- Actas del Congreso Constituyente de Coahuila y Texas de 1824 a 1827. Primera Constitución bilingüe/Proceedings of the Constituent Congress of Coahuila and Texas, 1824–1827: Mexico’s Only Bilingual Constitution ed. by Manuel González Oropeza, Jesús F. de la Teja
Soon after the creation of the first Mexican republic in 1824, delegates to the Constituent Congress of Coahuila and Texas met in Saltillo to draft a state constitution. Formerly part of the Eastern Interior Provinces, Coahuila and Texas had little in common. They were joined together for no other reason than to satisfy the 60,000 population threshold necessary for statehood. Two and a half years later, the Constituent Congress concluded its deliberations, drafting a constitution that was published in 1827 in Spanish and English. That body’s proceedings, however, have never been widely available to scholars and have now been published in a bilingual, two-volume edition by Mexico’s Federal Electoral Tribunal. [End Page 508]
Scholars of early nineteenth century Texas have generally paid little attention to the Texas-Coahuila relationship, focusing instead on the tensions between Anglo-American colonists and the federal government in Mexico City. More than seventy-five years after its publication, Vito Alessio Robles’s Coahuila y Tejas en la época colonial (Editora Cultura, 1938) remains the standard work on the subject. But Texas historians would do well to follow Robles’s lead. These volumes reveal that Texas figured prominently in the deliberations of the Constituent Congress, despite the fact that only one of the eleven delegates—Baron de Bastrop, who arrived late and died before the convention finished its business—was a resident of the colony. Not surprisingly, Comanche depredations and the immigration issue, concerning both Anglo-Americans and the Native American tribes from the southern United States, are discussed at length in the minutes.
No issue, however, receives more attention than the institution of slavery. After considerable debate, the convention decided to prohibit slavery and bar the importation of slaves after six months. As students of the period are well aware, these measures had no effect whatsoever in curbing the steady flow of American slaveholders into Texas. The humanitarian concerns voiced repeatedly during the proceedings stand in jarring contrast to the kind of racialized society that was already taking shape on the state’s northern frontier.
Although much of the delegates’ work was devoted to arcane matters of parliamentary procedure, the minutes also give occasional glimpses into the delegates’ working conditions. We learn in these pages of the “borrowed draperies,” in the meeting hall, which was in a “deteriorated state” (1262), and of the assembly’s pressing need to pay the scribes for overtime. Notwithstanding its lack of financial resources, the deliberative body still believed that proper decorum must be observed. The minutes stipulate, for example, the formal ceremonies by which the governor and chief justice of the supreme court are to be received by the new congress and establish a dress code for elected representatives, requiring members to wear “a decent and decorous suit,” and on ceremonial occasions wear black or “the dress of their class” (343).
Contextual essays by project editors Manuel González Oropeza and Jesús F. de la Teja accompany the documents. The two-volume set also includes a CD that allows users to search the text quickly and efficiently. The proceedings of the Coahuila y Texas Constituent Congress serve to remind us that the story of Texas settlement in the early nineteenth century is a Mexican story and cannot be fully understood simply as part of the broader narrative of American expansion. Hopefully, the convention’s deliberations will spur scholars to undertake a more thorough examination of Texas during the colonial period and gain a better understanding of its place...