Barrett, Don Carlos (1788–1838)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: October 20, 2018

Don Carlos Barrett, lawyer and legislator, was born on June 22, 1788, at Norwich, Vermont, the eldest son of Jonathan and Elizabeth (Murdock) Barrett. In 1810 at Natchez, Mississippi, he married Lucy Walton, also of Norwich. The couple had one son. After he divorced his first wife Barrett married Eliza De Cressy, sometime in the early 1820s. He had met Mrs. De Cressy in New York City, and they lived for a time in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; they had four children. In 1820 Barrett was licensed to practice law in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and in 1827 he was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Western Pennsylvania.

On April 13, 1835, he took the oath of allegiance to Mexico in Mina Municipality, now Bastrop, and became a citizen of Texas. At Mina he formed a law partnership with Elisha M. Pease, with whom he had come to Texas. With the approach of the Texas Revolution, Barrett was elected president of the newly formed committee of public safety at Mina, on May 8, 1835, and on July 4 he was appointed to initiate correspondence with similar committees in the Brazos District with a view toward closing the breach between Texas and the Mexican government. Later that month he was named Mina delegate to a meeting at San Felipe that was to draw up assurances of Texan loyalty to the Mexican government. In August 1835 the joint committee sent Barrett and Edward Gritten as commissioners to meet with Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos at Matamoros and explain to him the cause of the settlers' displeasure with the Mexican Centralist government. The two commissioners were intercepted at San Antonio by Col. Domingo de Ugartechea, however, and told that Cos would not receive them but demanded the surrender of insurrectionary leaders Lorenzo de Zavala, William B. Travis, and Robert M. Williamson before the disturbances in Texas could be forgiven. In his absence a portion of Barrett's property was attached to satisfy an old debt, an action that he bitterly resented.

Barrett returned to San Felipe and then to Mina, where he was elected a delegate to the Consultation, to take place at Washington-on-the-Brazos on October 15. There he initially opposed the declaration of Texas independence for fear that such a move would unite all of Mexico against the Texans. He voted with the majority on the Declaration of November 7, 1835, a declaration that the Texans were fighting in favor of the Mexican Constitution of 1824. Barrett was a principal author of this important document. He then was selected chairman of a committee of twelve delegates to draft a plan for a provisional government for Texas. The work of this committee provided for the establishment of a civil government and military force for Texas.

When the provisional government took power on November 14, Barrett was elected to the General Council as representative from Mina. As a member of the council he was chairman of the standing Committee on State and Judiciary as well as the chairman or member of more than twenty other committees. In addition, he sponsored a great many of the laws passed by the provisional government and was a close friend of both Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. On December 11 he was elected judge advocate of the Texas army, but his appointment was vetoed with a vicious attack by Governor Henry Smith. Smith claimed, among other charges, that Barrett had forged an attorney's license in North Carolina, that he had accepted fees from both prosecution and defense on a case, that he had knowingly passed counterfeit money, and that he had embezzled money appropriated for his and Gritten's mission to Matamoros to petition Cos the previous July. The council denied not only Smith's charges but his right to veto its appointments. Due at least in part to this clash of wills, Smith ordered the council dissolved on January 11, 1836, and the body responded by naming Lieutenant Governor James W. Robinson governor of Texas. Barrett made no personal response to Smith's charges, but his colleagues on the council testified that he "has been one of the leading members of the Consultation and General Council and has been industrious and useful to the country. We do most sincerely recommend him as a gentleman of high order, talents and learning, a patriot and an honest politician."

On February 15 Barrett resigned from the council due to failing health. Early in April he went to New Orleans and from there to Blue Sulphur Springs in Greenbriar Springs, Virginia, to recover his health. In May 1837 he returned to New Orleans, and by August 26 he was again in Galveston. He died at the home of Col. Warren D. C. Hall at Brazoria on May 19, 1838, and was buried in the old cemetery there. The Texas Centennial Commission placed a marker at his grave. His estate, valued at $140,000, included five slaves and a home in Quintana. Barrett's papers are preserved at the Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.

Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28). Eugene C. Barker, "Don Carlos Barrett," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 20 (October 1916). Don Carlos Barrett Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973).

Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Barrett, Don Carlos,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 20, 2018