Signers of the Declaration

Let’s celebrate the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence!

On March 2, Texans celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence and remembers its signers who, much like the signers of America’s Declaration in 1776, staked their reputations and their lives on the success of the war with Mexico.

In 1944, Louis Wiltz Kemp wrote a book titled, The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Its  380 pages includes a short biography of each of the 59 signers, beginning with Jesse B. Badgett of Bexar Municipality  and ending with Lorenzo de Zavala of Harrisburg Municipality.

The Alamo had not yet fallen when the Convention convened in the town of Washington on the west side of the Brazos River, March 1, 1836, but the siege was well underway. The men in Washington had received word from Colonel William Barrett Travis that the Alamo was being shelled. It was under these circumstances that the Declaration was read, accepted, and signed with unanimity.

It is interesting to note how many of these men had only been in Texas for a relatively short time; only two, Francisco Ruiz and José Antonio Navarro, were native Texans. Only ten of the signers lived in Texas before the Mexican Decree of 1830, which made it unlawful for United States citizens to emigrate there. Until the 1833 repeal of the Decree, anyone immigrating to Texas from the U.S. who did not hold a certificate, issued by Stephen F. Austin, for settlement in his or DeWitt’s colony, came into Texas illegally. By 1834, when the movement towards war with Mexico was gaining strength still more people came across the border from the United States, knowing full well that there was a fight coming. According to Kemp, “15 signers came to Texas to fight for rights that, as citizens of the United States, they already enjoyed. Those who arrived late in 1835, with the exception of Lorenzo de Zavala, never had the opportunity to live under the rule of which they complained in the Declaration of Independence. Two of the signers did not arrive in Texas until 1836; one was George C. Childress, believed by many to have been the author of the declaration.”  [p21]

The Alamo fell, there would be a massacre at Goliad, and it must have seemed like the Texas Revolution would fail. After the Convention adjourned on March 17, many of the citizens of town of Washington joined in the “Runaway Scrape,” trying to get out of the way of Santa Anna’s advancing army. Then April 21, 1836 saw a Texan victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, the Republic of Texas was born, and 59 men secured their place in Texas history.