The Road to Annexation: Foreign Policy & The Quest for Recognition In the Republic of Texas

The history of Texas is well-documented in various forms and fashions. Texas independence is a frequent subject of research for historians due to the peculiar and unique nature of its path to statehood. Texas is the only state that was once its own country and it is also the only state that was annexed as such. The story of Texas statehood and subsequent secession are matters of elementary history and generally common knowledge. However, little research seems to have been written about the foreign policy of the Republic of Texas during its ten-year span as its own nation and the internal struggle for statehood that seemed to cause more controversy than the entrance of virtually any other state in to the Union.

Immediately upon declaring independence, Texas began the arduous task of seeking recognition from foreign nations in the hopes of securing financing, investment, trade, and political relationships. It would take nearly two years for the United States to recognize the newly formed what would serve as a springboard for Texas delegations to secure the recognition of European powers. Such recognition was not easy to come by and diplomats were frustrated that their struggle for legitimacy took years to accomplish. For its part, Texas tried to hide much of its financial problems and ongoing conflicts with the indigenous tribes and Mexico to convince foreign nations that Texas was a stable and low risk economic power that would greatly benefit European powers. Texian leaders were under the false assumption that if the hoped-for annexation into the Union did not happen immediately, securing recognition would at least hasten this effort.

This paper will explore the foreign policy interaction between the Republic of Texas and other nations, mainly the United States and Europe. It will also analyze why it took ten years to be annexed into the United States despite vigorous efforts immediately after independence to become the 28th state. Research will be based primarily on primary sources documents and incorporate previous scholarly research on the subject to provide additional context, background, and clarity. I will answer to what degree foreign governments affected or interfered with attempts by the Republic of Texas to gain statehood or maintain its independence as a nation.

Mexican General Santa AnnaTexans were unhappy about the treatment of its people in the Mexican state of Texas. In November 1835, delegates drafted a declaration of independence (sometimes referred as the declaration of causes) and submitted it a committee that was formed to consider the prospect of independence. The declaration listed several causes for why Texas should declare its independence, the foremost being that General Santa Anna was refusing to abide by the provisions of the Constitution of 1824 and using force to impose his will upon Texans. This was ironic considering Santa Anna had proclaimed to be a loyalist to the constitution in his struggles with President Anastacio Bustamante.

After Texas declared independence from Spain, Santa Anna decided to force the Yucatan to pay over two hundred thousand pesos for the war. He also conscripted 2,500 citizens to serve in the Mexican Army to fight against Texas. This angered the Yucatan peninsula since it violated the agreements that had been made when it joined Mexico. Yucatan considered independence and the Texas declaration pledged its assistance to the Yucatecans in the Mexican confederacy. By 1840, the Yucatan and Texas had signed formal relations and the Congress had pledged a virtual blank check to the defense of the country should Mexico again become belligerent. In return, Texas would be paid 8,000 pesos each month to help pay for said defense. In return, the Yucatan declared that the Texans would always be welcome with open arms after which Present Lamar granted most favorable nation station to the peninsula.

Meanwhile, Texas delegates believed that if they did not demand independence that Mexico would continue despotic practices. Since Texas was already responsible for paying for its defense in the region, independence would no necessarily require the raising of an Army. Ethel Rather theorized that the declaration was not meant for the eyes of Mexico, but to draw the attention of capitalists in the United States.

David G. BurnetUpon gaining independence, David G. Burnet was selected as the ad interim President of the newly formed republic. Burnet was the son of a doctor who had served in the Continental Congress. When Mexico began offering land grants in the Texas province, Burnet took advantage of this opportunity and was granted land in the Nacogdoches area to settle 300 families. Burnet proved to be an inept businessman, but found his place in politics and became the head judge of the Brazos District Court. Due to his opposition to Texas independence, he was not selected to take part in the Convention of 1836, but defiantly showed up anyway. His audacity was rewarded when he was selected to be the provisional president of the newly formed Republic of Texas at perhaps one of the worst times in Texas history.

