The First 50 Years



Benjamin O. Watrous, minister and delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1868-69 was one of five black delegates to sign the Constitution of 1869. He also served as a member of the state central committee of the Republican party

Election of February 1868

Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, commander of the Fifth Military District (Texas and Louisiana) under Congressional Reconstruction, called an election to be held in each Texas county seat between February 10 and 14, 1868, to determine whether a constitutional convention should be held and to elect delegates to such a convention. Democrats were opposed to the convention, but the Radical Republicans won easily by a vote of 44,689 to 11,440. Of those who voted for a convention, 36,932 were black. In all of Texas only 818 blacks voted against the calling of a convention, while 52,964 (41,234 whites and 11,730 blacks) of the registered voters failed to vote. The convention assembled at Austin on June 1, 1868. The ninety delegates consisted of eighty whites and ten blacks. Six of the ninety had been members of the Constitutional Convention of 1866. Most of the delegates had been antebellum opponents of the Democrats and represented Republicans of varied interests. The Democrats, being in the minority, generally served as a balance between the different Republican factions, casting votes with one particular group to counteract the proposals of another.


Image: UTSA’s Institute of Texan Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 076-0071.