A quarrel between Governor Henry Smith and the Council in January, 1836, paralyzed the Provisional Government of Texas. Fortunately, the Council had called for an election on February 1 to select delegates to a convention at Washington on March 1 to form a new government. Public sentiment, reflected by the attitude of the forty-one delegates on hand for the opening session, favored a declaration of independence. After the Convention had been organized, the first act of President Richard Ellis was to appoint a committee consisting of George C. Childress, chairman, James Gaines, Bailey Hardeman, Edward Conrad, and Collin McKinney to draft a declaration of independence. The following report of the committee, supposedly written by Childress and closely paralleling the United States Declaration of 1776, was unanimously adopted the next day.
When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted; and so far from being a guarantee for their inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their suppression. When the federal republican Constitution of their country, which they have sworn to support, no longer has a substantial existence, and the whole nature of their government has been forcibly changed, without their consent, from a restricted federative republic, composed of sovereign states, to a consolidated central military despotism, in which every interest is disregarded but that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the ever ready minions of power, and the usual instruments of tyrants. When, long after the spirit of the constitution has departed, moderation is at length so far lost by those in power, that even the semblance of freedom is removed, and the forms themselves of the constitution discontinued, and so far from their petitions and remonstrances being regarded, the agents who bear them are thrown into dungeons, and mercenary armies Sent forth to en-force a new government upon them at the point of the bayonet.
When, in consequence of such acts of malfeasance and abduction on the part of the government, anarchy prevails, and civil society is dissolved into its original elements, in such a crisis, the first law of nature, the right of self-preservation, the inherent and inalienable right of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases, enjoins it as a right towards themselves, and a sacred obligation to their posterity, to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their welfare and happiness.
Nations, as well as individuals, are amenable for their acts to the public opinion of mankind. A statement of a part of our grievances is therefore submitted to an impartial world, in justification of the hazardous but unavoidable step now taken, of severing our political connection with the Mexican people, and assuming an independent attitude among the nations of the earth.
The Mexican government, by its colonization laws, invited and induced the Anglo American population of Texas to colonize its wilderness under the pledged faith of a written constitution, that they should continue to enjoy that constitutional liberty and republican government to which they had been habituated in the land of of their birth, the United States of America.
In this expectation they have been cruelly disappointed, inasmuch as the Mexican nation has acquiesced to the late changes made in the government by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who, having overturned the constitution of hi5 country, now offers, as the cruel alternative, either to abandon our homes, acquired by so many privations, or submit to the most intolerable of all tryanny, the combined despotism of the sword and the priesthood.
It hath sacrificed our welfare to the state of Coahuila by which our interests have been continually depressed through a jealous and partial course of legislation, carried on at a far distant seat of government, by a hostile majority, in an unknown tongue, and this too, notwithstanding we have petitioned in the humblest terms for the establishment of a separate state government, and have, in accordance with the provisions of the national constitution, presented to the general congress a republican constitution, which was, without a just cause, contemptuously rejected.
It incarcerated in a dungeon, for a long time, one of our citizens, for no other cause but a zealous endeavor to procure the acceptance of our Constitution, and the establishment of a state government.
It has failed and refused to Secure, on a firm basis, the right of trial by jury, that palladium of civil liberty, and only safe guarantee for the life, liberty, and property of the citizen.
It has failed to establish any public system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources, (the public domain,) and although it is an axiom in political science, that unless a people are educated and enlightened, it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty, or the capacity for self government.
It has suffered the military commandants, stationed among us, to exercise arbitrary acts of oppression and tyranny, thus trampling upon the most sacred rights of the citizens, and rendering the military superior to the civil power.
It has dissolved, by force of arms, the state congress of Coahuila and Texas, and obliged our representatives to fly for their lives from the seat of government, thus depriving us of the fundamental political right of representation.
It has demanded the surrender of a number of our citizens, and ordered military detachments to seize and carry them into the interior for trial, in contempt of the civil authorities, and in defiance of the laws and the constitution.
It has made piratical attacks upon our commerce, by commissioning foreign desperadoes, and authorizing them to seize our vessels, and convey the property of our Citizens to far distant parts for confiscation.
It denies us the right of worshiping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience, by the support of a national religion, calculated to promote the temporal interest of its human functionaries, rather than the glory of the true and living God.
It has demanded us to deliver up our arms, which are essential to our defence--the rightful property of freemen-and formidable only to tyrannical governments.
It has invaded our country both by sea and by land, with the intent to lay waste our territory, and drive us from our homes; and has now a large mercenary army advancing, to carry on against us a war of extermination.
It has, through its emissaries, incited the merciless savage, with the tomahawk and scalping knife, to massacre the inhabitants of our defenceless frontiers.
It has been, during the whole time of our Connection with it, the contemptible sport and victim of successive military revolutions, and bath continually exhibited every characteristic of a weak, corrupt, and tyrannical government.
These, and other grievances, were patiently borne by the people of Texas, until they reached that point at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue. We then took up arms in defence of the national constitution. We appealed to our Mexican brethren for assistance: our appeal has been made in vain; though months have elapsed, no sympathetic response has yet been heard from the in-tenor. We are, therefore, forced to the melancholy conclusion, that the Mexican people have acquiesced in the destruction of their liberty, and the substitution therefor of a military government; that they are unfit to be free, and incapable of self government.
The necessity of self-preservation, therefore, now decrees our eternal political separation.
We therefore, the delegates, with plenary powers, of the people of Texas, in solemn convention assembled, appealing to a candid world for the necessities of our condition, do hereby resolve and declare, that our political connection with the Mexican nation has forever ended, and that the people of Texas do now constitute a FREE, SOVERIGN, and INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC, and are fully invested with all the rights and attributes which properly belong to independent nations; and, conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the supreme Arbiter of the destinies of nations.
In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names.
ALBERT H. S. KIMBLE, Secretary.
|C. B. Stewart,||William B. Leates,|
|James Collingsworth,||M.B. Menard,|
|Edwin Waller,||A.B. Hardin,|
|A. Brigham,||John W. Bunton,|
|John S. D. Byrom,||Thomas J. Gazlcy,|
|Francis Ruis,||R.M. Coleman,|
|J. Antonio Navarro,||Sterling C. Robertson,|
|William D. Lacy,||George C. Childress,|
|William Menifee,||Baily Hardiman,|
|John Fisher,||Robert Potter,|
|Matthew Caldwell,||Charles Taylor,|
|John S. Roberts,||Samuel P. Carson,|
|Robert Hamilton,||Thomas J. Rusk,|
|Collies McKinney,||William C. Crawford,|
|A. H. Latimore,||John Turner,|
|James Power,||Benjamin Briggs Goodrich,|
|Sam. Houston,||James G. Swisher,|
|Edward Conrad,||George W. Barnet,|
|Martin Palmer,||Jesse Grimes,|
|James Gaines,||E. 0. Legrand,|
|William Clark, jun.,||David Thomas,|
|Sydney 0. Pennington,||S. Rhoads Fisher,|
|William Motley,||John W. Bower,|
|Lorenzo de Zavala,||J. B. Woods,|
|George W. Smyth,||Andrew Briscoe,|
|Stephen H. Everett,||Thomas Barnett,|
|Elijah Stepp,||Jesse B. Badgett,|
|Claiborne West,||Stephen W. Blount,|