The Texas Constitution Of 1876 Essay Research

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The Texas Constitution Of 1876 Essay, Research Paper The Constitution of 1876 is the sixth constitution by which Texas has been governed since independence from Mexico was achieved in 1836. It was framed by the Constitutional Convention of 1875 and adopted on February 15, 1876, by a vote of 136,606 to 56,652, and it remains the basic organic law of Texas. The constitution contains some provisions that are uniquely Texan, many of which are products of the state’s unusual history. Some, for example, may be traced to Spanish and Mexican influence. Among them are sections dealing with land titles and land law in general, debtor relief, judicial procedures, marital relations and adoption, and water and other mineral rights. Other atypical provisions may be attributed to the twin

influences of Jacksonian agrarianism and frontier radicalism-both prevalent when Texas first became a state and both widely supported by the bulk of immigrants to Texas before the Civil War. Those influences produced sections prohibiting banks and requiring a stricter separation of church and state than that required in older states. Reconstruction, under the highly centralized and relatively autocratic administration of Governor Edmund J. Davis and his fellow Radical Republicans, prompted provisions to decentralize the state government. Upon regaining control of both the legislative and executive branches of the government, the Democrats determined in 1874 to replace the unpopular Constitution of 1869. They wanted all officials elected for shorter terms and lower salaries,

abolition of voter registration, local control of schools, severely limited powers for both the legislature and the governor, low taxation and state expenditures, strict control over corporations, and land subsidies for railroads. Early in 1874 a joint legislative committee reported an entire new constitution as an amendment to the Constitution of 1869. Because the document had not been prepared by a convention and because of the possibility that its adoption might antagonize the federal government, the legislature rejected the proposal. On the advice of Governor Richard Coke, the next legislature submitted the question of a constitutional convention to the voters, who, on August 2, 1875, approved the convention and elected three delegates from each of the thirty senatorial

districts. In the convention, which convened on September 6, seventy-five members were Democrats and fifteen, including six blacks, were Republicans. Not one had been a member of the Convention of 1868-69, forty-one were farmers, and no fewer than forty were members of the Patrons of Husbandry (the Grange), the militant farmers’ organization established in response to the Panic of 1873. In the convention the Grange members acted as a bloc in support of conservative constitutional measures. To assure that the government would be responsive to public will, the convention precisely defined the rights, powers, and prerogatives of the various governmental departments and agencies, including many details generally left to the legislature. The Constitution of 1876 began with a lengthy

bill of rights. It declared that Texas was a free and independent state, subject only to the Constitution of the United States, that all free men have equal rights, and that the writ of habeas corpus could not be suspended or unduly delayed. The article also forbade religious tests for office, unreasonable searches, and imprisonment for debt, and it guaranteed liberty of speech and press, the right of the accused to obtain bail and to be tried by a jury, and the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. The legislative article defined the powers and limitations of the legislature in great detail. The legislature was to be composed of two houses, a Senate to consist of thirty-one members and a House of Representatives never to exceed 150 members. Senators and representatives were