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John G. Johnson
Picture of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

CAPITALS. Valladolid, the administrative center of Spain before Madrid became capital in 1551, and Madrid and Paris could be considered capitals of Texas under the competing claims of Spain and France. Mexico City could also be considered the first capital of Texas, since at the beginning of Spanish Texas there was no intermediate provincial capital of the area. Ysleta, said to be the first settlement in Texas, had Santa Fe, New Mexico, as its capital. Monclova, Coahuila, Mexico, became the first provincial capital of Texas in 1686. In 1721 the Marqués de Aguayo established headquarters at Los Adaes (present Robeline, Louisiana), which remained the capital of Texas for half a century. From 1772 until 1824 San Antonio was the seat of government, although Manuel Antonio Cordero y Bustamante made his headquarters in 1806 in the Old Stone Fort at Nacogdoches; in 1810 Manuel María de Salcedo had his headquarters there for three months.

Drawing. Picture of the capitol building of Texas in Colombia from 1839-1856. Courtesy of the Texas Politics Project. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

After the Mexican War of Independence, Texas was united with Coahuila, with Saltillo as the provincial capital. On March 9, 1833, Monclova was made capital of Coahuila and Texas. The Department of Texas had become a subdistrict of the province, and San Felipe de Austin was named the capital of the colony of Texas in 1824. Therefore the conventions of 1832 and 1833 met at San Felipe, as did the Consultation of 1835, which organized a provisional government for Texas as a separate Mexican state. Mexico did not recognize the separation. The Convention of 1836, which declared Texas independent, met at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Harrisburg and Galveston were both occupied by President David G. Burnet as temporary capitals, and after the battle of San Jacinto, Burnet and the cabinet met at Sam Houston's headquarters near the battlefield. The government then returned briefly to Galveston before moving to Velasco, which served as the seat of government through the end of September 1836.

Photograph, Picture of an early building used for the capitol in Austin, Texas. Courtesy of the Texas Politics Project. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

In October 1836 Columbia (now West Columbia) became the first capital of an elected government of the Republic of Texas. Columbia remained capital for three months. Houston was then selected as a temporary capital, and President Sam Houston ordered the government to move there on December 15, 1836. Houston was capital from April 19, 1837, until 1839. A capital-site commission selected a site near La Grange, Fayette County, in 1838 and Congress passed a bill to build the capital there, but Houston vetoed it. The commission purchased 7,735 acres along the Colorado River comprising the hamlet of Waterloo and adjacent lands. Austin was approved as the capital on January 19, 1839. President Mirabeau B. Lamar and his cabinet arrived in Austin on October 17, 1839.

Photograph, Early picture of the modern Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas. Courtesy of the Texas Politics Project. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Fearing an attack on Austin by the Mexicans, President Houston ordered the government to return to Houston on March 13, 1842. Washington-on-the-Brazos became capital by executive order in September of that year, and the order spawned the Archives War when President Houston attempted to move the archives from Austin. The Constitution of 1845 provided that Austin be capital until 1850, when a vote was required to choose the permanent capital. Austin received 7,674 votes, a majority. Another election was scheduled for twenty years later and held in 1872. Austin won with 63,297 votes, compared to Houston's 35,188 and Waco's 12,776.


Robert A. Calvert and Arnoldo De León, The History of Texas (Arlington Heights, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, 1990). Dallas News, July 24–30, 1960. Lorena Drummond, "Five Texas Capitals," Texas Monthly, February 1930. C. W. Raines, "Enduring Laws of the Republic," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1, 2 (October 1897, October 1898). San Antonio Express Magazine, October 8, 1950. Dorman H. Winfrey, "The Texan Archive War of 1842," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 64 (October 1960). Ernest William Winkler, "The Seat of Government of Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 10 (October 1906, January 1907).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, John G. Johnson, "CAPITALS," accessed August 13, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mzc01.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on February 13, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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