Political culture is shaped by historical experience. Texas conservatism developed as a reaction to specific historical circumstances. Those events shaped Texas government at its origins and continue to be reflected in contemporary Texas government.
In the early 1800s, Texas belonged to Spanish Mexico. When Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821, Texas became a frontier territory ruled by a government in Mexico City that exerted little real control. As Anglos settled in increasing numbers, Mexico could not hold the territory, and in 1836, after a brief armed struggle, Texas became an independent republic. A sovereign nation, but under constant pressure from Mexican raids, the state's nine-year stretch of independence helps explain the maverick quality that pervades Texas political culture to this day.
A second critical factor shaping Texas political culture and helping explain the origins of Texas government is the Radical Republican takeover following the Civil War. After the war, former Confederate officers and soldiers were barred from holding office. The Radical Republicans took control of state government and attempted to nullify the political, economic, and social order that existed before the war. This new government operated under a constitution that granted strong, centralized powers to the state, implemented policies of the federal government, extended freedoms to former slaves, and amassed considerable state debt. Both the constitution and the policies proved to be unpopular in Texas. When the ban was lifted on former Confederates holding office, the old political elites reclaimed control of state government and rewrote the constitution in 1876. Their goal was to limit government's ability to act, while keeping taxes and spending low. Although amended hundreds of times, the Constitution of 1876 remains in force today.