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Texas Politics - The Constitution
Biography of Governor E.J. Davis Biography of Governor E.J. Davis
Constitutional Convention of 1875 Constitutional Convention of 1875
Jacksonian Democrats
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For more information on the constitution proposed in 1874, see its entry in The Handbook of Texas Online.

2.7    The Draft Constitution of 1874 and the Convention of 1875

Though historians today have come to view Reconstruction and the Constitution of 1869 less negatively, the political elite who returned to power in Texas as Reconstruction ended did not take a measured approach to recent experiences. Hostility toward the Constitution of 1869 and the activist administration of Radical Republican Governor Edmund J. Davis (1869-1873) spurred opponents to write a new constitution within only six years.

When the Democratic Party regained control of Texas government in 1873, Democratic leaders sought to replace the constitution. However, they disagreed on exactly how this should be done. Some elected officials (particularly Democratic Governor Richard Coke and the state Senate) wanted the drafting work to be done through special committees in the legislature. Others, mainly in the state House of Representatives, felt that voters should have a more direct role in determining the fundamental law of the state.

The Governor and the majority in the Senate won this battle. A legislative committee redrafted the Constitution. But they lost the next battle when a majority in the House defeated the final bill.

Ultimately, both sides got what they wanted. The public, dismayed by the defeat of the draft constitution, clamored for a convention. Governor Coke convened a special session of the Legislature in the summer of 1875 to consider calling yet another constitutional convention for Texas. The Legislature did exactly that, calling an election to allow voters to approve the convention and select three delegates from each of the state's thirty senatorial districts.

The new Constitutional Convention met in Austin from September 6 to November 24, 1875. The vast majority of the conventioneers were Democrats. Although a fair number had participated in previous conventions, not one had participated in the 1868-1869 Convention.

Traditional agricultural interests dominated the 1875 Convention, unlike the more business and development oriented interests that dominated the 1868-1869 convention. Unsurprisingly, the 1875 Convention sought to undo much of the work of its predecessor, rolling back ambitious state programs, decentralizing government, reducing taxes, reducing state government salaries, placing restrictions on expenditures, taxes, and the state debt, and limiting the terms of many public offices.

The Democrats also took aim at signature Republican provisions like the state education system, which they weakened considerably under the new Constitution. And in classic Jacksonian fashion - many of U.S. President Andrew Jackson's fellow Tennesseans had come to Texas in the middle of the century - they abolished state banks and limited the activities of corporations and railroads.

Once the Convention finished its work, the new Constitution was submitted to the public for ratification. It was adopted on February 15, 1876 by a large popular majority.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 116
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