Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who Seconded the Texas Declaration of Independence?

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico. Much is known about the Independence Convention at Washington (March 1-17, 1836).

The minutes of the Convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos in 1836 have been well preserved over the last 175 years. Known as the Journals of the Convention of 1836, the minutes can be found transcribed in a number of different sources including Gammel’s Laws of Texas. The original Journals of the Convention of 1836 are located in the collection of the Dallas Historical Society.

The Journals explain in detail how, in just seventeen days, the delegates to the Convention adopted and signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico, wrote a Constitution that served the Republic of Texas for almost ten years, established an ad interim government (President, Vice President and Cabinet) and organized the military in such a way as to facilitate the very decisive victory at San Jacinto just over a month later.

The Journals tell us that on March 2, 1836 delegate Sam Houston moved for the adoption of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico.

The committee rose, and Mr. Collinsworth reported that the committee of the whole had under consideration the report of the committee on the Declaration of Independence, and had instructed him to report the same with the following caption:

"The unanimous Declaration of Independence made by the delegates of the People of Texas, in General Convention at the town of Washington, on the 2nd day of March, 1836."

On motion of Mr. Houston,
Resolved that, That the Declaration of Independence, reported by the committee of the whole house, be engrossed and signed by the Delegates of the Convention.
And the question being taken thereon, it was unanimously adopted.

However the Journals are silent as to who seconded Sam Houston’s motion. About three years ago, historian and biographer, Daniel Hill, began to shed some light on this subject. He located a letter regarding the Convention at Washington, Texas published in the New Orleans Abeille [New Orleans Bee] newspaper. The letter was published in French in the March 21,1836 edition. John Forbes, an aide de camp to General Houston during the Texas Revolution wrote the letter in Washington, Texas on March 2, 1836 based on his personal observations of the Convention.

This year [2011], English versions of John Forbes March 2, 1836 letter were located in newspapers published in Baltimore, Maryland and Richmond Virginia in April of 1836. The letter provides the answer as to the identity of the delegate who seconded the Texas Declaration of Independence. The letter reads in part:

Washington, Texas, March 2.

To Col. Millard -

Dir Sir: The Convention was organized yesterday, and during the first day, matters looked squally, and disagreeable. That body was intent on making a Declaration of Independence to hurl into the teeth of Santa Anna and his myrmidons. They accordingly appointed a committee to report a Declaration of Independence; and this morning after the Convention assembled, the committee reported a very able one. Its adoption was moved by Gen. Houston, and seconded by Col. Palmer of the Bayou - and after a splendid speech from the General, it was unanimously adopted. Not one dissenting voice.

Sam Houston's great grandson, Sam Houston IV, and Martin Parmer's 3rd great grandson, Kameron K. Searle.
“Col. Palmer of the Bayou” was Colonel Martin Palmer (often spelled Parmer) who was one of the delegates from the Municipality of San Augustine (formerly known as the Ayish Bayou District).

Before coming to Texas, Martin Parmer had served in the first Missouri General Assembly in the House of Representatives beginning in 1820 and in the Senate beginning in 1824. Shortly thereafter, he removed to Texas and helped instigate and lead the Fredonian Rebellion (1826-1827). In 1835, Parmer had been elected a delegate to the Consultation at San Felipe in 1835 where he nominated Henry Smith to be the first American born Governor of Texas. Following the Consultation, Parmer had served as a member of the General Council of the Provisional Government of Texas.

Martin Parmer signed documents declaring the region known as Texas independent of Mexico twice (1826 during the Fredonian Rebellion and 1836 during the Texas Revolution). In addition to seconding the adoption of the Texas Declaration of Independence and signing the document, Parmer also served as chairman of the committee that drafted the Constitution of the Republic of Texas.

The John Forbes letter shown here is from the Friday, April 8, 1836 edition of the Richmond Enquirer, published at Richmond, Virginia.

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