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Texas | Columns

March 2
Texas Independence Day

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Texas Independence Day is special to the citizens of our state because Texas has been a full-fledged, independently functioning country before becoming a part of the federal union.

After the arrival of Europeans in the New World, Texas became a part of the Spanish empire and remained so until Mexican nationalists established a republic in 1821 with Texas a part of Mexico. At the end of Spanish control and throughout the early years of Mexican independence, American adventurers and settlers arrived in Texas, first illegally, and then as part of the empressarial system of legal immigration until 1830.

These American immigrants were only a generation removed from the American Revolution, and they came with the spirit of independence and liberty as part of their cultural baggage. The clash of cultures—religion, concepts of citizenship, economic aspirations—produced tensions that led to Mexican attempts to close off American immigration by the Law of April 6, 1830, which in turn led to the Disturbances of 1832 in Anahuac, Velasco, and Nacogdoches, where a battle of sorts was fought in the summer of that year.

Through conventions in 1832 and 1833 the Texans tried to explain their continued loyalty to the Mexican Constitution of 1824 by their defiance of political leaders they believed were violating the state’s rights aspects of that document by the passage of the Law of April 6, 1830. Petitioning the government was considered a fundamental American “right,” but not so in Mexico; their petitions were rebuffed and their messenger—Stephen F. Austin—jailed.
Stephen F. Austin statue,  Stephen F. Austin State Park
Stephen F. Austin Statue.
TE photo

San Felipe, Texas
While Austin remained under arrest, few Texans protested for fear their actions would result in harm for him, but after his release resistance sparked in Gonzales in October 1832, leading to the Texans’ capture of San Antonio in December.

Meanwhile, a Consultation of Texans met in San Felipe on November 3, and those present prepared for war but were not quite ready to take the bold step of independence. But the Battle of San Antonio (December 5-10), the ineffectiveness of an interim government under Henry Smith, and the march northward in January 1836 of General Santa Anna’s forces, provided the difference.
Childress statue, Star of Republic Museum
The dramatic statue of Childress (by Raoul Josset).
TE photo
Washington-on-the-Brazos -
First and Last Capitol of the Republic of Texas
When the Consultation met again, this time at Washington-on-the-Brazos, on March 1, independence was the only option discussed. The following day, March 2—thereafter Texas Independence Day—George Childress produced a document that declared Texas forever separated from Mexico. Childress followed the pattern of Thomas Jefferson in composing his document. The first section argues the “right of revolution,” the second lists specific grievances against Mexico, and the concluding section pledges the signer’s mutual efforts to establish Texas’ independence.

More war followed to determine if the declaration would work, and the Texan’s victory at San Jacinto insured at least the opportunity.

Ironically, after nearly ten years as a Republic and fifteen more as a state of the Union, Texans again chose March 2 as the official date of their exit from the Union to join the Confederacy.

Texas was readmitted to the Union after the Civil War in 1870. For years March 2 was celebrated as an official holiday, and still is by some state agencies. Holiday or not, it is an important date in the history of our state; it reminds us of our independent past, and also our binding tie as Americans.


© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical March 3, 2008 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
(The East Texas Historical Association provides this column as a public service. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas. )

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