172 years ago Sunday, 48 delegates from the 48 territories of Texas gathered for a convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos to sign a Declaration of Independence. Santa Anna’s Mexican army had over 180 Texans trapped in the Alamo. But with the signing of this document, Texas was on its way to becoming “a free, Sovereign, and independent republic, fully invested with all the rights and attributes which properly belong to independent nations.”
The Texas Declaration is filled with a lot of the same language found in the United States Declaration of Independence, written 60 years earlier. It contains statements about the function and responsibility of government, passages regarding the rights of human beings, and a list of grievances. The Mexican Constitution of 1824 stands at the crux of the matter:
“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 consitution, that they should continue to enjoy that constitutional liberty and republican government to which they had been habituated in the land of their birth, the United States of America. In this expectation, they have been cruelly disappointed, inasmuch as the Mexican nation has acquiesced in the late changes made in the government by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who having overturned the constitution of his country, now offers us 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.”
Like the U.S. Declaration, the Texas document stated religious persecution in the list of grievances. Right in the middle of a list that includes the imprisonment of Stephen F. Austin, the lack of a public education system, no representation in the government, violence against their businesses, and “inciting the merciless savage, with the tomahawk and scalping knife, to massacre the inhabitants of our defenseless frontiers,” the delegates declared worship of God as at least part of their motivation for rebelling against Mexico:
“It (Mexican nation) denies us the right of worshipping 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.”
Finally, the delegates concluded the Declaration with a magnificent charge to freedom:
“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, Sovereign, 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 decision of the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations.”
Happy Texas Independence Day!