by Daniel Miller, President of the Texas Nationalist Movement
In 1861, delegates from the various areas of Texas met to discuss the overriding national question of the day – Union or independence. The fact that a secession convention had been called should have given a hint as to the outcome, but in a state where Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution states “all political power is inherent in the people”, the forms must be observed.
The results of the convention are now a matter of historical record. With the current political climate in Texas and with the word “secession” gaining prominence, it is tempting to revisit the Convention of 1861 as a “guidebook” for any efforts heading that direction. An examination of the 1861 Convention should yield a fairly good plan for secession or, at least, the steps and criteria that must be met for legitimacy.
Before I begin, I want to make sure that you understand that I did not toss in the word “legitimacy” for lack of a better word. Any real political process must have legitimacy. It’s results must be unquestionable. The measuring stick for legitimacy is contained in the aforementioned Article 1 Section 2 of the Texas Constitution. Here is the full text:
“All political power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.”
It is obvious that the criteria for any legitimate political action in Texas must involve the express will of the people. Further, it must not be contrary to the express or implied rights of the people or the Republican principles of government expressed either in the Constitution or as part of the political history or theory of a Republic. Other than these two criteria, the power of the people is virtually limitless.
“How do we determine the will of the people?”
In the absence of anarchy or revolution, history has determined that when systems and processes are in place to allow the individual to express their political will, then those systems and processes must be used. We will see in this examination of the Convention of 1861 that the process was illegitimate up to a certain point. Once legitimized by the then-current government, its results became politically and legally binding upon the government of Texas.
Before looking at the Convention of 1861 and the process, it is important to understand the context in which it took place. The roots of the Convention of 1861 began in October of the previous year. It was assumed that Abraham Lincoln would win the Presidency of the United States running on an entirely sectional platform. With campaign promises that pitted the southern states against the northern states and offering a bold re-imagining of the very nature of the Union his very election was seen as an affront to the people of the southern states.
The reaction was swift. The legislature and people of South Carolina chose to secede in December. This was followed by the secession of five other states whose legislatures took up the question of Union or independence.
However, in Texas, the legislature was on break and only Governor Sam Houston could call the legislature in to a special session — and, in Texas, only the Legislature could convene a convention to deal with the issue of secession. Houston refused to call a special session, as he believed that secession would lead to union with the other seceding states, which would lead to a military conflict with the remaining United States. He also hoped that if some time were to pass that the public support for secession would die down.
Out of frustration, several prominent Texans, including the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court Oran Roberts, issued a public call for a secession convention. They went so far as to run advertisements in several prominent Texas newspapers calling for an election of delegates that would be overseen by the County Judge in each county.
Governor Houston, believed that some sort of convention would meet. He also understood that the convention was illegitimate, as it had no basis in law. But to punctuate his point, he called the Legislature into a special session before the convention was to meet to have them declare it illegitimate. His plan backfired — the Legislature legitimized the convention and promptly turned the House chambers over to the convention to meet.
So began the Convention of 1861. It was borne of external pressure and internal frustration. But there are lessons to be learned from this.
There had to be at least some elected officials on board. The Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court was a good choice. There had to be a public notice and call for the convention using the lawful forms of the day (newspapers of record in each county). There had to be a publicly accessible election of delegates. The elections had to be overseen by the lawful authority for such actions in each county. In this case it was the County Judge. Finally, the Legislature had to act to transfer legitimacy to the convention. Even with all of this, the Convention of 1861 and its results are still the objects of question as, in some aspects, didn’t meet the minimum election standards of the day. But many things can happen when the Constitution says: “in such manner as they may think expedient”.
Ultimately, the Convention of 1861 led to a referendum. Governor Houston and many others believed that since a referendum brought Texas into the Union, a referendum was needed to bring us out. This, of course, is the purest expression of Article 1 Section 2. While the actions in the establishment of the convention are questionable, the vote of the people as a whole is not. The people of Texas made the decision overwhelmingly to secede at the ballot box.
Since we are looking at the Convention of 1861 as somewhat of a guidebook, it is important to note that all guidebooks contain “do’s” and “dont’s.” As such, the Convention of 1861 is replete with both. But from the Convention of 1861 experience we can discern a process that must be followed to embrace what worked and avoid what cast a pall of illegitimacy upon it.
Doing this is what drives the Texas Nationalist Movement’s stated plan for the independence of Texas. Here I provide you with our guide to secure our return to an independent Republic of Texas.
1) Build public support for Texas independence and organize that public support.
2) Pressure the Governor and Legislature to call a Secession Convention or a referendum on the issue. This is done by exerting political pressure, enlisting them to our cause or replacing them. They must see that the people of Texas want independence and that they must act in their lawful capacities to shepherd the process.
3) If, after enlisting the support necessary from the people at-large and members of the government, the Governor and the Legislature fail to call a Convention or issue a referendum, then we act to force the issue on the ballot on the local level as most counties and municipalities have initiative and referendum in their charters. If they will not allow Texas as a whole to speak, we will do it one county or city at a time.
It is this strategy that drives our public outreach, membership recruitment and petition drives. The Texas Nationalist Movement wants to deliver MILLIONS of signatures from Texans to the Legislature on January 11, 2011, and dare them not to act. For if they do not, then we will. In the absence of action from them, we will take up that mantle of leadership and push for a convention or a county-by-county secession referendum. We will do whatever in our power to follow the guidelines, embracing the good and eliminating the bad, and secure our Republican form of government, our individual liberties and our political, cultural and economic independence. We will deliver Texas from the destruction of our Constitution and experience prosperity and freedom like we have never seen.
Will we see a legitimate secession convention in 2010? Doubtful. But the jury is still out for 2011.
Ready to declare your independence? Join the Texas Nationalist Movement today!
Texas Nationalist Movement
3104 Nederland Avenue
Nederland, TX 77627