Internal issues threatened the fledgling nation. Provisional governor Henry Smith was embroiled in inter-party controversy and tried to dissolve the provisional council. In response, the council suspended Smith from acting as Governor and charged him with serious and weighty offenses like perjury, libel, and defamation against the council. Among them was $5000 given to Smith that was never deposited in the treasury that was a gift to Texas from Henry Rufus Willie Hill (Ambassador to Texas) in Tennessee. Neither the treasury nor the council were ever given an accounting of this money and the council feared that a pending million-dollar load would likewise disappear if Smith were given possession of it instead of it going straight to the treasury. The council passed a resolution making James Robinson the provisional governor. In lieu of trial, he refused to step down until he was voted out in the 1836 Convention a month and a half later.

Mexico refused to acknowledge Texas independence and made clear that any claims to land, loans made in its name, or contracts between the Republic and other nations would not be recognized. Meanwhile, a delegation from the Republic of Texas consisting of BT Archer, SF Austin, and WH Wharton arrived in Washington in April. However, they had not officially received any communications from the Republic of Texas with the official declaration of independence and the American government despite the declaration being reprinted in newspapers. They wanted something concrete and the delegates were worried that they would not receive something before the congress recessed.

Almost immediately upon independence, Texas began seeking admission into the Union. In a letter dated April 9, 1836 to Governor of Texas from WH Wharton (he was unaware that President Burnet was the president of the Republic, not a governor), Wharton implored the governor to join the Union and expressed that he would nearly everything he owned to achieve this objective. On May 26, 1836, President David Burnet sent a letter authorizing Commissioners James Collinsworth and Peter Grayson to secure recognition of Texas independence and annexation of Texas into the United States. One of the problems that faced the Republic was that dispatches were delayed due to hostilities the Indian tribes in the South.

Burnet listed several terms upon which Texas would agree to annexation, the majority of which were simply recognition of current laws and practices within the Republic. His third point was an emphatic defense of slavery within Texas and treated as the property of their respective owners. Slavery had been a part of Texas to some degree since before its founding. The territory had even been granted an exemption to the abolition of slavery in the Mexican Constitution of 1836.

By early April 1836, there was a lot of trepidation about the Mexican threat. In a letter to President Burnet from Texas Secretary of State Sam Carson dated July 3, 1836, he relayed President Andrew Jackson’s concerns about the ability of Texas to afford or equip forces to deal with the Mexican threat. Though upbeat at the positive progress made in Congress, Carson was worried about a secret agent named Marfit who was dispatched to Texas by the US Government spy on the conditions within Texas; specifically, the competency and strength of the military and the organization of the government. Later in the year, President Jackson reported to the Congress his opinion that the United States should delay the decision to annex Texas into the Union until either Mexico recognized its independence or until such a time had elapsed that there was no dispute as to its status.

President Sam Houston

President Sam Houston

In October 1836, Sam Houston became the first elected president of Texas. Houston was a controversial figure in both Texas and United States politics. At the age of 27, he enlisted in the United States Army to fight in the War of 1812 against Britain. After the British continued to refuse to abide by treaty agreements following the end of the American revolution and the island nation’s continued impressment of American sailors in its fight against the French. Marshall de Bruhl notes that Houston did not seek to become a soldier and decided to join after happening upon a recruiter set up at the courthouse in Maryville, Tennessee. The recruiter was offering a silver dollar to anyone who enlisted and Houston immediately seized upon the opportunity to join and the military and quit his scholastic life. This angered his father who was a major in the United States military and felt that it was beneath Houston to become a common soldier. Defiantly, he responded to his father’s disgust by predicting that, while his father does not “know me now…you shall hear of me” in the future. Meanwhile, Houston’s mother was compassionate and supportive of his decision and counseled him to serve with honor. It is unclear whether pressure from his father or other influential figures were responsible for an appointment to ensign from Secretary of War John Armstrong that Houston received six months after he enlisted, but Houston accepted and reported immediately to the 39th U.S. Regimental Infantry. Honoring his mother’s instructions Houston served with honor, bravely leading charges against fierce Indian foes in the Battle of Tohopeka that resulted in injuries that doctors did not believe he would survive. After his successful time as a military officer Houston returned to his home state and became a veteran politician serving as the governor of Tennessee and as a U.S. representative of the same state before moving to Texas in 1832.

