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.
Sam Houston, 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
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, unlike Houston,
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, Houston cut 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, Houston knew
the only real solution to the Republic’s problems was to again seek annexation.
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.
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,
Governor James Pinckney Henderson |
the election of Anson
Jones, Sam Houston, who
had labored so diligently for annexation, played little part in the final negotiations
or formalities. During the formal ceremony, President Jones turned the reins of
government over to the state’s new governor, J.
Pinckney Henderson, and ordered the Lone Star flag of the Republic to be lowered
for the last time. “The final act in this great drama is now performed,” he stated.
“The Republic of Texas is no more.” As the flag was slowly lowered, Sam
Houston stepped forward and lovingly took the symbol of the Republic into
November 1, 2013 Column
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| Fehrenbach, T.
R., Lone Star: A history of Texas and the Texans, (New York, NY: Macmillan
James L., Sam Houston (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004).
The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston, (Austin, TX: University of Texas
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 Association.Sibley,
Joel H., Storm over Texas: The Annexation Controversy and the Road to Civil
War, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005). Smith,
Justin 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. Joint
Resolution for Annexing Texas, (http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/exhibits/annexation/index.html.
by Jeffery Robenalt