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    Texas Declaration Signer Robert Coleman is released after being arrested for criticizing Sam Houston

    [Robert M. Coleman]. Legal Ruling Freeing Coleman from Arrest. One page, 8" x 10", County of Brazoria, Texas; May 12, 1837. A period fair copy of a legal ruling freeing Coleman from arrest for distributing a pamphlet criticizing Sam Houston's actions at the Battle of San Jacinto: "The petition of Robt. M. Coleman (late a Col. in the Texas Army) praying for a writ of Habeas Corpus that he might be discharged from arrest came up this day. It appeared that Col. Coleman was arrested on or about the eighth day of February 1837 by order of the President of this Republic for a supposed Military offense and has been held in confinement up to this time upwards of three months the 70th Article of the Act entitled an act for establishing rules and articles for the government of the Armies of Texas enacts that no officer or soldier who shall be put in arrest shall continue in confinement more than eight days or such time as a court martial can be assembled. The necessary conclusion of this article leaves no doubt upon my mind that the prisoner (Coleman) was entitled to a trial within eight days or such time being elapsed without a trial he is entitled to be and accordingly is discharged from arrest. James Collinsworth / Chief Justice."

    Interestingly, this fair copy was made the very day of the ruling by a District Clerk who signs and dates the document at bottom.

    Robert M. Coleman (ca. 1799-1837), Indian fighter, soldier, and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, was born in Kentucky. He moved to Texas in 1831 by the summer of 1835 he was in commanded one of the four volunteer companies organized to attack the Tawakoni Indians in what is now Limestone County. From September 28 to December 16, 1835, he commanded the Mina (Bastrop) Volunteers. Coleman was one of the four representatives from Mina to attend the Convention of 1836, where he signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. After the convention he joined the Texas army and was aide-de-camp to General Sam Houston for a period that included the famous Battle of San Jacinto.

    In 1837, Coleman distributed a pamphlet criticizing Houston's action at San Jacinto and, as a result, he was discharged from the army. President Houston ordered his arrest; but Coleman was released after serving three months. Chief Justice Collinsworth, who issued the ruling, was a close friend of President Houston. He refers to the offense as "supposed" and releases Coleman because a trial was never scheduled; all of which suggests that the initial arrest was unfounded. Coleman drowned shortly after his release from jail (about July 1, 1837) while bathing in the Brazos River. From the Robert E. Davis Collection.

    Condition: The document has two horizontal folds and one vertical fold, with very slight weakening at the intersections. A few stray ink stains and light wrinkling throughout.

    More Information:

    James Collinsworth (1806-1838), lawyer, jurist, and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, was born in Tennessee, where he was an ally of Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston, and other leading Tennessee politicians. He had moved to Texas by 1835 and began to practice of law. At the convention in 1836 that adopted the Texas Declaration of Independence, Collinsworth pushed a resolution making his fellow Tennessean Sam Houston commander in chief of the Texas army. After the convention adjourned, Houston appointed Collinsworth his aide-de-camp with the rank of major. Later in 1836 he declined Houston's offer to make him attorney general of the Republic of Texas. Instead, in November 1836, he was elected to a term in the Senate of the Texas Republic.


    When the judiciary of the republic was organized, Collinsworth, in December 1836, was appointed the first chief justice, a post he held until his death.

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