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2.8: Constitution of 1869

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    The Constitutional Convention of 1868–69, called in compliance with the Congressional Reconstruction Acts of 1867, broke up without completing a constitution. Its work was gathered up under orders of the military officers, published as the Constitution of 1869, and accepted by the electorate. The preface of the bill of rights of the new document reflected the sentiments of its makers in its condemnation of nullification and secession. The Constitution of the United States was declared to be the supreme law. Slavery was forbidden, and the equality of all persons before the law was recognized. The House of Representatives was set at ninety members and the Senate at thirty. One-third of the senators were chosen biennially, and their term of office was increased from four to six years. Sessions were held annually.

    The salary of the governor was increased to five thousand dollars a year. The attorney general and secretary of state were appointed by the governor; other officials were elected by the voters. The Supreme Court was reduced from five to three judges and the term reduced to nine years, one new judge to take office every third year. All judicial offices were appointive. All elections were held at the county seat and had to continue through four consecutive days. A poll tax was authorized; its receipts, along with the income from the school lands and one-fourth of the annual taxes, went to the school fund. The office of state superintendent of public instruction was continued, and school attendance was made compulsory. An immigration bureau was authorized; county and local government was outlined in detail; blacks were included as voters; homesteads were to be given gratis to actual settlers; mineral rights were released to landowners; the legislature was forbidden to grant divorces or authorize lotteries; all qualified voters were to be qualified jurors; and the legislature was permitted to prohibit the sale of liquor near colleges, except at county seats. Permission for the legislature to call a new constitutional convention was withheld, but the amendment procedure was unchanged.

    This constitution, formulated under pressure from Washington, was disputed by a large constituency of Texans. Many felt that it was one of the longest and most unsatisfactory of Texas constitutions. Over the years, however, alternate interpretations have pointed out some positive goals that delegates tried to achieve such as the establishment of a common school system, centralized law enforcement, and broader civil rights. The programs, implemented by greater taxation, drew heavy criticism from many citizens, and though it may have laid some of the foundations for a strong educational system, as well as strengthening the branches of state government, the Constitution of 1869 sparked much controversy among political and social factions in Texas.

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