By 1837, the United States government still had not recognized the Republic of Texas. The inability to raise troops, the lack of money to pay for its own defense, and the anarchy in neighboring Mexico were contributing factors to this delay. WH Wharton had another explanation for the refusal of Congress to act on recognition: it was all politics. In a letter to President Sam Houston, Wharton relays that the real reason for the delay is that legislators were concerned about the upcoming presidential campaign of Vice President van Buren. They were concerned that if they immediately gave recognition to Texas independence, the question of annexation would immediately need to be answered and that Van Buren’s decision on annexation or no annexation would cause him to lose the election. If forced to choose, support from either the North or South would hinge on that decision. This would, in turn, affect the re-election prospects of Van Buren’s party in Congress.

Meanwhile, relations between Great Britain, the United States, and Mexico were further strained when word came that Mexico had offered to sell Texas to Great Britain. Mexico refused to recognize Texas independence and believed that it had the authority and right to sell what it considered its land. Fearing annexation by the United States, Mexico was determined to create a buffer between the two nations. Both the United States and Great Britain were concerned that should either nation take possession of Texas, the balance of power would be tipped towards that nation.

Mexico was continuing to fund Indian hostilities against Texians. Acting Texas Secretary of State, James Pinkney Henderson, noted that the commander of the Mexican Army had paid the chiefs in eastern Texas $1000 and another $5000 worth of weapons and ammunition. Henderson was also trying to enlist the assistance of the United States since the Indian violence that was happening on the eastern and northern borders of Texas could have easily spilled into the United States. Texas minister Mecuman Hunt was hopeful that this development would spur the United States to become more predisposed to annexing the state.

Neither Great Britain nor the United States wanted the other to annex or acquire Texas. Britain still refused to acknowledge “the Band of outlaws who occupy Texas” but doubted that they could ever influence the destiny of Texas and instead worked to convince Mexico to walk away from their desires to reestablish control over the land. Britain was the primary economic partner with Mexico and feared that conflict with Texas would interrupt that relationship. In the United States, those pushing for annexation were concerned that an independent Texas would be more susceptible to British influence and that the Texas would become dependent on the island nation which would hamper trade with the United States. Pro-slavery Americans feared that enlightened British influence would cause Texas to abandon their support for and use of slavery.

In his November 21, 1837 address to Congress, President Houston continued to lament the progress in achieving American annexation. Acknowledging the financial instability of the Republic which he believed was embarrassing, he continued to press the body to pass legislation that would improve the situation with impotent land offices. Due to the financial crisis of 1837 in the United States, he was unable to secure a five-million-dollar loan to help prop up the economy. Texian currency was derived from American currency and suffered along with the neighboring nation. The onset of the Panic of 1837 naturally affected the ability of the Republic to maintain financial stability. Texas did not have its own currency, but accepted currency from several states. With a lack of stable and uniform currency, many people engaged in trade instead of relying on currency. In an effort to raise money Congress distributed $500,000 in paper currency, called star currency. These were essentially promissory notes since the state was virtually bankrupt and came with a 10% interest guarantee that were predicated on land sales to repay them within a year. A year later, Congress reissued the notes and printed an additional one million dollars in star currency without interest. The bill was vetoed by President Houston who was very protective of the Republics financial situation, but his vetoed was overridden by Congress. Within a year, the non-interest-bearing notes became devalued by 60% while the rest retained their value.

