Declaration of the People of Texas
“We solemnly avow to the world, and call God to witness their truth and sincerity, and invoke defeat and disgrace upon our heads, should we prove guilty of duplicity.”
Declaration of the People of Texas
In the spring and summer of 1775 hostilities between Great Britain and her American colonies were coming dangerously close to all out war. In April of that year, British troops and American militiamen engaged in a running gun battle in the Massachusetts villages of Lexington and Concord. Parliament, with the crown’s backing, imposed increasing impositions on the colonies, spurring many leading voices to call for a declaration of independence. More conservative voices, however, called for restraint. The crown and Parliament could be reasoned with, they argued, if only the colonies would humbly set forth their rights as English citizens.
Over the objections of men like John and Samuel Adams, the Second Continental Congress, in an effort to avoid general warfare, petitioned the British government to honor their rights as Englishmen, declaring themselves loyal to crown. This document became known as the “Olive Branch Petition.”
A year later, after the crown rejected the Olive Branch Petition, America declared its independence from Great Britain.
Something similar took place in Texas in 1835.
When Santa Anna came to power in Mexico in 1834, and declared himself dictator, he abolished the Constitution of 1824, which granted liberal rights to the citizens of Texas. By October 1835 hostilities between Texians and the Mexican government were at a boiling point. Mexican troops from San Antonio marched on Gonzales in an attempt to seize a small cannon used to defend the town from Indian raids. The Texians refused to surrender their cannon and shots were fired. Many in Texas pressed for a complete break with Mexico, while others advocated patience. Texians certainly had the right to defend themselves against despotism and armed troops, it was asserted, but general warfare might be interpreted as a move toward secession, which could incite Mexican Federalist—those in Mexico opposed to Santa Anna’s dictatorial rule and in favor of a constitutional government—to support Santa Anna’s attempts to disband and disarm the people of Texas.
Members of the peace party in Texas, those opposed to revolution, proposed a meeting to discuss relations with the Mexican government. Delegates from twelve municipalities convened in San Felipe on November 1, though no delegates from the war zone districts such as Bexar, Goliad, Refugio, Victoria, or San Patricio attended. In an effort to quell Mexican suspicions that the meeting was to discuss independence, the delegates did not call their gathering a convention, but rather a consultation. The deliberations of the Consultation revolved around three issues: the purpose of hostilities, the power and structure of government, and the strengths and weaknesses of various leaders. Two factions quickly developed: the Stephen F. Austin-Don Carlos Barrett faction favored an endorsement of the Constitution of 1824; the John A. Wharton-Henry Smith faction favored an immediate break with Mexico. By a 33 to 14 vote, on November 7, 1835, the Consultation reached a compromise. They would endorse the establishment “of a provisional government upon the Constitution of 1824,” while at the same time they recognized that Santa Anna had already resolved “the social compact” that governed Texas and Mexico and therefore declared that Texas had the right to seek independence.
Consultation president, Branch T. Archer, appointed a committee of twelve to draft a declaration justifying hostilities with the Mexican army and the right to declare independence, while expressing a desire to reestablish relations between Mexico and Texas according to the federal Constitution of 1824.
We might say this is the Texas version of the Olive Branch Petition. However, it also carried with it a piece of hickory.
DECLARATION OF THE PEOPLE OF TEXAS,
In General Convention Assembled.
Whereas, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, and other military chieftains, have, by force of arms, overthrown the federal institutions of Mexico, and dissolved the social compact which existed between Texas and the other members of the Mexican confederacy; now the good people of Texas, availing themselves of their natural rights,
1st. That they have taken up arms in defence of their rights and liberties, which were threatened by the encroachments of military despots, and in defence of the republican principles of the federal constitution of Mexico, of eighteen and twenty-four.
2d. That Texas is no longer morally or civilly bound by the compact of union; yet, stimulated by the generosity and sympathy common to a free people, they offer their support and assistance to such of the members of the Mexican confederacy as will take up arms against military despotism.
3d. That they do not acknowledge that the present authorities of the nominal Mexican republic have the right to govern within the limits of Texas.
4th. That they will not cease to carry on war against the said authorities whilst their troops are within the limits of Texas.
5th. That they hold it to be their right during the disorganization of the federal system, and the reign of despotism, to withdraw from the union, to establish an independent government, or to adopt such measures as they may deem best calculated to protect their rights and liberties, but that they will continue faithful to the Mexican government so long as that nation is governed by the constitution and laws that were formed for the government of the political association.
6th. That Texas is responsible for the expense of her armies now in the field.
7th. That the public faith of Texas is pledged for the payment of any debts contracted by her agents.
8th. That she will reward by donations in lands, all who volunteer their services in her present struggle, and receive them as citizens.
THESE DECLARATIONS we solemnly avow to the world, and call God to witness their truth and sincerity, and invoke defeat and disgrace upon our heads, should we prove guilty of duplicity.
B. T. Archer, President.
Municipality of Austin.
Municipality of Matagorda.
R. R. Royall,
Municipality of Washington.
Municipality of Mina.
J. S. Lester,
D. C. Barrett,
R. M. Williamson.
Municipality of Columbia.
J. S. D. Byrom,
John A. Wharton,
W. D. C. Hall.
Municipality of Harrisburgh.
Lorenzo de Zavala,
Wm. P. Harris,
C. C. Dyer,
Meriwether W. Smith,
John W. Moore,
D. B. Macomb.
Municipality of Gonzales.
J. D. Clemens,
William S. Fisher,
G. W. Davis.
Municipality of Viesca.
S. T. Allen,
A. G. Perry,
J. G. W. Pierson,
J. W. Parker.
Municipality of Nacogdoches.
James W. Robertson,
Municipality of Bevil.
S. H. Everett,
Municipality of Augustin.
Wm. N. Sigler,
A. E. C. Johnson,
A. G. Kellog.
Municipality of Liberty.
J. B. Woods,
A. B. Hardin,
P. B. Dexter, Secretary.
November 7, 1835