year life span of the constitution several amendments were suggested, and none was ever adopted.

Of nearly paramount importance at the time of adoption were provisions relating to land. The document sought to protect the rights of people in the unoccupied lands of the republic, lands that were the main attraction to the immigrants who had come to Texas.

The Constitution of 1836 was a revolutionary document, a product of the social and economic conditions of the time as well as of the constitutional and legal heritage of Texas, the southern and western states, and the United States. Anglo-Americans immigrating to the Republic of Texas found institutions of law and government in accord with their experience.

Source: Constitution of the Republic of Texas
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

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