Cover of proposed Constitution of West Texas

Constitution of the State of West Texas, [1869].


Texas, as a political entity, has had seven constitutions. This is both a marker of our status as the only state to be a republic, as well as our tumultuous history with governments and constitutional conventions.

In keeping with our West Texas theme last week, I want to highlight the item you see above - the Constitution of the State of West Texas. I first want to remark that this item is quite rare - being known in 11 copies at 9 holding institutions. Special Collections has two in the Edward A. Clark Texana Collection - one in yellow paper wrappers (as issued, above), and one bound in three quarter morocco and cloth. I initially thought that it might be the manifesto of a separatist group in West Texas, but that initial thought was quite wrong.

Perhaps a brief discourse on the six previous constitutions of Texas is in order. Our first constitution was enacted in 1827, when Texas was still a part of Mexico. Upon the declaration of the Republic of Texas, a new constitution was written and ratified in 1836. Unsurprisingly, at the annexation of Texas into the United States, a new state constitution was ratified in 1845.

Texas, seeking to protect the legal enslavement of African-Americans, seceded from the United States in 1861 - requiring a new constitution. Yet another was required after the end of the Confederate States in 1866. Texas called a convention for a new constitution in 1868, with the work of the convention concluding in 1869. (Our present constitution is the next revision, dated February 15, 1876 - fo r more information about this constitution, and the Redeemer Democrats in Texas, I commend Patrick G. Williams’ Beyond Redemption to you.

As part of the convention’s work, the question of dividing Texas into two states was raised. Pursuant to that question, a committee of seven delegates drafted this constitution, proposing the capitol of West Texas as San Antonio (then the only real center of settlement even remotely in West Texas). This item was likely printed in Austin (where the convention met) in either 1868 or 1869. The item has no imprint information. However, delegates chose to not divide Texas, leaving us with this very unusual product of the constitutional convention of 1868-1869.