While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


S. S. McKay

CONSTITUTION OF 1869. The Constitutional Convention of 1868–69, called in compliance with the Congressional Reconstruction Acts of 1867, broke up without completing a constitution. Its work was gathered up under orders of the military officers, published as the Constitution of 1869, and accepted by the electorate. The preface of the bill of rights of the new document reflected the sentiments of its makers in its condemnation of nullification and secession. The Constitution of the United States was declared to be the supreme law. Slavery was forbidden, and the equality of all persons before the law was recognized. The House of Representatives was set at ninety members and the Senate at thirty. One-third of the senators were chosen biennially, and their term of office was increased from four to six years. Sessions were held annually.

The salary of the governor was increased to five thousand dollars a year. The attorney general and secretary of state were appointed by the governor; other officials were elected by the voters. The Supreme Court was reduced from five to three judges and the term reduced to nine years, one new judge to take office every third year. All judicial offices were appointive. All elections were held at the county seat and had to continue through four consecutive days. A poll tax was authorized; its receipts, along with the income from the school lands and one-fourth of the annual taxes, went to the school fund. The office of state superintendent of public instruction was continued, and school attendance was made compulsory. An immigration bureau was authorized; county and local government was outlined in detail; blacks were included as voters; homesteads were to be given gratis to actual settlers; mineral rights were released to landowners; the legislature was forbidden to grant divorces or authorize lotteries; all qualified voters were to be qualified jurors; and the legislature was permitted to prohibit the sale of liquor near colleges, except at county seats. Permission for the legislature to call a new constitutional convention was withheld, but the amendment procedure was unchanged.

This constitution, formulated under pressure from Washington, was disputed by a large constituency of Texans. Many felt that it was one of the longest and most unsatisfactory of Texas constitutions. Over the years, however, alternate interpretations have pointed out some positive goals that delegates tried to achieve such as the establishment of a common school system, centralized law enforcement, and broader civil rights. The programs, implemented by greater taxation, drew heavy criticism from many citizens, and though it may have laid some of the foundations for a strong educational system, as well as strengthening the branches of state government, the Constitution of 1869 sparked much controversy among political and social factions in Texas.

Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898). Charles W. Ramsdell, Reconstruction in Texas (New York: Columbia University Press, 1910; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1970). Betty Jeffus Sandlin, The Texas Constitutional Convention of 1868–1869 (Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Tech University, 1970). John Sayles, The Constitutions of the State of Texas (2d ed., St. Louis: Gilbert, 1884; 4th ed., St. Paul, Minnesota: West, 1893).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, S. S. McKay, "CONSTITUTION OF 1869," accessed July 15, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mhc06.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...