The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957 Page: 32
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
was deliberately circumscribed. With this legislative curtailment,
the first phase of militia activity in Texas came to an end.
The second phase occurred as an aftermath of the state election
of December, 1873, in which Judge Richard Coke, the Demo-
cratic candidate, handily defeated Davis for the governorship.
Davis, determined to hold on to his office in spite of his defeat at
the polls, attempted to have the election results set aside on the
grounds that the election had been held under the auspices of an
unconstitutional law. In justification of his assertions, Davis
pointed out that the Texas Constitution provided that elections
were to be held at county seats until otherwise provided by law,
and that polling places were to be kept open for four days. Sig-
nificantly enough, in the Constitution those two provisions were
separated only by a semi-colon. The election law, passed in
March, 1873, and under the terms of which the election was ac-
tually held, made provision for elections to be held in each pre-
cinct and for the polls to be open one day rather than four.30
Davis claimed that the legislature possessed the authority to
change the place of voting, since this was expressly provided for
in the Constitution; but he insisted that it had no authority
whatsoever to change the number of days the polls were to be
kept open. His argument was based on the assumption that the
semi-colon between the two provisions was proof that the Con-
stitution had two separate and distinct objects in mind.
On January 5, 1874, the Texas Supreme Court, in what has
became known as the Semicolon Case, handed down a decision
supporting Davis' position, stating that the recent election was
unconstitutional."? This decision was obviously based more on
politics than on punctuation since Davis, himself, had earlier ap-
proved the election law. Nonetheless, on the basis of the court's
findings, Davis publicly announced that he would not yield the
office. The Democrats were determined to install their man, how-
ever, and the conservative press insistently urged that "the new
legislature should meet ... and inaugurate the new Governor."88
s3Daily Democratic Statesman (Austin), January 6, 1874.
37For full account of the Semicolon Case, see George E. Shelley, "The Semicolon
Court of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XLVIII, 449-468.
8sDaily Democratic Statesman (Austin), January 6, 1874.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957, periodical, 1957; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/m1/45/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.