The Annexation of Texas
On This Day in Texas History: December 29, 1845
On December 29, 1845, United States President James K. Polk signed the Texas Admission Act, officially turning the Republic of Texas into the state of Texas. From a modern perspective the annexation of Texas into the United States seems to be a foregone conclusion. However, in actuality the road to statehood was a bumpy one and the destination was hardly preordained.
Before the dust on the San Jacinto battlefield had a chance to settle, residents in both Texas and the United States were calling for Texas to join the Union. There were also factions in both countries passionately opposed to annexation. In Texas, pro-annexation support was strong and Texas citizens voted in September 1836 in favor of annexation. However, concerns that Texas’s slaveholding status would disrupt the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and fears that annexation would bring about war with Mexico, resulted in the United States government not favoring annexation throughout the 1830s and into the 1840s.
By 1843, mounting debts and continued border insecurity were creating an uncertain future for the Republic of Texas and President Sam Houston, who had been opposed to annexation during his first term in office, began making diplomatic inquiries to both the United States and Great Britain regarding possible annexation. Texas’ slavery laws and diplomatic relations with Mexico resulted in weak support for annexation in Britain, but the British government was eager to regain a foothold in North American trade and stop the westward expansion of the United States, and so they entertained Houston’s inquiries. The British government even went so far as to urge the Mexican government to stop hostilities along the border and formally recognize Texas independence or risk losing Texas to the United States.
Whether Houston’s entreaties to the United Kingdom were sincere or a ruse to gain support for annexation within the United States is unclear, but the result was that the United States government was motivated to action. In 1844, United States President John Tyler and Texas President Sam Houston began negotiating a treaty of annexation, which ultimately failed to pass a vote by the U.S. Congress. Texas became a campaign issue during the 1844 presidential campaign, with James Polk, the Democratic nominee, running a pro-annexation platform. Polk’s victory in the election gave President Tyler the mandate he needed to propose annexation through a joint resolution and the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the resolution in January of 1845 and the U.S. Senate followed suite in February 1845.
The terms of annexation were that Texas would enter into the Union as a state not a territory; the state would retain control of public lands and responsibility of public debt; all public buildings, weapons, and military establishments became property of the United States; the United States would settle boundary disputes; and the state could be divided into as many as five states at a later date, if Texas approved. After entertaining proposals from representatives of Britain and France, both of whom favored Texas independence, a convention began meeting in Austin on July 4th to decide the fate of the young republic. The convention voted almost unanimously (there was only one “no” vote) to approve annexation to the United States. The next step towards statehood was a popular vote and on October 13, 1845 the citizens voted 4,254 to 267 in favor of annexation.
Newly inaugurated United States President James K. Polk made Texas’s statehood official on December 29, 1845 by signing the Texas Admission Act. It would be another two months, however, before the flag of the Republic was lowered from the Texas capitol building in Austin. Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas, did the honors with the words, “The final act in this great drama is now performed. The Republic of Texas is no more.” The fifth of Texas’s six flags was then raised over the capitol marking the end of the republic and the beginning of a new chapter in Texas history.
Randolph B. Campbell. Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
C. T. Neu, “ANNEXATION,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mga02), accessed November 26, 2014. Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.