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threatening to end the favorable policies with respect to land, immigration, slavery, and localized control.  Committees of correspondence and vigilance emerged as de facto local governments, but for months they operated incoherently.  Some favored the pursuit of peace, while others urged the necessity of preparations for war.  A consensus developed that Texas should not tolerate military enforcement of centralist rule even as officials dispatched to Texas by Santa Anna urged the necessity of troops to enforce the law.  Those forces arrived in September to make arrests of supporters of the Coahuila government and advocates of armed rebellion.  In early October a unit from San Antonio de Béxar clashed with citizen soldiers at Gonzales over possession of a cannon. 

Thus, the war came.  An end to disorder, confusion, cross-purposes, and political disunity did not come, however.  In the fall of 1835 Texans volunteered in sufficient numbers -- around 1,000 -- to first lay a loose siege to the centralist forces in Béxar and then successfully storm the city and force a surrender on December 10.  But an unruly spirit of democracy characterized this army that Austin, its elected head, could not manage.  Efforts to establish government repeatedly broke down in some manner.  Elections had been held for a convention (called the Consultation) to meet in October, but the army pressured delegates into a postponement on the principle that all patriots should be in the field.  A few stayed behind to form a misnamed Permanent Council, but its legitimacy was suspect.  Its one bold edict -- closing the land offices to prevent exploitation of citizen-soldiers -- aroused widespread bitterness and outright resistance in places like Nacogdoches.

In November the delegates congregated in San Felipe for the previously delayed Consultation to deliberate on matters of government.  Two factions existed on the critical issue of the purpose of the war.  One group, consisting largely of followers of Austin, favored fighting to defend the 1824 constitution, in part to secure the cooperation of federalists in and out of Texas.  The other favored immediate independence.  These diverging opinions resulted in the uneasy compromise of endorsing a qualified loyalty to Mexico conditional upon restoration of the overthrown constitution.  The delegates created a kind of provisional government under one of the poorest structures ever invented -- a governor and council sharing authority with neither having clearly delineated supremacy over the other.  Further, they chose Henry Smith, a contentious and mentally unstable figure, over Austin for the position of governor.

Not surprisingly, this government did not serve well.  It gained no authority over the army, which continued to function in a disjointed fashion in accordance with the whimsical votes of its volunteer soldiers and the ambitions of competing leaders.  The governor and council could not find the means to supply the army satisfactorily and had opposing visions of how to prosecute the


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The Diary of William Fairfax Gray, from Virginia to Texas, 1835-1837
Copyright 1997 William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas