To what extent does the argument that the current Texas Constitution reflects a backlash against Reconstruction have merit? What evidence in the Texas Constitution supports this claim?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While it is easy to say that the Texas constitution was written as part of a backlash against Reconstruction, this is an excessively simplistic claim.  Instead, it is more accurate to say that the current Texas constitution is mainly an attempt to impose conservative values on the state government.  In doing so, the current Texas constitution replicates provisions of pre-Civil War constitutions that had nothing to do with slavery or with Reconstruction.

The best evidence for the idea that the Texas constitution is a backlash against Reconstruction can be found in the Bill of Rights that is included in the constitution.  The Bill of Rights starts out with the statement that Texas is an independent state that is subject only to the Constitution of the United States.  This is meant to imply that Congress cannot tell the state what to do as was the case during Reconstruction.  Second, the Bill of Rights prohibits the use of government money for religious purposes.  This is a direct attack on the policies put forward by the Republicans during Reconstruction.  It was meant to break up the education system that had been created during Reconstruction.  That system included money for parochial schools and was seen as an example of excessive government spending.  By dismantling the system, Texans were striking back against Reconstruction.

However, more of the constitution has to do mainly with creating a more limited government.  By this time, Texans were worried about the power and the scope of state government.  Therefore, the current constitution puts major limits on government.  For example, the 1876 constitution has the legislature meet only every other year.  It sets very low salaries for legislatures.  It limits the state debt and it specifies that the state cannot give grants to banks or railroads.  All of these things were in the 1846 constitution.  Because of this, we can see the 1876 Texas constitution more as a return to previous visions of government than as a direct reaction to Reconstruction.