The Annexation of Texas

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Mexican General López de Santa Anna's surrender to Sam Houston

Settlers in Texas fought first to gain independence from Mexico, and then to be annexed by the United States. This culminated in the Mexican War and U.S. statehood

When Mexico secured its independence from Spain, the new country included present-day Texas. To expand its economy and help fend off Indian attacks, the Mexican government encouraged immigration to Texas, mostly from the U.S. In the early 1820s, the first wave of American immigrants to Texas was led by Stephen F. Austin. More followed in subsequent years, many of whom were southerners who brought their slaves with them.

When Mexico outlawed slavery in 1830, many slaveholders in Texas were angered. Even more Texans were angered when Mexico levied property taxes and prohibited further immigration. Adding to the resentment was the fact that the capital of Texas at Coahuila was heavily corrupt. Soon the Texans began resisting perceived Mexican oppression.

The Fight for Independence

In 1833, Santa Anna became the ruler of Mexico, and he abolished the constitution that Texans had agreed to follow when they emigrated. He deployed troops to subdue the grievances in Texas, and he began confiscating private harvests. In addition, Stephen Austin was imprisoned for requesting that Mexico separate Texas from corrupt Coahuila. These incidents soon led to a mass uprising against Mexico.

To quell resistance, Santa Anna dispatched a full army into Texas to march on Goliad and San Antonio. When the Texan militia fought and won small victories against the advancing Mexicans, Santa Anna raised a second army and led it himself into Texas to end resistance once and for all.

At San Antonio, over 3,000 Mexican troops overran 187 Texans at the Alamo, killing all defenders. Among those killed were legends James Bowie and David Crockett. At Goliad, a Texan force was executed after surrendering. This became known as the Goliad Massacre.

Meanwhile, the Texans formed a government and declared independence from Mexico. A regular army was assembled under Sam Houston, which was pursued by Santa Anna’s advancing force. Finally Houston turned and attacked at San Jacinto; the attack was so surprising that the Mexicans were completely routed and Santa Anna was captured. The Mexican ruler was forced to sign an agreement granting Texas its independence, and the Lone Star Republic of Texas was created.

The Fight for Annexation

Being wedged between two North American powers, many Texans believed that it was in the interest of security and economic stability to petition to the U.S. for annexation. However in 1837, President Martin Van Buren denied the Texas request for annexation, adhering to northern concerns about admitting another slave state into the U.S. Another reason for the denial was to avoid angering Mexico any further. Van Buren’s denial coincided with the opinion of most in Congress that sectional harmony and peaceful foreign relations were more important than territorial expansion.

This changed in 1843 when President John Tyler reexamined the Texas annexation issue. An annexation treaty was sent to the Senate, but it was defeated by anti-expansionists. When James Polk was elected president in 1844 on a pledge to annex Texas, outgoing President Tyler saw this as a mandate that the people wanted Texas in the U.S. Thus Tyler bypassed the Senate and requested that both houses of Congress simply pass a joint resolution declaring that Texas was admitted as a territory. This resolution passed in March 1845, even though it was blatantly unconstitutional.

War with Mexico

The annexation angered Mexico, which still had designs on recovering Texas. Further angering the Mexicans was the fact that the U.S. established the southern boundary of Texas at the Rio Grande River, even though Mexico maintained that the boundary was the Nueces River farther north. As a result, Mexico severed diplomatic relations with the U.S.

Meanwhile the petition to convert Texas from a territory to a state proceeded through Congress, and Texas became the 28th state on December 29, 1845. Texas independence and subsequent U.S. statehood was not recognized by Mexico until it was defeated by the U.S. in the Mexican War of 1846-1848. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally ceded Texas to the U.S., marking the boundary at the Rio Grande and making Texas a permanent state in the Union.

Sources:

  1. Schweikart, Larry and Allen, Michael: A Patriot’s History of the United States (New York, NY: Penguin Group, Inc., 2004)
  2. Wallechinsky, David and Wallace, Irving: The People’s Almanac (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1975)