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Republic of Texas: History & Overview

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

The Republic of Texas existed as an independent government from 1836 to 1845. Explore the history and overview of this state and once separate nation, from precursors to its independence and its eventual annexation by the U.S. in December 1845. Updated: 02/05/2022

State and Nation

Each state in the United States has a rich and varied history of how they became a state. Some, like Delaware or Pennsylvania, were the first states and part of the original thirteen colonies. Others, like Alaska or Missouri, were purchased from other countries. Only one, however, has a brief but exciting history as its own nation prior to becoming a state: Texas. Indeed, for ten years in the mid-nineteenth century, the Republic of Texas stood as its own nation separate from, and recognized by, the United States.

Precursors and Independence (1820s-1836)

Throughout the 1820s, many Anglo-American settlers crossed into Texas, then a province of Mexico. At first, Mexican authorities encouraged such settlement, even granting Stephen F. Austin permission to begin a colony in Texas in 1823.

Before long, however, Mexico became wary of the American settlers as more and more settled in the province. Mexican officials worried that the U.S. government might annex the province and claim its right to Texas due to the large population of American citizens. In response, the Mexican government outlawed immigration to Texas from the U.S. in 1830.

Upset by the law, Texans skirmished with Mexican forces in 1832. In 1832 and 1833, Stephen F. Austin and a group of Texans tried to remedy their disagreements with the Mexican government through petitioning the government in Mexico City, though these petitions were not taken seriously. Regardless, the Texans pressed forward, even drafting a new constitution in 1833.

Matters came to a head for the disgruntled Anglo-American Texan settlers in 1834 when General Santa Anna suspended the 1824 Mexican Constitution and assumed dictatorial control of the Mexican government. Armed conflict broke out in October 1835, when a force of Mexican soldiers attempted to retake a cannon in Gonzales that had been given to the settlers there. The Texans famously told the soldiers to come and take it, and the ensuing skirmish killed two Mexican soldiers.

By November, the Texans had established a provisional government, and in March 1836, Texas formally declared independence from Mexico. Despite a crushing defeat at the Alamo and the massacre of some 350 Texans by General Santa Anna at Goliad, the Texan rebels led by Sam Houston killed or captured most of Santa Anna's force at San Jacinto in May 1836, including capturing Santa Anna himself. Though Santa Anna negotiated an end to the war and was forced to recognize Texan independence, he was simultaneously deposed by a coup in Mexico City, and Mexico never recognized Texas as independent.

Independent Government (1836-1845)

In September 1836, the newly independent Republic of Texas had its first elections, electing war hero Sam Houston as its first president. The citizens of Texas also voted favorably in a referendum to request annexation by the United States government. The Van Buren administration and the U.S. government failed to act on this request as they feared retaliations from Mexico, who still claimed ownership of the new Republic. However, the U.S. government and several European countries recognized Texas' independence and exchanged emissaries with the new country.

For the next decade, Texas remained an independent country. Its constitution and institutions were heavily influenced and modeled on the U.S. Constitution and government. Internal politics often broke into two camps: those who favored Texan independence, and those who favored annexation by the U.S. The capital moved several times, and five different sites were used. Conflict with Mexico or the United States was avoided; however, the Texas government did encroach upon traditional Comanche land and fought the Comanche in a series of raids and battles in the early 1840s.

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