Houston’s vice president, Mirabeau Lamar, was elected to succeed him as president and held wildly differing views of how to financially manage the country. For example, Houston adamantly opposed the created of a national bank while Lamar tried futilely to convince Congress to establish one. Houston grew up among the Cherokee and his administration maintained a relationship of mutual respect. Lamar was also very hostile to Indians and engaged in a very expensive and costly effort to either exterminate them or drive them from within the borders of the Republic. Additionally, Lamar was incensed that Mexico had still failed to recognize the independence of Texas and approached Congress to build a navy to force Mexico by force to do so. Congress again rebuffed the president who sent out an expedition to Santa Fe to negotiate a secret deal for recognition. Instead, the effort failed due to its cost and the troops were forced to surrender. Lamar’s aggressive actions against the Indians, failed military attempted to force Mexico to capitulate on independence, and Congress’s irresponsible issuance of large numbers of promissory notes resulted in desperate circumstances after his administration more than tripled the public debt. These actions were highly ironic and hypocritical considering Lamar’s inaugural address began with the promise that his administration would be of peace with all peoples in the area.

Meanwhile, the fiscal situation continued to worry Washington, D.C., and continued to plague the state’s efforts at annexation. Lamar’s opposition to annexation played another key role in delaying annexation for at least three more years. He believed that Texas was destined to be a great empire and adopted the American attitude of manifest destiny to grow Texas territory exponentially. Despite these delays in annexation, U.S. President Andrew Jackson signed a resolution passed in both houses of Congress recognizing the Republic of Texas as an independent nation on March 3, 1837. This angered the Mexican government and resulted in their escalating efforts to bring the territory back under its proper rule, beginning with the capture of the Texian minister to the United States, Colonel Wharton. The Republic immediately appealed to the United States to assist in securing the return of the diplomat.

After securing the recognition by the United States, Houston sent J.P. Henderson to France to convince the country to likewise recognize Texas as an independent state. With France embroiled in a conflict with Mexico and Henderson saw the blockades of Mexican ports as an opportunity to convince the French to acquiesce to his request. Henderson sought an audience with Count Molé to discuss the arrangement and reminded him that the United States had given recognition a year prior. Molé agreed to meet with Henderson but could not receive him as an agent of Texas because Molé was concerned that doing so would be a de facto recognition of independence. Molé agreed to listen to Texas’ plea, but the language barrier between the two made conversation difficult and Henderson informed him that for the benefit of the two he would submit his statement in writing so it could be easily interpreted.

The exhaustive letter to the Count contained several reasons why France should recognize the independence of the Republic of Texas. Prior to listing these reasons, Henderson recited a brief history of the settlement of Texas followed by the grievances against Mexico that led to the Texas revolution, including the violations of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution of 1824. First, Henderson highlighted the success of Texian military battles against numerically superior and well equipped Mexican forces as proof that the government of Texas was more than capable of defending its nation with forces that he believed were far superior in skill, courage, humanity, and adhering to modern-day rule of civilized warfare. Santa Anna and other Mexican generals were adept at torturing prisoners of war and killing others in cold blood while captive. Henderson no doubt wanted to convince the French that they would not be siding with a banana republic or population of lawless bandits. He appealed to the Count’s sense of humanity by highlighting the atrocities of the Mexican government against the Texians even after the revolution, specifically the massacre of Colonel Fannin and over 400 of his troops and civilians who surrendered or were previously held prisoner.

Meanwhile, the Texian military had performed with honor by treating prisoners with respect and allowing Santa Anna’s forces to retreat in peace after securing assurances that Mexico would recognize Texas independence. Henderson wrote that while the Mexicans had not honored the terms of the agreement in recognizing independence they had not executed a single incursion across the border since. Further appealing to French attitudes about Mexico, Henderson reminded Count Molé that the Mexican population, which he considered barely civilize, was no more than an unorganized gaggle in a constant state of instability and revolution since gaining independence from Spain.

