Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1, 1862 - Texas Convention passes its Ordinance of Secession

San Jacinto Monument, Texas
February 1, 1862

Texas became the seventh Southern state to approve an Ordinance of Secession. The vote in Austin took place 150 years ago today.

The decision by the delegates to the Texas Secession Convention to revert to the status of the state to that of an independent republic, which it had been until it joined the United States in 1845, was made by a margin of 166-8 and over the objections of Texas hero, governor and former president, Sam Houston. Although Texas authorities moved immediately under the assumption that Texas would ally itself with the other seceding states, the document was not entirely definitive as it required a vote of the people for final approval. That vote would not take place until February 23, 1861 and would approve the decision to secede by a wide margin.

San Jacinto Monument
Texas was unique among the Southern states in that it had been an independent republic from 1836 until it was accepted into the Union in 1845. Its fourteen year status as an independent country gave Texas a stronger case for the right to leave the Union than any other state, although parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had been obtained by the United States thanks to the brief existence of the 1810 Republic of West Florida, which had seized land from Spain in a revolution and then turned the territory over to the U.S.

Although the vote of the state's residents was still to come, Texas moved forward with plans to send delegates to the meeting convened by the seceding states at Montgomery, Alabama. This session would lead to the organization of the Confederate States of America, of which Texas would become a part.

The right of Texas to secede remains a matter for debate even today, as became apparent when Governor Rick Perry noted that the state could do so as recently as last year.

The Republic of Texas came into existence as a result of the Texas Revolution of 1836, remembered today largely for the tragic fall of the Alamo in San Antonio. Although the courageous stand at the Alamo resulted in the death of the mission turned fort's defenders, General Sam Houston was able to rally his troops and with the battle cry of "Remember the Alamo!" defeated Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. Captured following the battle, Santa Anna signed documents agreeing to give Texas its independence.

The Republic of Texas remained an independent entity until it became an American state in 1845, but by a wide margin Texans felt they had every right to return to that status if they so decided. And the process of making that decision began 150 years ago today with the approval of the Texas Ordinance of Secession.

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