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Ralph W. Steen

PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT. The provisional government set up by the Consultation was the only governing body in Texas from November 15, 1835, until March 1, 1836, but during much of the period it was inactive. Henry Smith, a leader of the independence or war party and an opponent of the Declaration of November 7, 1835, was made governor; James W. Robinson, also of the independence party, was lieutenant governor. Most of the members of the legislative body, the General Council, were from the peace party, which was opposed to an immediate declaration of independence and inclined to quarrel with Smith and oppose his plans. Personalities entered into the dispute, and after about a month the governor and the council quarreled bitterly. There was no agreement as to the powers of the governor. The council wished to cooperate with Mexican liberals; Smith wished to ignore the Declaration of November 7 and proceed as though Texas were an independent state. The most important single cause of trouble was the proposed Matamoros expedition. As a result of the various controversies, the governor made an attempt to dissolve the council, which retaliated by impeaching Smith and recognizing Robinson as head of state. For all practical purposes the provisional government then ceased to exist, and Texas was without leadership during the critical month of February 1836.

The government failed because the men responsible for it lost sight of the welfare of Texas in their personal quarrels. The shortsighted Consultation placed the government in the hands of incompetent officials with opposing views and deprived Texas of the services of its ablest men, among them Stephen F. Austin, William H. Wharton, and Branch T. Archer, who were sent as commissioners to the United States, and Sam Houston, who was made commander in chief of a nonexistent army. The ad interim government was established after the signing of the Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836.


Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council of the Republic of Texas (Houston National Intelligencer, 1839). Journals of the Consultation Held at San Felipe de Austin, (Houston: Telegraph Power Press, 1838). Ordinances and Decrees of the Consultation, Provisional Government of Texas, and the Convention (Houston: National Banner Office, 1838). Andreas Reichstein, Der texanische Unabhängigkeitskrieg (Berlin: Reimer, 1984; trans. by Jeanne R. Willson as Rise of the Lone Star: The Making of Texas [College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1989]).

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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, Ralph W. Steen, "PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT," accessed July 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mzp01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on December 28, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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