Formation of the Provisional Texas Government at San Felipe de Austin


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Formation of the Texas Provisional Government at San Felipe de Austin and Declaration to Adhere to the Constitution of 1824

[Happened After: The Battle of Concepcion]

Texas Provisional GovernemtnTHE consultation for the formation of a Texas Provisional Government assembled at San Felipe de Austin, on the first of November, 1835 ; but, for want of a quorum, they did not organize until the third day of the month. There were present fifty-five members, representing the thirteen municipalities of Texas. Their session continued till the 14th of that month, during which period they were industriously engaged in organizing a provisional government, and providing means for its support. Branch T. Archer, the president of the assembly, opened its business in an appropriate address. The general council, which had, up to that time, exercised the authority of government, surrendered it to the consultation. A committee of twelve, of which John A. Wharton was chairman, was appointed to prepare a declaration of the causes which impelled the Texans to take up arms. A like committee, of which Henry Millard was chairman, was appointed " to draw up and submit a plan or system of a provisional government."

On the 7th, the consultation, after much discussion, adopted the declaration. It was not one of independence, but of adherence to the constitution of 1824. It is likely that the entire body saw that the end would be independence ; but they deemed it prudent to move slowly, and first unite all parties in the revolution. The great object of the leading men was, that their actions should be approved by the world. They feared that a precipitate declaration of independence would not meet that approval. Texas needed sympathy and aid. By a defensive course, she would obtain it. Such was the policy of her leaders, and time has shown its wisdom. They expected also to induce some of the other Mexican states to follow their example in declaring their adherence to the federal constitution, but in this they were not successful. There was, in some parts of Mexico, a feeble response in favor of liberty, but the bayonets of Santa Anna reduced it to silence. It may also be observed that, in November, 1835, public opinion in Texas was hardly prepared for a change so sudden.

The ordinance "establishing a provisional government" was completed on the 13th day of November, 1835. It is the earliest specimen of Anglo-Saxon law ever enforced in Texas. Its provisions were few, and such as the emergency required. It created a governor, lieutenant-governor, a council, to be elected from the consultation (one from each municipality), a provisional judiciary, a commander-in-chief, etc.

The consultation adjourned, to meet at Washington, on the 1st day of March, 1836 ; providing, however, that the governor and council should continue to exist as a provisional government until its reassembling. The commander-in-chief was declared to be such "of all the forces called into public service during the war ;" and he was " to be subject to the governor and council." These provisions are more especially referred to here, because of the discord and misfortunes resulting there from.

Two days before the adjournment of the consultation, they elected Henry Smith governor and James W. Robinson lieutenant-governor of Texas. Smith was chosen by a majority of nine votes over Stephen F. Austin. It was at first intended that Austin should be governor but his services being more needed as a commissioner to the United States, he was spared the misfortune of being the first governor of Texas. Robinson had no opposition. Sam Houston was elected commander-in-chief, with but one dissenting voice. Messrs. Branch T. Archer, William II. Wharton, and Stephen F. Austin, were duly chosen commissioners to the United States. Messrs. A. Huston, Daniel Parker, Jesse Grimes, A. G. Perry, D. C. Barrett, Henry Millard, Martin Farmer, J. D. Clements, R. R. Royal, W. P. Harris, E. Waller, and W. Hanks, were the council elected out of the consultation, to remain and cooperate with Governor Smith in carrying out the organic law.

In addition to other important matters, it was provided that " there should be a regular army created for the protection of Texas during the present war." To give aid and assistance in organizing this army, in adopting rules for its government, and in providing the personnel and materiel, General Houston remained in attendance on the governor and council until the 16th of December, when he was ordered to remove his headquarters to Washington. [See Next: Texans' Siege of San Antonio and the Alamo]




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