The first constitution for Texas as a distinct entity came during the ten-year period when it was the territory formed as the independent Republic of Texas (1836-1845). The delegates to the constitutional convention met for fifteen days beginning on March 1, 1836. This occurred while the two-week battle for the Alamo (which ended on March 6 of that year) was still raging.
Because of the urgency of the times the conventioneers adopted whole portions from the U.S. Constitution and the constitutions of several of the existing states. Consequently, the Constitution of the Republic of Texas shared important characteristics with these other documents. It was quite brief, a result in part of the hurried nature of the convention. The conventioneers also were likely influenced by the brevity of the U.S. Constitution, with its approximately 4,500 words.
The first Texas constitution had other familiar features, including:
- a brief preamble
- separation of governmental powers into three branches: legislative, executive and judicial
- a bicameral legislature
- checks and balances on the powers of each branch
- a bill of rights
- democratic selection of government office holders (restricted to free, non-aboriginal males)
This constitution also included provisions adopted from Spanish and Mexican law, including community property, homestead exemptions and protections, and debtor relief. These last provisions dovetailed with populist (and anti-bank) ideals imported from Tennessee (fourteen of the fifty-nine convention delegates were from that state) and other frontier states.