Texas HistoryToday in Texas History: Thomas Rusk Elected Convention President Ahead of Annexation to United States

On July 4, 1845, a convention of delegates met in Austin to begin drafting a constitution for Texas to join the United States.
July 4, 2021
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July 4 marks the anniversary of not only the United States’ declaration of independence from Great Britain, but also of the date when Texas began an important step toward joining the American union.

As annexation to the United States drew closer to reality, Texas President Anson Jones called for a convention of delegates to meet in Austin on July 4, 1845 to draft a new constitution for statehood.

Among the members elected to the convention was Thomas Jefferson Rusk, who had signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico and was appointed to be the secretary of war for the Texian Army in 1836.

Rusk was present at the famous Battle of San Jacinto and he was praised by Sam Houston for his efforts in the Texas Revolution.

Rusk was also elected to be the chief justice on the Supreme Court of the Texas Republic and was eventually chosen as the first U.S. Senator from Texas alongside Houston.

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At the convention of 1845, Rusk was elected unanimously to be the body’s president.

He gave the following speech to the body after being selected as the president of the convention:

Gentlemen of the Convention, —

Language would fail me, were I to attempt an expression of my feelings, in being thus, unsought by me, elevated to the position which I now occupy as the President of this Honorable Convention, to whose hands are confided the dearest interests of the people of Texas, and whose action upon this occasion, I am satisfied, will not disappoint the just expectations of the friends of republican government.

My pursuits in life have not thrown me into situations to become acquainted with the rules of proceedings acted upon by bodies of this kind, and I must, in advance, ask the indulgence of the Convention towards the errors and mistakes which I have no doubt I shall unintentionally fall into. The object for which we have assembled, deeply interests the people of Texas. We have the hopes of our present populations, as well as the millions who may come after us, in our hands; the eyes of the civilized world are upon us; we present this day a bright spectacle to all lovers of freedom and republican government. The history of the world may be searched in vain for a parallel to the present instance of two Governments amalgamating themselves into one, from a pure devotion to that great principle, that man, by enlightening his intellect, and cultivating those moral sentiments with which his God has impressed him, is capable of self-government.

The terms of annexation are alike honorable to the United States and to Texas, and as a Texian, acting for myself and my posterity, I would not, were it practicable without in the slightest degree endangering the great question involved, seek to alter the terms proposed to us by the Government of the United States. Texas, animated by the same spirit, and following the bright example of the fathers of the American Revolution, has acquired at the cost of blood, her freedom and independence who would have enslaved her people. She now, with a unanimity unparalleled, enters that great confederacy to whose keeping the bright jewel of human liberty is confided, content to bear the burthens and share the benefits which republican government carries in her train.

Our duties here, although important, are plain and easy of performance. The formation of a State Constitution upon republican principles, is the only act to be performed to incorporate us into the American Union. While we insert those great principles which have been sanctioned by time and experience, we should be careful to avoid the introduction of new and untried theories,—we should leave those who are to follow us, free to adopt such amendments to the system, as their experience and intelligence shall suggest, and their circumstances render necessary.

We have one grand object in view, and that is to enter the great confederacy with becoming dignity and self-respect. Let us lay aside all minor considerations, and avoid all subjects calculated to divide us in opinion, and march boldly and confidently up to the formation of a Constitution which, while it secures our own rights, shall satisfy our friends abroad, and meet the sanction of that God to whose bountiful providence Texas is already so much indebted.

The full journals of the convention can be found here.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.