During the intervening weeks between the adjourning of the Consultation on November 14, 1835, and the opening of the Convention of 1836 on March 1, Texas was governed, after a fashion, by the provisional government, which operated under a document written by the Consultation and known as the Organic Law. The members of this government were chosen by the Consultation. Henry Smith was elected governor and James W. Robinson lieutenant governor. The General Council was made up of one member from each municipality of the state. The membership of the council underwent many changes. Some members attended only a few sessions, while others served for several weeks. The following thirty-nine men, at one time or another, served as members of the council: Lewis T. Ayers, Thomas Barnett, Don Carlos Barrett, Jesse Burnam, J. D. Clements, Philip H. Coe, Elijah S. Collard, Jesse Grimes, Wyatt Hanks, William P. Harris, Asa Hoxey, Almanzon Huston, Achilles E. C. Johnson, Randal Jones, James Kerr, J. S. Lane, Ira Randolph Lewis, John Joseph Linn, John McMullen, John Malone, Wyly Martin, William Menefee, Henry W. Millard, Asa Mitchell, Juan Antonio Padilla, Daniel Parker, Martin Parmer, George A. Pattillo, Albert G. Perry, James Power, Richardson R. Royall, Bartlett Sims, Alexander Thomson, Jr., James B. Tucker, Edwin Waller, Claiborne West, Ira Westover, John A. Wharton, and Charles Willson.
The council convened at San Felipe de Austin on November 14, 1835. Fourteen or fifteen members were usually present during November and December, but in January the number began to decline, and the council was soon without a quorum; by February 26, 1836, there were only two members attending. The council moved to Washington-on-the-Brazos in mid-February 1836, after the Convention of 1836 was called.
Although the provisional government failed, the council deserves credit for much hard work and for some achievement. It prepared instructions for Stephen F. Austin, Branch T. Archer, and William H. Wharton, who had been chosen by the Consultation as agents to the United States. Some attention was devoted to a postal system already in operation. Some judges were appointed, but no effective court system was organized. The body spent much time on a discussion of the land problem but in the end followed the instructions of the Consultation and kept the land offices closed. The council devoted some thought to the problem of finance. It passed several tax laws, but little revenue was collected. In addition it borrowed, issued paper money, collected some land fees due the Mexican government, and received a few gifts, but its fiscal policy was, on the whole, ineffective. Of more importance were its acts calling the Convention of 1836, prohibiting the residence of free Blacks in Texas, and appointing Sam Houston and John Forbes to treat with the Cherokees.
The council devoted much time to military and naval problems, passed detailed acts that provided for the organization of a regular army, and appointed several officers. The regular army, however, never became large enough to merit much attention. The council aided as best it could the volunteer army at Bexar and enthusiastically supported the proposed Matamoros expedition of 1835–36. The council also passed the acts that brought into being the first Texas Navy and issued some letters of marque.
In January 1836 the provisional government was disrupted by a quarrel between Governor Smith and the council. Smith was an outspoken advocate of independence, while the council consistently followed the majority opinion of the Consultation as expressed in the Declaration of November 7, 1835. Smith and the council quarreled over a number of points, but most of the quarrels grew out of this difference of opinion. On January 10 Smith sent the council an intemperate letter in which he demanded that the body adjourn. The council answered by impeaching Smith. Robinson was recognized by the council as acting governor, but Smith continued to claim the office. Soon thereafter most members of the council went home, and for all practical purposes the government ceased to exist.