St. Mary's Law Journal


Many historical, economic, and philosophical forces have combined to create a uniquely “Texian” perspective on liberty that has heavily influenced the Texas Bill of Rights. The original Texas Bill of Rights was drafted in 1836, during the ascendancy of Jacksonian democracy, following the successful revolt from the military dictatorship of General Santa Anna. Texans had lived under Spanish civil law, Mexican constitutional law, a Mexican military dictatorship, English common law, and the Bill of Rights of the United States. The Texas Revolution, the fact that many Texans looked to American and English jurisprudence for guidance, the violation of many rights Texans held inviolable at the hands of the Mexican and Spanish governments, and natural rights theories of prominent eighteenth-century philosophers, are all significant in framing the original Texas Bill of Rights. Based upon their collective experiences and the denial of rights to many, Texans sought greater protection than even that found in the American Bill of Rights. This choice to make the Texas Bill of Rights expansive and definitive is evidenced by the grant of inherent rights in positive language, rather than the mere prohibition of a state’s infringement of them, like in the U.S. Bill of Rights. Texas' ten years as an independent bi-racial republic also heavily influence the subsequent drafting of the 1845 Bill of Rights. The absorption of the 1845 Constitution into the 1876 Constitution was also filtered through Texas' experience as a frontier state, Texas during the American Civil War, and of the chafing Texas felt as a defeated southern state, still bristling over Reconstruction. The sources of liberty in the Texas Bill of Rights are many, but the most unique among them are those rights Texans have always cherished.


St. Mary's University School of Law