Henderson then sought to convince the Count that following independence the Texian people organized to establish a legitimate government. He laid out how the new government was formed and that it constituted a government with a separation of powers and republican representation with judicial, legislative, and executive branches that has brought a sense of “prosperity and harmony unparalleled in any other Country under similar circumstances.” He neglected to mention that the republic was petitioning for loans to cover its debts and pay for its ongoing conflicts with Indians and centralist sympathizers in the frontier areas. Henderson did, however, inform the Count that Texas has vast amounts of land that will yield a large amount of revenue for the state to further sway the belief that the nation would enjoy much future success and stability. Texas also possessed an abundance of cotton, rice sugar, tobacco and other commodities with which it could enter into trade agreement upon recognition from France. Texians would benefit from France’s silks, wines, finished cotton textiles, and other items of commerce.

Texas Secretary of State Robert Anderson Irion worried that the ongoing Mexican-French conflict was going to spill into Texas and cut off trade between it and the United States. Irion requested that Texas minister to England and France J. Pinckney Henderson communicate to the French King that the Mexicans had occupied the port of Corpus Christi and that Texas would not be opposed to the French extending their blockade to the Texian coast to prevent further encroachment by the Mexicans. Henderson did not like that idea because Texas was dedicated to convincing the French that the Republic was able to handle its own security. Houston then sent artillery and other munitions to Corpus Christi to end the occupation. Irion sent numerous letters to Texas minister to England and France J. Pinckney Henderson to hasten the King’s decision making. In the meantime, Texas and France entered into trade agreement that was beneficial to both nations despite a lack of formal recognition from the latter of independence even though the language of the treaty identified Texas a most favored “nation” and referred to its authorities as a government which stopped just short of outright recognition. The agreement was contingent on Texas remaining independent of Mexico. Ironically, the trade agreement that the British had proposed was contingent upon Texas remaining a part of Mexico, but the French deal was much more advantageous and was more in line with Texian priorities.

After the Texas elections of 1838, Texas withdrew its petition for annexation after the US Congress adjourned without acting on the issue. Newly elected President Mirabeau Lamar was more interested in building up the nation than wasting time chasing after the United States begging for annexation. Henderson excitedly relayed this information to the French and British governments in the hopes it would finally agree that Texas was an independent nation and would be in perpetuity. The following year, the French government was thrown into disarray due to the King’s censuring of the Chamber of Deputies for their mismanagement of foreign affairs.

J Pinckney HendersonIn early 1839, Texas ambassador to France, J Pinckney Henderson, continued to be frustrated that Texas had not sent official documentation identifying him as a representative of the Republic. He was at a standstill futilely trying to seek recognition from France without it. Concurrently, England was resistant to providing recognition while the Canadians remained a threat to their influence in the North American colonies. Great Britain was also opposed to Texas’s use and policy of slavery (as was France), though they admitted that the Texas constitution allowed the practice that the British were obliged to recognize as an independent nation (at least, as independent a nation as it was considered at the time without official recognition). In early Summer of 1839, Texas Finance Secretary James Hamilton and Texas Loan Commissioner Albert T. Burnley sent a secret, joint letter to President Lamar suggesting that he authorize the payment of $50,000 to French officials to expeditiously gain recognition. They concluded that without what amounted to a bribe it would take no less than six months to gain French approval; however, with the money the French would bestow recognition in less than a week. France desperately wanted to enter into a commercial trade agreement with Texas that would include recognition, but Henderson explained to Lamar that he wanted to obtain recognition before agreeing to such a Treaty. French Foreign Minister Baron Pontois informed Henderson that France had historically completed these types of negotiations with other nations in this manner and Henderson relayed details of the proposed agreement to President Lamar. Henderson explained that exporting Texian commodities to France would greatly benefit the Republic since many products were in high demand there. However, the French insisted on a constant stream of ever-changing demands for Texas to reduce tariffs even more on agreed upon products and include new reductions on others going so far as to accuse Texas of having inferior cotton to the United States. Henderson recognized this as an attempt to undermine negotiations and refused to back down on decreasing the duty on cotton, especially considering that it is no higher than on cotton from the United States. Henderson was also concerned that if he agreed to reductions of duties on Texian products, he would have to do the same for other European powers which would have negative consequences on the Texian economy.

