As the number of Anglo-American settlers increased in the Mexican territory North of the Rio Grande, the drive to establish a separate statehood for Texas openly surfaced at the Convention of 1832. A petition to Mexico was drawn by William Harris Wharton and was submitted under the Mexican Constitution of 1824 for approval.
By 1835, the political situation in Mexico turned against the efforts to form a Texas State under the Constitution of 1824. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had over turned the Constitution and had assumed dictatorial power. Hostilities had already begun in Texas with the Campaign of October 9, 1835 at Goliad and the taking of San Antonio on December 10,1836. Between these two events a Consultation was called at San Felipe de Austin. Delegates from the municipalities of Texas signed a document known as The Declaration of Causes on November 7, 1835. The original of this document signed by 57 delegates has not survived. However, Broadsides of this document were printed in both Spanish and English and these rare prints have survived. Sam Houston was one of the delegates and at least twelve of the delegates would sign the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2,1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos.
The Declaration of Causes stopped short of declaring independence from Mexico, but did state that they had the right to withdraw from the Union since the Federal Constitution of Mexico of 1824 had been overturned by a treating military despot. The people of Texas would not cease their war against the new Mexican Government as long as troops remained within the limits of Texas. In short, the people of Texas were determined to defend their liberties, but were not acting directly against the Mexican Confederacy that also suffered at the hands of a dictator.
By the time the Convention of 1836, met at the Town of Washington on March 1st, the situation in Texas had already reach a dangerous stage. The famous Lt. Colonel William Barret Travis Letter of February 24, 1836 from the Alamo dramatically presented the crisis underway only a few days away from the Town of Washington.
A total of fifty-nine delegates signed the final Declaration of Independence with the additional signature of H. S. Kimble as Secretary. In addition, on the back of the eleven page the document is signed by W. Wharton who had earlier been appointed as a commissioner to the United States. Wharton wrote the notation that the document had been "Left at the Department of State May 28, 1836, by W. Wharton The original"
The original document written on six sheets of paper front and back for a total of eleven written and signed pages with the twelfth page carrying the W. Wharton note had been left with the United States Department of State in Washington, D. C., and was not returned to Texas until 1896. This most likely explains the overall fine condition of the original document which was most likely not placed on public display in Washington. Placing the original with the State Department must have had the primary purpose of demonstrating to the American Government the official nature of the Texas Declaration and to secure aid as soon as possible for the new Republic.
The fact that this important document was held for over sixty years can only be explained by the fast pace in which the Republic of Texas became a State and the rapid unfolding of the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Reconstruction Period following this dramatic period of Rebellion. A history of why the document remained in the custody of the State Department has never been fully researched.
The similarities of the Texas Declaration and the American Declaration of Independence are dramatic evens in a period of intense uncertainty and danger. Failures on battlefields marked both causes. The victories of Yorktown and at San Jacinto gave life to the cause of liberty and set the stage for the growth of a great and united country.
As the Delegates gathered on March 1st time was pressing on Richard Ellis who was appointed president of the convention. A resolution was introduced appointing a committee to draw up a declaration of independence. Ellis appointed George C. Childress, James Gaines, Edward Conrad, Collin McKinney, and Bailey Hardeman to this committee. Childress was named chairman and it is most likely that he had already brought a prepared draft of a declaration to the Convention. The finished Declaration Document was adopted with little change by the committee and the Convention on March 2nd. The original document is scripted by Childress which is evident when a comparison is made with his signature on the document and with the style used on the text. The text of the Texas Declaration is typed as per each page on the Texas Declaration of Independence Content Link.
After the Declaration was completed, the Delegates continued working seventeen straight days and nights to forge a new constitution and a new Republic of Texas Government. On March lst news of the tragic fall of the Alamo reached the Convention and on March 17th the delegates fled the Town of Washington as Santa Anna's troops advanced to capture the new Government of Texas.
Today, as visitors walk into the Alamo, tour the San Jacinto Battle grounds and visit the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Park, the memories of a time when patriots rose to the challenges of life or death are boldly place before each of us. When we read the Texas Declaration Document, time and distance fade away
and we can fully understand why the Founding Fathers of Texas took the important step of recording the justifications for their actions. They "fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations"