voters elected Sam
Houston President of the Republic of Texas in September 1836,
the vast majority of citizens also voted in favor of immediately
seeking annexation to the United States, and why not? The addition
of Texas to the Union made perfect
sense. Most Texans had emigrated from the United States, and their
language, customs, values and views of law and government were similar
to Americans. Annexation would also play a key role in fulfilling
the “Manifest Destiny” of the United States by promoting westward
expansion. In light of all that the two countries shared, Texans
were convinced the United States would be eager to accept Texas
as a new state. It is no surprise then that they were shocked and
disappointed when President Andrew Jackson, a man regarded by most
Texans as their best friend in America, not only failed to seek
annexation of the Republic but also refused to extend recognition
to the new government.
President Andrew Jackson
1824 Painting by Thomas Sully
Jackson was personally in favor of recognition, he had sound reasons
for delaying any formal action. A move toward recognition of the
Republic, before Mexico accepted Texas independence, could be construed
as an unfriendly act, or worse, drag the United States into a war
south of the Rio Grande. An even greater obstacle to Texas recognition
was the question of slavery. The majority of Texans had originally
immigrated to Texas from southern states,
and many of them had either brought slaves or the tradition of slavery
along with them. At the dawn of the Republic, there were more than
3,000 slaves hard at work planting, harvesting and ginning cotton.
Cotton was the only real money
crop grown in the Republic, and if Texas
did join the Union, it would surely come in as a slave state.
Led by the more rabid abolitionists, the anti-slavery movement in
the United States was growing stronger every day, and the idea of
adding a new slave state to the Union was rapidly becoming unacceptable
to an increasing number of northerners. Most abolitionists thought
of recognition as the first step toward annexation, and they fought
it with a passion. To make matters even more difficult, President
Jackson had the upcoming election of his good friend and Vice President,
Martin Van Buren, to consider. If Jackson ventured too far toward
recognition before the election, he would lose northern votes and
perhaps the presidency for Van Buren. His only choice was to wait,
and if Jackson waited, so did Texas.
the President of the new Republic, recognized the importance of
formal recognition by the United States. Not only would annexation
solve many of the new Republic's problems, but no other nation would
be willing to step up and recognize Texas independence until the
United States had committed itself. Texas
would be forced to stand apart from the world community. Titles
to Texas land grants would have no
value, thus crippling efforts to attract new settlers, and Texas
currency and bonds would be worthless outside its borders. There
would also be little hope of attracting foreign investment or signing
treaties of commerce and cooperation with other nations.
President Sam Houston
The Texas ministers
to Washington, J.
Pinckney Henderson and William Wharton, continued to lobby behind
the scenes for recognition, and the prospects improved when Martin
Van Buren won the election. Now lame-duck President Andrew Jackson
was free to act. On March 3, 1837, the final day of his presidency,
Jackson extended formal recognition to the Republic, but the admission
of Texas to the Union was an entirely
different matter. Nothing had been done to erase the problems of
slavery and relations with Mexico, and they hung like a dark cloud
over the issue of annexation. President Van Buren refused to even
consider the question, and the delegation from Texas,
led by Anson
Jones, reluctantly turned to Congress.
Martin van Buren portrait by George Peter Alexander Healy
After many days
of intense lobbying, several members of Congress who favored annexation
finally agreed to introduce a bill to admit Texas.
Unfortunately, John Quincy Adams, former United States president
and present member of Congress, blocked passage of the bill. A devout
abolitionist, Adams was determined not to admit any state to the
Union that favored slavery. To make matters worse, his anti-slavery
views were shared by many other legislators. Adams continued to
drag his heels until Sam
Houston, embarrassed for Texas by the long delay, ordered Jones
to withdraw the request for annexation. With the possibility of
annexation closed, it became necessary to seek strong friends in
Europe for the purposes of establishing trade, selling bonds, and
securing further recognition.
Houston sent J.
Pinkney Henderson to England and France for this purpose.
Former President John Quincy Adams
Portrait by George Caleb Bingham
The Texas Constitution
limited the first president to a term in office of only two years.
Later presidents would serve for three years and no president was
permitted to serve consecutive terms. Mirabeau
Lamar’s distinguished record as a poet, a publisher, and a hero
at the Battle of San Jacinto
made him an ideal candidate to replace Houston.
