The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975 Page: 70
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the issue still unsettled. It became increasingly clear in the succeeding
months that I875 would be the year of a state constitutional convention.4
Since much of the rhetoric, including Coke's, avoided mentioning any
rationale for revision, observers have suggested the only real reason was
Republican authorship of the Constitution of 1869. In a sense that was
true, for the two documents reveal conflicts of political and social philoso-
phies and of party strategy. The earlier document pointedly rejected "the
heresies of nullification and secession, which," it editorialized, had "brought
the country to grief...."5 Writers of the Constitution of 1876 deleted this
phrase in favor of the wistfully less specific popular sovereignty language of
the Constitution of 1845, affirming the people's "inalienable right to alter,
reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think
expedient."' There was as well a clear, if moderate, plea for state rights:
"the maintenance of our free institutions and the perpetuity of the Union
depend upon the preservation of the right of local self-government, unim-
paired to all the States." While blatant disenfranchisement of the blacks
was impossible, the Constitution did reject specific references to equality,
regardless of "race, color, or previous condition"-an assertion which ap-
peared twice in the older document. The only equal rights clause carried
over, and that from all the previous state constitutions, had traditionally
been associated with the denial of special privilege for an elite.'
In more concrete matters the two differed primarily in legal subtleties
and fiscal outlook. Writers of the new document were so dollar-conscious
that they provided an education article in the final draft with inadequate
funding provisions-a false economy necessitating early amendment. The
most fundamental structural change, reorganization of the judicial system,
stirred up controversy both in and out of the convention.8 So plentiful and
4Coke to Legislature, January 26, 1874, [pp. 7-9], Executive Correspondence; Seth
Shepard McKay, Seven Decades of the Texas Constitution of x876 ([Lubbock ?], 1942),
5McKay, Seven Decades of the Texas Constitution, 47; Vernon's Annotated Constitu-
tion of the State of Texas (3 vols.; Kansas City, 1955), I, 2oI; III, 639 (quotation).
6Vernon's Annotated Constitution, III, 544; I, 3 (quotation). This phrase had been
strengthened in the Constitution of 1861 to include the specifically secessionist claim that
"no government or authority can exist or exercise power within the State of Texas, with-
out the consent of the people thereof previously given; nor after that consent be with-
drawn." Ibid., III, 573.
7Ibid., I, 3 (first quotation), 57; III, 544, 573, 602, 639, 641 (second quotation), 660.
'Alwyn Barr, Reconstruction to Reform: Texas Politics, 1876-9go6 (Austin, 1971),
9-10, 25. The only noncontroversial part of the judiciary article was a return to the
elective judgships provided by the Constitution of I866. The chief justice of the state
Supreme Court, Oran M. Roberts, himself an appointee, was among those who supported
the move. John H. Reagan to Roberts, August 5, 1875, Oran M. Roberts Papers (Ar-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975, periodical, 1974/1975; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117149/m1/88/: accessed October 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.