Texas Secession Convention of 1861

For many southerners, the election of Abraham Lincoln in the fall of 1860 was equivalent to a declaration of war on the South. A few, including Texas’ aging Governor Sam Houston, argued against secession. They proclaimed the benefits of mediation and compromise. Further, if Texas did separate from the Union, Houston reasoned, she would fare better as an independent republic than as a member of the Confederacy.

Houston’s views, however, carried little weight among the secessionists in the state, who were clearly in the majority. But by refusing to call the legislature into session, the increasingly unpopular Houston temporarily blocked his opponents from any official action.

The secessionists countered Houston’s maneuver by calling on the people of Texas to elect delegates to a Session Convention to meet in Austin. Their purpose was to consider what action Texas should take on the secession issue in light of the recent sequence of events. As a result, a total of 177 delegates were elected, representing two members from almost every county.

The convention met on January 28, 1861. Four days later, on February 1, its members voted by a margin of 166 to 8 to secede. They drafted and signed an Ordinance of Secession, which “repealed and annulled” the Texas annexation laws of 1845. The Ordinance of Secession was subsequently approved by popular vote in a statewide election.

As planned, the convention reconvened after the popular election and adopted another ordinance uniting Texas with the Confederacy. Sam Houston subsequently refused to take the oath of allegiance to the newly organized Confederate government. Undaunted, the convention declared the governor’s office vacant and administered the governor’s oath of office to Edward Clark, who had previously served as lieutenant-governor.

A few days before adjourning the fateful convention on March 25, the delegates ratified the Constitution of the Confederate States.

About Lyman

Lyman Hardeman has held a deep interest in Texas history. He spent his youth in College Station, Texas and received a degree in Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M in 1966. In 1995, Lyman created Lone Star Junction, a popular Texas history website that later merged with TexasProud.com. Lyman is a life member of the Texas State Historical Association and the author of Texas A&M The First 25 Years.