Jean Pierre Isidore Alphonse Dubois de Saligny

Both nations finally entered into an agreement and in September 1839, France was the first European nation to grant recognition to the Republic of Texas. French Chargé d’affaires, Jean Pierre Isidore Alphonse Dubois (he would later add “de Saligny” to his name and introduce himself to Texian delegations as the Count de Saligny), was later sent to Texas to report on the conditions there to determine the stability of the nation prior to agreeing to any trade treaty. Saligny’s report was troublesome. In a letter to Texian Secretary of State Abner Lipscomb on March 6, 1840, Saligny bemoaned the conditions in Texas, specifically the threat of invasion by Mexico; the devaluation of the Republic’s star currency to 20 cents on the dollar; and problems with U.S. merchants who were concerned over potential trade agreements with European powers.

In February of 1841, another scandal threatened Franco-Texian relations when a servant from Saligny’s delegation in Austin was attacked by an inn keeper named Richard Bullock. Saligny claims that his servant was attacked unprovoked, but Bullock’s pigs had wondered into Saligny’s stables and began eating corn that was meant for Saligny’s horses. In response, the servant – named Eugene Pluyette – shot and killed the pigs. Angered by this, Bullock attacked Pluyette with rocks and then began thrashing him with a stick. An angered Saligny demanded that Texian Secretary of State James Mayfield punish Bullock after he had attacked Pluyette two more times, one of which was with an axe that inflicted serious wounds. Mayfield attempted to assure Saligny that Bullock was being dealt with through the legal process, but Saligny was unhappy with the delays of the slow moving legal system. When Mayfield informed Saligny that Bullock was set for trial and that Pluyette must appear before the court to testify against Bullock, Saligny fumed and castigated Mayfield for what he considered a breach in international protocol. He replied that he would allow Pluyette to submit a statement, but would not allow him to appear before the court. Mayfield responded that the Texas Constitution afforded to the accused the right to confront their accuser, to which Saligny reminded him that the protections and privileges of international law forbade foreign ministers and their staff from being called before foreign tribunals. At an impasse and angered by the delays, Saligny felt as if the character and trust that France had bestowed upon Texas was undeserving of the indignation and insult it was subjected to.

Texian leaders had had enough of Saligny. He had become a distraction and did more harm than good in fostering positive relations between the two nations. Prior to the “pig war,” Saligny had received counterfeit money that he received from New Orleans and knew to be counterfeit. He used this counterfeit money to pay to teamsters and others who helped to set up his delegation. Mr. Saligny refused to redeem the counterfeit money so that the poor teamster was reimbursed for his work. The Department of Treasury decided to reimburse the teamster $300 and buy back the counterfeit money to preserve public confidence in the integrity of the French delegate. Later, Saligny refused to pay his boarding fee that he considered too high. These incidents hampered efforts by Texas to obtain a five-million-dollar loan and caused French ambassador to temporarily move his delegation to New Orleans. Saligny continued to cause problems and forced Texian diplomats to write to the French king and request that Saligny be recalled and a replacement foreign minister take his place. The Republic desperately wanted to maintain positive relations with France, but this was impossible under the current circumstances.

Belgium was not initially considered a prospect and the newly formed independent nation was not even approached until 1839. Texas recognized that the key to financial solvency and international respect depended upon international commerce and spent a lot of time and energy in Europe, spurred on by delays obtaining United States recognition early on. Belgium turned out to a be a tough sell. The global economic situation made it difficult to negotiation treaties, especially considering the main motivation behind the Texas push for recognition was to secure loans. The king understood that Texas was rich in resources, but wanted land for colonization and heavily reduced tariffs on linens and weapons – the main sources of income for the Republic at the time. King Leopold was concerned about relations with Mexico should Belgium open up commercial treaties with Texas. After King Leopold learned that Great Britain had entered into several treaties with Texas in 1840, he felt more empowered to engage in negotiations again. Negotiations were slow because Belgium maintained a desire for land in exchange for a $7 million-dollar loan in addition to lower rates on goods. Finance Minister James Hamilton intentionally neglected to acknowledge Belgium’s desires for land and colonization in Texas and invited British diplomat Camille de Briey to send a representative to Texas to see for himself that the Republic was a stable and legitimate nation. The representative, an artillery captain name Victor Pirson, was not encouraged from the moment he landed in Boston.

