opted at the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, 1836, and formally signed the following day after errors were noted in the text.In October 1835, settlers in Mexican Texas launched the Texas Revolution. However, within Austin, many struggled with understanding what was the ultimate goal of the Revolution. Some believed that the goal should be total independence from Mexico, while others sought the reimplementation of the Mexican Constitution of 1824 (which offered greater freedoms than the centralist government declared in Mexico the prior year). To settle the issue, a convention was called for March 1836.This convention differed from the previous Texas councils of 1832, 1833, and the 1835 Consultation. Many of the delegates to the 1836 convention were young men who had only recently arrived in Texas, although many of them had participated in one of the battles in 1835. Most of the delegates were members of the War Party and were adamant that Texas must declare its independence from Mexico. Forty-one delegates arrived in Washington-on-the-Brazos on February 28.The convention was convened on March 1 with Richard Ellis as president. The delegates selected a committee of five to draft a declaration of independence; the committee was led by George Childress and also included Edward Conrad, James Gaines, Bailey Hardeman, and Collin McKinney. The committee submitted its draft within a mere 24 hours, leading historians to speculate that Childress had written much of it before his arrival at the Convention.The declaration was approved on March 2 with no debate. Based primarily on the writings of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, the declaration proclaimed that the Mexican government "ceased to protect the lives, liberty, and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived" and complained about "arbitrary acts of oppression and tyranny". The declaration officially established the Republic of Texas.Among others, the declaration mentions the following reasons for the separation:The 1824 Constitution of Mexico establishing a federal republic had been usurped and changed into a centralist military dictatorship by Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna.The Mexican government had invited settlers to Texas and promised them constitutional liberty and republican government, but then reneged on these guarantees.Texas was in union with the Mexican state of Coahuila as Coahuila y Tejas, with the capital in distant Saltillo, and thus the affairs of Texas were decided at a great distance from the province and in the Spanish language.Political rights to which the settlers had previously been accustomed, such as the right to keep and bear arms and the right to trial by jury, were denied.No system of public education had been established.
The settlers were not allowed freedom of religion.Based upon the United States Declaration of Independence, the Texas Declaration also contains many memorable expressions of American political principles:"The right of trial by jury, that palladium of civil liberty, and only safe guarantee for the life, liberty, and property of the citizen.""Our arms ... are essential to our defence, the rightful property of freemen, and formidable only to tyrannical governments."
storian Brian Inglis claimed they were 'the sweepings of the English gaols' and so did my Grandmother. They were both wrong. This has become a popular myth but there is no evidence to suggest the 'Tans' included a greater criminal element than any other police force before or since.
All the men recruited as temporary constables for the RIC were ex-servicemen; ex-combatants from The Great War; men who were blooded and battle-hardened. By 1919, the British government had several major problems. Firstly, there were thousands of demobilised soldiers unable to find work on their arrival back in the 'land fit for heroes'. Secondly, the troubles (the Irish War of Independence) had broken out in Ireland, resulting in the death of around 400 RIC constables and the resignation of a further 500 (out of fear or conscience).
It made sense to recruit temporary constables from amongst the demobilised servicemen, since they had recent fighting skills. The British government had no need to use criminals to do the job, and that would not have solved the problem of what to do with desperate, unemployed ex-soldiers. If they'd been left to roam the streets, they'd have become criminals fairly quickly anyway.
Amongst those thousands of ex-servicemen were significant numbers of Irishmen. Many had elected to be demobbed in the UK, rather than Ireland, as they held (vain) hopes of finding work there. The 'Black & Tan' recruitment records at TNA (Kew) reveal (according to several historians, including Bennett and Leeson) that 25% of the 'Tans' were Irish-born, and a further 5% or so were of Irish descent. All the temporary constables found themselves confined to barracks 24/7 and were bored, so they took to drink and got into mischief and much petty crime, pretty much as happens in any garrison town.
1,900 demobilised officers were also recruited to join the RIC, ostensibly to act as an officer cadre to the temporary constables (and were deemed the Auxiliaries). But whilst the temporary constables were posted to all RIC barracks to bolster the ranks of the regular constables in upholding the law, by contrast, the Auxiliaries formed themselves into 'hit squads' and became a law unto themselves. Contemporaneous eye witness accounts suggest it was the Auxiliaries who carried out the worst of the atrocities. They sacked and burned towns and cities such as Balbriggan and Cork, and even murdered the mayor of Cork.
24 Republicans would be executed during the Irish War of Independence but, by June 1921, no 'Tan' (constable or Auxiliary) had been executed for murder, even though several of them had been tried and acquitted (usually when the prosecution witnesses disappeared). The world's press were condemning the actions of the British Administration in Ireland; the Americans and heads of nations around the empire were protesting at Britain's lack of even handedness and even King George V voiced his discontent at the behaviour of the 'Tans'.
Then, in the quiet market town of Dunlavin, Co Wicklow, a magistrate is murdered during the course of a bungled robbery at his home. A Scots-born 'Tan' commits suicide in the local barracks and one of his 'Tan' colleagues, an Irishman, is arrested as his accomplice, providing the British Administration with the perfect 'fall guy'. Dubliner William Mitchell was court martialed, without benefit of jury or right of appeal, in April 1921 and went to the gallows 92 years ago this month, on 7 June 1921, still protesting his innocence. Did he do it? Should he have hanged? In my novel ['Running with Crows'], which is closely based on the life and death of Mitchell, I present all the evidence and invite the readers to judge for themselves.