Long-lost draft of Texas Constitution returning home

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Lost to history until an archivist at the Texas General Land Office found it two years ago in the agency's collections, an eight-page document that is believed to be the first draft of the Republic of Texas Constitution is about to return temporarily to its birthplace 100 miles east of Austin on the bank of the Brazos River, where in March 1836, 59 delegates from Texas gathered to pledge independence from Mexico.

These and other documents will be on public display together for the first time at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. The exhibit opens Thursday, Texas Independence Day, and runs through March 16 at the historic site's Star of the Republic Museum.

"This document was touched by patriots," Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said of the draft constitution. "These guys heard the hoofbeats over their shoulders as they drafted this."

The constitution, the declaration and other documents were all penned within a few weeks in March 1836, a time of great uncertainty about the Texas revolution's prospects for success. No one signed the draft, but there is no doubt that it was written by Herbert Kimble, secretary of the 1836 convention, said Jerry Drake, director of archives and records for the land office.

It's unclear how the draft, complete with strike-throughs and inserts, came to the land office. Another mystery: No final draft of the constitution is known to exist. One theory is that the final version was lost after it was published in newspapers.

The delegates who assembled in a primitive frame building along the Brazos included such icons as Sam Houston, leader of the revolution's military forces who would become the first president of the fledgling republic.

The delegates knew they could be signing their own death warrants.

The Declaration of Independence, which sought to sever Texas from Mexico, was adopted on March 2, 1836. The first draft of the constitution, setting forth the outlines of a new government, is thought to have been written March 7. The Alamo fell on March 6.

The delegates learned of the Alamo's fate on March 15 and brazenly adopted the constitution the next day. Independence wasn't secured until the Texians, as they called themselves, overcame Santa Anna and his forces at San Jacinto on April 21.

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