After a pessimistic response by American President Tyler about his opposition to European meddling in North American affairs, Pirson was weary. Then, in New Orleans, he was again disappointed by a report that a British effort to secure land grants had fallen through and that negotiations between Texas and Mexico were getting increasingly hostile after Sam Houston was again elected President. Hamilton also learned that Houston had revoked his powers to engage in treaties and that previous loan bill had been repealed. Hamilton had operated largely without the guidance (or approval) of Congress and that angered Houston who criticized his diplomacy and believed that he was conspiring with the British to establish an anti-slavery colony in Texas. Belgium never officially entered into any treaties with Texas largely a result of its interests in Guatemala and a desire not to risk relationships with Mexico and the United States. They delayed so long that, by 1843, the prospect of Texan annexation into the Union made any further discussions about foreign treaties a moot point.

Texas had an impressive degree of success in foreign affairs, but that success was slow in coming. The constant threats from Mexican and Indian raids, debt, and the uncertainty of whether the United States would annex Texas further contributed to this delay. Additionally, foreign policy varied widely with each new president. Typically, any treaties entered into by a previous administration were nullified, regardless of how far along talks had progressed or how close to finalizing a deal they were. The question of annexation played a role in every relationship with European nations because it created uncertainty. Some nations were unconcerned with the question of annexation because they had positive with the United States and Texas becoming a state would not have had any impact of arrangements in the newly formed state. In its short ten-year lifespan, Texas diligently and untiringly pursued recognition and economic success.

Mounting debts, the never-ending threats of violence from Indians and Mexico, an inability for the government to get its feet on firm ground, and constantly shifting foreign policy strategies severely retarded any efforts at becoming a great and independent nation. Even though Texas only succeeded in attracting recognition by a small number of foreign nations, it secured other beneficial trade deals. Those trade deals were typically one-sided since Texans could not afford to pay for many products without selling land.

The first ratification treaty submitted to the Senate by President Tyler was reject by a nearly two-thirds vote. Instead of admitting Texas into the Union as a state, the treaty would have admitted Texas first as a territory, but it would have required the Texas to give up all public lands to the federal government. No doubt, this provision would have been rejected by Texas if it had been passed and submitted to Texians for ratification. They prized private property and the maintenance of Texian land remaining under the control of the territory upon annexation into the Union. Finally, the United States would have paid off all of the Texian debt once admitted as a territory, something that greatly threatened the solvency and continued existence of the Republic. The treaty was rejected after bitter debate over the question of admitting another slave state which would have tipped the balance away from the strength of the abolitionist movement that beginning to take hold across the country. Mexico continued to refuse to accept the independence of Texas and senators were concerned that adding the territory to the United States would spark a war with the Mexicans. The debate lasted for three weeks before it was ultimately defeated.

One of the reasons – besides simply not recognizing the independence of Texas – that the Mexicans were opposed to any treaty giving its former territory any sort of recognition was that Mexico was still unhappy with operations of the Texian Navy under Commodore E.W. Moore. Moore had essentially taken over the Gulf of Mexico without President Houston’s approval. Houston was adamantly opposed to Moore because of his brazen and open opposition to much of the president’s agenda. Many Texian’s, however, supported Moore’s actions. Moore was charged with seven counts, but the court only found him guilty on the charge of “disobedience.” For his part, Houston decided that his friendly relations with the British and French negated any need for a Texian Navy in the Gulf of Mexico and disbanded it. Some have suggested that the reason Houston disbanded the Navy was to ensure that unproved hostilities would persuade the United States to intervene and hasten annexation.