He was elected the second president of the Republic in 1838. However,
favored a Texas that was not under
the influence of the United States; a country free to go its own
way and eventually expand all the way to California and the Pacific
Ocean. Such a view left no room for the possibility of annexation,
so for the next three years the policy became a forgotten issue
until Sam Houston
once again ran for office in 1841.
administration left the Republic in dire straits. Hope of peaceful
coexistence with Mexico vanished, Texas currency fell to three cents
on the American dollar, and the public debt now topped six million
dollars. In his second inaugural address on December 13, 1841, Sam
Houston appeared in a homespun linsey-woolsey shirt and said,
“There is not a dollar in the treasury. We are not only without
money, but without credit, and for want of punctuality, (in paying
government debts) without honor.” To address the problems he faced,
government expenses to the bone, including his own salary, dismissed
the regular army, sold the navy, and urged peace with Mexico. “The
true interest of Texas,” he declared, “is to maintain peace with
all nations and cultivate the soil.” Although these measures helped,
the only real solution to the Republic’s problems was to again seek
During the latter stages of Houston’s
second term, annexation finally became a distinct possibility. John
Tyler had assumed the office of President of the United States following
the death of William Henry Harrison. John C. Calhoun, Tyler’s Secretary
of State, negotiated a treaty with J.
Pinckney Henderson in April 1844, whereby the United States
would have admitted Texas as a territory, taken possession of Texas’
public lands, and assumed the Republic’s debt. Most Texans preferred
statehood immediately upon annexation, not territorial status, but
they reluctantly agreed to accept the terms of the treaty. Unfortunately,
the vote in the U.S. Senate fell woefully short of the two-thirds
approval that was required. Houston
was disappointed, but the attempt at annexation had again brought
the issue to prominence, and it became a key factor in the U.S.
presidential campaign later in the year.
|John C. Calhoun
portrait by George Peter Alexander Healy
In the Texas
presidential election of 1844, voters opted for Dr.
Anson Jones over Edward Burleson. Meanwhile, in the United States,
two of the leading presidential candidates, former president Martin
Van Buren, the Free Soil candidate, and Henry Clay, the Whig Party
nominee, failed to address the issue of annexation during their
campaigns. However, the Democrats, who called for the annexation
of Texas as part of their party platform, nominated James K. Polk
of Tennessee. Polk, who campaigned vigorously in behalf of Texas
annexation, won the election. Lame-duck President Tyler interpreted
Polk’s victory as a clear mandate for annexation, and instead of
waiting for Polk to assume office, he recommended that Congress
annex Texas by joint resolution, a procedure that required only
a simple majority of both legislative houses, not a two-thirds vote
of the Senate.
President James K. Polk
Portrait by George Peter Alexander Healy
The joint resolution
passed, and President Tyler signed it on March 1, 1845, two days
before he left office. The terms of the resolution were much more
favorable to Texas than the treaty that had been previously presented
by Secretary Calhoun. Texas would join
the Union as a state, not a territory, and retain possession of
its public lands, although its debt would not be assumed by the
United States. The United States would also take the lead in dealing
with Mexico. A special convention assembled in Austin
on July 4, 1845, drafted a state constitution and adopted the joint
resolution with only one dissenting vote. On October 13 both the
constitution and annexation were approved by an overwhelming majority
of Texas voters. The Texas Admission
Act was signed into law by President Polk on December 29, 1845,
and the formal ceremony took place in Austin
on February 19, 1846.
Governor James Pinckney Henderson
for "The Struggle for Annexation"
T. R., Lone Star: A history of Texas and the Texans, (New
York, NY: Macmillan 1968).
L., Sam Houston (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press,
The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston, (Austin, TX: University
of Texas Press, 1988).
Neu, C. T.,
“ANNEXATION,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mga02,
accessed August 10, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical
H., Storm over Texas: The Annexation Controversy and the Road
to Civil War, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Harvey, The Annexation of Texas, (New York, NY: Baker and
Taylor, 1911; 2nd ed., New York: Macmillan, 1919; 3rd ed., New York:
Barnes and Noble, 1941; 4th ed. New York, AMS Press, 1971.
for Annexing Texas, (http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/exhibits/annexation/index.html.