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Constitution of 1866

S. S. McKay General Entry

The Constitutional Convention of 1866, in addition to other actions in compliance with presidential Reconstruction, proposed a series of amendments to the fundamental law, which came to be known as the Constitution of 1866. The governor's term was increased to four years and his salary from $3,000 to $4,000 a year. He was prohibited from serving more than eight years in any twelve-year period. For the first time the governor was given the item veto on appropriations. He was empowered to convene the legislature at some place other than the state capital should the capital become dangerous "by reason of disease or the public enemy." The comptroller and treasurer were elected by the voters to hold office for four years.

The Senate was set to number from nineteen to thirty-three members and the House from forty-five to ninety; legislators were required to be White men with a prior residence of five years in Texas. Terms of office were to remain the same as before, but salaries of legislators were raised from three dollars a day to eight dollars, and mileage was increased to eight dollars for each twenty-five miles. A census and reapportionment, based on the number of White citizens, was to be held every ten years.

The Supreme Court was increased from three judges to five, with a term of office of ten years and a salary of $4,500 a year. The chief justice was to be selected by the five justices on the court from their own number. District judges were elected for eight years at salaries of $3,500 a year. The attorney general was elected for four years with a salary of $3,000. Jurisdiction of all courts was specified in detail. A change was made in the method of constitutional revision in that a three-fourths majority of each house of the legislature was required to call a convention to propose changes in the constitution, and the approval of the governor was required.

Elaborate plans were made for a system of internal improvements and for a system of public education to be directed by a superintendent of public instruction. Separate schools were ordered organized for black children. Lands were set aside for the support of public schools, for the establishment and endowment of a university, and for the support of eleemosynary institutions. The legislature was empowered to levy a school tax. An election in June ratified the proposed amendments by a vote of 28,119 to 23,400; the small majority was attributed to dissatisfaction of many citizens with the increase in officials' salaries.

Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898). Charles W. Ramsdell, Reconstruction in Texas (New York: Columbia University Press, 1910; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1970). John Sayles, The Constitutions of the State of Texas (1872; 4th ed., St. Paul, Minnesota: West, 1893). Vernon's Annotated Constitution of the State of Texas (Kansas City: Vernon Law Book Company, 1955).

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction

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

S. S. McKay, “Constitution of 1866,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 31, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 7, 2020

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