Constitution of the Republic of Texas

The Constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836) was the first Anglo-American constitution to govern Texas. It was written by a convention of 59 delegates who met at Washington-on-the Brazos on March 1, 1836. A constitution was adopted by the convention 15 days later and was approved by a vote of the people of the republic in September 1836.

The delegates based a lot of the constitution on the Constitution of the United States and some of the state constitutions. It was only 6,500 words long and granted power to state officials, especially the chief executive. It avoided placing many limitations and restrictions on the government. The well-known words and phrases of older American constitution were used, making it easier to understand.

The constitution included:

  • a brief introduction
  • separation of the powers of government into three branches— legislative, executive, and judicial
  • checks and balances
  • slavery
  • citizenship
  • a Bill of Rights
  • voting rights for males
  • a method to make amendments.

The legislature was made of two houses – the Senate and the House of Representatives. The executive branch resembled the American presidency, and there was a four-tiered judiciary system of the justice, county, district, and supreme courts.

Some of the constitution’s unusual provisions reflected ideas from the states where many of the delegates came from. Ministers and priests were ineligible to hold public office. Imprisonment for debt was abolished. Monopolies, primogeniture (giving everything to the first-born child), and entailment were prohibited. Terms of office were short, ranging from one year for representatives to four years for some judges. Annual elections were required.

Some provisions were adapted from Spanish-Mexican law: community property, homestead exemptions and protections, and debtor relief. The amendment process was so complex that in the ten-year span of the constitution, no amendment was ever adopted. Some of the most important provisions dealt with owning land. The document tried 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.

Although the constitution of 1836 was written quickly, it was 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.

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

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