The British tried desperately to convince Texas not to sign on to the treaty and made several concessions that Britain hoped would lead to continued independence. The British Earl of Aberdeen made an enticing offer to Texas that offered to work with France to end the Mexican incursions and encourage them to recognize the borders that Texas claimed. By this point, Great Britain was no interested in pushing the anti-slavery narrative and completely ignored the issue in the act. They were no longer concerned with angering the United States and instead was hoping to stem the tide of American expansion to the greatest degree possible and even hinted that it would risk war in the achievement of this goal. Oddly it was willing to potentially go to war with the United States to prevent annexation, but it would that it would abandon the effort is Mexico refused to agree to it. It appears that Great Britain was more interested in protecting its relationship with Mexico than with the United States. Aberdeen assumed that war with the United States was unlikely because he did not think the they would dare to go to war with the combined might of Great Britain and France. The proposal died after neither Texas nor Mexico would acquiesce to its terms.

With the election of pro-annexation president James Polk, President Tyler quickly moved to pass another resolution to create the State of Texas. Several aspects of the second treaty remained in place. The United States would absorb the Republic’s immense debt, but Texas would have to sell some land to help pay it off instead of bequeathing it to the federal government. In the few years prior to annexation, the Texas economy had virtually crashed. The Texian “Red Back” currency was worthless and few transactions were made with currency. The barter system was used in more than 90% of all transactions at the time. News of annexation increased the value of the notes nearly on par with its printed value. The Republic would be annexed into the United States as a state instead of a territory and be required to adopt a new state constitution that was compatible with the federal constitution. Texians would have to approve both the annexation and the constitution prior to formal action. Most citizens were happy with the eventuality of becoming since the federal government would help to secure security and provide for a sounder monetary system to replace the failed Texian system.

In February1845, Congress passed the resolution and sent it to Texas for ratification and approval. On July 4, 1845 – a date chosen symbolically – Texas voted for delegates to form a convention to approve and adopt the terms of the treaty. They also began the arduous task of creating a state constitution. The constitution was approved by voters in October and in late December President Polk signed the Texas Admission Act, making Texas the 28th state of the Union after two years of bitter debate over admitting another slave state into the Union. Under the treaty, the United States absorbed the Republic’s immense debt, but Texas was required to sell off some land to help pay it off.

CJ Grisham, 1SG (Ret), US Army
Senior Research Thesis
Texas A&M – Central Texas
Fall 2017 Semester

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———. Henderson to President Lamar. August 3, 1839. Letter. TSLAC.

———. Henderson to Secretary of States Burnet. October 16, 1839. Letter. TSLAC.

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———. The Journal of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas. 2nd Congress, 1st Session, November 21, 1837. ed. Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker: 152-161.

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———. W.H. Wharton to Henry Smith, April 9, 1836. Letter. TSLAC.

2 Comments on “The Road to Annexation: Foreign Policy & The Quest for Recognition In the Republic of Texas

  1. Hi C.J I have just come across your site recently, and I am finding it most helpful with the scammers, I was wondering if you could do some digging for me, I have been in contact with a person called Sargeant Roel Palmer who says he is in the USA Army stationed over in Syria, he hasn`t asked me for money as such, apart from about £100.00 but I have told him I haven`t got that kind of money, and the money I do get is for rent and other bills, which for now he has accepted, I have spoken to him once on f/b messenger and he claims to be from San Antonio in Texas, and he says both his parents were killed in a road accident, and have left him some property there, he also claims to have a son called Christopher and a sister called Raquel Hernandez, I have photographs of him and a cellphone number but everytime I call the number I just get a messaging service, he also says he has his dog with him I don`t know if this is true or not but there is a dog in some of the photos of him, he has claimed undying love for me and says he wants us to get married when he has settled here in the UK, so I would really appreciate it if you could find out anything about this person for me, thanking you very much Teresa x

    • The person is a scammer. I have a Facebook page called Exposing Nigerian Military Dating Scams where I share these stories and pictures.

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