A massacre, a revolution, and a declaration
By Brittani Boothe
“That the former province and department of Texas is, and of right ought to be, a free, sovereign, and independent State.” – Goliad Declaration of Independence
The winter of 1835 was a turbulent time for citizens of the department of Texas, which was still under the control of Mexican authorities. The revolution officially kicked off in October at the Battle of Gonzales, although tensions between Mexico, the United States, and Texians had been present for nearly a decade. By the holiday season, many Texians had had enough – especially those in Goliad.
By December 1835, the Texas Army had a fair number of successful battles under their belt. Goliad had been occupied since October under the command of Commandant Phillip Dimmit who was assisted by Ira Ingram, a soldier and legislature. Ingram was one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred”, meaning he was one of the first residents of Texas through Austin’s first land grant in 1826. Ingram had a storied political career leading up to joining the Texas Army in protest against Mexican authorities. His resume includes representing two different districts at the Texas Conventions of 1832 and 1833, and being the secretary of a committee organized to resist Mexican Centralist authority.
On December 20, 1835, at Nuestra Senora de Loreto Presidio, Ira Ingram became the “Thomas Jefferson of Texas” by drafting the first declaration of the independence of Texas. It soon came to be known as the “Goliad Declaration of Independence” due to the location of its drafting, ratification, and signing. The declaration was signed by ninety-one soldiers and citizens of Goliad and the “Dimmit Goliad Flag” was raised above the Presidio in its honor. The flag, which features a bloody arm wielding a sabre, was flown proudly over the Presidio through the new year.
The document produced by Ingram has an exhilarating tone of disdain for the “President Dictator” of Mexico and the conditions under which the Mexican government expected Texans to live. He goes so far as to say that the relations between Texas and Mexico should be as any relationship between two independent states is, “enemies in war, in peace, friends”. Ultimately, this declaration sought three things for an independent Texas – “1. That the former province and department of Texas is, and of right ought to be, a free, sovereign, and independent State; 2. That as such, it has, and of right ought to have, all the powers, faculties, attributes, and immunities of other independent nations; 3. That we, who hereto set our names, pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor, to sustain this declaration—relying with entire confidence upon the co-operation of our fellow-citizens, and the approving smiles of the God of the living, to aid and conduct us victoriously through the struggle, to the enjoyment of peace, union, and good government; and invoking His malediction if we should either equivocate, or, in any manner whatever, prove ourselves unworthy of the high destiny at which we aim.”
After being signed, the declaration was reprinted into handbills and distributed throughout Texas in the hopes of urging more citizens to join the cause for total independence. However, when it reached the Committee on State and Judiciary later that month, the committee sought to keep the declaration quiet as they were still trying to negotiate with Federalists in northern Mexico for peace.
The “Goliad Declaration of Independence” was the first document to openly declare for a free and independent Texas. Up until this point, the government of Texas had only hoped to become an independent state under the umbrella of Mexico. Ira Ingram and the ninety-one men who signed the declaration at Goliad paved the way for the Texas to officially declare independence on March 2, 1836.
Hobart Huson, “Goliad Declaration of Independence,” Handbook of Texas Online, Accessed August 1, 2021.
Ira Ingram, “Goliad Declaration of Independence,” Sons of Dewitt Colony, accessed August 2, 2021.