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Manifest Destiny's Texas Annexation Problem

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  • 0:05 The Republic of Texas
  • 1:20 The Texas Problem
  • 2:04 The Texas Debate
  • 3:10 The Texas Treaty Defeat
  • 3:43 Texas Finally Becomes a State
  • 4:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alexandra Lutz

Alexandra has taught students at every age level from pre-school through adult. She has a BSEd in English Education.

Find out why it took five presidents (Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler and Polk) to get Texas annexed into the U.S. and added as a state during the era of Manifest Destiny.

The Republic of Texas

The annexation of Oregon was supported almost unquestionably both in the government and popular opinion. But it took nearly a decade, and as many as five presidents, for Texas to be approved. Why did it take so long? To find the answer, we need to go back a quarter of a century.

Mexico encouraged Americans to settle in the area now known as Texas
Mexicans Outnumbered

In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain. Almost immediately the new nation was embroiled in civil war, and Native American tribes fought for control of the less-populated Northeastern region. Obviously, Mexico had difficulty attracting settlers into the Northeast. To solve this problem, they loosened their immigration standards and encouraged Americans to settle in the area, known today as Texas.

Their plan was more successful than they expected, and soon English-speaking Protestant Anglos outnumbered Mexican-born Catholic citizens. Wanting to control their nation's demographics, Mexico's federal government imposed a series of new laws regarding immigration, religion, taxation, cash crops and, most importantly, slavery. The Northern residents revolted. After their infamous loss at the Alamo, Texan forces did ultimately defeat Mexican General Santa Anna and declared their independence on March 2, 1836.

The Texas Problem

The Republic of Texas was established as a sovereign nation. But ironically, the first elected president of Texas, Sam Houston, ran on a platform seeking annexation into the United States. U. S. President Andrew Jackson, not wanting to deal with the slave question, ignored Texas for a year. Then, on the day before he left office, he officially recognized the Republic. Later in 1837, newly-inaugurated President Martin Van Buren flat-out declined the Texas proposal for statehood, fearing that it would lead to war with Mexico. His successor, William Henry Harrison, died before taking any action.

Meanwhile, debate raged over the Texas problem. Besides the question of slavery, there were several other issues at hand politically.

The Texas Debate

President Tyler supported slavery and the annexation of Texas
Tyler Supported Annexation

Westerner: The people of Texas recognize what a blessing it is to live with democracy and republicanism. They want to be a part of this nation!

Northerner: But the Texans are not all white people. Why would we want to add inferior races to this great republic?

Southerner: I tell you, Great Britain is still trying to control us. They want to get rid of slavery here. We need to act fast and add more slave territory. Texas is just the logical place to do it.

Westerner: But that's the problem! Many of us want to get rid of slavery - not expand it. So we should not add Texas to the Union.

Northerner: And don't forget, if the Southerners get a new state, they get two new votes in the Senate. That would make my vote less important.

Southerner: We need more land!

Northerner: But how much land do we really need? And at what expense?

Southerner: We have a problem. The Texans are a serious rival to our profitable cotton trade with Europe. Let's add them to the country so they become a political ally, not a rival!

Northerner: If our government is spread too thin, it will become weak.

Westerner: Or even worse, it will just get bigger and out of control of the people.

The Texas Treaty Defeat

When President Harrison died in 1841, Vice President John Tyler acceded to the office. As it happened, President Tyler was a slave owner who supported Western expansion and, in particular, annexation of Texas. He entered secret negotiations with the Republic and started a public relations campaign to drum up popular support. Evidence suggests that it was Tyler's own administration that started the rumors about Britain's plot to end slavery in America. Regardless, when Tyler brought the treaty before the Senate, it was defeated, and so was Tyler.

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